Convey Value, Add Video and Send Welcome Emails to Generate Opens

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"If you only send one [email], make it a welcome message. Why? Because our latest data shows the average open rate is over 82%! And the average click-through rate is around 27%. That's four times as many opens and seven times as many clicks compared to other emails."

That's from a new report from the email marketing firm GetResponse—based on an analysis of 4 billion emails earlier this year. Why do welcome emails get such high open and click-through rates? They say it's because we expect welcome emails to land in our inbox—to confirm our signup or purchase. The trick may be to give that welcome email some useful add-ons, similar to a confirmation or thank you when customers purchase something.

Here are more highlights from the report:

Less may be better. GetResponse reports a sharp decline in open rate and click-through rate when a publisher increases the number of emails it sends per week. Marketers that send one newsletter have an average open rate of 33.4%, whereas the rate falls to 26.9% when a second is added. Further declines are seen when messages increase, falling to below 20% after the fifth email. "Your audience will reward you with higher open and click rates if you don't send more than five newsletters a week." Of course, knowing your audience and the conversions that additional emails may bring also matters, especially with high-value offerings

Value over length. Shorter autoresponder cycles tend to produce better results. In fact, the single-message autoresponder cycle—often used as a welcome or thank you email with a link to download something—had an astonishing 88.7% open rate and a 35.07% click-through rate.

Plan for that opening spike. Almost 19% of all email campaigns are opened in the very first hour after sending. With each hour, your chances of getting more opens decrease. After 6 hours, over half of your email opens have already happened. Planning a flash sale? Consider a retargeting campaign (via emails or a PPC campaign) to follow up with the people who don't respond within six hours.

More opens globally, especially Germany. In North America, the average email is opened by 19% of recipients, compared with 26.9% in Europe, 25.6% in Oceania, and 23.1% in South America. Amazingly, Germany has an average open rate of 40.7% and a click-through rate of around 7%, both double or more of other major countries, including the U.S., Canada, India, and the United Kingdom.

Add more video. Emails with video still generate the highest engagement rates. But only around 8% of the emails that GetResponse customers send contain links to videos. "For now, the best workaround is to use an image (maybe even a GIF) that looks like a video player and links to your page. That way, you'll boost your click-throughs and enhance your contacts' experience as they'll watch the content in their default browser or video player."

Shorter subject lines, sometimes. Based strictly on opens, subject lines should be somewhere between 90 and 140 characters. Over 85% of subject lines are even shorter, however. GetResponse believes this is a promising trend, considering the rise of mobile use where less of the subject line is visible. "Your subject lines need to be compelling enough to get people to open the email. But remember that your sender name and preheader text aim to do the same."

Convey value in subject line. Except for "fw" or "fwd"—which GetResponse feels is not worth the long-term risk—the top words for inducing opens in a subject line were "pdf," "newsletter" and "ebook." "If you're promoting a piece of content or a valuable resource, you're probably better off if you mention it in the subject line." But for click-to-open rates, "infographic" scored huge at 35.1%, followed by newsletter at 31.4%. "Sales," "quick" and "free" also fared well—the latter drawing this comment: "This phrase, previously believed to cause deliverability issues, seems to work well for quite a few marketers... People still enjoy receiving free things." Amen.

Check out the full report here.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…