In Brands We Trust: Why Consumers Open Mails

The global email open rate is down even while frequency is up, according to the 2019 Email Benchmark and Engagement Study released on Thursday by Twilio SendGrid. But while frequency matters, trust seems to be the top factor in why people open or don’t open email.

The aggregate open rate has fallen from 18% in 2018 to 14.5% this year, and the click rate has dropped from 2% to 1.6.%. But the average monthly send rate went from 7 emails per month to 8.3 YoY.

“It’s in inverse proportion — it has flipped on its head,” says Len Shneyder, VP of Industry Relations at Twilio SendGrid.

But Shneyder cautions that less may be more. 

Twilio analyzed 100 million recipient engagements from over 100,000 vendors. In addition, in a first for this annual benchmark report, the firm surveyed roughly 800 consumers in the U.S. and 800 in the UK, and conducted more in-depth interviews with 40 consumers in each country. 



From the consumer side, Twilio determined the main factors in why people emails are:

  • Sender
  • Subject line
  • Offer/promotion
  • Content
  • Time of day

Of the consumers polled, 81% say the sender’s identify affects their decision to open an email, and 53% agree that the influence is a strong one.

This speaks to  “brand familiarity and consistency over time,” Shneyder says.

This is all the more reason for brands to embrace BIMI (Brand indicators for Message Identification), a security standard that allows brands with DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Receiving & Conformance) protection to display their logos in email subject lines.

BIMi creates a “visual trust indicator,” Shneyder says.

Subject lines also influence the decision to open — among 73% overall, with 37% strongly so.

“Subject lines should be clear and concise,” Shneyder urges. “Make sure people understand who you are, why you’re sending and what they can get out of it.”

It’s similar with content, but with one international split: 41% of UK consumers prefer longer content — one to three paragraphs — versus 33% of U.S. respondents.

Personalization makes emails very memorable, according to 26% of shoppers in both the U.S. and UK. Millennials seem to lead the way in the U.S., with 35% saying they are very influenced by personalization.

Another factor is frequency. Twilio found that 37% of consumers like to receive emails from brands that interest them every day, 32% once a week and 8% twice a week. The remainder welcome them less frequently. 

This prompts Shneyder to say, “don’t do it daily.” While there may be greater tolerance among younger generations, “the daily thing is probably not a winning strategy,” he adds. 

Offers are another consideration, with U.S. participants more influenced by them than those in the UK. Discounts reign, with several people saying they wouldn’t bother with an email unless they receive more than 40% off. But there’s more to it than discounts.

“The discount isn’t necessarily as important as what they’re trying to sell,” Shneyder observes. If the firm is offering a relevant product, for example, “there’s a natural engagement and discount will be appreciated,” he adds.

Meanwhile, 45% of U.S. consumers want GIFs or videos, versus 55% who don’t. The percentages are similar in the UK. The exact percentages depend on the generation, with 49% of millennials open to GIFs and videos and 24% of baby boomers.

Why this antipathy toward video? Shneyder surmises that “we self-segment our channels. We want video on YouTube, or Hulu, where it’s supposed to be displayed. People think of email as not being the video channel.” 

For his part, Shneyder questions overuse of emojis in subject lines, asking, “are we moving in direction of hieroglyphics? Have we forgotten how to write language?”

Mobile usage for opening emails stands at 61.9%, up from 55.6% in 2018. And non-mobile has fallen from 44.4% to 38.1%.

On another front, the research found that Gmail is the dominant inbox provider in 25 countries — except for Russia, where is first and Gmail is second. Hotmail and Yahoo usually compete for second and third place in most nations.  

Apple is the top device provider, except where generic devices are preferred. Samsung is third in most countries.



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