By Jessica Vionas-Singer

Email-benchmarks-chart-over-time

Benchmark
noun bench·mark \ˈbench-ˌmärk\
: something that can be used as a way to judge the quality or level of other, similar things

Not too long ago I worked for a company with a very large email database. They sent out daily emails, which promoted sales relevant to their target market, were wonderfully designed, and had appropriate CTAs. One of my tasks was to report on Open Rate and Click Rate weekly. At my first meeting (with various departments in attendance), I showed the email statistics for the week prior and asked if there were any questions. There was only one: "What is the industry average?" (i.e. how do our numbers compare).

Basically, we all want to know how we stack up. 

Benchmarks can be a very useful tool  they act as a measuring stick, so to speak, for marketers to evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts, for better or worse. This is especially helpful for email, which can be tweaked and tested easily with many opportunities to try again. Below you will find some helpful benchmarks to use in evaluating your emails.

First, a Word About External vs. Internal Benchmarks

For any type of benchmark, there are essentially two kinds: external and internal. External benchmarks compare you against the world. They set the bar for what you should be achieving according to everyone else. Internal benchmarks compare a current tactic or method with past ones inside the company. While external benchmarks give you a picture of where you exist in the world (much like student ranking in high school), internal benchmarks are often more realistic and useful in setting goals for your company (e.g. I scored an 80% on a math test; next time I will aim for 85%).

External Email Marketing Benchmarks

When it comes to email, there are typically four main statistics marketers track: Open Rate, Click Rate, Bounce Rate, and Unsubscribe Rate.

In August 2015 MailChimp released the following data after they “scanned hundreds of millions of emails delivered by our system ... and calculated the average unique open rates, average unique click rates, average unique soft bounces, average unique hard bounces, and average unique abuse complaint rate by industry.”

Their research found the following averages:

Unique Open Rate: 22.3%
Click Rate: 2.8%
Hard Bounce Rate: 0.6%
Unsubscribe Rate: 0.27%

 

However, given the variance between different types of businesses, MailChimp broke out these statistics further into the following industries:

Industry

Open

Click

Soft
Bounce

Hard
Bounce

Abuse

Unsub

Agriculture and Food Services

25.63%

3.39%

0.67%

0.51%

0.03%

0.28%

Architecture and Construction

24.97%

3.09%

1.64%

1.17%

0.04%

0.36%

Arts and Artists

27.86%

2.98%

0.76%

0.55%

0.03%

0.27%

Beauty and Personal Care

19.41%

2.25%

0.51%

0.49%

0.05%

0.33%

Business and Finance

21.64%

2.90%

0.78%

0.63%

0.03%

0.24%

Computers and Electronics

21.55%

2.55%

1.11%

0.78%

0.03%

0.30%

Construction

22.41%

2.05%

1.70%

1.32%

0.06%

0.44%

Consulting

19.96%

2.57%

1.04%

0.78%

0.03%

0.29%

Creative Services/Agency

23.01%

2.95%

1.19%

0.93%

0.04%

0.35%

Daily Deals/E-Coupons

13.69%

1.89%

0.13%

0.09%

0.01%

0.09%

eCommerce

16.87%

2.60%

0.34%

0.27%

0.03%

0.21%

Education and Training

22.44%

2.94%

0.63%

0.54%

0.03%

0.20%

Entertainment and Events

21.48%

2.42%

0.56%

0.46%

0.03%

0.26%

Gambling

17.35%

2.92%

0.44%

0.48%

0.04%

0.16%

Games

22.08%

3.38%

0.55%

0.60%

0.04%

0.23%

Government

26.77%

3.67%

0.57%

0.47%

0.02%

0.13%

Health and Fitness

23.23%

3.06%

0.52%

0.51%

0.04%

0.37%

Hobbies

29.35%

5.65%

0.39%

0.31%

0.03%

0.23%

Home and Garden

25.61%

4.04%

0.71%

0.49%

0.05%

0.37%

Insurance

19.90%

2.11%

0.75%

0.79%

0.04%

0.22%

Legal

22.30%

2.90%

0.79%

0.66%

0.03%

0.21%

Manufacturing

23.25%

2.64%

1.56%

1.06%

0.04%

0.36%

Marketing and Advertising

18.50%

2.15%

0.88%

0.70%

0.03%

0.28%

Media and Publishing

22.60%

4.69%

0.33%

0.21%

0.01%

0.12%

Medical, Dental, and Healthcare

22.87%

2.67%

0.82%

0.81%

0.05%

0.29%

Mobile

21.28%

2.48%

0.76%

0.73%

0.04%

0.39%

Music and Musicians

23.02%

2.91%

0.68%

0.52%

0.03%

0.29%

Non-Profit

25.58%

2.94%

0.55%

0.46%

0.02%

0.19%

Other

23.45%

3.08%

0.88%

0.69%

0.04%

0.28%

Pharmaceuticals

19.67%

2.68%

0.82%

0.71%

0.03%

0.22%

Photo and Video

26.49%

3.84%

0.81%

0.69%

0.04%

0.40%

Politics

22.79%

2.23%

0.50%

0.46%

0.04%

0.21%

Professional Services

21.11%

2.73%

1.00%

0.77%

0.03%

0.31%

Public Relations

20.32%

1.81%

0.87%

0.67%

0.02%

0.24%

Real Estate

22.03%

2.20%

0.76%

0.64%

0.05%

0.33%

Recruitment and Staffing

20.57%

2.53%

0.64%

0.64%

0.03%

0.31%

Religion

26.52%

3.28%

0.22%

0.21%

0.02%

0.12%

Restaurant

23.54%

1.48%

0.37%

0.29%

0.03%

0.30%

Restaurant and Venue

22.59%

1.46%

0.65%

0.55%

0.04%

0.39%

Retail

22.06%

2.82%

0.44%

0.37%

0.03%

0.28%

Social Networks and Online Communities

22.14%

3.73%

0.44%

0.37%

0.03%

0.23%

Software and Web App

22.03%

2.61%

1.11%

0.89%

0.03%

0.39%

Sports

26.13%

3.61%

0.58%

0.50%

0.03%

0.27%

Telecommunications

20.76%

2.31%

1.19%

0.94%

0.03%

0.27%

Travel and Transportation

20.80%

2.43%

0.74%

0.53%

0.03%

0.24%

Vitamin Supplements

17.02%

2.06%

0.42%

0.36%

0.05%

0.27%

Read the full article, including statistics by company size, at http://mailchimp.com/resources/research/email-marketing-benchmarks.

 

Similarly, Silverpop did a study among their users and found the following:

Unique Open Rate: 21%
Click Rate: 3.2%
Hard Bounce Rate: 0.55%
Unsubscribe Rate: 0.13%

 

They also broke down their results by industry: 

Industry

Unique Open Rate

Click Through Rate

Hard Bounce Rate

Complaint Rate

Unsubscribe Rate

Automobiles & Transportation

24.0%

2.8%

0.82%

0.04%

0.07%

Computer Hardware & Telecommunications

25.7%

5.7%

0.98%

0.01%

0.11%

Computer Software & Online Services

21.5%

3.2%

0.59%

0.02%

0.13%

Consumer Products

27.3%

5.4%

0.54%

0.04%

0.18%

Corporate Services

23.7%

3.4%

0.76%

0.02%

0.18%

Financial Services

22.1%

3.3%

0.62%

0.04%

0.20%

Food Service, Sports & Entertainment

20.9%

3.7%

0.68%

0.04%

0.17%

Hospitals, Healthcare & Biotech

26.6%

4.3%

0.93%

0.02%

0.11%

Industrial Manufacturing & Utilities

25.2%

3.4%

1.29%

0.03%

0.19%

Insurance

28.7%

4.2%

0.89%

0.02%

0.14%

Lodging, Travel Agencies & Services

29.6%

5.3%

0.52%

0.03%

0.15%

Marketing Agencies & Services

25.1%

4.0%

1.09%

0.04%

0.22%

Media & Publishing

16.1%

2.2%

0.27%

0.02%

0.06%

Nonprofits, Associations, and Government

27.5%

4.0%

0.50%

0.03%

0.13%

Real Estate, Construction & Building Products

26.0%

3.4%

0.72%

0.05%

0.33%

Retail & Ecommerce

18.3%

2.9%

0.26%

0.03%

0.10%

Schools & Education

27.2%

4.6%

0.82%

0.03%

0.23%

Read more about their study, including statistics by country and additional benchmarks, such as clicks per clicker and opens per opener at: http://www.silverpop.com/marketing-resources/white-papers/all/2015/email-metrics-benchmark-study-2015/.

Going Beyond “Traditional” Email Metrics

Clicks, Opens, Bounces, and Unsubscribes are really only one piece to the puzzle, though. If you only look at these benchmarks, you may be missing out on the full picture of how your company’s emails perform.

Closed-loop reporting takes emails one step further and tracks the outcome of your emails. For example, you might want to track:

  • Offers downloaded / number of emails sent
  • Number of MQLs / number of emails sent
  • Number of SQLs / number of emails sent
  • Number of opportunities / number of emails sent
  • Number of sales / number of emails sent
  • Dollars of sales / number of emails sent

Benchmarks for these types of numbers are much more difficult to find as many software solutions do not allow you to track marketing efforts all the way down the funnel. While it possible to calculate these by hand, that can be a time-consuming effort without metrics such as those provided by HubSpot.

One external benchmark from the above list is published by Experian Marketing Services quarterly, which is:

Average revenue per email: $0.08 in Q2 2015 

Read the full report at: http://www.experian.com/marketing-services/email-benchmark-q2-2015.html

(For more email statistics especially useful for retailers, check out this article by MarketingLand, such as ROI and Cost Per Subscriber: http://marketingland.com/email-marketing-equals-dollar-signs-30168. Also see this article on calculating dollars per email address: http://marketingland.com/marketing-power-processes-tracking-email-to-the-dollars-64604)

For these types of closed-loop metrics that show the effectiveness of an email campaign (versus popularity alone), internal benchmarks will be the best gauge of success.

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And there’s your measuring stick. Good luck on your email efforts and never stop testing, experimenting, and trying new things! Create your own benchmarks and then surpass them! Your results are truly the only ones that really matter.

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Jessica Vionas-Singer

About the author

Jessica Vionas-Singer is a Marketing Strategist at SmartBug Media where she leads the strategy behind inbound and content marketing activities to help a portfolio of clients exceed their sales and marketing goals. She fell in love with marketing at her first job at a technology company specializing in credit evaluation software. Prior to joining SmartBug, Jessica was the Director of Marketing at a B2B company that built software for analyzing genetics. Her background includes nearly 20 years of marketing experience in content creation and lead-driving tactics, online presence and blog creation, social media engagement, budgeting and project plans, webinar and trade show event management, public relations, comprehensive promotional campaigns, and analytics. Jessica has a BS in Sociology from Montana State University – Bozeman. Read more articles by Jessica Vionas-Singer.

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