Improve your average email click through rates: tips + benchmarks by industry from Q1 2022

Aubrey Harper
16min read
Email marketing
May 4th 2022
group sitting in a sunny office

Click rate—or CR, for short—is one of the most important metrics for evaluating email performance—second only to revenue, that is.

This is because it is a 3-in-1 metric. Deliverability, opens, and clicks all impact email click rate, so it’s an efficient metric to gauge your overall email marketing 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 email deliverability.
  • The subject line had to be interesting and relevant to the subscriber—that’s your open rate.
  • Finally, the email itself had to be enticing enough to justify an action from the recipient––and that’s your click rate.

Optimizing for this metric can quickly increase your earned revenue through email marketing—and SMS marketing, too, since that channel doesn’t really have open rates to begin with.

In this article, you’ll learn exactly how to improve those numbers, starting with benchmarks across ecommerce industries. Keep reading to discover:

What is email click rate?

Email click 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 like Klaviyo, 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 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 click rate is a percentage rather than a total number, it is a smart way to benchmark performance without factors like total list size or open rates skewing data.

How do you calculate click rate?

To calculate click rate, use this formula:

equation for click rate

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 5 times in an email, it would show as 1 unique click but 5 cumulative clicks.

Since click 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.

Since click rate is measuring how many users clicked on a link, the number of times they clicked doesn’t factor in.

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 CR would be 10%. That is, 100 unique clicks / 1,000 emails delivered.

What’s the difference between click 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.

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:

equation for ctor

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%. That is 100 unique clicks / 500 emails opened.

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

That said, given Apple’s privacy updates and a lack of reliability on open rate metrics, CTOR is no longer as reliable of a metric as it used to be.

What’s the average ecommerce email click rate?

The average ecommerce email click rate is 3.62% for brands on Klaviyo. However, different emails have different click rates.

  • Automated emails and workflows—what Klaviyo calls flows—had a 5.82% average click rate in Q1 2022.
  • Campaigns—or one-off emails—had a 1.42% average click rate in Q1 2022.
  • SMS campaigns had an 8.33% average click rate in Q1 2022.

Still, more accurately benchmark how your email campaign or workflows are performing, here’s a breakdown of the average ecommerce email click rates by industry:

table of click through rates by industry

Keep in mind that this breakdown reflects click rates across Q1 2022 email campaigns, SMS campaigns, and email automations and workflows.

What’s a good ecommerce click rate?

Okay, so if those are average CRs, what’s a good click 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 CRs simply above average isn’t likely to create substantial growth for your business.

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

  • Explore ecommerce industry benchmarks: Use the list above (or similar benchmarks) to familiarize yourself with average CRs 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 CRs 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 CRs.
  • Look at how different segments and email types perform: Your CRs 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 CRs alongside industry benchmarks, you can define what success looks like for your campaigns.

What does a low click rate mean?

Because CR is such a comprehensive measure, a low click rate can mean one of many things. Here are the three primary things that cause a low click 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 rate.
  2. Your subject line didn’t interest recipients: You’ll know this is the problem if open rate and click 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 rate was low, it’s likely that the content in your email didn’t resonate with your recipients.

How to increase your email click rates

Increasing your click 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% to 99.999%

With that, here are 8 tactics I’ve used to increase ecommerce CR.

1. Practice healthy email list habits—and SMS, too!

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 click rate problem, check out these 6 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.

“Please, please don’t blast your list,” says Katherine Burlock, CLV strategist, &BAM. “Even if it doesn’t affect deliverability—which it surely will—you’re possibly hurting your reputation by blasting the list over and over. Segment out customers versus non customers, and by brand/collection users have shown interest in. There are are a million ways to segment and personalize so you don’t overwhelm the inbox.”

There are are a million ways to segment and personalize so you don’t overwhelm the inbox.

Katherine Burlock, CLV strategist at &BAM

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.

“Keep your subject lines short,” says Ashley Ismailovski, CRO operations manager, SmartSites. “I know you just created the most amazing email and you can’t wait to share it with your subscribers, but if the subject line isn’t compelling, they just won’t open the message. The fact of the matter is that most emails are read on phones nowadays. This means that length subject lines could get cut off before you get to any of the good stuff!”

If the subject line isn’t compelling, your subscribers just won’t open the message.

Ashley Ismailovski, CRO operations manager at SmartSites

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 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 rate will thank you for it. To make content adjustments that actually increase click 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!

“A missed opportunity for many brands is to A/B test key flow messages with both an email and an SMS version,” says Ryan O’Connor, director of growth, SmartBug Media. “Oftentimes one channel performs differently depending on the brand and where the customer is in their journey.”

Oftentimes one channel performs differently depending on the brand and where the customer is in their journey.

Ryan O’Connor, director of growth at SmartBug Media

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.

A note: If you use CTOR to create a content test, be sure that you use Klaviyo to segment out iOS users so that you aren’t measuring engagement based on bot email opens.

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.

“Approach your emails from a mobile-first perspective,” says Ismailovski. “The large majority of emails that brands send are opened on smartphones instead of a computer or laptop. When testing your email design, make sure it looks great on small screens in addition to the standard desktop layout.”

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.

“Use the squint test to check your email design,” says Nichelle Hubley, founder and CEO, &BAM. “Squint until the design blurs and see if you can tell where the customer should click. It should be super freaking obvious. If your CTA doesn’t stand out, then the customer will scroll on by.”

If your CTA doesn’t stand out, then the customer will scroll on by.

Nichelle Hubley, founder and CEO at &BAM

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.

plate with crackers, salmon, and caviar above text in an email

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 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.

“A/B testing send times is one of the most underrated strategies I see with brands,” says Brandon Matis, founder, Luxor Marketing. “Just by testing morning sends vs night sends you might see an extraordinary difference in conversions.”

A/B testing send times is one of the most underrated strategies I see with brands.

Brandon Matis, founder of Luxor Marketing

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.

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.

Why do automated email flows generate such high click 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.

green t-shirt in the top of an email showing someone's credit count

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.

“You want to personalize your emails the best you can with the data you have,” says Tennessee Allgood, lifecycle marketing senior manager, Stak Agency. “Personalization will help your user experience stay relevant and keep customers coming back for more.”

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

Higher click 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 rate doesn’t mean much if your revenue doesn’t go up with it, as well.

Measure email-attributed revenue along with CR 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 CR goes up while revenue doesn’t, try one of the other six strategies to increase your click rate.

Measure your click rate and email-driven revenue in one dashboard.
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Aubrey Harper
Aubrey Harper
Content strategist
Aubrey is a Content Strategist at Klaviyo, where she leads content efforts across EMEA. Her background is in marketing technology, but she most recently worked in ecommerce, giving her a passion for entrepreneurs selling amazing stuff online. When she’s not making content to educate fellow ecom enthusiasts, you can find her in one of the many London parks chasing after her squirrel-happy dog and listening to the Everybody Hates Marketers podcast.