More than ever, consumers are sensitive and protective about what emails earn space in their inbox. Built-in automated sorting for messages and third party services both empower the consumer further and introduce new visibility challenges for senders.
While increasing frequency of email sends sounds like one way to incrementally improve upon the chance your emails will make it through the gauntlet and be seen, the reality is a little more complex. A study from MailChimp established that frequency and engagement are negatively correlated, meaning that as marketers send email more frequently their customers tend to engage less with each campaign. Increased frequency tends to also increase opt-outs and spam reports, particularly if your customers do not see personal value in the content of the emails you send. In the case where your message has low perceived value, increased frequency may be seen as nothing more than a nuisance.
If you increase frequency without maintaining or increasing engagement, your email program may also suffer less visible effects. Your “reputation score” with ISPs may be negatively affected if you frequently send a high volume of emails and have a high number of non-responsive subscribers. Over time, this can begin to affect your email’s overall deliverability.
So Should I Increase Email Frequency?
Determining frequency shouldn’t be seen as a simple dial you turn up or down. In some cases, increasing email frequency just doesn’t make sense. Be sure to consider additional elements such as these when contemplating a change in frequency:
- The nature of your products. Are they items that could be impulse buys? Wants or needs? Can you click to buy, or is the buying process offline or more complex?
- How often you introduce new products. Can your messages bring something fresh to the table on a regular basis?
- Variety of promotional offers. Do you always feature the same percent off offer? Or do your promotions vary on a regular basis to appeal to different types of buyers?
- The customer buying cycle. Is your product an “anytime” purchase? Or is demand driven by the customer’s individual schedule or seasonal factors?
- Customer engagement with your messages. Do your customers engage with your current messages, looking at metrics such as open rates and click throughs? Why or why not?
How Can I Minimize Potential Risks?
- Test It.
As with just about any variable in direct marketing, testing is the best way to determine what works best for your specific promotion and customer. To test frequency, select a random sample test group big enough to give you statistical significance, and break out about 10% for a control group. Send the test group emails at the new proposed frequency while sending the control group messages at your current frequency. Track results over a period long enough for subscribers to note a difference – for instance, if increasing from once a week to three times a week, perhaps three weeks is enough. Switching from semi-monthly to weekly might require a couple of months of tracking. Compare all your relevant metrics of engagement including open rate, click through rate, unsubscribes, and spam reports. If possible also measure lift and ROI.
- Implement an opt-down option on your unsubscribe page.
By adding an opt-down option to your unsubscribe page, you have the opportunity to recapture subscribers whose main reason for unsubscribing was based on receiving too many emails. This also appeals to consumers’ desire to control their inboxes.
- Add content messages into the mix.
To improve the perceived value of your brand’s messages, don’t rely solely on promotional content. Be sure your emails include a mix of content-focused, value-add messages in addition to strictly promotional offers. A good ratio to aim for is somewhere in the 50/50 range.
- Make sure you’re using triggered emails.
Triggered messages relate directly to an action your customer took – and thus have the added value of being highly personalized.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a good frequency starting point, remember that testing is key. Consider starting with a bi-weekly or monthly email, and adjust up or down from there.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2015. It has been updated for accuracy, relevance, and comprehensiveness.