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How to Improve Internal Email Open Rates and Click-Through Rates

Email is the most popular communication channel. So, it’s vital to track email metrics, especially internal email open rates. Here’s why and how.
Written by: Penny Swift
Internal Email
Published: June 5, 2024

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As the accessibility of the Internet continues to increase year after year, so does the number of emails sent and received globally. In 2017, Statista estimated the global figure to be 269 billion. Last year (2023), this figure had increased to 347.3 billion — and by 2026 it’s expected to hit 392.5 billion. Predictably, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to capture employees’ attention with corporate emails. This means that as an internal communicator, you need to implement tactics that make your employees excited to receive their organizational newsletters. 

Email open rates (ORs) and click-through rates (CTRs) are two relatively easy email metrics we use to measure the effectiveness of email marketing campaigns. They are also the most popular key performance indicators (KPIs) used to track whether an internal communications strategy is working. Click-to-open rates (CTORs) are also popular and commonly included in corporate metrics.  

This is not surprising, since Gallagher’s definitive State of the Sector 2023/24 report reveals that of all the broadcast channels used by organizations for internal communications, email is the most widely used, with 92% of respondents confirming this. Additionally, 89% say it is the most effective channel they use. 

This post focuses on best practices for increasing your open and click rates, as well as other valuable metrics. It may lead to you wondering how your current open rate and other metrics compare to others. But truthfully, it depends on many factors, some of which we’re going to discuss. Additionally, the ease of measuring these rates varies, depending on the email marketing platform or tool you’re using. We’re going to share ideas about the best ways to improve your internal email rates. We will also show you how you can do this easily and efficiently with Cerkl Broadcast. 

Internal Email Metrics Internal Communicators Should Track

According to the 2023 Edition of PoliteMail’s Internal Email Communications Benchmarks, email provides the most extensive reach of any corporate communications channel. Based on data from PoliteMail’s enterprise customers, the report states that corporate internal communications teams send, on average, 79 email broadcasts every month. They can expect 68% of these to reach their chosen audience, while 11% will simply ignore the messages. 

Having undertaken extensive tracking of their clients, they say that 52% of your audience will be likely to read corporate internal emails. But they will only read 70% of it. Furthermore, of those who open an email

  • 19% will skim the content and read less than 30%
  • 33% will read at least 30% and a further 30% will read more than half
  • On average, 10% of employees are likely to read internal emails on their mobile devices

These are important internal email benchmarks we can learn from. But what email metrics should internal communicators be tracking to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns?

“What’s measured gets managed. Metrics matter.”  

PoliteMail
internal email open rate

Email Click-Through Rate

The email click-through rate for internal emails measures the percentage of employees who click on a link within the email. If you send 100 emails, and 5 recipients click on a link, the CTR will be 5% — (Number of clicks / Total emails sent) x 100.

Contact Monkey’s Internal Email Benchmark Report 2024 shows that the average click rate is a mere 10%. However this metric ranges from 1% to 98%! Interestingly, their Internal Email Benchmark Report 2023 showed that 64% of internal communicators rely on click-through rates (CTR) to determine the success of their internal comms efforts. It also showed that the average click rate for internal communications across a variety of industries was 7% — which means that it’s dropped in the past year. 

Internal Email Open Rate 

The email open rate for internal emails is also known as a unique open rate (UOR). It measures the percentage of employees who open their internal email. If you send 100 emails, and 30 recipients open the email, the open rate is 30% — (Number of opens / Total emails sent) x 100.

In a blog post, 4 Ways to Get More Employees to Open Your Internal Emails, Staffbase states that most industries report an open rate of 50% to 94% for internal emails. Contact Monkey’s 2024 stat shows that the average rate is 69%, ranging from 10% to 99%. 

Click-to-Open Rate

The click-to-open rate for internal emails measures the percentage of employees who click on a link within an internal email after opening it. This metric helps you understand how engaged your audience is with your content. If you send 100 emails and 30 people open the email AND 10 click on the link, the CTO will be 33.3% (10/30) — (Number of clicks / Number of opens) x 100.

Contact Monkey’s 2024 stat shows the average CTO rate as 14%, with the variables again ranging from 1% to 99%! 

It’s crucial to differentiate between CTRs and CTORs because these metrics provide distinct insights into your email marketing campaign’s performance. While both measure the percentage of recipients who click on links within emails, CTORs focus on the effectiveness of your content with your engaged audience. CTRs, on the other hand, indicate the general engagement of your total audience. CTORs help you understand how well your email content resonates with your audience. CTRs help you identify what percentage of your audience cares about your content. 

Conversion Rate

Conversion rates measure the percentage of recipients who took a desired action, such as making a purchase, filling out a form, or subscribing to a newsletter. This metric helps you understand the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns in driving desired actions. When you are assessing the conversion rate, the formula is (Number of conversions/ Number of recipients) x 100. So, if you sent 100 emails and 20 recipients converted them by, for instance, buying something, the conversion rate would be 20%. 

Engagement Over Time

The engagement over time (EOT) rate measures the percentage of recipients who engage with your email over a specific period of time. This metric helps you understand how well your email marketing campaigns are resonating with your audience over time.

The formula for this is (Number of engaged recipients / Total recipients) x 100. So, if you sent 100 emails and 30 recipients engaged with the email (e.g. opened, clicked, or converted) over a two-week period, the EOT rate would be 30%.

Unsubscribe Rates

The unsubscribe rate measures the percentage of recipients who opted out of receiving future emails. This metric helps you understand how well your email marketing campaigns are resonating with your audience and identify potential issues that may lead to unsubscribes. So, if you sent 100 emails and 5 recipients unsubscribed, the unsubscribe rate would be 5%. (Number of unsubscribes / Total recipients) x 100.

If employees are unsubscribing from corporate emails, you need to take action and find out why. 

internal email metrics

What are Good Internal Email Open Rates?

Internal email open rates can vary depending on several factors, such as the purpose of the email, the audience, and the content.

As we mentioned earlier, Contact Monkey reports in its Internal Email Benchmark Report 2024 that an average email open rate is 69%. But this can vary from 10% to 99%. 

Staffbase came up with a similar stat for internal email open rate. Their figure is 72%, based on an open rate of 50% to 94%. They also put the results into perspective stating that “Employee email open rates vary across industries, organizations, and list sizes, so there isn’t really an objective ‘good’ benchmark. Except for a 100% open rate. That would definitely be good.”

They did some research on internal email benchmarks within different industries, and the results are mind-bending.

How to Improve Internal Email Open Rates and Click-Through Rates

While the open rates range from 51% to more than 100% (maybe people opened emails more than once?), the click rates range from 4% to 36%. This indicates that open rates are on par with other research findings, but why do they differ so much from CTRs?

While not based on any formal research, here are some possible reasons.

Open Rates

  • Multiple opens: It’s possible that some recipients opened the email more than once, which would artificially inflate the open rate.
  • Spam filters: Some spam filters might be flagging emails as ‘not spam’ or allowing them to pass through, which could lead to multiple opens.
  • Curiosity: Recipients might open the email out of curiosity, even if they’re not interested in the content.

Click-Through Rates

  • Relevance: The content might not be relevant to the recipient, leading to low engagement and low click-through rates.
  • Cluttered inboxes: With the average person receiving hundreds of emails daily, it’s easy for important emails to get lost in the noise.
  • Lack of clear CTAs: If the call to action (CTA) isn’t clear or prominent, recipients might not click on the link.
  • Technical issues: Technical issues like slow loading times, broken links, or poor mobile responsiveness can deter clicks.
  • Lack of engagement: If the email content is not engaging or doesn’t resonate with the recipient, they might not click on the link.

Why Are The Stats So Different?

  • Different goals: Open rates focus on getting the email opened, while CTRs focus on getting the recipient to take a specific action.
  • Different metrics: Open rates measure the percentage of recipients who opened the email, while CTRs measure the percentage of recipients who clicked on a link.
  • Different audience: The audience for internal emails might be more engaged and interested in the content, leading to higher open rates and lower CTRs.

Best ways to improve your Internal Email open rates

Despite the stumbling blocks, there are many ways you can improve your email open rates and CTR. Some of these are surprisingly simple, requiring careful thought rather than high-tech knowledge. 

#1 Spend Time Crafting Your Email Subject Lines

It can be easy to make your subject line the key takeaway of the communication that you’re sending. But, that can make for a pretty uninviting email. Try putting yourself in the recipient’s shoes and have the subject line answer the question, “What’s the benefit employees will get if they read this email?” Or rather than saying, “New Volunteer Opportunities” opt for something like, “Give back to our Chicago community and save lives.”

One thing that we have found very successful with our Cerkl clients is the use of personalized subject lines. When employees know they are receiving content just for them, they’re more likely to open their internal emails.

#2 Speak the Office Slanguage

Your corporate news shouldn’t read like a press release. That’s not what it is. Sometimes, company language can get stuffy and annoying, especially if your employees are using the same jargon day in and day out.

Instead, try to become the virtual water cooler of the office. Yes, there are imperative legal and benefit updates that you still have to send out. But creating spotlights and testing with different types of content will be a lot more likely to make employees excited to see your email pop up in their inboxes.

#3 Make Sure Your Employee Email is Mobile-friendly

A huge number of employees globally are using their mobile devices to check messages. According to emailmonday, mobile email will account for 26 to 78% of email opens, depending on your target audience, product, and email type. That’s why it’s so important that they can see what you are posting. 

When your employees view their inbox on their smartphones, most email platforms surface the first few lines of an email or designated alternate text. Make sure you don’t waste this opportunity and define your preview text to make your employee newsletter more compelling.

#4 Consider Your Best Email Send Time and Date

It’s tricky to determine the best time to send an internal email. Axios HQ has some valuable tips on the topic. After analyzing the average open rates of 8.7 million email deliveries via their system, they found that the best overall day and time to send is on Sunday afternoons and in the early hours of weekday mornings. They reassure those sending emails that even though it “may feel like an infringement on employee time or team culture,” employees don’t see it that way. They found:

  • The best day to send an internal communications email is on a Sunday or Monday (54%)
  • The best time to send these emails is between 3 am and 6 am (65%-70%) 
  • The best overall day and time is Sunday between 3 pm and 6 pm 

The reason, of course, is due to low competition times, with people getting fewer internal comms during the weekend.

With clients across many different industries, it’s a good idea to give individual employees the option to select their own delivery time and frequency. That way, you’re not drowning your organization with your corporate emails.

#5 Make Your Employee Email Matter

Send emails to the audience that needs it. Not every employee needs to know that your downtown location is having elevator service issues, but you’ll want to tip off the employees in that location who don’t want to walk up 12 flights of stairs. 

Our clients love our Audience Manager feature for making sure that the right audience is getting the right message. 

#6 Apply Internal Email Retargeting 

Internal email retargeting is a marketing strategy that involves sending targeted emails to users who have previously interacted with your brand but have not yet converted or taken a desired action. This approach is also known as ‘retargeting’ or ‘remarketing’.

This is a great way to re-engage with users who have shown interest in your brand, but have not yet completed a desired action, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading a resource. By sending targeted emails, you can reignite their interest and encourage them to take the desired action.

How to Improve Internal Email Open Rates and Click-Through Rates

Improve Internal Email Open Rates and CTR with Cerkl Broadcast

The platform you choose to use really does make a difference. Cerkl Broadcast can help with:

  • Personalization, so that you target the right person with the right message and exactly the right time. Broadcast’s key to personalization is the MyNews engine. It will help you ensure your internal communications reach the next level by delivering hyper-relevant content and improving the employee experience.  
  • Email retargeting that allows communicators to strategically optimize employee engagement levels. A new feature of Broadcast, introduced in November 2023, it literally enables internal communicators to retarget their EmailBlasts with employees who didn’t engage with messages the first time around. It generally increases the response rate significantly.  
  • Real-time email analytics that keep track of open rates, click rates, and other vital stats.    

Maddy Rieman, Head of Customer Success at Cerkl, has a whole lot more Tips for Increasing Your Open Rate. Don’t miss them! 

What’s Next?

We’ve made it easy for you to measure your communication efforts. All you need is our free ROI calculator. Download it now. 

FAQ

What is a good open rate for email?

A good open rate for email is typically considered to be around 20-30%, although this can vary depending on the industry, audience, and content.

What are the benchmarks for internal email communications?

For internal email communications, internal email benchmarks can vary depending on the organization and audience. However, a good starting point is to aim for an open rate of 30-50% and a click-through rate of 5-10%.

What is the best time to send an internal email?

The best time to send an internal email is debated often. Some say it’s a good idea to send emails during working hours when most employees are likely to be at their desks. Others say you should send them on Sundays or early on Monday mornings.

How do I increase my internal newsletter readership?

To increase internal newsletter readership, try to make the content relevant and engaging. Use attention-grabbing subject lines, and consider segmenting your audience based on interests or departments.

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