Here are two industry standard email benchmark reports for 2015, one from Experian, the other from Silverpop, both are major email broadcast system providers. It's worth checking both for reference, as each provides different levels of detail and breakdown of data by industry.
It's also worth bearing in mind that both reports measure the aggregate of all types of email broadcast. These days, email is predominantly used for nurturing leads in content marketing programs, where people have opted-in to receive a series of value added content, all delivered via email. Open and click through rates for this sort of campaign are significantly higher than prospecting campaigns to bought in lists, so the benchmark figures are up-weighted quite a bit from the days when email was mainly used for lead generation prospecting.
Consider, for example, our recent campaign for a B2B distance learning company, where we used email for both prospecting and lead nurturing. The campaign, on aggregate - across the prospecting and nurturing activity, - saw an overall open rate of 20.47% - slightly over the Experian benchmark - and a click to open rate of 24.83% which was 250% over the benchmark. This is a good like-for like comparison, and our results show a good performance.
However, the average open rate for the prospecting emails was 6.71% and the click to open rate was 9.42%. These figures are lower than the aggregate benchmark in these reports, but good results for a prospecting lead generation campaign to a cold list (especially as most commentators these days say that prospecting email is a dead loss). Whereas the open rate for the nurturing campaign was 27.75% and the click to open rate was 32.53%, both results smashing the aggregate benchmark figures. It might look great in a report, but if you used the nurture results comparison against the aggregate benchmark, you'd soon be found out for inflating your results by not comparing like-for-like.
After some extensive searching, we haven't been able to find a current benchmark report that separates prospecting from nurturing and triggered campaigns. They all report on the aggregate of all email activity. It's easy to understand why - the reports tend to be written by email broadcast system providers who want to paint a positive image of the effectiveness of email.
So, be careful when referring to these benchmarks, and make sure you are comparing like-for-like. It's always preferable to benchmark yourself against comparable previous performance and your own experience if possible.
HEADLINE FIGURES FROM EXPERIAN BENCHMARK REPORT
HEADLINE FIGURES FROM SILVERPOP BENCHMARK