Improve Average Email Click-Through Rates & Move to Above Average

Woman holding phone to demonstrate email click-through rate

Click-through rate (or CTR) is one of the most important metrics for evaluating email performance — second only to revenue, that is.

Why? It’s a 3-in-1 metric. Deliverability, opens, and clicks all impact click-through rate, so it’s an efficient metric to gauge an email’s overall performance.

For someone to click on a link in your email, consider everything that has to go right. The email had to land in their inbox (that’s deliverability). The subject line had to be interesting and relevant to the subscriber (that’s opens). And finally, the email itself had to be enticing enough to justify an action from the recipient (that’s clicks).

So keep reading to discover:

What is a click-through rate?

An email click-through rate is the percentage of how many email recipients clicked on a link within your email out of the people who received your email.

When you send an email through a marketing automation platform, you can track how a user engages with the email. When a recipient clicks a link within the email, your marketing tool will track that engagement.

You can use this click-through rate to measure how effective your email was. Did the recipient want to get more information or take an action on your website? If they clicked, the answer is yes.

Because it’s a percentage rather than a total number, CTR is a smart way to benchmark performance without factors like total list size skewing data.

How do you calculate CTR?

To calculate click-through rate, use this formula:


                  Unique clicks

CTR   =    ———————

                   Total deliveries


You’ll notice that the top number is the total unique clicks. You might also hear about total cumulative clicks, which counts when a user clicks multiple times in the email. For example, if one user clicks five times in an email, it would show as one unique click but five cumulative clicks.

Since click-through rate is measuring how many users clicked on a link, the number of times they clicked doesn’t factor in. That’s why the formula uses total unique clicks.

So say you sent your email to 1,000 people, 500 unique people opened it, and 100 unique people clicked on a link within that email. Your CTR would be 10 percent (100 unique clicks / 1,000 emails delivered).

What’s the difference between click rate, click-through rate, and click-to-open rate?

Keeping the different metrics straight is difficult even when they don’t sound nearly identical, so it’s not surprising this is a common question.

Easy comparison first: Click rate and click-through rate sound similar because they are. In fact, they’re the same. The refer to the number of people who clicked on a link within your email out of the people who received your email.

Click-to-open rate (CTOR), however, is a different metric altogether. CTOR measures the rate people clicked based only on who opened the email. To calculate click-to-open rate, use this formula:


                   Unique clicks

CTOR  =   ———————

                     Unique opens


Let’s go back to that same example I shared earlier. Say you sent your email to 1,000 people, 500 unique people opened it, and 100 unique people clicked on a link within that email. Your CTOR would be 20 percent (100 unique clicks / 500 emails opened).

The CTOR will be higher than the CTR, unless your unique opens are the same as the number of emails you sent.

What’s the average ecommerce email CTR?

The average ecommerce email click-through rate is 2.25 percent, based on all businesses that sent at least one email campaign with Klaviyo in 2020.

But to more accurately benchmark how your ecommerce campaign is performing, here’s a breakdown of the average ecommerce email click-through rates by industry:

Apparel & Accessories 2.12%
Automotive 2.37%
Electronics 1.81%
Food & Beverage 2.06%
Hardware & Home Improvement 2.29%
Health & Beauty 1.43%
Housewares, Home Furnishings, & Garden 1.99%
Jewelry 1.85%
Mass Merchant 1.15%
Office Supplies 2.16%
Specialty 2.16%
Sporting Goods 2.35%
Toys & Hobbies 2.16%
All Industries 2.25%

Source: Klaviyo’s data.

Keep in mind that this breakdown reflects CTRs across all 2020 campaigns, often sent to a wide customer audience.

A more targeted send, such as automated flows based on a visitor’s onsite behavior, will lead to a significantly higher click-through rate. I’ll get into the results you can expect from targeting sends later in this article.

What’s a good ecommerce click-through rate?

Okay, so if those are average CTRs, what’s a good click-through rate for an ecommerce business? Is it just… above the industry average?

Kind of. I can’t tell you an exact number without knowing your ecommerce business. If you’re regularly performing far above average, aiming to generate CTRs simply above average isn’t likely to create substantial growth for your business.

Instead, use these methods to understand what a good click-through rate would look like for your business:

Explore ecommerce industry benchmarks

Use the list above (or similar benchmarks) to familiarize yourself with average CTRs across different industries.

Use the most up-to-date benchmarks as possible to compare your performance to similar brands.

Adjust your expectations based on your brand’s average performance

If your average CTRs are in the bottom five percentile, don’t expect to immediately grow into the top five percentile.

And if you’re performing right above average, don’t settle for average! Always aim to improve upon your own average CTRs.

Look at how different segments and email types perform

Your CTRs for the emails you send to your 30-day engaged audience will perform differently than the ones you send to a list of unengaged subscribers. Automated email flows shouldn’t be compared to regular campaigns.

By looking at your brand’s average CTRs alongside industry benchmarks, you can define what success looks like for your campaigns.

What does a low CTR mean?

Because CTR is such a comprehensive measure, a low CTR can mean one of many things. Here are the three primary things that cause a low click-through rate:

1 | Your emails aren’t getting to the inbox

If your deliverability rate is low, it will affect both your open rate and click-through rate.

2 | Your subject line didn’t interest recipients

You’ll know this is the problem if open rate and click-through rate are low, but deliverability is high.

This doesn’t just mean it was a bad subject line — it could have been targeted to the wrong audience. A subject line about coffee might yield a low open rate from tea lovers, but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tested on a coffee-loving audience.

3 | Your email content didn’t inspire action

Finally, if your deliverability and open rates were high, but your click-through rate was low, it’s likely that the content in your email didn’t resonate with your recipients.

How to increase your email click-through rates

Increasing your click-through rate is an art. What’s most effective for your business will depend on the current status of your emails. For example, if your deliverability is airtight, it’s not worth your time to try to raise your inbox placement from 99.99 percent to 99.999 percent.

With that, here are eight tactics I’ve used to increase ecommerce CTR.

1 | Practice healthy list habits

High email deliverability hinges on healthy lists. Regularly cleaning your list (removing unengaged subscribers before they mark your emails as spam) helps you actually make it into your recipients’ inboxes.

If you think deliverability is the root of your CTR problem, check out these six tips to help you improve your email deliverability.

Beyond deliverability, a good habit to help you boost clicks is to segment your list based on engagement and interests.

You can use customer behavior to segment all kinds of campaigns. For example, on big sale emails, exclude customers who just purchased the product, since a sale on the product they just bought will probably just cause frustration and a potential price match problem.

2 | Start at the subject line

A good subject line convinces the recipient to open the email.

A great subject line convinces the recipient to open the email and click through to the website.

One of the biggest mistakes people can make when writing subject lines is using some flashy but irrelevant copy just to get someone to open the message.

Be clear in the subject line to help the recipient understand what they’re opening. When in doubt, create a subject line A/B test. Decide the winning version not just on open rate but also on click rate.

3 | Create a content test

Remember click-to-open rate? It’s the measure of who clicked a link — based only on who opened the email. It’s not the same as a click-through rate, but it can be helpful in understanding if a content test is the best way to increase clicks.

CTOR measures the reaction of people who saw the actual email, so it’s a good way to evaluate what’s in the email.

If your CTOR is low, it’s a sign that your email content needs some love, and your click-through rate will thank you for it. To make content adjustments that actually increase click-through rates, create a content test.

If you want to make incremental changes, choose one element of your email to change. This will help you isolate a single variable and learn something specific, like if a green or white button is more effective. Another great single-variable test is comparing lifestyle and product imagery. You might be surprised what your audience prefers!

Alternatively, test a conceptually different email and/or offer. Do recent purchasers respond better to refer-a-friend-incentive emails or similar product emails?

If you choose the latter method, keep as many variables as possible the same. Schedule your two email versions to go to a randomized group on the same day and time. Try to keep email formatting similar to avoid introducing extra variables that might skew one email to perform better than the other for a formatting reason.

The emails will inevitably be different, so it won’t be a perfectly scientific test, but you’ll get directional data on your audience that you can then put into further testing.

4 | Optimize your emails for mobile

Many email creators (including myself) build emails in desktop mode, even though more and more people are using mobile devices to read their emails.

Even if you start with desktop previews, don’t forget to check the mobile preview. Ask these questions:

  • Are modules stacking properly?
  • Are images scaling without losing text readability?
  • Are any links too close together that people might struggle to click on them?

Next, visualize how much information the recipient will be able to view on their screen at one time. The smaller screen usually shortens the text lines, so keep copy concise to avoid a block of text filling up the entire phone screen.

Don’t include excessive calls-to-action (CTAs) within the same area. One CTA on a phone screen is often all you need consumers to focus on.

5 | Rank your CTAs​​​​​​​

It might seem like the more calls-to-actions, the more clicks.

That’s not usually the case.

Too many links can confuse and overwhelm recipients. That’s why a clear CTA hierarchy is essential to help recipients know what they’re supposed to do.

With proper CTA hierarchy, you can still include multiple links throughout the email. For example, if your email includes several products with individual purchase links, include a primary CTA to browse all products. People who otherwise might have not clicked on a specific product will still have an incentive to click.Email example to show average ctr

The Fish Society uses three different visuals to show CTA hierarchy. The blue buttons focus recipients on the primary CTAs — one general (“Valentine’s Seafood”) and one specific (“10% OFF CAVIAR”) to capture maximum attention.

The white buttons are clearly secondary, so as to not distract but still provide relevant product pages for interested customers.

Finally, the hyperlinks in the paragraph are simply underlined to not distract customers from the primary CTAs while still providing helpful information.

Clear CTAs help customers understand why they need to click, which leads to a better customer experience and higher click rates.

6 | Add urgency

Giving customers a reason to click on an email is essential. Inspiring urgency is a tried-and-true way to show customers that clicking now is in their best interest.

Showing that an offer ends soon is one of the best ways to add urgency into your emails. But be careful to not create false urgency by “extending” deals that weren’t actually ending, or your customers might lose trust in your brand.

No discount to highlight? Lean on messaging that explains why your customer shouldn’t go another day without your product. Urgency doesn’t just have to be for sales!

7 | Choose your send time wisely

Do you know what the best time to send an email is? There’s no shortage of data-driven studies that compile thousands of data points to answer that question.

Googling “best time to send emails” will give you a good sampling of studies that claim to identify the best day to send email — based on a bunch of companies that aren’t yours.

What those studies don’t tell you: How your audience compares to the randomized sampling. And since you’re not sending emails to a perfectly averaged data point, take sweeping advice with a grain of salt.

The best time for you to send emails to your audience is unique to your business. Instead of using a mass-produce timetable — which is also probably when all your competitors are sending their emails — run scientific tests within your marketing automation platform to determine what the smartest email send is for your customers.

Want to discover the best time to send emails to your customers?


8 | Create personalized, automated email flows

Creating automated email flows — also known as drip or nurture campaigns — based on user behavior allows you to serve up highly relevant content that’s more likely to get a click.

In fact, even though the average CTR for all campaigns was 2.25 percent, the average CTR for automated flows in 2020 was 6.34 percent. That’s a 181 percent increase.

Apparel & Accessories 6.59%
Automotive 7.88%
Electronics 6.62%
Food & Beverage 6.91%
Hardware & Home Improvement 7.14%
Health & Beauty 5.79%
Housewares, Home Furnishings, & Garden 6.80%
Jewelry 6.66%
Mass Merchant 5.44%
Office Supplies 7.32%
Specialty 6.73%
Sporting Goods 7.75%
Toys & Hobbies 7.04%
All Industries 6.34%

Source: Klaviyo’s data

Why do automated email flows generate such high click-through rates?

The content is inherently targeted to the customer.

When a customer views a specific product or takes an action on your site, it can trigger a series of emails tailored to that action.

For example, check out this abandoned cart email that Bombinate sent me when I added something to my cart but didn’t check out.

Email example to demonstrate click-through rate.

As a customer, getting this email feels like the brand understands exactly what’s important to me. But from the business’s perspective, all they had to do was set up an automated campaign, potentially months ago.

Automated flows are high impact, low effort — and excellent for boosting click-through rates. Check out the top 10 marketing automations ecommerce businesses used in 2020 to see if there are any automations to add to your email strategy.

Higher click-through rate, higher revenue

These tips are great and all (okay, I’m biased) — but I want to emphasize that they’re all ultimately intended to help you drive more ecommerce revenue. Driving a higher click-through rate doesn’t mean much if your revenue doesn’t go up with it, as well.

Measure email-attributed revenue along with CTR to track if the adjustments you’re making to your emails help to drive a high intent to purchase among your customers.

And if email CTR goes up while revenue doesn’t, try one of the other six strategies to increase your click-through rate.


Measure your click-through rate and email-driven revenue in one dashboard.

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