How to get your customers to open your emails

Successful marketing revolves around having the right message reach the right target audience. One way of doing it, is by sending emails to that audience. But how many of your customers actually read it?

Getting a respectable open rate is the one of the most common marketing goals companies are striving for. According to a report, a successful open rate for businesses should be around 20 percent, but in order to get to those numbers, you will need to give some thought as to what you are sending, when you are sending it, and why you are sending it.

A good email campaign requires a strategy based on combining email automation, personalization and creativity. To accomplish this, you need to follow these three steps:

Segment effectively

“Something Marketers mustn’t do: Forget that your audience is made up of people. Would you like to get 3 emails a day with basically the exact same messaging, when you’ve opened the previous two thinking they’re different? No? Then why would your users like it? Use common sense and segment your heart out.” – Amanda Soehnlen, expert in analytics, design, coding and psychology.

We all know that placing your emails in different categories makes sure the right email reaches the right people. In order for the email to be relevant to our target audience, we usually segment our email database based on different variables such as purchase history, location, browsing habits and such. Still, this doesn’t mean that your job here is done and that all you need to do is to send these personalized emails every now and then. The first and foremost thing to think about is your email open rates and the number of customers you actually reached with it.

In order to do this, you will need to collect so-called behavioral data on your customers. When it comes to emails, this mostly refers to different types of content that customers prefer, time of day they usually open emails, but also other data such as whether they respond to them or belong to a group of “silent” customers.

To increase your email open rates with the help of behavioral data, you can also employ a smart hack which doesn’t require more than a bit of creativity.

After segmenting customers who hadn’t responded to their first email, companies manage to increase their open rates by tweaking the email subject line to be more compelling, even though the content of the email remained the same.

But the real question is how to tweak your subject lines to be more “clickable”? Lucky for us, many successful companies excel in this. To make their subject line more interesting, they use a combination of intriguing questions, “fear of missing out” lines and even humor.

For example, e-commerce giant Groupon has subject lines such as “Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)”, while Pizza Hut say “Feed your guests without breaking the bank” which makes their emails really stand out in their customer’s inbox.

Also, using numbers in your subject line is always a good idea. Language learning platform Duolingo and their “Learn a language with only 5 minutes per day” line turned up to be a very successful tactic for increasing their email open rates.

Another good way to create a compelling subject line is to write it in the form of a question, as in the example from The Tropical Travelers provided below asking if their customers “Want Rock Star Treatment?”.

The Tropical Travelers

Cosmetics retailer Sephora also has an excellent approach to email personalization based on collected customer data. In this example, it is shown how Sephora makes an extra effort to sell more by personalizing their email content based on eye color and skin type of their customers.Sephora

Personalize creatively

After segmenting your email database, the next step is to personalize all the different emails you send. Personalization includes a bunch of various and data-driven techniques which are based on your customers’ previous purchases, buying preferences, website browsing data and other information you collected in their buying process.

Along with basic personalization of emails such as including the customer’s name in your subject line and/or the first line of the email, you need to make a step forward and create a remarkable personal experience for each of your customers.

World known e-commerce service eBay encourages their customers to buy more by sending them personal emails with detailed offers which are similar to their previous product searches on the website.


One of the best and most innovative examples of email personalization is the easyJet’s ‘storytelling’ email campaign which was launched for the company’s 20th birthday celebration. In this campaign, every easyJet customer received an email containing a destination overview and details of their flights in a truly unique way.


Also, you can use email personalization to re-sell if you know when they’re running out of your product, or up-sell if you know what they’re buying. A good example for this is Amazon which sends out personal emails with recommendations based on their customers’ previous purchases.


By employing these different data-driven personalisation techniques based on your customers’ behavior and buying preferences, your emails will stand out, be of greater value and improve your open and click through rates.

Automate (timely)

Setting up your emails so that they get sent automatically when certain triggers are activated is one of the most common email marketing tactics.

These triggers can be the day of your customer’s first registration or their first purchase, their birthdays or public holidays. Automated email campaigns are proven to be very successful in engaging target audiences, increasing email open rates and also transaction levels and revenue.

US retailer Banana Republic has a great approach in sending out birthday emails with a compelling subject line “Happy Birthday! Here’s a little something just for you…” which serves as a great example of email automation. Their unique greeting card contains a 15% discount for the next purchase which is valid during their customer’s whole birthday month.

Banana Republic

Email automation can also be used to re-engage with customers who haven’t made any purchases from you lately. The holidays may be a perfect time to reach out to them, such as shown in this example from the travel website

Wrap Up

To increase your email open rates, you need to develop a unique email marketing strategy. This requires employing different marketing tactics such as email automation and personalization, but also a bit of creativity in reaching the customer with the right content. In order to do this, you will need to:

  • Segment your customers and track customer behavior to create a deeper segmentation and design a better marketing strategy for each of them
  • Personalize your emails based on their purchases, browsing history and other collected data and be creative in the ways you reach out to the customers
  • Automate your emails and send out your business offers, discounts or coupons on your customer’s birthday, public holidays and other significant events to make your customer’s experience truly outstanding

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