Comparing Email Open Rate Benchmarks | Opt-in vs. Cold List

Comparing Email Open Rate Benchmarks | Opt-in vs. Cold List

The Article ‘Comparing Email Open Rate Benchmarks | Opt-in vs. Cold List’ Was originally published in 2018. It’s been reworked and modernized for 2021.

Email open rate benchmarks are important because they provide an important insight into your email marketing efforts. How do your open rates compare with the industry average?

First things first, it’s important to differentiate the open rates you can expect to achieve with an opted-in list vs. a purchased email listNaturally, a cold email list will have a lower open rate, with a 3-5% open rate considered to be a slam dunk.

Comparing your open-rates with others in your industry is a key benchmark to measure your email campaign effectiveness.

Comparing Email Open Rate Benchmarks | Opt-in vs. Cold List

What Kind of Open Rates Should Your Business Expect?

If you’re a sales or marketing professional, you likely devote some serious effort to sending email marketing campaigns.  You monitor the average open rates of your campaigns, soft and hard bounces, and unique click rates.

With all of this time and effort put into building the perfect email, it’s essential to understand exactly what exactly is going wrong if your emails aren’t hitting your goals.

The open rate is important because it’s the first key indicator of your content hitting the mark.  But do you know how your campaign stacks up against the industry average email open rate?

Email Open Rate Benchmarks for Opt-In Campaigns

Graph showing email marketing open rates by industry

Sending to a Cold List vs. Opt-in

Sending B2B email campaigns to a purchased list presents one of the toughest scenarios when it comes to email marketing, so ensure that you have taken the necessary precautions to maximize deliverability.

Due to how subscribers were added, it’s simply not possible to achieve the open rates of an opted-in contact list with a purchased list.

A warm, permission-based list was earned by creating engaging content that inspired the reader to take action – so naturally, they are much more likely to open an email from a brand they remember. This isn’t to say your cold campaign won’t get opened, you just have to have the right mindset going in and approach your campaign with the proper strategy.

Setting realistic expectations for your cold contact email campaigns will help you better understand and optimize your efforts. Outbound sales emails to cold contacts is a numbers game after all.

The open rates of a cold email campaign may be lower but by scaling your efforts, it’s possible to convert more users to your offer overall. One of many goals your cold email campaign should have is to generate more opt-in leads to nurture via your marketing automation funnel.

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How Do Your Campaigns Compare?

If the question, “how do our campaigns compare to others in our industry” has come up in a recent marketing or sales strategy meeting, you’re not alone.  For up-to-date data that includes click-through and bounce rates by industry, there are a number of helpful resources including this comparison chart.

Before you compare your email open rate benchmarks with the “average” open rates in your industry, the marketing team needs to set internal goals that will tie the results together.

To align your email marketing efforts to your business goals, you’ll need to paint a clear picture of the following relationships of your campaign:

  • Email Open Rate Benchmarks
  • Deliverability Goals
  • Conversion Rates

The marriage of these 3 aspects can make a dramatic impact on the number of new leads you attract to your business.  Get all three humming along with a call-to-action that converts new leads into customers, and you’ve got a winning recipe for email marketing success.

Email Campaign Engagement

The reason email open rates are so important to track is that it’s considered the first engagement qualifier.

How many people are engaged enough in your message, that they will take that first step and open the email you send?

It’s no surprise that email open rate benchmarks vary depending on the industry.  With the average open rate across all industries at 22%, consider your permission-based campaign a success if you’re hovering around that percentage.

A Simple Email Open Rate Formula

Comparing your results with industry benchmarks can help you identify areas for improvement. So how can you start to create your own benchmarks for email open rates?

Whether you’ve sent 100 campaigns, or 5, you can get an average using data from your email marketing provider.

Add your open rates from each campaign, and divide it by the number of campaigns sent. That’s your average.

Analyze your high and low performing campaigns

Take the two top performing campaigns, and the two lowest performing campaigns and find the key differences.

Maybe you used a personalization tag in your highest performing subject lines, maybe you sent your lowest performing to a list where deliverability was an issue.

Find deviations from the average, and use them to refine your future campaigns.

What else affects your open rates?

There is no be-all end-all solution to improve your email open rates. There are many factors that can influence the open rate of your campaigns.  Here are a few of the big ones that should be tested first:

Brand recognition:

You can optimize recognition by setting your “sender name” to something your audience can identify, or even by putting the name of your company in your subject line.

Email Frequency:

There’s a fine line between sending too many emails and not enough. Strike the right balance, and you’ll see more consistently high open rates.

Mobile Experience:

If the majority of your audience uses their phones to read emails, make sure your email is designed to be mobile friendly.


Make sure you segment and maintain the “cleanliness” of your lists. Deliverability affects open rates and your sender score. Stay on top of deliverability best practices.

Email Lead Generation Software

Are your campaigns exceeding the industry average open rates?  Clickback offers an effective solution for reaching your cold contact email campaign goals. It’s different from traditional email service providers because it allows you to send email marketing to a purchased list.

Clickback’s email lead generation software will help you set campaign goals, and use your email open rate benchmarks to optimize for better results. The software allows you to aggressively scale your outbound email marketing efforts by sending powerful (and 100% compliant) bulk email campaigns to cold contacts.

With the right software, you can get better than average industry performance by testing and refining your messages and using conversion best practices. Sign up for a free demo of Clickback’s email lead generation software below:

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