Email newsletters are playing an increasingly important role in local merchant marketing, with 65% of SMBs now using the digital channel to drive customer engagement, according to a survey by Vocus and Inc. However, merchant satisfaction with email marketing is largely tied to the success of individual campaigns, and that success is directly tied to email open rates.
Open rates, which are the percentage of recipients who actually open an email message, generally fall somewhere between 13% and 30%, depending on the industry. By increasing the percentage of recipients who actually view their messages, merchants can increase ROI without changing up their promotions or adding more customers to their email databases.
Here are six strategies for SMBs looking to improve open rates on their email newsletters.
1. Write a descriptive subject line. “Your subject line is key to getting people to open your email. The subject lines that get opened the most are the ones that tell exactly what’s in the email. It’s that simple. With your subject line, tell me the when and what — ’40% Off Clearance Items this Saturday — and I’ll open your email to learn more about the where, why and how.” (Ron Cates, Constant Contact)
2. Look at the first sentence. “The email’s first sentence, also known as the pre-header text, appears often even before the email is opened. It’s a good way to extend those confining 25 characters in the subject line with complimentary information. Make sure the first sentence of your email says more than, ‘Click here to unsubscribe.’ If the first item in your newsletter is an image, the ALT of the image will be used as the first sentence. It’s a stealthy way to have great pre-header text that disappears like magic.” (Mireille Tessier, CakeMail)
3. Check who your emails are coming from. “If you’re using free email services like Yahoo or AOL to deploy your business’s emails, you risk the chance of decreasing your email deliverability. Using an @yahoo.com or @aol.com email address as your ‘from’ address is now not compliant based on the current standards for authentication or DMARC. However, there’s a very simple fix to this problem. Change your ‘from’ address to one at your website’s domain. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org.” (Erik Harbison, AWeber)
4. Segment your lists. “Another way to improve open rates is through proper list segmentation. By separating your subscriber list by interests, geography, age, etc., you can send them much more customized and personalized content in your emails, further enticing them to open. I recommend collecting this information when they sign up for your mailing list, or basing it off previous items they have purchased from you.” (Ron Cates, Constant Contact)
5. Shorten your subject lines. “Subjects should be clear and concise — think 25 characters or less. Some email clients, especially mobile, simply don’t have that much space, so smaller, all-inclusive subjects do better than vague, abstract, ‘This person lost 500 lbs. with this one weird trick’-type subject lines.” (Mireille Tessier, CakeMail)
6. Take time for list hygiene. “It’s inevitable. Over time some of your email subscribers will become disengaged. Maybe their interests have changed, or maybe they never really had much of an interest to begin with. Whatever the reason, take time to get those subscribers back on board. Start by looking for subscribers that have not opened your emails or clicked on links in the last three to six months, and target them specifically with reengagement messaging like a link to a survey or a link to update their preferences. Consistent list hygiene will ensure that you are sending to your most engaged customers.” (Erik Harbison, AWeber)
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.