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Battling email fatigue

A recent performance indicator study of over 1.6 billion emails across 95 countries and 6 continents shows email fatigue is becoming a real challenge.

The study by Implix of mail sent from the GetResponse platform found:

  • The average open rate in North America is just 10.76%. 
  • Europe led the way with over 13%
  • Australia and Oceania had the lowest at 8.08%
  • North America had the highest bounce rate at 2.17% and the second highest complaint rate (0.12%) among all the continents
  • Australia returned the lowest bounce, complaint, and unsubscribe rates. 

The AU low unsubscribe rate makes sense if Aussies aren't opening email I guess :)

It's really no surprise interest is waning given the volumes of stuff that folks have to wade through in their inboxes each day; but the bottom line is if you keep sending them interesting emails, then they will continue to open them and click on links.

The following are some points to consider in preventing and addressing email fatigue.

Snappy subject line

An attractive subject line can be very important in encouraging opens, but if that's the highlight of the communication, then no matter how snappy a subject line is in future mailings, people just won't open it.

I've experimented with all sorts of subject lines, but these days with regular newsletter communications, I tend to keep them pretty bland. The reason being that the newsletters I send out might touch on 2 dozen different subjects - and I can't fit reference to all of those in the subject line. If I choose just 2 or 3, chances are there may be a healthy chunk of my subscriber list it may not appeal to and they ignore the communication. However, if my list knows there is a good mix of items in each issue, the subject line is pretty much irrelevant - that's why each newsletter needs to be of good quality.

The power of a good subject line really comes into play with one-off email marketing promotions - special offers and such.

Buy now! Buy now!

Something I think that pure-play ecommerce merchants need to do is to tone down the sell a little and turn up the information - include something else except for just "buy me" statements - add a little more value.

For example, if you sell golf balls, don't just sell golf balls in your mailouts - create news items on the golf ball industry; topics your target market will be interested in. You can then back up the "sell" with advertising in the article you send them to.

The merchant who cried wolf

Another trap that merchants fall into is emailing super specials that are less than stellar. If your subject line is Super Special On Flombles - then it needs to be just that. A minor discount or an offer that involves too much hoop jumping will soon see open rates drop as you repeat the exercise.


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Splitting subscriber lists

If you can split your list up into special interests or geographic regions, you can deliver ultra-targeted campaigns. This usually requires a few extra selections at the point of sign up. This can be difficult to achieve if you want to keep subscription forms as brief as possible or to have the forms embedded in side menus, but without them taking up too much space. If this is a challenge you face, it's something you can do once the person is on your list by asking what their preferences are in a future communication.

Mailing too often

I get some email newsletters that come in daily. I read them all for a while, but now I hardly bother to open most of them. The ones I do tend to be text only and are more of a digest; bullet points that link to a particular news item or special.

Daily newsletters or "daily deal" type communications should only be sent to those who explicitly want them; so the idea may be to get those people on your newsletter list and then follow up offering the daily option. It's better to have someone on your list who will read a weekly newsletter, than someone who succumbs to email fatigue through a daily edition and reads nothing at all.

I believe that for a general full-length newsletter, a weekly send is enough. You can always split the newsletter send over a couple of days if response is too high and you are inundated with enquiries.

While a weekly newsletter is a good rule of thumb, don't let that stop you from occasionally sending out "newsflash" style blasts from time to time, such as a *real* super special, or breaking news that affects the products you sell. Even use the "newsflash" word in your subject line - it works, just as long as what you are sending is truly newsworthy.

Not mailing often enough

I maintain quite a few lists, but there is one I haven't contacted for months. When I do finally get around to sending out a blurb or newsletter, many of these folks won't remember who I am and my communication will likely be relegated to the deleted items folder. Don't make this mistake - you need to contact your list at the very least once a month to maintain some sort of freshness in your subscribers' minds. A list is a valuable asset, don't waste yours like I have done.

Run a survey

We tend to believe we know what our subscribers want to see, but often this assumption is a projected one - we know what *we* want them to see. It doesn't hurt from time to time to ask for feedback on how to improve your email communications by running a survey.

Remove inactive subscribers

If you're hammering the inbox of someone who simply isn't interested, but who couldn't be bothered unsubscribing, nobody wins. It affects your open rate which can come into play if you generate revenue through providing ad space in your newsletter. A very low open rate can also trigger flags on some spam filters. These inactive subscribers are also just adding to the time it takes to send out your newsletters, which can affect sales. 

If your email marketing software allows for it, try to determine who these people are and send them a short note asking if they would still like to be on your list - but approach it carefully. Pick up some tips in my article, "Tidying up email lists"

I've heard cries of "email marketing is dead" for years now and nothing could be further from the truth - but it is a changing marketing medium that requires a lifting of the bar in quality to address email fatigue - and that's really not such a bad thing is it?

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
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In the interests of transparency and disclosure, please note that the owner of Taming the Beast.net often receives goods and services mentioned in reviews for free, or may receive payments or affiliate commissions for advertising or referring others to merchants of products and services reviewed.

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