There could be a number of reasons (and remedies) for your low open rate. First of all, check your open rates against other people in your industry (MailChimp Benchmarks: Average email open rates, click rates, bounce rates, etc). If you’ve been sending emails for a while, and your open rate has slowly trended downwards, and now it’s sort of plateau’d, that’s normal. If, right out the gates, your open rate is way below average, then something might be wrong.
You need to write better subject lines.
In our testing, a good subject line has 2 components: first, it tells the recipient what’s inside. Second, it makes it look like it’s worth opening. One extra piece of info you might try including in the subject line is your company name. See: MailChimp Subject Line Study
We’ve also got a very easy way you can run A/B tests on different email subject lines. It’s simple, free, and automatic (no rocket scientists required). You should be running tests and experiments on every campaign you send. It’s the only way to learn what works and what doesn’t.
Your content sucks.
When someone signs up for your newsletter, they’re interested in you. Maybe they’re looking for tips, or news, or something useful. Are you just "blasting" coupons and advertisements instead? We’ve all got to make a buck, but are you being a little too self-gratuitous? Email is a personal, one-to-one medium. Save the screaming sales tactics for tv or radio. Does it have personality? Or are you being too stuffy and business like?
Your content is nice, but not relevant to the recipient.
Do you have lots of different audience types subscribed to your list, so that whenever you send your newsletter, you have to cram way too much information into every issue? Separate the list into interest groups, and send segmented campaigns instead.
People just aren’t downloading your images.
The only way to know if someone "opened" your email is if they downloaded a tracker image inside the message, or clicked on a link. Maybe your recipients just aren’t selecting the option to "download images" in your messages. Do they know that there are cool images in your campaign? Are you using alt-text to entice people to click that "show images" button? If you never include nice images, why should they bother? BTW, nice images are really cheap now. Check out iStockPhoto.com and LuckyOliver for royalty free photos for a buck each.
You send too often.
Sometimes, you just need to chill and send a little less frequently. Here’s what happened to a MailChimp customer when they upped their send frequency from once a month to twice a week.