Chapter 3: Improving Open Rates & Campaign Sales


Seeing an email go out with a really high engagement rate and lots of sales is the best feeling in the world. We also know how frustrating it is to send an email and not get the response you expected.

In this chapter, we’ll share some ideas on how to improve your email campaigns if they’re not doing as well as they could. If you went through the audit & weekly reporting exercises and realized your open rates are lower than they should be, or you’re spending a lot of time building campaigns that don’t drive sales results, this is the chapter for you.

You should have a minimum benchmark for yourself of a 15% open rate, and generally a 0.2 – 0.3% conversion rate (typically, to Placed Order). Higher is great and can help you raise the bar as you go, but if you’re below that you should be considering why – and that’s why you’re here.

What impacts your open rate?

The natural course of your subscribers is that they’ll be engaged for some amount of time after they sign up, and eventually stop responding to email. That length of time will vary from customer to customer – some will stop responding almost immediately. Some will last for a short while, and some will stick around for years.

You have some control over how this goes, based on your marketing strategy and how you treat these addresses. The biggest factors in disengagement and unsubscribe rates are:

  1. Email frequency / volume – Are they hearing from you enough to remember you, but not so often that their inbox is overwhelmed by you?
  2. Relevance / interest – How appealing is your message to them? Does it reflect why they signed up for your newsletter list?

We’re going to tackle how you can better address each of these today.

Why open rates are important

If you’re not getting consistent 15%+ open rates, you’re in danger of starting to be categorized as spam by the inbox providers. The major providers, especially ones like Gmail, look at both your overall open rate across their customers, and an individual’s level of interaction with your messages, to determine whether to categorize you as spam. Below a 15% open rate, or emailing people when they haven’t interacted with your email in over 4 months, puts you at risk of this.

This matters a lot: Getting into the spam folder, or as I sometimes call it, “Gmail Jail” is a real pain. It can take a while to get out, and that opportunity cost is significant in terms of lost revenue and time spent working on recovering. That path to improving is basically doing these two things, so you might as well do them upfront. Only email people who have engaged in the last few months, and send them the things they respond to best.

1) Email frequency / volume:

If you’re sending your campaigns to your entire list, that will definitely depress your open rates. People who stopped interacting a long time ago are very unlikely to see your email – their provider is likely just sending it straight to spam. If it does land in their inbox (or promotions, or whatever), they’re not likely to interact with it – your brand and products are just not top of mind for them right now.

The first step is to start sending campaign emails only to people who have engaged recently. I typically like to use 120 days as this boundary. Make a new segment for sending your campaigns to, called your “Engaged Segment” Go to Lists and Segments, Create List/Segment, and choose Segment. Give it a name, and we’ll pick these criteria:


Make sure that when you build this segment, you use the and/or buttons to build it so that the conditions are grouped in this way.

These subscribers will be in your Master Newsletter list (or whatever list you collect opt-ins in, if not Newsletter), and have opened or clicked an email in the last 120 days, or they just recently joined your list and haven’t had many (if any) chances to open yet. If you’re not sure what list your subscribers are going into, look at your signup forms, whether you use Klaviyo or another app for your forms – it should be specified there.

If you sent a campaign to this list right now, I would pretty close to guarantee you get a good open rate. These are just your good prospects and customers right now, people who have recently thought about your brand.

2) Email Relevance and Interest

When you’re reaching your engaged email subscribers, getting them to open becomes much easier. These people want to hear from you. The next step is to figure out what they want to hear.

First, look at where you collect signups on your site – what message do they see? This reflects a lot of what they want from your brand. For example, if you offer tips, recipes, and how-tos in your newsletters, make sure that the content you’re sending really reflects that.

If your newsletter is primarily driven by sales / discount offers, you’ll want to emphasize that instead. There’s always room for both in your execution, but this should help guide your strategy on what you send out. Even in an email full of tips and advice, there’s room to promote a specific product and tie that into your sales strategy. Depending on your product, you might find this is an essential part of your marketing.

If you need inspiration on your campaign emails at this point, I highly recommend browsing ReallyGoodEmails. They have a library of great-looking emails to see what other brands do for messaging between tips, sales, and variations there.

Their couponproduct sale, and discount categories are nice for browsing sales. I picked a couple pretty clean ones here because they are straightforward to imitate in Klaviyo templates if you like them – no coding required.


This Stumptown email also does a great job of highlighting a key single product likely to bring people in – a nice new french press.


Or this lotion & cologne email about how to make sure the good scents flow.


For another example, if you sell an expensive product that people will buy once and never or very rarely make a second purchase, using your campaign to answer common objections and customer service questions can help pull people over the line.

One brand that does this very well is Burrow – They sell couches! This campaign addresses all the common questions shoppers have and helps make them comfortable with buying a couch entirely online. Here’s the top part of the email – click through to see the rest. You can tell here that it’s common for people who are moving soon to be thinking about buying a new couch, considering Burrow, and might place an order soon if they’re confident they can get it delivered exactly when they want it.


Some Other Ideas:

Many people ask: “When should I send my email?”
The time of day that you send your email is a smaller factor than who you’re sending it to, and what you’re sending. It does have some impact though! Klaviyo has done extensive studies (across hundreds of millions of emails) and found that even the best send time optimization only had a medium-sized impact – typically, 7-10% improvement in open rates.
The typical store still they studied had about a 15-16% open rate after this. You can read more in the post here. The lesson here is that send time matters, and you can try different times and see what works best for your audience and products, but your energy is generally better spent on figuring out the right message.

If you suspect you’re already having deliverability issues, look at your open rates by inbox provider, under “Advanced Reports” in your campaign analytics.
Each of the open rates by inbox provider should be fairly close together, within 3-5% of each other. If you’re seeing big differences (like some at 20% and some at 2%) you might be having a problem with deliverability to just that one domain. If the rates are fairly close together, you may be having email issues – but they most likely aren’t related to deliverability.