Before we dive in, what is email click-through rate?

Click-through rate, or CTR, is a digital marketing performance metric that expresses as a percentage how often an ad, organic search result, link in an email, or any other type of link is clicked versus the number of times it has been viewed. As such, it indicates the effectiveness of ad copy, subject lines, email copy, meta titles, and meta descriptions.

Of all marketing methods available to ecommerce marketers, email marketing still provides the highest ROI.In this post, you’ll learn how to benchmark and improve your email click-through rate. But first, let’s go over how to calculate CTR.

How is Email Click-Through Rate Calculated?

The formula for CTR is quite simple: divide the total number of clicks on links in your email by the total number of people who’ve received your email (emails sent – bounces) and multiply that number by 100 to get a percentage.

ctr formula

If, for example, your latest product launch email was received by 4000 subscribers and 50 of them clicked a link in that email, the click-through rate formula looks like this:

CTR = (50 / 4000) x 100 = 1.25%

Note that email marketing distinguishes between click-through rate (the number of people who’ve received your email and clicked a link inside it) and click-to-open rate (CTOR). The latter indicates how many people who’ve actually opened your email, have also clicked a link inside it.

On top of that, you’ll need to decide whether you want to calculate total click-through rate or unique click-through rate. In the case of the latter, you count each user who clicks on a link in your email just once. In the case of the former, you count any click that happens, regardless of whether a user clicks the same link twice.

Of course, you can also calculate both to have a more comprehensive view of your email campaign’s performance.

What Is a Good Ecommerce CTR for Email?

According to Oberlo, the average ecommerce click-through rate for email is 2.07%. However, whether that’s good or not for your specific business also depends on the industry you’re in.

As a general rule, a good ecommerce click-through rate is 2.5%. If you want to do really well, aim for 4%.

Also good to know is that not all types of ecommerce emails tend to achieve the same kind of CTR. According to Jilt, welcome emails, abandoned browse and cart emails, post-purchase review requests, and loyalty reward emails tend to easily reach a CTR of 4%. Transactional emails like order and shipping confirmations do even better.

If you want to keep an eye on click-through rates across various industries, this chart by Constant Contact is interesting. Each month, Constant Contact shares the open rates, bounce rates, and click-through rates from more than 200 million emails sent by their customers. In May 2021, for example, the average CTR for the retail industry (both online and offline) was 9.61%.

How to Improve Your Click-Through Rate: 8 Tips

1. Segment your list

Group your audience into smaller segments based on, for example, their location, interests, buying behavior, or age. This way, you can send content that’s tailored to each of these segments and increase the likelihood that they’ll be interested in what you have to share.

2. Use personalization

Another way to tailor your content, is by addressing the recipient by name and recommending products based on their previous purchases and browsing behavior. Not only does this make your emails feel personal, it’s likely to generate more clicks as well.

3. Research the emails of your competitors

An easy way to figure out what to send your subscribers is by looking at what your competitors are doing.

  • Are their emails heavily stylized or rather simple in design?
  • What type of subject lines do they use most often?
  • How much copy do they write?

ecommerce ctr data

When you sign up for MailCharts, you don’t just get to browse through your competitors’ emails, you’ll also get information about their send frequency and how often they send promotions.

Look up specific brands, or check the data for larger industry groups.

mailcharts ecommerce ctr data

4. A/B test your emails

Once you’ve gathered enough inspiration, it’s time to start A/B testing your emails. Some of the things you can test, are:

    • Design: the type of images you use, how plain vs stylized your template is, using GIFs, inserting emojis, fonts and font sizes
    • Copy:

a little vs a lot of copy, tone-of-voice, different wording

  • CTAs:


buttons vs links, button sizes and colors, link positioning, link emphasis

Whatever you decide to test, make sure you always just test one specific element. If you change the style of your images as well as your CTA and your test performs better, you won’t know which of those changes has actually made a difference.

5. Have one, clear call-to-action

A few years ago, Whirlpool ran a test where the control had four CTA buttons, while the test email only had one. The test achieved an increase in CTR of no less than 42%.

You may remember The Jam Experiment, which showed that consumers were more than 10 times more likely to buy jam when they could only choose between 6 different types vs between 24 different types. The Choice Paradox is real, and if you overwhelm your subscribers with various call-to-actions, they’ll be less likely to click one of them.

Note that this doesn’t mean that you can’t include multiple links and buttons. In fact, adding the same CTA to your email multiple times may actually improve your click-through rate.

Top tip:
If you use buttons, make sure to create them in HTML as most email clients don’t automatically display images. If you don’t know how to do this and your email service provider doesn’t offer an easy way to create buttons, you can use this handy tool by Campaign Monitor.

6. Play with send times and frequency

Even loyal customers can’t take action on your emails all of the time. That’s why it’s crucial to reach them when they’re most likely to engage with and… and to not reach out to them too often. You want to figure out the ideal time of the day and week to email them as well as the optimal send frequency.

This doesn’t only help you improve your open and click-through rates, it also prevents your emails from being sent to spam and hurting your sender reputation.

7. Optimize for mobile

This one should be a given, but some brands are still sending out emails that appear with tiny copy and hard-to-click links when viewed on mobile. Constant Contact reported that about 60% of their users open their emails on mobile, yet in-email clicks are 40% higher on desktop.

Optimize your emails for mobile, and you’ll optimize your CTR.

8. Periodically clean up your list

While you always want to try to re-engage inactive subscribers, sometimes people stop being part of your target audience and then it’s better to let them go. Keeping “dead weight” hurts the overall performance of your list, can damage your sender reputation, and might even prove costly if you’re paying your email service provider based on the size of your email list.

CTR: Just a Piece of the Puzzle

It’s important to note that having a good email CTR is not a guarantee for great sales numbers. If the destination page isn’t a clear continuation of the copy surrounding your call-to-action, users might get confused – or worse: disappointed – and not take the desired action.

Ideally, your copy will guide subscribers smoothly from your email subject lines through your emails and onto your website.

Improve Your CTR to Improve Your Bottom Line

Email marketing can be a highly effective way to increase your revenue, but only when you get subscribers to take action. That’s why it’s crucial to track and continuously improve your email click-through rate by following the tips in this article.
Don’t just test within your own bubble, but compare your email CTR with ecommerce industry averages to know whether you’re doing well, and keep tabs on what your competitors are sending out to gain inspiration for future campaigns.

Sign up for MailCharts and get access to thousands of emails from other ecommerce brands. See exactly what kinds of emails they’re sending, when they’re sending them, and at which frequency.

Post tags   Email Marketing Strategy