Understanding Email Open Rates

Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or just starting out, understanding the nuances of email marketing metrics is crucial to optimizing your campaigns for maximum impact. Among these metrics, email open rates stand out as a fundamental indicator of your email’s initial success, acting as a gateway to further engagement through click-through and click-to-open rates (CTRs and CTORs).

This article delves into the intricacies of what constitutes a good open rate, alongside exploring CTRs and CTORs, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of these pivotal metrics. By equipping yourself with this knowledge, you’ll be better positioned to craft compelling campaigns that capture attention and drive meaningful action.

What is an Email Open Rate?

An open rate is a metric used in email marketing that measures the number of times a recipient opens an email.

It is calculated by dividing the number of emails opened by the total number of emails sent, excluding those bounced, and then multiplying the result by 100 to get a percentage. This metric serves as an initial gauge of how well your email campaign is performing, offering insights into how engaging your subject line is and the overall effectiveness of your email marketing strategy.

The significance of the email open rate in email marketing cannot be overstated. It is the first hurdle in achieving email marketing success as a preliminary indicator of recipient engagement. A high open rate suggests that your emails are well-received, indicating effective subject line strategies and a strong sender reputation. Conversely, a low open rate may signal that your emails are not resonating with your audience, prompting optimization in areas such as subject line creativity, send time, and audience segmentation.

Moreover, open rates provide valuable feedback on the relevance and appeal of your email content to your target audience. They help identify trends over time, enabling marketers to refine their strategies and improve the overall health of their email marketing efforts. Tracking and analyzing open rates is crucial for optimizing email campaigns, enhancing recipient engagement, and ultimately driving conversions and growth.

Calculating the Email Open Rate

Calculating the email open rate is a straightforward process that involves a few simple steps. By understanding how to calculate this key metric, marketers can gain insights into the effectiveness of their email campaigns and make data-driven decisions to improve their strategies. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to calculate the email open rate:

Step 1: Identify the Total Number of Emails Delivered

First, you must determine the total number of emails successfully delivered to your recipients’ inboxes. This number is found by subtracting the number of bounced emails (emails not delivered due to issues such as invalid addresses or full inboxes) from the total number of emails sent.

Step 2: Determine the Number of Emails Opened

Next, identify the total number of unique opens for your email campaign. This refers to the count of distinct recipients who have opened the email. It’s important to focus on unique opens to ensure that multiple opens by the same recipient are not counted more than once.

Step 3: Calculate the Open Rate

To calculate the open rate, use the following formula:

Example Calculation

Example Calculation

If you sent out 1,000 emails and 50 were bounced, your total number of emails delivered would be 950. If 285 of these emails were opened, you would calculate the open rate as follows:

email open rate calculation

Important Considerations

  • Unique vs. Total Opens: Ensure you are using unique opens for accuracy. Some tools also track total opens, which includes multiple opens by the same user.
  • Email Tracking: Open rates are tracked using a tiny, transparent image embedded in the email, which loads when the recipient opens the email. Therefore, if images are blocked or not loaded by the recipient, the opening may not be recorded.
  • Use as a Benchmark: Open rates can vary significantly across industries, so comparing your open rates to industry benchmarks is crucial to gauge performance accurately.

By following these steps, marketers can calculate their email open rates and gain valuable insights into how well their audience receives their emails. This metric, while not the only indicator of email campaign success, is a critical first step in evaluating and improving email marketing effectiveness. Always ask yourself, what can you learn from your email open rates?

What Constitutes a Good Open Rate for Email?

A “good” email open rate can significantly vary depending on several factors, including the industry, the nature of the email content, the target audience, and the context in which the email is sent. Different industries experience different average open rates due to varying levels of customer engagement, regulatory environments, and the relevance of the content to the recipient.

Let’s explore what constitutes a good open rate for email in various industries, including some with unique challenges such as casinos, legal settlement emails, franchises, and tricky industries like cannabis and crypto, as well as more traditional sectors like retail and publishing.


  • Industry Average: Casinos and gambling-related emails often see higher engagement rates due to the exciting and entertainment-focused content. A good open rate in this industry might range from 15% to 25%.
  • Factors Influencing Open Rates: The allure of promotions, offers, and news about gambling events drives higher open rates.

Legal Settlement Emails

  • Industry Average: Legal settlement emails may experience high open rates, often above 30%, because they contain important or sensitive information that recipients are likely to open.
  • Factors Influencing Open Rates: The content’s personal relevance and urgency significantly impact open rates in this category.


  • Industry Average: Franchise-related emails, including information for franchisees or marketing emails from franchise brands, typically see around 20% to 30% open rates.
  • Factors Influencing Open Rates: The direct impact on business operations or consumer interest in specific brands helps maintain relatively high open rates.

Tricky Industries: Cannabis and Crypto

  • Cannabis Industry Average: Due to legal restrictions and high consumer interest, cannabis-related emails might see open rates from 15% to 25%.
  • Crypto Industry Average: Cryptocurrency emails, given the volatile and high-interest nature of the industry, can expect open rates of around 15% to 20%.
  • Factors Influencing Open Rates: Legal constraints, market volatility, and a highly engaged audience drive these rates.


  • Industry Average: Retail industry emails generally have open rates of around 15% to 20%, influenced by consumer behavior and the frequency of promotional emails.
  • Factors Influencing Open Rates: Sales, new arrivals, and personalized offers can boost open rates in this sector.


  • Industry Average: Publishing, including newsletters from news outlets or content publishers, can expect 20% to 30% open rates.
  • **Factors Influencing Open Rates
  • **: The value of the content to the reader is paramount in the publishing industry. High-quality, relevant, and timely information can significantly enhance open rates. Readers subscribe to publishing emails with the expectation of receiving valuable insights, breaking news, and in-depth analyses that match their interests. The personal connection readers feel with the content, whether due to the author’s voice, the topics covered, or the exclusivity of the information, plays a crucial role in driving open rates.The publishing industry benefits from a base of subscribers who have actively chosen to receive these communications, indicating a pre-existing interest in the content. This factor alone can contribute to higher-than-average open rates, as the emails are not unsolicited but rather welcomed sources of information.

Non-Profit and Charitable Organizations

  • Industry Average: Emails sent by non-profit organizations can see open rates ranging from 25% to 40%. The higher engagement levels are often due to the subscribers’ emotional connection and personal commitment to the cause.
  • Factors Influencing Open Rates: Personal stories, updates on how donations are used and calls to action for community events can significantly impact the open rates in this sector.

Technology and SaaS

  • Industry Average: Open rates can vary widely for the technology and SaaS sector, but 20% to 30% is a common benchmark. These industries are rapidly evolving, and emails that provide valuable insights, product updates, or industry news can perform well.
  • Factors Influencing Open Rates: The rapid pace of innovation and the need for up-to-date information drive subscribers to open emails. Personalization and segmentation also play key roles, as content tailored to the recipient’s specific needs or interests is more likely to be opened.


  • Industry Average: Healthcare-related emails, especially those providing health tips, appointment reminders, or updates on medical advancements, can expect open rates between 20% and 25%.
  • Factors Influencing Open Rates: The personal relevance of health information and the trust in the sender (whether a personal physician or a reputable healthcare organization) significantly enhance open rates.

Average Email Open Rates

Average email open rates can provide valuable benchmarks for marketers to gauge the effectiveness of their email campaigns relative to industry standards. These averages can vary significantly across different sectors due to factors such as consumer behavior, the nature of the email content, and how saturated the market is with email marketing.

Below is an exploration of average open rates for marketing emails and newsletters across various industries, reflecting a broad spectrum of engagement levels. It’s important to note that these figures can fluctuate based on numerous factors, including market conditions, changes in consumer preferences, and advancements in email marketing practices.


  • Average Open Rate: 15-25%
  • E-commerce businesses frequently send promotional emails, including sales announcements, product launches, and personalized offers, which can influence open rates.

B2B (Business to Business)

  • Average Open Rate: 15-22%
  • B2B emails often contain professional content, including industry news, company updates, and educational resources, leading to moderately high engagement.

Non-Profit Organizations

  • Average Open Rate: 25-40%
  • Non-profits tend to have engaged audiences passionate about the cause, resulting in higher open rates for updates, donation requests, and event announcements.


  • Average Open Rate: 20-25%
  • Emails from healthcare providers and related services often contain important information relevant to the recipient’s health, leading to higher open rates.


  • Average Open Rate: 20-30%
  • Educational institutions and services see high open rates for emails related to course offerings, educational content, and institutional updates.

Technology and SaaS

  • Average Open Rate: 15-20%
  • Given the fast-paced nature of the technology sector, emails that include product updates, tech news, and tips for using the software effectively tend to have moderate open rates.

Real Estate

  • Average Open Rate: 20-25%
  • Real estate emails, including listings, market updates, and investment opportunities, engage recipients looking for specific information, thus enjoying higher open rates.

Publishing and Media

  • Average Open Rate: 20-30%
  • Newsletters and updates from publishers and media outlets typically have higher open rates due to the value of the content provided to the audience.


  • Average Open Rate: 20-30%
  • Legal advice, updates on laws, and professional insights contribute to the relatively high open rates in the legal industry.


  • Average Open Rate: 15-20%
  • Retail emails, which often include sales promotions, new product announcements, and loyalty rewards, can see a wide range of open rates depending on personalization and relevance.

Tricky Industries: Cannabis and Crypto

  • Average Open Rate: 15-25%
  • Despite regulatory challenges and market volatility, these industries can engage a highly interested audience, leading to varying open rates.

Marketers must understand that while these averages provide a useful benchmark, the goal should always be to optimize email campaigns for their specific audience. Strategies to improve open rates include segmenting email lists, personalizing email content, optimizing send times, and continually testing and refining email subject lines. Marketers can meet and exceed average industry open rates by focusing on these areas, driving higher engagement, and achieving better results from their email marketing efforts.


Specific open rate benchmarks for all industries were derived from general industry knowledge and email marketing studies published by various email marketing platforms and research organizations. However, given the dynamic nature of email marketing and the specific request for up-to-date benchmarks, including those for niche and heavily regulated industries, it’s essential to consult individual sources for the most accurate and recent data.


Email campaigns stand as a testament to the enduring power of personalized communication. Through this article’s journey into the intricacies of email open rates, click-through rates (CTRs), and click-to-open rates (CTORs), we’ve unraveled the fabric that makes email marketing a compelling tool for businesses across many industries.

From the thrill of casino promotions to the crucial updates of legal settlements, the effectiveness of an email lies not just in its delivery but in sparking the curiosity and engagement of its recipient.

The benchmarks and strategies discussed serve as a beacon for marketers navigating the vast seas of email metrics. However, it’s crucial to remember that these numbers, while insightful, are starting points.

The true essence of a successful email campaign is its ability to resonate with its audience, to deliver value, and to invite action beyond the open. Whether you’re crafting the next promotional blast for a retail giant or a heartfelt appeal for a non-profit, the principles of relevance, personalization, and timing remain your guiding stars.

Numbers measure success, the stories we create, and the impact we inspire. So, as you apply the insights from this article, remember that the ultimate goal is to craft emails that don’t just open but resonate, engage, and, most importantly, connect.