What's the right frequency for email marketing?
Choosing the right frequency for sending emails is a conundrum.
Email marketers will naturally want to send more emails if they’re working well, but the risk is always there that they’ll reach a tipping point where some subscribers will have had enough.
This is illustrated by this frequency curve (from Mark Brownlow’s old email blog).
At point a) frequency is increased and profits rise. Somewhere around b) is the optimal frequency, while at c) and d) too many emails are sent, users start to unsubscribe or report emails as spam and profits and deliverability are seriously affected.
The decision for customers to unsubscribe is likely to be down to a combination of emails which are less relevant and some irritation at the sheer number sent.
I was prompted to think about this by Gap. I seemed to be getting lots from them, and a quick search for them in my gmail inbox illustrates the point.
That’s 17 emails in 14 days, which I’d say is a lot. I won’t necessarily unsubscribe, but it is annoying and it’s easy to see how other recipients might react.
On a separate point, note how many of these emails relate to sales using urgency to tempt people in: ‘last day’, ‘sale ends soon’ etc.
A couple of points here:
The DMA’s Client Email Report (pdf) found that very few companies were sending more then 8 emails a month to subscribers, which makes Gap’s email frequency look excessive.
I asked Parry Malm, CEO of Phrasee about the topic:
Email is a form of advertising, a fact many forget. When advertising is good, increased frequency results in increased brand impressions and increased sales.
When advertising is bad, guess what? More frequency annoys customers.
There is no silver bullet to determine optimal frequency because it’s fundamentally not something you can test.
However, a little common sense will help. If you have something interesting to say, send an email. If you don’t, then don’t.
Remember: email is advertising. At peak sales periods, you invest more in all forms of advertising – TV, outdoor, online.
Why not email? When people are in buying mode, your messages stand out better. More emails at Christmas, for example, almost always means more sales.
No, and here’s why: if you ask a consumer if they get too much email, they’ll almost always say yes.
But the statistics don’t match up to perception. Do you ask customers how often you should show them your TV ads? Nope.
Email is a push channel and consumers will always under-report the frequency they best respond to.