Email Marketing Statistics in 2021: Mastering the Top Digital Marketing Channel

Over the years, ecommerce has seen an increasing number of ways to connect with customers through digital marketing channels: from social media to podcasts. While platforms like Instagram and Facebook offer a glimpse at consumer behavior and interests outside of a website, there is one channel that stands out as the OG of digital marketing: email. It’s the oldest and one of the most competitive, so what makes email marketing such an effective conversion booster? Read on to find out.

Measuring Email Marketing Success Rate

Emails are a way for brands to stay connected with customers long after they’ve left a website. Of course, social media achieves a similar effect — but the depth of the connection between brand and consumer varies.

When you share a post on social media, or run an ad on Facebook, there are less opportunities to make it personal outside of displaying relevant products or services.

Emails offer more options to do this. You can segment your email subscribers according to specific categories. You can track their engagement and create if/then branches in the sales funnel. You can address each user by first name, which adds a personal touch to the entire message that separates it from the usual email blasts that flood a user’s inbox.

This is something other marketing channels lack, which is why email marketing is still extraordinarily effective for businesses big and small. Finally, there is the element of trust; when a customer subscribes to a list or a newsletter, it means much more than if they simply click the like button on a post or follow a company page on social media.

Now, the reality: While an effective means of getting your message across to customers, email marketing is also one of the most competitive channels, with approximately 319 billion emails sent daily. As an ecommerce retailer, how do you even begin to compete with other brands for consumer attention?

It all comes down to clever execution. Let’s go over some of the ways this can be achieved based on what we know about the current digital marketing landscape.

Email Marketing Statistics: Email Clients, Open Rates and Send Days

Before we dive into email marketing tactics, let’s look at which email clients consumers use the most. Apple iPhone and Gmail are by far the most popular email clients in the world – with Apple Mail coming in third and Outlook ranking fourth. In fact, when you combine other email clients on the list, they don’t amount to even one-tenth of the total percentage. With so many active users, the iPhone has the capacity to become a go-to resource for checking email inboxes; and with all the benefits of setting up a Google Account, it’s logical that Gmail is so widely used.

The Impact of List Size on Email Open Rate

A market analysis by Getresponse reveals that smaller send lists naturally yield higher open rates, and right around the 5,000 subscriber mark, the rates start dropping significantly. The best email rates come from companies with up to 2,000 subscribers. As the number of subscribers goes up, the email rates slowly start descending.

Of course, this is one of the many challenges that comes with growing a subscriber base, but it’s not the end-all to driving a higher open rate.

As your email list grows in size, it becomes more important to think about the content you’re sending out to each subscriber and making sure it’s relevant to what that reader is interested in. Not doing so can result in sending out generic emails that subscribers won’t care to engage with. We’ll discuss a few of the top email marketing tactics later in the article.

The Best Days to Send an Email

Emails don’t perform equally well on every day. What works for one business may not work for another, though there are some general rules of thumb to consider when planning out your email marketing calendar.

Ideal email send days

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are generally considered the best days for reaching high open rates, with Tuesday being the best of all three, followed by Thursday and Wednesday, respectively.

What’s also important to note is that email users tend to refuse opening an email if they see two emails from the same company sent consecutively. So, for better open rates it would be best to avoid sending back-to-back emails as it might be perceived as spammy – and those emails have a higher chance of going unopened.

Email Marketing Benchmarks by Industry (2020-2021)

According to Campaign Monitor, an average 18% of all emails sent (across multiple industries) will get opened. Retail-specific emails and food & beverage emails are at the lower end of open rates, averaging 12% and 15%, respectively.

Based on this data, we can conclude that users tend to gravitate towards emails that rally around a common cause (such as a government campaign). This is probably because the selling aspect is not so direct in these areas of interest. Compared to these, the lowest click-to-open rate belongs to retail, and logistics & wholesale as a close second.

Obviously, people are more likely to click on an email about something they believe in, meaning something that’s aligned with their values, than on an email about pure and simple commodity purchase. This could also be because of customer perception that, when you’re a part of a nonprofit campaign (for example), you won’t be sold to. No matter what the industry is, customers don’t like being forced to buy anything; they like to make their own choices.

This doesn’t completely rule out email marketing in retail, though. In fact, it reinforces the need to build connections with consumers that go beyond simply selling a product. But how does a brand promote a product without coming off as sales-y?

The key to this strategy is to make sure your email content serves a purpose and really speaks to what each individual shopper needs and is most likely to engage with. Let’s look at some ways brands can nail this delicate balance.

Email Marketing Campaigns That Drive Open Rate and Click Through Rate

The key to a winning ecommerce email marketing strategy is to make sure your email content serves a purpose and really speaks to what each individual shopper needs and is most likely to engage with. While the opportunities are extensive, let’s look at a few initial ways brands can start nailing this delicate balance.

Catchy Subject Lines

With anything you say (especially in an email), half the battle is how you say it. Your first hurdle is to get them to open the email, so you’ll need a catchy subject line. The subject line is often the biggest catalyst of open rates, responsible for 47% of all opened emails.

Generally, the cutoff point for an email subject line is typically around 55 characters (and 30 characters on mobile). While this doesn’t mean you should always stick to this limit, it really comes down to your audience and how they interact with emails over time.

When crafting the ideal open rate strategy, remember to:

  • Experiment with different subject lines
  • A/B test subject lines to learn what works/what doesn’t
  • Analyze which devices email users are interacting with

Triggered Emails Based on Shopper Behavior

It’s very hard to hit the desired sales target if you use the batch-and-blast approach in your email marketing. The engagement is generally very low in the first email, and it’s unrealistic to expect amazing results from email #1. It usually takes more time than that, and great results can be achieved in a longer, nurture campaign. This is why it’s important to incorporate triggered emails into a campaign, segmenting the customers according to their reactions to the emails.

Triggered emails prove a much better solution because they are 24X more effective than blast emails. Blast emails will brick back only $0.04 per send, while at the same time – triggered emails can bring back up to $0.95.

Brands can trigger emails based on:

  • If/when an item is back in stock
  • A customer transaction (i.e. order confirmations and shipping notices)
  • Subscriber sign-up confirmations
  • Cart abandonment
  • Level of engagement (highly engaged shoppers vs lost or idle customers)

Newsletters With a Personalized Touch

In addition to emails, newsletters are also very effective channels for digital marketing. Having a newsletter enables a business to make a stronger bond with its audience and engage them over a longer period of time. Even with all the digital tools available, from social media to emails, newsletters are still better at creating a higher engagement rate than any other marketing communication channel out there. They are perceived as even more personal than emails, and since they, by default, provide a lot of value for the customers upfront, they can significantly contribute to overall sales and revenue if executed correctly.

The secret sauce to an engaging retail newsletter: a combination of informative content and relevant products. In the below example from Beautify, the brand welcomes new email subscribers with helpful links to get started as well as an introduction to products they might find interesting based on what they’ve already browsed on the website:

Want more tips to increase email click-through rate?

Learn the 8 ways brands use Nosto’s Email Widgets to drive higher CTR with their email strategies.