Email Marketing

How To Improve Email Marketing "Click-to-Open" Rate in eCommerce

It's not enough that your subscribers click & open your emails—this piece covers how click to open rate is crucial to them purchasing!

How To Improve Email Marketing "Click-to-Open" Rate in eCommerce

You can spend a ton of money rolling out half-baked email campaigns over years. 

But the point is to go chop, chop on metrics that will tell you if your strategy is on point. 

One of those key email metrics is Click-to-open Rate—sounds a whole lot like CTR but they’re different (more on that later.)

Here’s what we’ll cover (before you dive in):

What is email Click-to-open Rate in eCommerce?

How do you calculate email CTOR?

9 Ways to improve your Click-to-open Rate (CTOR)

What influences CTOR for eCommerce emails?

What are the signs of a “good” eCommerce click-to-open rate? 

What can CTOR say about your email strategy?

How is CTOR different from CTR?

How is Click-to-open Rate different from Open Rate?

Practical Ways To Improve Click-to-Open Rate (CTOR) in eCommerce

What is email Click-to-open Rate in eCommerce?

The Click-to-open Rate is essentially the percentage of subscribers who not only clicked to open your email in their inbox, but also clicked at least one link in the email body. 

When you’re using this metric, you’re trying to evaluate the number of unique clicks against the number of unique email opens. 

CTOR does not factor in the number of successfully delivered emails (although deliverability has an impact on it—we’ll see how in just a bit.)

How do you calculate email CTOR?

You arrive at CTOR by dividing unique clicks by unique opens and multiplying it with 100.

It looks like this:

Unique clicks ➗ Unique opens X 100

So let’s say you’ve sent an email to 100 people, 50 have opened it and 25 have clicked on it. 

Your CTOR will be 50% in this case. 

9 Ways to improve your Click-to-open Rate (CTOR)

1. Segment so well they want to buy

Most eCommerce businesses prematurely attempt to make people buy. 

Instead: build it up with the emails you send based on WHAT they want to hear and know. 

New subscriber?

Send those welcome emails. 

One time cart abandoner?

Send that cart reminder email. 

Multi time cart abandoner?

Keep those abandonment discount emails handy. 

Long time no buy?

Get those re engagement emails out that tell them you’re the right brand to go with (in case they’ve forgotten.)

To go deeper, leverage the results from personalization quizzes to figure “personal interest”—and then recommend products they’d want to see more of. 

Look at purchase frequency to segment more granularly.

Confused about who to send those stacked discount nudges to? Send them to the most high value purchasers. 

The source that led to a sign-up—that needs to be your next point of segmentation. 

For example, between someone who signed up to get more makeup tutorials to their inbox and someone who signed up to get the best makeup deals, it’s clear who has more purchase intent. 

Long story short: The right reasons for sending that email will get you not just more clicks but also conversions. 

2. Write compelling subject lines

You don’t want to manipulate them by keeping too many characters and introducing an ellipsis. 

This can be a total turn-off on mobile—so restrict the number of characters to a max of 30. 

Here’s an example of “good” length: 

Shoppers Stop uses crisp subject lines for more clicks and opens

Start by prioritizing the most important words in your subject lines. 

Use words/phrases like:

Nothing lasts forever


Already leaving?

This is it. 

Create curiosity so that they want to find out more and click in the process:

It’s MYSTERY GIFT time of the year again!

We’ve got something EXCLUSIVE for you. 

You’ll be among the first to see this. 

Ideally, invoke a strong emotion—could be a sense of warmth, a fear of missing out or simply a good chuckle that makes them want to laugh more. 

Find your coffee match!

No, a robot didn’t write this. 

Such a good deal, you’ll need to catch your breath!

Offer a good “reason” to click. 

Take 50% off *only for today*. 

Here: some products to help check hairfall NOW

That jacket you were looking for? We have it!

You might like: 25 Inspiring 4th of July Email Campaigns (& 10 Great Subject Lines)

3. Feature a super impactful preheader

We spoke of curiosity earlier, but the thing is you don’t want your email recipients to stay hanging. 

And that’s where a great preheader comes in. What microcopy is to your website text, preheaders are to subject lines. 

Get over “View this email in your browser.” 


Your most loved brands are here!

Your daily dose of nutrition, right here. 

Experience this capsule collection first-hand. 

Love what Flipkart does here: 

Flipkart uses preheaders to inform the email recipient of the content within

4. Make your CTA clickworthy

If shoppers/subscribers associate the colors green and black with you, ensure the CTA is in one of the two. 

The text is as important—”Shop now” and “Buy now” have been around for way too long. 

Instead try something that’s fresh and convincing:

“Get it now!”

“I’m in!”

“Haircare you’ll love” (replace haircare with what you sell!)

“Let’s try for free!”

“Show me”

If it’s a long email, show 2 CTAs. 

This especially works for referral emails, where you talk about membership rewards and even cause-focused emails. 

However, if it’s promotional you will definitely need more than 1 or 2. 

Our advice? Don’t use more than 5. 

5. Drive benefits with your copy

And start by being scannable. 

A good thing to think of: How much can they take away without scrolling?

Notice how effective this Madewell email is:

Madewell highlights how the reader will benefit to improve click to open rate

Coming back to benefits, don’t hide them away in fineprint—call the *most important* one out like Rifle Paper Co. does:

Rifle Paper Co. features the most important benefit as the email headline for more readers to click through

Use naked links instead of anchor links—the former drive more transparency compared to the latter, and ensure more clicks especially with new(er) subscribers. 

Drive urgency from the get go—they need to know they have to act NOW. 

Naturopathica is so on point with this:

Naturopathica applies urgency to their email copy to increase click to open rates

Check out: Top 20 lead nurturing emails in eCommerce

6. Use social proof to drive action

Getting your subscribers to click within an email is often an incremental effort.

So, in addition to relevant headlines and microcopy, if you put in the right kind of social proof, your CTOR has a good chance of going up. 

Sending a welcome email? Talk about the number of subscribers this one has joined (now you join 5000 more in…)

Sending a cart abandonment email? Feature the number of people who’ve bought a product in the last one week. 

Sending a win-back email? Have your founder sign off in the email—check this email out from Rue:

Rue features a personal note from their founder for win back email campaigns

Before and after results can offer greater conviction to those who’re on the brink of clicking through and purchasing—imagine creating a case for a product through customer comments & images it has received. 

Here’s an example from skincare brand Truly:

Truly uses before and after social proof in their emails to get readers to click through

Want to max out on the impact of the right reviews?

Choose a “theme” that is bound to get your audience to sit up, click and actually read. 

Brooklinen picked “humor” for this email:

A humor themed email by Brooklinen that features funny customer reviews  to get readers to click

7. Set up dynamic email content

Instead of sending multiple emails to multiple segments, switch to dynamic content mode. 

In this case, you’ll be sending out one email but the content of it will change based on who is viewing it and WHEN they are reading it. 

Set the right tone with the welcome email. 

Let’s say you feature a multi-choice form to induce opt-ins—you could reveal the preferences that subscribers select over the welcome email

Here’s what Allen Edmonds does:

Allen Edmonds sends emails with subscriber preferences to improve click to open rates

Feature products based on what your segments “value.”

If you run a stationery brand, for example, it’s possible one segment contains university students who buy functional products from you. 

Yet another segment (professionals aged between 35 and 50) might like limited edition stationery for “exclusivity” more than functionality. 

Track discounts that worked from previous emails. 

Which subject lines led to more opens and emails had more click-throughs based on what discount you mentioned?

If a single email had multiple discounts featured, which of them received more clicks?

Are those clicks more from one segment versus another?

Continuing with our previous example, while university students might want quantity discounts, the professionals would probably appreciate “bundle & save” offers during peak holiday season. 

You might like: eCommerce Email Design: 25 Beautiful Examples (& Why They Drive Sales)

8. Keep your email list *squeaky* clean

Want more people to click? Send those emails only to those who’re truly interested

Managing a great email list is critical for such success:

Weed out inactive subscribers from time to time. 

And make it super easy to unsubscribe too. 

Let subscribers choose how frequently they want emails and on what topics. 

A preliminary mail covering these two as soon as they join will help you segment right from the start. 

Create a sunset policy. 

This can help you peter out sending frequent messages to those who are inactive. 

Maybe, you could choose more active ones from the spectrum for a re engagement campaign. 

Depending on who responds, you’ll know who to take off your list. 

9. Last but not the least: email deliverability 

For this, get that sender policy framework in place. 

This will ensure the inbound server can cross-check your IP address with the authorized addresses in the PF records. 

Email reputation is another big thing.

And that means you’ll have to check your email reputation through a tool like SenderScore

The score will be somewhere between 0 and 100 and factors in metrics like unsubscribe rate and high spamming. 

What influences CTOR for eCommerce emails?

There is no one answer for this because how CTOR performs, depends on a number of factors:

- The industry

- The frequency

- The content

- The time you send the email

It’s often seen that emails that carry newsletters see their CTOR going up as the number of newsletters per week increases. 

The caveat? 

Newsletters per week over 7 in number see a falling CTOR. 

On the other hand, auto response emails such as welcome emails see better CTOR (30.03% if it’s just one message) when fewer messages are sent. 

Going by industry, while some like healthcare receive a little over 13%, others like retail see only about 5%. 

The overall average seems to hover in the range of 17% to 18%. 

You might like to read: Healthcare Email Marketing: 26 High-Converting Examples (+Templates)

What are the signs of a “good” eCommerce click-to-open rate? 

If the CTOR of your business emails touch anywhere between 6% and 17%, it’s in the “good” zone. 

To look at the CTOR performance of different kinds of emails, you may have to also look at other metrics. 

For example, for cart abandonment emails along with open rate, CTR and CTOR, recovery rate offers a comprehensive picture on performance. 

On the other hand, for welcome emails, you need to consider conversion rate and unsubscribe rate apart from the  above metrics. 

However, overall, if your email CTOR is “good”, you’ll see:

- More clicks to view emails

- More time spent on each email

- More clicks within the email body 

- More reopens of the same email 

A “good” CTOR indicates your subject lines, headlines and email body copy are instantly capturing the reader’s imagination. 

What can CTOR say about your email strategy?

Your Click-to-open rate for an email campaign can cast light on:

The quality of content (including subject lines)

The CTAs you’re using

The design & layout of your emails

The send time of the emails

The types of emails that are doing well

When you assess the above, you’ll also find trends and patterns emerging around customer behavior. 

The “what”, “why”, “who” and “when” from that behavior can then help you streamline your email strategy further. 

How is CTOR different from CTR?

Though they sound a lot alike, Click-to-open Rate and Click-through Rate differ because of one major aspect. 

While the latter focuses on at least one click within an email against the total number of emails delivered, the former doesn’t. 

CTOR is about the number of emails that aren’t just delivered, but also opened. 

So, in a way, when you calculate CTOR in eCommerce, you are more granular about observing subscriber behavior. 

How is Click-to-open Rate different from Open Rate?

Open Rate looks at the number of unique opens against the number that is successfully delivered. 

As a metric, it has nothing to do with clicks within the email. 

CTOR, on the other hand, does not factor in the total number of emails delivered successfully. 

It instead evaluates unique clicks against unique opens. 

In the metric hierarchy, Open Rate is the widest component followed by Click-through Rate followed by Click-to-Open Rate. 

Recommended reading:

What is a Good Open Rate for eCommerce Emails?

13 Solid Ways To Improve Marketing Email Delivery Rate (eCommerce)

The Right Way to Calculate Email Marketing ROI in eCommerce

28 No-BS Ways To Get More Email Subscribers in eCommerce

Transform Email Marketing Into A Revenue Machine

Most eCommerce store owners don’t see email as a serious revenue stream.

Ask them about the importance of email marketing, and you'll hear: “we don’t really have a major strategy,” “we mostly use generic templates,” or “we just send emails to people on our list.”


There are stores out there that drive 30%+ of their revenue from email marketing. 

Engage can help you do the same - Book a free demo.

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