Benchmark Email Click Through Rates (CTR) by Industry

It can be overwhelming trying to benchmark email performance with all the data that’s available around the internet. To simplify the process, we’ve put together this report on email click through rates by industry.

To get as much detailed data as we could, we’ve compiled data from three recent industry benchmark reports. If you’d like to download the full reports you can find them here:

SilverPop Email Benchmark Report
MailChimp Email Benchmarks
Constant Contact Industry Averages

All three of these reports were created using anonymously submitted data from these companies’ customers, so there is likely to be some slight skewing based on the differences in each of the customer bases.

However, these minor inconsistencies shouldn’t impede our ability to measure the performance of our own click through rates against the email marketing of our closest competitors.

It’s also an excellent point of comparison to see the overall average for an industry in the MailChimp and Constant Contact numbers and then compare it to the highs and lows revealed by SilverPop.

Why Benchmark Email CTR

There are a lot of moving parts to an email campaign, and it’s easy to fixate on the numbers that are the easiest to track (like click through rate). But while a better CTR is always desirable, it may not be possible given the industry that you’re working in.

It can be disheartening to see your click through rate hover around a number that seems unnaturally low, but you may be right on par for how emails in your industry perform.

As you’ll see in the charts below there’s often a massive swing between top performers in an industry and those we aren’t doing as well, but you need to be aware of approximately where your click ceiling lies.

This way you can spend more time working on personalization, segmentation, triggers, multivariate tests and other experiments that may have a more significant impact on the actual success of your email campaigns.

Click Through Rate Terms Defined

To avoid any confusion around the terms being used here, let’s take a moment for definition.

  • CTR (Click Through Rate): Expressed as a percentage, this is the number of people who click on a link within an email. There’s no distinction as to whether or not the ultimately perform a desired action after the click.
  • Unique Click Through Rate: A CTR that’s adjusted to eliminate duplicate clicks from a single subscriber. So if I open an email multiple times and click it multiple times, I will still only count as a single unique click. The numbers from SilverPop and Mailchimp are unique clicks; the ones from Constant Contact don’t specify.
  • Mean: Also known as the average of a set of numbers.
  • Median: The middle point in the spectrum of data. Five is the median of 1 and 10.
  • Top 25%: The average CTR for the companies from a particular industry that are getting the top 25% click through rates.
  • Bottom 25%: Same as the top 25%, but this time for the 25% of industry members who are getting the worst click through rates.

Benchmark Email Click Through Rate by Industry

In order to get the most comprehensive understanding of benchmark email CTR in each industry, we’ve compiled data from three different up-to-date sources. While this gives us a broader understanding than looking at a single source, there are some discrepancies in industry definitions.

Where industries don’t align exactly we’ve noted what each category is called. If you’re unclear about any of the industry categorizations, drop us a comment and we’ll try to clarify.

Automobiles and Transportation

According to some data, this industry has one of the lowest CTRs out there. You can see that the bottom 25% of this industry are getting an utterly terrible 0% click through rate, meaning absolutely nobody is clicking on their emails.

We can see, however, that when we get more specific and look at data from the Automotive Services sector and the Transportation sector the performance seems much stronger, according to Constant Contact.

Silverpop
Mean 2.8%
Median 1.0%
Top 25% 8.8%
Bottom 25% 0.0%
MailChimp: Travel/Transportation 2.43%
Constant Contact: Automotive Services 13.32%
Constant Contact: Transportation 12.62%

Computer Hardware, Telecommunications, Technology

Note the much higher average CTR when technology gets its own individual segment with Constant Contact’s numbers. When combined with telecommunication and other sub-sectors the average CTR is much lower.

Silverpop
Mean 5.7
Median 2.7%
Top 25% 16.3%
Bottom 25% .4%
MailChimp: Telecommunication 2.31%
Constant Contact: Technology 6.34%

Computer Software, Web Apps, Online Services

Average CTR performance in this industry doesn’t see nearly as large of a swing from best to worst as some others. Note also that there’s less than a 1% swing in the averages being report from all three platforms.

Silverpop
Mean 3.2%
Median 1.7%
Top 25% 8.9%
Bottom 25% .3%
MailChimp: Software and Web Apps 2.61%
MailChimp: Computer/Electronics 2.55%
Constant Contact: no data given

Corporate Services and Consulting

In a somewhat broad category like “corporate services,” it’s not surprising to see a big swing in averages. It seems that training and professional services are likely to be the best performing emails from this sector.

Silverpop
Mean 3.4%
Median 1.5%
Top 25% 10.1%
Bottom 25% 0.1%
MailChimp: Consulting 2.57%
Constant Contact: Consulting, Training 6.73%
Constant Contact: Professional Services 8.22%

Financial Services

The top 25% of SilverPop’s users seem to be in line with all of those using Constant Contact in this category. If you can climb up over 3 or 4%, you’re probably doing alright in this industry, particularly since the drier subject matter doesn’t make for particularly enticing subject lines.

Silverpop
Mean 3.3%
Median 1.6%
Top 25% 9.4%
Bottom 25% .2%
MailChimp: Business and Finance 2.90%
Constant Contact: Financial Services 9.88%

Food Service, Sports, Entertainment

Restaurants seem to be the drag on this industry, which makes sense given the volume of emails most of us receive from the places that we eat. Entertainment, on the other hand, seems to have a much better CTR overall. It’s likely that these email campaigns are the ones closer to the 11.4% click through rate that Silverpop is reporting.

Silverpop
Mean 3.7%
Median 1.5%
Top 25% 11.4%
Bottom 25% .3%
MailChimp: Restaurant 1.48%
MailChimp: Entertainment/Events 2.42%
Constant Contact: Art, Culture, Entertainment 8.56%
Constant Contact: Restaurant, Bar, Catering 4.08%

Hospitals, Healthcare, Biotechnology

Healthcare has one of the strongest across the board performance, but when it gets combined with the Fitness subcategory its performance suffers.

Since most of us are legitimately concerned about our health, it makes sense that we’d click on emails from this industry. The emails are also likely to be more informational and transactional than marketing-driven, which would drive up their CTR.

Fitness marketers, however, are likely to be more aggressive in promoting offers and soliciting memberships, a trend that could account for the lower CTR from MailChimp.

Silverpop
Mean 4.3%
Median 2.0%
Top 25% 12.5%
Bottom 25% 0.3%
MailChimp: Health and Fitness 3.06%
Constant Contact: Health & Social Services 7.85%
Constant Contact: Health Professional 7.33%

Industrial Manufacturing and Utilities

Averages vary fairly widely in the industrial and utilities industries, with Constant Contact reporting the best CTR in the Manufacturing/Distribution sector. MailChimp and Silverpop have much lower averages; the explanation for this discrepancy is unclear.

Bottom 25%0.3%

Silverpop
Mean 3.4%
Median 1.6%
Top 25% 9.7%
MailChimp: Manufacturing 2.64%
Constant Contact: Manufacturing/Distribution 8.49%

Insurance

Insurance is tied with Automobiles and Transportation for the lowest performance in their bottom quarter at a terrible 0%. Given the highly competitive nature of this space, it stands to reason that email marketers will be engaging in aggressive campaigns to grab and retain customers.

These tactics, while sometimes effective, are likely driving the total CTR numbers down.

Silverpop
Mean 4.2%
Median 1.5%
Top 25% 12.8%
Bottom 25% 0.0%
MailChimp: Insurance 2.11%
Constant Contact: Insurance .14%

Lodging, Travel Agencies, Tourism

Silverpop does a good job explaining why these kinds of emails do particularly well. They surmise that these, “emails likely benefit from the typical aspirational, often visual (think beaches) and offer-heavy approach” employed by email marketers in this industry.

The low performer here is the MailChimp segment, which includes Transportation. That combination may be diluting the high performance of the Travel emails.

Silverpop
Mean 5.3%
Median 2.5%
Top 25% 15.2%
Bottom 25% 0.5%
MailChimp: Travel/Transportation 2.43%
Constant Contact: Accommodations 7.50%
Constant Contact: Travel and Tourism 7.75%

Marketing and Advertising

These emails were primarily sent by marketing and advertising agencies, either to market their own services or on behalf of their clients. The inclusion of client campaigns means that they could be in any number of other industries, and this most likely accounts for the variety of averages being shown.

Silverpop
Mean 4.0%
Median 1.6%
Top 25% 11.8%
Bottom 25% 0.2%
MailChimp: Marketing/Advertising 2.15%
Constant Contact: Marketing 6.92%

Media and Publishing

The competition for media consumers is extremely high, so it’s not surprising that Silverpop and MailChimp, which are both combining media and publishing, are reporting lower averages than Constant Contact’s Publishing-only number.

Silverpop
Mean 2.2%
Median 1.0%
Top 25% 6.2%
Bottom 25% 0.2%
MailChimp: Media and Publishing 4.69
Constant Contact: Publishing 12.61%

Nonprofits, Associations, Government

Email marketers for nonprofits should be able to capitalize on the emotional connections they’re hoping to establish with their audience, while government emails come with built-in authority and relevance.

Given these advantages, it’s a little surprising to see lower CTR averages from Silverpop and MailChimp.

Silverpop
Mean 4.0%
Median 2.0%
Top 25% 11.4%
Bottom 25% 0.3%
MailChimp: Nonprofit 2.94%
MailChimp: Government 3.67%
Constant Contact: Nonprofit 7.97%
Constant Contact: Government 8.23%

Real Estate, Construction, Building Products

This another solid, middle-of-the-road industry that’s not reporting overwhelmingly high or low CTRs. Even the best performing campaigns aren’t breaking double digits, which may indicate that people are doing some “window shopping” for real estate when they aren’t seriously in the market by staying subscribed but not engaging with emails.

Silverpop
Mean 3.4%
Median 1.5%
Top 25% 9.9%
Bottom 25% 0.2%
MailChimp: Real Estate 2.20%
MailChimp: Construction 2.05%
Constant Contact: Real Estate 6.33%

Retail and Ecommerce

As with real estate email marketing, click through rates on retail and ecommerce emails may suffer from the window shopping affect: people stay on a list in case something enticing comes along, but they are unlikely to click on emails with any frequency.

Silverpop
Mean 2.9%
Median 1.8%
Top 25% 7.5%
Bottom 25% 0.3%
MailChimp: Ecommerce 2.60%
MailChimp: Retail 2.82%
Constant Contact: Retail 8.70%

Schools and Education

Best in class email marketers working with educational institutions are pushing a 15% CTR, putting them among some of the best performers in this list. Constant Contact splits their industry reporting up based on whether the emails are coming from colleges or not, but the distinction doesn’t appear to be having much of an impact on the average click through rate.

Silverpop
Mean 4.6%
Median 1.5%
Top 25% 14.5%
Bottom 25% .2%
MailChimp: Education and Training 2.94%
Constant Contact: Education – primary/secondary 8.57%
Constant Contact: Education – higher education 8.63%

Conclusion: Benchmark Email Metrics for Optimization Opportunities

By developing a more thorough understanding of your email click through rates stack up to others in your industry you’ll be able to decide if the CTR is the best place to optimize your campaign.

If you’re bumping up against the best in class CTR, it’s time to turn your attention to other metrics that will have a higher impact on your email marketing ROI.

For more benchmark email metrics, see our report on Open Rates by Industry and Bounce Rate by Industry.

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Andrea Fryrear
About the Author:

Andrea Fryrear

Andrea loves to dissect marketing buzzwords and fads looking for the pearls of wisdom at their cores. Her favorite topic is agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling (and less stressful) marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for business. When not scrutinizing the latest agile methodologies, Andrea can be found on the volleyball court, at the park with her two delightful kids, or baking “calorie-free” cookies. Connect with her on Twitter @AndreaFryrear, or on LinkedIn.




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