As subscribers continue to evolve the ways they engage with the inbox, it is up to us as marketers to facilitate a positive experience that enhances the shopping experience, reinforces the value proposition of your brand, and keeps subscribers engaged.
If I had a nickel for each time I was asked to "Just send more, darn it," I would have at least $2.15. We all know that email marketing increases sales. The positive impact on conversions is undeniable. Luckily that helps to increase job security for many of us email marketers, but the consistent revenue performance can result in the misconception that you can send more emails and make more money. Input Email, Output Sales. Unfortunately, that can be one of the biggest mistakes you make as an email marketer.
Fortunately, the "Send More!" battle cry can be anticipated. It usually pops up when a mailing underperforms and sales need a boost. The timing could also be coupled with a peak selling season (like the holidays) when you are already sending more emails compared to other times of the year. Folks review mailing reports and see that sales are up overall when mailing frequency is higher and assume that they have found the silver-bullet solution to boosting revenue from an email program. This is where your email program can quickly go off the rails.
If you simply increase email frequency, you assume several short-term and long-term risks. The spike of messages in the inbox can lead to subscribers unsubscribing from your email program. Worse, subscribers could use the lazy man's unsubscribe route and just mark your messages as spam. These email escapees could be anyone! Your most loyal subscribers could be turned off by the amplification of marketing messages from their favorite brand. New subscribers may feel overwhelmed by the number of messages they received, especially if there was no frequency expectation set when they opted in. While a spike in unsubscriptions will impact your list growth initiatives and limit the reach of future messages, spam complaints could result in deliverability issues, causing subsequent sends to not land in the inbox. All of these scenarios put your sales at risk.
Your reporting insights may also begin to suffer. Boosting your email frequency could start to saturate your metrics. Active subscribers will be fragmented over several messages, so you may see the same number of folks are opening but overall your rates could start to decline. Sales may see an initial spike when frequency is boosted, but eventually the rates will likely stabilize as the risks outlined above increase.
You must also consider the additional costs and resources required to "just send more." Your return on investment (ROI) for additional design time, production hours, and email service provider costs could offset any of the positive short-term sales gains and longer-term potential risks from an increased mailing frequency.
There can be a fine line between your optimal mailing frequency and sending too many emails. It is worth testing variations of mailing frequency to find what works best to keep subscribers engaged but not feeling overwhelmed. This is very different than approaching changes in your mailing frequency from the "send more, make more" perspective. There are also times of the year, like the holidays, when you must increase frequency or sales will be lost. Setting an email frequency expectation with your subscribers early in the peak seasons can help to decreases some of the risks outlined in this post. If you do see unsubscription rates increase and engagement metrics decline, analyze the data to better understand what these subscribers look like. Perhaps there are customer profiles or acquisition sources that desire lower mailing thresholds before jumping ship. A frequency opt-down option on your unsubscription page could save some of these folks.
While this may seem to contradict everything I have outlined, remailing subscribers after an underperforming send can be a sales saver. This does not necessarily mean that you should send an additional message to all of your subscribers after a dud of an email. Remailings often require more strategic preparation than the initial send. You can read more about how to execute a robust, sophisticated remailing strategy that can help boost ales without overwhelming subscribers in my previous post, "Remailing and Segmentation Strategies for the Holidays."
As subscribers continue to evolve the ways they engage with the inbox, it is up to us as marketers to facilitate a positive experience that enhances the shopping experience, reinforces the value proposition of our brand, and keeps subscribers engaged. If it has been a while since you analyzed how volume fluctuations impact your email program, take some time to listen to the data. Pay close attention to how your increases in emails during the holiday season have impacted sales and engagement and use that information to guide your 2014 holiday planning.
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ClickZ Live San Francisco (Aug 11-14) brings together the industry's leading practitioners and marketing strategists to deliver 4 days of educational sessions and training workshops. From Data-Driven Marketing to Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email, this year's comprehensive agenda will help you maximize your marketing efforts and ROI. Register today!
As an expert in email, mobile, and social strategies, Jim Davidson brings over 13 years of experience in online marketing, managing email and cross-channel programs for top retail clients. From strategic vision to implementation, Jim has led clients to successfully meet aggressive revenue and performance goals. As Bronto's manager of marketing research, he regularly publishes industry-focused white papers, research reports, and contributes to the Bronto Blog. Jim's articles frequently appear in leading retail, e-commerce, and marketing publications.
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