The State of Email in 2017: Email Marketing Stats Across Each Industry

Here’s how the top sites use email marketing in 2017.

Bonus Material: In-Depth, Site-By-Site Analysis Spreadsheet

No matter what industry you’re in, you always look at the top-dogs and think, “Man, I wish I had their resources.”

Hundreds of employees. Thousands of social media followers. Millions of dollars in budget. It seems like they can do everything better and quicker than you.

But when it comes to email marketing, a lot of times it’s they who envy you.

For example, did you know 26% of the most well-known sites don’t even send a confirmation or welcome email? Guess they didn’t want those new subscribers to stick around, anyways.

Or how ‘bout the 37% of marketers at bigger brands that wish they could switch email service providers, but they can’t because “they feel stuck with their current provider.” Feels nice to have options, doesn’t it?

That’s why I dug into 106 of the top sites (most visited, biggest fan base, hot risers, etc) across the biggest industries on the internet to see what was really going on in the world of email marketing.

I opted into all their lists (my inbox is crying). Analyzed their sites. I even snooped around to see what email service provider they used. I wanted to see what these big kahunas were doing so:

  1. You could see what they do right: Why reinvent the wheel? Most big sites spent a lot of money on making things perfect. You can spend $0 to copy their processes.
  2. You could find their weaknesses: Even the big guys get stuff wrong. If you’re in any of their industries, you’ll see exactly how you can get a leg up on them.

And after all that work, here’s the state of email marketing in 2017... 

NOTE: If you want to see how each individual site performed (106 in all), download the spreadsheet I used to take all these notes.

Get that spreadsheet

Overall Findings

Findings By Industry:

1. 22% of sites make it difficult to opt-in to their email list

Let’s start with the most egregious finding of this study. While 78% of sites make it dead-easy to sign up for their list, 22% STILL make it difficult.

ryan reynolds but why gif

For those keeping score, that’s the 3rd guide in a row I’ve used this GIF

“Easy” means an opt-in area somewhere clearly visible -- a popup, a bar on the top of your page, or even a form on the side of your site.

“Difficult” means a variety of things:

  • Hiding your form on a completely unrelated page
  • Only including your opt-in form on one page
  • Burying your signup in a link at the bottom of a page
  • Making a visitor click through on one page to go to another page to sign up

Basically anything that isn’t completely obvious or reachable on any page. Which begs the question…

Why are the top sites making it hard for you to give them your email address?

Almost ¼ of the most popular sites seemingly don’t want your email address. That’s just silly.

We’ve talked at length on the importance of building an email list. We’ve even ranked the 20 best places to collect emails on your site.

Every day you don’t collect emails, you’re literally losing money and putting the future of your business or blog in the hands of other companies. 

Just make it easy to opt-in to your email list and you’ll be ahead of established leaders.

2. 74% of sites send a welcome email

percentage of welcome emails sent bar graph

Hover over the image to share.

The welcome email is one of the most important emails you can send. It’s instant gratification, a conversation starter and a first impression all rolled into one.

Good news: Almost ¾ of the biggest sites send a welcome email. That means the industry leaders recognize the importance of a welcome email, too.

But it’s not the kind of welcome email you’d typically expect. That’s because…

3. 79% of welcome emails are double opt-in

which companies use double opt-in emails bar graph

Hover over the image to share.

Yep, four out of every five emails are of the double opt-in variety. For those that don’t know, a double opt-in email is a way to keep your email list free of spammers and fake addresses.

That means 79% of time I opted-in to these sites, I’d instantly get an email like this:

confirm subscription example

If I don’t click that button, it means I won’t get that website’s emails. It may seem like a hassle, but it keeps your email list healthy (and keeps you from spending a ton of money sending to fake subscribers). 

With almost 80% of major sites using double opt-in, it seems list security is becoming more important than ever.

4. The average welcome email hits your inbox in 1 minute, 7 seconds

bar graph how quickly the welcome email arrives

Hover over the image to share.

That number is an average, because some industries average instant delivery, while others average north of four minutes.

Ideally, you want that number as close to instant as possible. Every second of delay means you risk losing your new subscribers interest. That’s especially bad if you’re using double opt-in emails.

And you also have to take into account how many email service providers are used. Some may send emails faster than others.

Speaking of email service providers…

5. Mailchimp still dominates the email marketing landscape

Since 74% of the sites sent a welcome email, I could only take a gander at their email providers. Here’s the breakdown of that group:

which esps sites use the most graph

Hover over the image to share.

That’s an awfully big slice of the pie for MailChimp. They’ve been around since 2001 (technically), and their free tier is devastatingly effective for drawing people in and keeping them with the company.

What’s more surprising is how far back everyone else is -- it’s essentially even usage across the other 11 ESPs. 

But besides being the established leader, there’s another reason why MailChimp keeps a tight hold atop the pile…

6. Mailchimp stays out the promotions folder

This was a really interesting side effect I found during this study. If you use Gmail, your inbox probably looks like this:

gmail inbox folders

By default, you usually check your primary inbox. Maybe if you’re bored or trying to avoid eye contact with strangers you’ll check your other folders.

Basically, it’s not a great place for your emails to land. And of all 29 sites using MailChimp, only TWO landed in my promotions folder...and those were the emails after the initial welcome email.

On the other hand, ConvertKit emails found there way to the promotions folder 44% of the time. 

(Editor’s Note: I personally like ConvertKit, and it has one of the highest satisfaction scores among users. They just sometimes end up in the promotions folder is all.)

When you choose an email service provider, keep an eye on how many emails go into these folders. The goal is to land in primary as much as possible.

7. The fashion industry is on top of their email game (while the gaming industry just stares and points)

I ranked the industry giants from most email-savvy to least based on a few things:

  • Ease to opt-in
  • If they send a welcome email
  • How long it takes to deliver
  • If they follow up within a day (keeping engagement is key)

Here’s how it shook out:

best email experience bar graph

Hover over the image to share.

Out of all the top fashion blogs I analyzed, every single one sent a welcome email. AND, every one of them made it easy to opt-in. They know there’s money in them thar lists.

The gaming industry, on the other hand…

Only 22% sent a welcome email. And that’s because the other 78% didn’t even want my email address. 

If you’re in the fashion industry, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

If you’re in the gaming industry? The world is yours for the taking.

Breaking down the major industries

The funny thing is, each industry had their own quirks and preferences. Some made it almost impossible to opt-in, while others almost exclusively used Google’s FeedBurner to deliver emails.

Check and see how the top dogs in your industry performed (in alphabetical order).

And if you want to see how each individual site performed, download this comprehensive State of Email Marketing spreadsheet

Click here to get your spreadsheet!

Automotive Industry

Blogs Analyzed:

BMW BlogAutoBlogMotor AuthorityJalopnikMotor1Motor TrendCar and DriverAutomobile MagCar Talk

Percent that Sent Welcome Email: 56%

Average Time to Inbox: 1 Minute

Most Common Email: Double Opt-In

Average Ease of Finding Opt-In Form (1=Hard, 10=Easy): 4

Most Used ESP: MailChimp

Special Notes:

  • This was one of the hardest industries to opt-in to. Most opt-in forms were small, unnoticeable or just on one page (that you had to navigate to). 
  • Few sites (a little over half) sent a welcome email. Most times I had no idea if the opt-in process actually worked.
  • Most emails were bare-bones, with only two of the sites sending anything with their own logo.

Fashion + Style Industry

Blogs Analyzed:

The Atlantic PacificDapperedHe Spoke StyleGentleman’s GazetteHello Fashion BlogPermanent Style Fashion BeansGrasie MercedesMy Fash Diary

Percent that Sent Welcome Email: 100%

Average Time to Inbox: 1 Minute, 42 Seconds

Most Common Email: Double Opt-In

Average Ease of Finding Opt-In Form (1=Hard, 10=Easy): 8

Most Used ESP: MailChimp

Special Notes:

  • Every single website I opted into sent a welcome email. Not only that, but every single welcome email was a double opt-in. Seems the fashion/style industry loves a safe, engaged list. 
  • This industry is dominated by two email service providers -- MailChimp and….FeedBurner. For those that don’t know, FeedBurner is basically an RSS service provided by Google. The emails look like this:

activate your email subscription template

Nothing wild, but FeedBurner takes care of all your emails for you.

  • This was one of the easiest industries to opt-in to. Almost every site had a prominent signup box. Bravo.

Finance Industry

Blogs Analyzed:

Money CrashersMad FientistThe College InvestorCNN MoneyThe Penny HoarderGet Rich SlowlyConsumeristCash Cow CoupleDough RollerWise Bread

Percent that Sent Welcome Email: 70%

Average Time to Inbox: 26 Seconds

Most Common Email: Double Opt-In

Average Ease of Finding Opt-In Form (1=Hard, 10=Easy): 6

Most Used ESP: MailChimp

Special Notes:

  • The finance industry was the most middle of the road performer of everyone. So-so welcome email rates, decent average time to inbox, not hard but not easy to opt-in to. 
  • Some sites placed a ton of importance on collecting emails, while others I had to dig for a bit. Pretty boom or bust, which averages out to middling.

Fitness + Health Industry

Blogs Analyzed:

Neghar FonooniFitnessistaNia ShanksAnytime FitnessBreaking MuscleNatalie Jill FitnessNerd FitnessTony GentilcoreFit Bottomed GirlsMuscle For LifeBorn FitnessMens FitnessMy Fitness Pal

Percent that Sent Welcome Email: 69%

Average Time to Inbox: 57 Seconds

Most Common Email: Double Opt-In

Average Ease of Finding Opt-In Form (1=Hard, 10=Easy): 8

Most Used ESP: MailChimp

Special Notes:

  • This industry had the most diverse email service provider pool (tied with marketing). Collectively, they used seven different types of ESPs (Aweber, ConvertKit, FeedBlitz, FeedBurner, In-House, Infusionsoft, Mailchimp). 
  • Almost every single welcome email (except for one) was a strict double opt-in.
  • Surprisingly, three of the most-visited blogs on this list didn’t even send an email. They each have a massive following, yet you wouldn’t know if you signed up for their email list.

Gaming Industry

Blogs Analyzed:

KotakuEngadgetIGNPlaystationGame InformerPolygonDestructoidRock Paper Shotgun

Percent that Sent Welcome Email: 22%

Average Time to Inbox: Instant

Most Common Email: Double Opt-In

Average Ease of Finding Opt-In Form (1=Hard, 10=Easy): 2

Most Used ESP: Wordpress

Special Notes:

  • The gaming industry is weird. Not only do they not send welcome emails, they don’t want you to be on a mailing list. Instead, almost every site requires you to create an account -- mostly so you can leave comments on pages. It seems comments are valued higher than straight building a list.
  • Wordpress is the most-used ESP. It’s incredible to believe these massive gaming sites rely on a built-in plugin from Wordpress to send their emails.

Lifestyle Industry

Blogs Analyzed:

Zen HabitsFour Hour WorkweekLifehackMind Body GreenGreatistDarren DailyI Will Teach You To Be RichCup of JoArt of ManlinessMark MansonElite DailyTiny Buddha

Percent that Sent Welcome Email: 83%

Average Time to Inbox: 1 Minute, 30 Seconds

Most Common Email: TIE (Double Opt-In, Thank You Email)

Average Ease of Finding Opt-In Form (1=Hard, 10=Easy): 9

Most Used ESP: In-House Solution

Special Notes:

  • It seems lifestyle sites value emails so much that many built in-house solutions to send emails. It was the leading choice among all the sites (Convert Kit following closely behind).
  • This was the easiest industry to give my email to. Everything was seamless and incredibly front-facing.
  • This was the only industry where the most common email was a tie. Of course double opt-in was up there, but the thank you email was just as prevalent. Here’s what one looks like from Tim Ferriss:

welcome email example

They’d thank you for signing up, then suggest articles to read or videos to watch. It makes sense -- if you’re already sending an email to say thanks, you might as well give your newly engaged readers something to consume.

Marketing Industry

Blogs Analyzed:

Social Media ExaminerBacklinkoSearch Engine JournalSmart Passive IncomeSeth GodinMozSearch Engine LandUnbounceJeff BullasLewis HowesSocial TriggersContent Marketing InstituteBufferHubspotWistiaCoElevate

Percent that Sent Welcome Email: 81%

Average Time to Inbox: 4 Minutes

Most Common Email: Double Opt-In

Average Ease of Finding Opt-In Form (1=Hard, 10=Easy): 8

Most Used ESP: Infusionsoft

Special Notes:

  • Surprisingly, the marketing industry had the longest average time to inbox at four minutes. However, that was slightly skewed because one blog took over 15 minutes to send their email. 
  • An interesting find -- Infusionsoft was the preferred ESP of big marketing blogs. But if there were an industry for that to happen, it’d be in marketing. Infusionsoft is an incredibly powerful system, but it’s really difficult to master. The marketing industry is where you’d find those pros that can tame Infusionsoft.
  • Marketing had the most diverse welcome email set -- ranging from double opt-in emails, thank yous, gifts and asking a question. Each site had wildly different goals and expectations of their new subscribers.
  • Weird, but relevant -- five of the welcome emails ended up in the promo folder (the majority coming from Infusionsoft).

Nutrition + Cooking Industry

Blogs Analyzed:

Half Baked HarvestBudget BytesButter and BriocheHusbands That CookDavid LebovitzSimply RecipesNorth Wild KitchenKatie ParlaGood Beer HuntingThe Perfect LoafNaturally EllaSmitten KitchenHarvest and HoneyHolly and FloraCall Me CupcakeBetty LiuSouthern Souffle

Percent that Sent Welcome Email: 82%

Average Time to Inbox: 27 Seconds

Most Common Email: Double Opt-In

Average Ease of Finding Opt-In Form (1=Hard, 10=Easy): 7

Most Used ESP: MailChimp

Special Notes:

  • I’ll say it: Cooks have the prettiest emails. These were consistently the most stylized welcome emails of any industry. Styling your welcome email with a logo or even copy that reflects the tone of your brand can REALLY stand out.
  • This is a email-savvy industry, too. Almost half those that sent a welcome email followed it up the next day (or sooner) with an email. 

Travel Industry

Blogs Analyzed:

MigrationologyThe Sweetest WayNomadic MattExpert VagabondOne Mile At A TimeOff AssignmentFresh Off The GridLost With PurposeAnd NorthWild About TravelHand Luggage Only

Percent that Sent Welcome Email: 91%

Average Time to Inbox: Instant

Most Common Email: Double Opt-In

Average Ease of Finding Opt-In Form (1=Hard, 10=Easy): 9

Most Used ESP: MailChimp

Special Notes:

  • If it weren’t for the lifestyle industry, the travel industry would be tops among industries for email marketing. Almost all sent a welcome email, the average time was INSTANT and it was incredibly easy to opt-in to every blog.
  • Travel sites use a lot of thank you pages. When you opt-in, you go to a page that thanks you for opting-in and gives instructions on what to do next. I really like that, as it gives a clear sense of direction on what to do next (remember, if you use double opt-in and the subscriber doesn’t confirm their email address, you can’t use it).

Want to see all the in-depth data for each site?

Of course you do. I take everything I talked about in this report and reveal how each site stacked up in every industry -- 106 in all. Take a look and see how your favorite sites fared.

Don't leave without your free spreadsheet!

Get Up And Running In 37 Seconds

It’s that easy. You can install Sumo for free and get results in a matter of minutes.