Email far surpasses other marketing channels for ROI. Even in 2024, every dollar you spend on email marketing can generate an average return of $36.

But you won’t see that kind of ROI if no one signs up for your list, reads your emails, or takes you up on your offers.

So, how can you make this channel work for your business? Start by tracking relevant key performance indicators (KPIs).

Get an overview of email marketing KPIs below, and then upskill with CXL’s Email Marketing Fundamentals course.

Why email marketing KPIs matter?

KPIs measure results, reveal performance trends, and monitor progress toward email marketing goals. But that’s just the beginning.

When you set KPIs and check analytics, you get the data you need to make smarter decisions. These data-driven decisions can drive your email marketing strategy forward and get your team on board.

This data can also help you reverse engineer problems with your marketing emails. When you monitor the right KPIs, you can find the root cause. Then, you can fix it and get back on track.

Look at it this way. If you don’t use KPIs for email marketing, you’ll end up doing a lot of guesswork.

For example, it’s easy to assume a bad offer is causing a low conversion rate. But your email analytics may show the real problem is subscribers aren’t reliably receiving your emails.

13 Email marketing KPIs you need to track

To get the data you need to succeed with this channel, start by tracking KPIs via your email marketing dashboard.

Keep in mind that email metrics vary a lot between industries. What’s typical for SaaS isn’t the same as what’s normal for ecommerce email marketing. Always compare against benchmarks for your industry to ensure your goals and results are realistic.

1. Open rate

Open rate is the percentage of people who open an email. It shows whether subscribers are seeing or reading your emails.

Open Rate = (Total Emails Opened / Total Emails Delivered) x 100%

What’s a good open rate? Across all industries, the average open rate is 33.1%, according to GetResponse.

To improve open rate:

  • Experiment with subject line copy and style. Use A/B testing to collect data and find what drives opens.
  • Test different sending times. According to GetResponse, emails sent at 4 a.m. get the most opens.

2. Click-through rate

Click-through rate (CTR) is the percentage of people who click a link in an email. It reveals how attractive subscribers find your offers and calls to action (CTAs).

Click-Through Rate = (Total Links Clicked / Total Emails Delivered) x 100%

A good CTR (or click rate) is 3% and up, according to ActiveCampaign. On average, CTRs range from 1% to 5%.

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This metric doesn’t matter for emails with zero-click content. But it’s critical for emails with links to resources and offers.

To increase CTR:

  • Experimenting with CTA copy. Use A/B testing to compare email versions.
  • Test CTA placements and frequencies. Add the same CTA more than once to drive more clicks.

3. Click-to-open rate

Click-to-open rate (CTOR) is the percentage of people who open and click a link in an email. It measures how frequently email opens lead to link clicks.

Click-to-Open Rate = (Unique Clicks / Unique Opens) x 100%

A good CTOR is 8.67% across industries, according to GetResponse’s Email Marketing Benchmarks.

To improve click-to-open rate:

  • Review your offers and resources. Replace them with more relevant options for the audience.
  • Add dynamic personalization. This feature makes emails more relevant to each individual recipient.

4. Conversion rate

Conversion rate is the percentage of people who complete a specific action. Think anything from blog post views and webinar signups to free trials and paid subscriptions.

Conversion Rate = (Total Conversions / Total Emails Delivered) x 100%

What’s a good conversion rate? It depends on the conversion you measure and the type of email campaign you send (i.e., newsletters versus drip emails). Generally, it’s between 1% and 5%, according to Campaign Monitor.

For Michal Leszczynski, Head of Content Marketing and Partnerships at GetResponse:

Conversion rate is the single most important KPI. It immediately answers whether a campaign lived up to expectations.

But that doesn’t mean conversion rate is the only metric that matters. Michal also encourages considering related KPIs.

The total number of conversions and the total number of clicks are two KPIs marketers often ignore, losing an important piece of information about their campaigns.

For example, say your most recent email marketing campaign ends up with an average conversion rate. Michal asks:

Would you still call it successful, knowing it targeted a very specific audience segment and your message was highly tailored? Not knowing the total number of conversions or clicks, you might miss important context and signals.

To increase conversion rate:

  • Rethink your subject lines. Do they successfully inspire curiosity or tease the offer?
  • Segment your list. Use behavioral signals or demographics to direct offers to subscribers likely to convert.

5. Click-to-conversion rate

Click-to-conversion rate is the percentage of people who complete a conversion out of all link clicks. It shows how frequently link clicks lead to conversions.

Click-to-Conversion Rate = (Total Conversions / Total Link Clicks) x 100%

What’s considered a good click-to-conversion rate depends on your industry. It averages anywhere between 2% and 5%, according to Mailchimp.

Greg Zakowicz, Senior Ecommerce Marketing Expert at Omnisend, shares:

The most important email marketing KPI I measure is the click-to-conversion rate. The reason it matters is because it gives you a clearer indication of the success of the marketing message itself.

For instance, if only 10 people out of 1,000 opened an email but nine of them converted, your conversion rate would be low. You might think the campaign was unsuccessful.

By looking at the click-to-conversion rate, you’d see a very high number. You’d understand the message drove action as intended, but some factors caused a low open rate. For example, the subject line was a mismatch or many of the contacts were unengaged.

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To improve click-to-conversion rate, Greg suggests:

  • Update the email copy. Make sure it positions the offer accurately.
  • Revisit the landing page. Tighten lead forms and sales workflows to make conversions smoother.

You’ll also want to consider the types of emails you send. Greg explains:

Every automated behavior-based message performs better than scheduled campaign emails in terms of open, click, and conversion rates.

In 2023, 41% of all email marketing orders came from automated emails even though they accounted for only 2% of the total number of email sends. Brands should know their number and look to generate between 20% and 40% of their yearly email revenue from automated messages.

6. Unsubscribe rate

Unsubscribe rate is the percentage of people who opt to leave your list after opening an email.

Unsubscribe Rate = (Total Unsubscribes / Total Emails Delivered) x 100%

You can expect at least some unsubscribes from a typical email campaign. The average unsubscribe rate is 0.1%, according to Mailmodo. An above-average rate may signal issues with your audience or campaigns.

To decrease unsubscribe rate:

  • Dial back email frequency. Test fewer emails per week or month to find the sweet spot for your list.
  • Add dynamic personalization. Improve email relevance to increase subscriber interest.

7. List growth rate

List growth rate is how quickly your email list attracts new subscribers.

To measure list growth rate, check this metric every month. Then, track the rate over time—per quarter and year.

List Growth Rate = ((New Subscribers – Unsubscribes) / Total Subscribers) x 100%

You don’t necessarily need to build a massive email list to hit your marketing goals. But you do need relatively steady growth to convert new customers and cultivate loyal ones.

To improve list growth rate:

  • Share exclusive email content subscribers won’t find anywhere else. Create a fear of missing out (FOMO).
  • Promote your email list across channels. Leverage social media followers and website visitors.

8. Bounce rate

When an email never makes it to the recipient, it bounces back to you. Bounce rate is the percentage of returned emails.

Email service providers often measure two types of bounce rate:

  • Soft bounces result from temporary delivery issues like a server problem
  • Hard bounces result from permanent issues like a bad email address

Either way, the same formula applies:

Bounce Rate = (Total Bounced Emails / Total Emails Sent) x 100%

A good bounce rate is 2% or less, according to Campaign Monitor. If yours is higher, it could affect your sender reputation and deliverability rate.

To decrease bounce rate:

  • Require double opt-in. This extra step verifies subscribers’ email addresses before they begin receiving campaigns.
  • Clean your list. Consider removing subscribers with multiple soft bounces.

9. Delivery rate

Delivery rate is the percentage of emails delivered to your list. It confirms whether subscribers are actually receiving your emails.

Delivery Rate = ((Total Emails Sent – Total Emails Bounced) / Total Emails Sent) x 100%

Aim for a delivery rate as close as possible to 100%. A higher delivery rate means fewer bounces, which can be a positive reflection on the quality of your list and your email campaigns.

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To increase delivery rate:

  • Set up a dedicated sending domain. This approach gives you more control over sender reputation.
  • Remove disengaged subscribers. Send a re-engagement email and remove people who don’t open it.

10. Spam complaint rate

Spam complaint rate is the percentage of spam reports subscribers submit after opening an email.

Spam Complaint Rate = (Total Spam Complaints / Total Emails Delivered) x 100%

Ideally, your spam complaint rate should be around 0.02%, according to Mailgun. Any higher, and it could harm your sender’s reputation and compromise your email deliverability.

To decrease spam complaint rate:

  • Avoid buying email addresses. Email marketing is a permission-based channel, meaning subscribers must opt in.
  • Simplify the unsubscribe process. If subscribers can’t easily remove themselves, they may report spam instead.

11. Forward rate

Forward rate is the percentage of subscribers who forward your emails to other people.

Forward Rate = (Total Forwards / Total Emails Delivered) x 100%

Measuring your forward rate shows you how engaging subscribers find your content. Plus, when people share your emails with colleagues, friends, or family, you can gain new subscribers and grow your list.

To improve forward rate:

  • Make emails easy to forward. Include a forward button in each email and encourage subscribers to use it.
  • Provide maximum value in each email. Give subscribers a clear reason to forward to colleagues.

12. Email ROI

Email ROI is a measure of the amount an email generates versus how much you spend to produce and send it.

Email ROI = ((Total Amount Gained – Total Amount Spent) / Total Amount Spent) x 100%

On average, emails generate $36 for every $1 spent, according to Omnisend. That equals an ROI of 3500%.

To increase email ROI:

  • Double down on behavior-based emails. Optimize the emails that are most likely to drive revenue.
  • Find your most valuable campaigns. Iterate on them for future campaigns.

13. Subscriber value

Subscriber value is a measure of how much the average person spends with your company. Also known as revenue per subscriber (RPS), this metric helps you understand how much subscribers are really worth.

Subscriber Value = Total Email Revenue / Total Subscribers

Use it to inform your list growth tactics. For example, if subscriber value is significantly higher than the average subscriber acquisition cost, it likely makes sense to invest in growing your list.

To improve subscriber value:

  • Analyze your most valuable subscribers. Make a plan to attract more subscribers like them.
  • Find time periods with the highest subscriber value. Analyze and iterate on top-performing tactics.

Understanding which KPIs to track and why can help you grow your list, improve performance, and get more value from email. But email marketing metrics are just one element you need to succeed with this channel.

To expand your skills and prove your knowledge, sign up for CXL’s Email Marketing Certification. You’ll master everything from email design and copywriting to cross-channel promotion and data analysis.

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