With its familiarity and ease of use, e-mail is a powerful communications tool, one that marketers have used to their advantage. But how is it changing – are users opening more or fewer marketing e-mails, or using different platforms? How has the pandemic affected e-mail’s prospects?

These are the questions addressed by Litmus’ State of Email Engagement Report 2020, a handy guide to the state of play in marketing emails.

Here we take a look at the findings and get some tips on how to improve the success of marketing emails.

Where does your audience open e-mails?

It’s vital to know where your potential customers open your e-mails. Is it on a mobile, or perhaps on a desktop? The clients they use can also affect your strategy – for example, if many of your customers use Outlook, you may want to rethink your e-mail design to reflect this.

Litmus found that the top email clients are Apple iPhone and G-Mail, with each battling it out around the 33% mark. Also, webmail has trumped mobile for the top spot for where to open, most likely due to the pandemic.

The report recommends analyzing your customers’ use of email clients and optimizing your testing and design to reflect this. If people are moving away from mobile email, design should again reflect this but ensure your email can be easily read across all devices.

When are emails opened?

To maximize their chances of being read, it is vital to know when your audience is likely to open the e-mails you send them – and this differs with each country.

For example, the report found that, in the US, 21% of all opens happen between 9 am and noon, the same as last year, whereas in the UK, there has been a distinct shift in opening times from the second to the third quarter, from 11 am to 9 am.

Litmus suggests there is no magic opening time that should govern your send schedule – instead, look at the demographics and time zones and send out test emails based on their location. If you are seeking to grow in a particular region, it may be best to start your testing there.

How do subscribers engage with your e-mails?

How many people open your e-mail is an important data point but it’s also essential to know other things about how your audience engages with your e-mails.

For example, do you know how much time they spend reading your e-mail? This could govern how long they should be.

The report found that the time spent reading an e-mail is down 12% from two years ago and now averages only 11.82 seconds. Litmus suggests keeping an eye on how your reading time compares with the global average.

Despite mobile being a less popular medium for reading emails, when people do engage with them in this way, they now spend an extra 1.33 seconds reading them then they did at the beginning of 2020. To boost the chance of an e-mail actually being read, Litmus suggests introducing fun elements like quizzes to keep peoples’ attention.

Printing e-mails can be a good indicator of how people are engaging with your offers – for example, some offers may require printing out a physical coupon. The average print rate has gone down by 40%, with only one print for every 568 opens, most probably due to the pandemic. Knowing who printed your e-mail will determine how you follow up with reminders on time limited offers.

As forwarding rates are higher, with 1 forward for every 277 opens, tracking forward rates is a good way to assess which e-mails are likely to go viral and extend the impact of your offers.


It’s clear that knowing more about how, where and when emails are opened is a great basis for maximizing the effect of this powerful tool. To download and read the full report yourself, please click here.



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