Second Sends: Folly or Future?

I’ve recently been hearing a lot about a new email marketing trend called “second send.”

What Is It?

Second send is the act of resending an email, usually an email newsletter or a promotional email, to the same list a few days or a week after the initial send. A variation on this would be sending a text email alerting readers to the fact an HTML newsletter was sent a few days ago and providing a link to read it online in case the recipient missed it.

A best practice with second sends is to suppress anyone who triggered an open on the first send (so you don’t resend to people who’ve already read it). As text messages don’t trigger opens, most people doing second sends don’t resend to recipients they know receive the text version.

Why Do It?

People doing second sends want to increase their aggregate opens, click-throughs, and (in the case of marketing email) conversion rates. Think about it. You send to your list. If you’re average, about 30 percent of those people open your email. That leaves 70 percent who don’t open the message — and don’t see the content.

The feeling is, with all the inbox traffic and the potential for even legitimate email to be filtered as spam, some of this 70 percent may be interested parties who just missed the email the first time round. By sending again, these marketers provide a second chance for people to open, click, and convert.

At What Cost?

My initial response to second sends was from the recipient’s perspective: not more email! I get enough, thank you, without having some delivered a second time. I don’t feel I’m missing out if I don’t open every issue of every email newsletter I’ve opted in to. Sometimes I’m just too busy. I’ll catch it next month. Sending it again isn’t necessarily a favor.

Putting on my professional hat, I worry about increased email traffic. If even a small percentage of those sending email increase their volume with second sends, the competition increases in the inbox. More email for recipients to wade through, more chances for my clients’ email to be missed.

And what about send costs? Most of my clients use email service providers (ESPs); many use full-service ESPs that charge for just about everything. Even if you don’t incur an additional setup fee for a second send, you still pay the delivery fees, which increase that cost portion. Does the lift in opens, clicks, and, most importantly, conversions, justify that additional cost?

Speaking of which, how do you track and report results? It doesn’t seem right to mail to the list twice and lump results together in a single metric. For example:

  • First send:

    • Quantity: 1 million email addresses

    • Open rate: 30 percent (q = 300,000)
    • Click-through rate: 7.0 percent (q = 70,000)
    • Click-to-conversion rate: 2.0 percent (q = 1,400)

  • Second send:

    • Quantity: 700,000 (1 million minus the 300,000 opens)

    • Open rate: 10 percent (q = 70,000)
    • Click-through rate: 2.5 percent (q = 17,500)
    • Click-to-conversion rate: 1.0 percent (q = 175)

It isn’t accurate to blend these open, click, and conversion totals together, divide them all by the original send quantity, then report higher metrics as if they came from a single send.

And what of list fatigue? It’s a very real issue. Companies are looking to slow its pace by limiting the frequency with which they send to their lists. If every send entails a second send, don’t you increase your list’s fatigue rate? Do a second send’s benefits outweigh the fatigue cost?

My Take

Second sends shouldn’t become standard operating procedure for email marketing. The short-term benefit just doesn’t justify the added cost. That said, I’m intrigued with the idea. In some instances, it may be something I’d recommend to my clients.

Most of the focus on second sends has been around pumping up below-average, or barely average, metrics. But if people aren’t engaged with your content, sending it to them multiple times doesn’t address the true issue. The only reason I’d do a resend is if there had been a known deliverability problem that had since been resolved. AOL alerts me that all but the first 1,000 of my email messages to people on its service was blocked as spam, for example. Once the problem’s resolved, a resend to the addresses I know were blocked would make sense.

I’m most tempted to try second sends on the other side of the spectrum: email that gets above-average opens, clicks, and conversions. If it’s a popular email, if it works very well, it must engage people. Why not try a second send to those who didn’t open, perhaps adding a message about this being an “encore presentation” of an email newsletter other readers found particularly valuable? Give people who missed it the first time a reason not to be left out.

The key to success here isn’t to do second sends frequently; they should be a once-in-a-while occurrence. Otherwise, people will quickly learn it’s a ploy and ignore the second send, just as they did the first. Then, I’ll be writing a column about third sends….

Happy holidays!

Jeanne

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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