Resources Hub » Blog » 3 Reasons Your Email Marketing Conversion Rates are Low

When it comes to sending emails, it’s not enough to craft a compelling message and send it to your subscribers’ inboxes. You need to make sure people are opening your emails and ultimately converting.

While high open rates are nice, you can’t sell anything if subscribers ignore what you’re offering and decide they’re not interested. It’s important to have people engaging with your content. If your goal is to send them to your website, you need high conversion rates, too.

If you have taken a look at your email analytics and seen that your messages haven’t driven enough conversions, don’t blame your emails. Three problems could be driving those lackluster results, and in this article, you will learn how to solve them once and for all.

1. You aren’t reeling people in

Imagine for a second you are one of your subscribers. You are relaxing in your house after another intense work day. You check your phone, and you see you have 200 unread emails.

If you are like most people, you will read most of the emails really fast and archive them, or you will delete them right away just by looking at the subject line and preheader text.

With so much competition in your subscriber’s inbox, your emails need to catch their attention fast. After you get people to open your emails, the rest of your email needs to hold that attention all the way up to the call-to-action.

Since you need to get their attention, you may think you need to get super creative in the way you design your emails. You may even think you need to offer discounts.

The problem is that with these ideas you will over-complicate things. Your emails don’t need better design or discounts (although they can help); they need to reel people in so they can become interested in your offers.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, you can tap into the core tenets of copywriting to assist you with this task. While copywriting is commonly associated with traditional advertising, their techniques can be used in any medium, including email.

While there are many things copywriting can help you with, the most important way it can help you increase your conversions is by improving your hooks. The hook is the element of your copy that stops your readers and makes them read whatever you have to say.

The hook starts before the recipient opens the email; it starts in the subject line, the “From” name, and the pre-header text. To improve the hooks of your emails, there’s one trick you can use that will help you hack through the process.

The trick is called the knowledge gap. When you use the knowledge gap, you start by making people curious about an idea.

Imagine you had one campaign where you are giving away a 24-hour $20 discount for one of your products — let’s say, men’s shorts.

Without the knowledge gap, you’d write a subject line along the following lines:

Special offer: $20 off in men’s shorts for the next 24 hours

While there’s nothing bad in stating your offer in the subject line, it’s not interesting.

People love discounts, but do you know what else they like? Stories. Your subscribers want to be entertained, even with your emails. With the knowledge gap, your subject would say:

You have 24 hours to save $20 — here’s how you do it.

In this case, the subject line opens with scarcity (a famous psychology principle of influence), continues with specificity, and finishes with a personal offer that ties the discount with the recipient.

Better yet, the subject line reads like a story. It makes me feel as if I was Jack Bauer from the TV series 24.

Now that you have piqued your subscriber’s interest, you’d need to continue the hook in the email, which could say:

  • $20 can buy you many things.
  • 4 frappuccinos.
  • A t-shirt.
  • A dinner out with your girlfriend.
  • What if you could save those $20 today?
  • Here’s how:
  • You can get our favorite men’s pants at $20 less than usual.
  • Tomorrow, the offer will be gone. And you know what? You’ll have to kiss goodbye to your new pants and the free t-shirt (or frappuccino, or romantic dinner out).
  • Not today. Today, you have the chance of getting the pants you deserve at a special price.
  • Get your pants now.

While such an email structure will depend greatly on your brand, your audience, and your style, it’s still a powerful and engaging way to communicate your offer.

The knowledge gap is what reels people into your emails and drives them right into your offer. Your subscribers won’t have to think deeply about your offers. They will be drawn towards them.

Open the knowledge gap, and you will open the floodgates to your conversions.

2. You are sending emails to the wrong people

Remember your subscriber we talked about before? Her problem was that she gets too many emails in her inbox. According to a survey done by MarketingSherpa, the main reason why people unsubscribe is that they get too many emails.

And the second reason? The emails they are getting are irrelevant.


You can’t make other brands send fewer emails, but you can make your emails more relevant.

What makes your emails more relevant isn’t just the way you structure your content with hooks as you just saw. The real problem behind irrelevant emails is this: each subscriber is unique.

If you treat your subscribers as one big list without segmenting them based on their unique characteristics — like demographics and behavior — you risk sending the right emails to the wrong people.

Even if you do everything right (i.e., beautiful design, well-crafted CTAs, great copy, etc.), your subscribers will feel alienated from your emails and will not convert.

The key to segmenting your list is through analysis. With the help of your email analytics tools, you can uncover key demographic data that can help you understand your audience better.

If you find most of the people on your list are young professionals, you know that you could use a more colloquial vocabulary and use graphics that are sleek and modern.

The same applies to any other demographic group, which can be segmented by:

  • Gender
  • Profession
  • Location (country, state, city, or neighborhood)
  • Position in the company
  • Experience
  • Age

Besides using demographic data, you can segment based on your subscribers’ past behavior. For example, you could send promotional emails to people who have purchased in the past, who have opened your last four emails, and who like you on Facebook.

Better yet, you can find that most of the people who click your emails belong to a specific demographic group and improve the targeting even more.

By understanding the demographics and behavior of your subscribers, you can create more relevant content that fits their needs and interests. Once your emails are more relevant, your conversions will increase.

3. You don’t know what works

If you like reading email marketing blogs like this one, you are aware of the importance of things like:

  • Using copywriting
  • Segmenting your list
  • Designing your emails
  • Making your CTAs more attractive
  • And so on

While all these ideas are important in making your email marketing campaigns more effective, they all share one problem: they aren’t suited to your current situation.

What this means is that even though using better copy can make your emails more interesting, they may not increase your conversions as much as, say, improving your email design.

You may think your copy isn’t very good, but your subscribers may have problems with your design. Therefore, if you fix the latter, you will increase your conversions. How do you find this out? Do you survey your subscribers? Do you flip a coin?

No, actually, you find out what you need to improve through A/B testing. Thanks to the use of email A/B testing, you can test different hypotheses and see which one drives the most conversions.

Start by developing a hypothesis around an idea you have about your email, your list, or your business.

Let’s say you thought the reason why you are losing money with your promotional emails is because you are sending it to people who aren’t loyal customers. With this hypothesis, you could send one promotional email to the people who have purchased from you more than once and spent more than $50 in the past 6 months, and one to those who haven’t.

Then, you’d compare the results and see which one has driven more conversions. If you find the former group brought a large number of conversions at a low cost, you know how you need to segment your promotional offers.

If you find that the results aren’t conclusive, then the problem may be in the offer itself or the products promoted. Interestingly enough, those two potential problems are the next hypothesis you should test.

Eventually, you’d come up with a list of rules to follow based on your experience and results. You will become a master of your conversions thanks to testing what works.

Wrap up

Increasing your email conversion rates isn’t rocket science. It only takes a bit of discipline to improve a few mistakes you are making that drive insufficient results.

Start by making your emails more interesting with the help of the knowledge gap trick. Then, send more relevant emails by segmenting your audience and finding the right people to email. Finally, see what really works by A/B testing your emails.

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About the Author Ivan Kreimer
This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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