Sailthru’s brilliant Strategy & Optimization team has created a benchmarking tool that quantifies the millions of emails we send every minute — yes, every minute. The team looks across our entire client base and compiles the open and click-through rate for each email.

Email benchmarks

However, they split them into two buckets, segmenting them by our retail and media customers. When, say, Harper’s Bazaar and JustFab send emails, there are entirely different goals. Putting them side by side would be like comparing apples and oranges. On the commerce side, customers without a purchase API are excluded, since the lack of complete data there could skew the average.

This system allows us to better identify the best of the best. And we’re excited to share some of them. While we can’t divulge specific figures, these emails from The Daily Beast, Lootcrate and Food52, among others, were the star performers from the past few months, driving the most clicks and conversions.

1. Harper’s Bazaar

The CTR on this Harper’s Bazaar email was well above average, confirming what we already know: Personalization works. The content features a mix of personalized recommendations based on each customer’s interests and browsing history, and the publisher’s own editorial direction. Doesn’t everyone want to know about the royal babies?

Want to replicate the results? Consider personalizing send time to increase open rate, personalizing subject lines based on what your individual audience members are most interested in, and personalizing the content in the email to keep CTR high.

Harper's Bazaar email

2. Food Network

Smart marketers have a love/hate relationship with sweepstakes. On one hand, they are a lightweight way to boost acquisition numbers. But the major con is that the vast majority of sweepstakes entrants fail to become engaged, valuable customers. We advise our clients to keep sweeps activity to a minimum for that reason, but since we know these will be a part of the marketing mix, we want our clients to be smart about sweeps.

Food Network drove a particularly high CTR on this email because it was sent to an audience list specific to giveaways. By taking the same approach and isolating audience members acquired via sweeps and those who respond to those messages, you can develop and test ways to nurture those individuals into engaging more meaningfully.

Food Network email

3. Food52

Monetizing content and differentiating commerce are both challenging enough on their own. Creating a healthy balance between the two is extra challenging, though Food52 has mastered it. A publisher that generates two-thirds of its revenue from its online shop, Food52’s emails don’t just exceed Sailthru’s benchmarks. By connecting with individuals and treating email as a magazine, they exceed industry benchmarks by 30%.

This email, which went to the Smart List of readers Food52 wanted to re-engage, is a perfect example of why that is. There’s a compelling subject line — how do you stay full for only $10? — and crisp, colorful images.

More importantly, Food52 thinks in terms of a customer’s personal lifecycles, as opposed to marketing lifecycles. This recipe-focused email went out on a Sunday, when people are likely to be thinking about grocery shopping and planning their meals for the week. Based on the CTR, Food52 readers clearly agreed that this email was great.

Food52 email

4. Artnet

High-performing emails like this one strike the right balance between enticing subject lines that drive opens and quality content to boost CTR. One of the tactics used by publishers with high performing email programs is to test the most effective position for the subject line article in the actual email creative. Here, Artnet has the subject line story as the third story in the email body.

Retailers shouldn’t discount this tactic. Test the approach to determine where to place products mentioned in your subject line. At the same time, you should be sure they are personalized to the individual for maximum impact.

Artnet email

5. Bespoke Post

Sometimes products are so nice, someone wants to buy them twice. Or they missed out the first time around. Either way, replenishment emails are an oft-missed trigger. But not for Bespoke Post, whose emails are as bespoke as the brand name suggests.

The brand’s trigger game is on point and we love this one that combines replenishment and personalization. By reminding the reader that these products are so hot that they’ve previously sold out, Bespoke Post subtly creates a sense of urgency while capitalizing on the “wisdom of the crowd” recommendations.

If you’re already thinking of holiday strategies, be sure to consider replenishment. But remember to test well before Black Friday to see how your loyal and retained buyers respond.

Bespoke Post email

6. The Daily Beast

We love the template from The Daily Beast’s AM digest. Much like CNN’s 5 things or The New York Times Morning Briefing, it has a formulaic (and easily to digest) look and predictable send time, creating an association readers can expect.

If you’re in publishing, consider what content you might have that makes sense to test for time consistency. Retailers can also adopt this approach for intermittent discounting without training buyers to only buy with a deal attached. For example, consider testing a time-bound discount for a specific set of items in a campaign that goes out at the same time and same day every week. For items already on sale, this might help move that inventory.

Daily Beast email

7. Lootcrate

Savvy retailers know that discounting is potentially dangerous territory. Promotions prompt sales, but too many of them teach customers to expect good deals, which can cheapen brand value in the long run.

In this email, Lootcrate offers customers a discount, but in exchange for their feedback, which will ultimately help the brand create a better experience for them. At the same time, Lootcrate attaches its incentive to non-purchasing behavior. To the customer, this correlates a discount and an action, decreasing the likelihood they’ll just assume that they can always hold out and just wait for discounts. It also increases the data that Lootcrate has regarding product satisfaction in order to shape future product decisions. Any marketer could use this tactic to boost user generated content, online reviews, or to augment priority content or data sets.

Lootcrate email


Learn more from Sailthru about email marketing automation and email acquisition strategy here.