Email marketing is an important customer acquisition and retention tool, but as consumers get bombarded with more and more email messages, how do you know whether your campaign should be judged a success?

While the aims and objectives differ for each campaign, it is useful to be able to benchmark results against the industry average.

Email marketing firm Silverpop has published a study that examines email messages sent during 2011 and the first quarter of 2012 by 1,124 brands in its client base.

A broad set of message types was included in the study. From promotional emails and content-based newsletters to notifications and transactional messages sent by companies in a variety of industries.

The full report covers a number of criteria, but here we look at open rates, CTR and unsubscribe rates.

Open Rates

The open rate of emails is a fairly basic way of measuring the success of your marketing messages, but it is still a useful benchmark.

For this study, Silverpop calculated the open rate as the number of measured opened messages, including emails in which images were enabled, as well as “implied opens” on text messages that recorded a click on a link or an HTML message whose viewer didn’t enable images but clicked on a link, divided by the number of delivered messages.

The average open rate overall was 20.1%, with little variation between the US (19.9%), EMEA (20.9%) and Canada (20.7%).

However there were far bigger differences when looking at the results by industry.

This indicates that consumers are more receptive to messages from the computer software industry, with top performers achieving open rates of 55%.

Perhaps surprisingly, travel and leisure and retail achieve some of the lowest open rates.

Silverpop also looked at the number of opens per opener across the different regions.

The results show that users are tend to open emails more than once, which indicates that they are scanning emails on mobile before looking at the useful ones in more details on desktop.

A recent study by Knotice showed that 27% of email is now opened on a mobile device, so companies need to make sure they are taking advantage of this fact.

However stats from our Email Marketing Census 2012 suggest that many need to do more.

The stats show that a large number of companies do not have any strategy in place for optimising emails for mobile, with 39% reporting this as “non-existent”, and 37% saying their strategy was “basic”. 


The report also looks at CTR, which it defines as the number of unique clicks on links in the email message divided by the number of delivered emails in a campaign.

The average across the regions was 5.2%, though Canada achieved just 3.8% compared to 5.4% in the US and 5.1% in EMEA.

Comparing different industries, computer software was again a high achiever though media and publishing came out on top.

Silverpop suggests that the higher CTRs achieved by computer software, media and publishing and consumer services “may be attributable to these industries typically delivering content lighter on sales related messaging and heavier on news, information and educational materials”.

Unsubscribe rates

The unsubscribe rate is a good indicator of reader disengagement as "unsubscribers are telling you that your program has missed the mark or no longer meets their needs, usually due to a lack of relevancy”.

Across the regions, unsubscribe rates seem relatively low at 0.31%, though it does climb to 1.05% for the worst performers.

Looking at unsubscribe rates by industry, travel and leisure has a particularly high rate which rises to 6.77% in the bottom quartile.

Computer software is again a top performer, though non-profits have the lowest average.

The report suggests that, as with open rates, the best use of unsubscribe rates is to look for trends over time. An unsubscribe rate that increases over time, or which remains constant while spam complaints increase, is an indicator of subscriber discontent.

For more information on this topic check out our Email Marketing Statistics Compendium.

David Moth

Published 24 July, 2012 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (3)


Nick Stamoulis

It's interesting to see computer software doing so well. I wonder if the messaging is just better across the board or the audience is better targeted. There are more insights to be had!

about 6 years ago

Tim Watson

Tim Watson, Email Marketing Consultant at Zettasphere

The conclusion that people open the same email on multiple devices causing the 'opens per opener' figures is wrong.

Knotice did a much better study actually tracking which emails were opened by which person on which device. They found very few emails got opened on more than one device. A percentage lower than click rate. The only people who will open on two devices are the small number of people who wish to act on the email (the most important people in this case too).

Before the days of mobile, I saw total open rates (opens per opener) much higher than the open rate - its not a new thing caused by mobile trend.

about 6 years ago


Jordie van Rijn - emailmarketing consultant

Very true Tim, i’m glad you brought that up. Just because something sounds logical, doesn't mean it actually happens.

The Knotice report is called Mobile Email Opens Report, and the one for the 2nd half of 2011 says that only 2,39% open both on desktop and mobile. But it doesn't state which one first.

So the scanning (with confirmed renders) on mobile to read later on desktop is certainly not an explanation.

If people are interested, I keep track of most mobile email stats here:

about 6 years ago

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