The Ugly Truth About Email Open Rates


If you’ve done any type of email marketing you’ve probably spent a lot of time looking at open rates. Open rates tell you how many people actually opened your email. High open rates mean people were interested in what you had to say, sell, or promote. It’s a great way to measure success.

But what is a good open rate?

In my own business, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at open rates for our clients. Of course, we don’t just look at open rates to determine the success of a particular email marketing strategy. But open rates are important and worth paying attention to.

Take note, here’s what research says is the national average of email open rates.

It’s 26%.

No, 20%.

But wait, it’s probably 37%.

This guy says it’s 21%.

Could it be, 18%?

No. It’s all of them.

How can there be such different national averages of open rates?

Here’s the ugly truth about open rates. It all depends on where you look.

The data can be skewed by things like:


Types of email

Sample size



Depending on which part of the country, state, or even city you’re sending the email to you’re going to see variances in open rates. Even if you find a “national” average make sure the sample list is from the country you’re representing. This study found that Europe had a 26% open rate as compared to North America at 19%.

Type of email

Hopefully your business is utilizing multiple types of emails in your marketing strategy. How a recipient responds to a weekly newsletter versus a transactional email can vary widely. Trigger emails (ie. order & shipping confirmation) will have higher open rates than straight-out marketing emails.

Amount of data collected

Size does make a difference. Averages pulled from a small sample size are less representative of the whole. If you’re looking at a source that touts high open rates, they may be looking at a small representation of the whole. It also makes a difference when the data was collected. There’s a big difference between percentages today versus even 5 years ago.


When comparing open rates, look at other companies within your industry. Here’s just a small sampling at how open rates can vary among various businesses.

Take a look at these open rate results by industry:

Arts & entertainment, construction, and real estate have the highest open rates (40%+), while marketing, travel, and software are the lowest (20%+). That’s quite a difference!

Raising or lowering your expectations on open rates based on the standard of someone not in your field just doesn’t make sense.

I’m not saying that open rates aren’t important – they are! Just be aware that not all open rates are created equal.