Customers Tuning Out? 3 Red Flags in Your Email Strategy

March 4, 2019 Suzanne Cashman Rain

 

You and I both know that email blasting everyone all the time is not a good email strategy. However, when encouraged by misleading or incomplete metrics, some of our associates may not be on the same page.

In a recent market test, we were able to put some real numbers behind the damage of over-loading a customer’s inbox. And “real numbers” are often exactly what we need to convince our colleagues to try something new.

Background for market test

Recently, a luxury retail partner made it a priority to focus on optimizing their email cadence. Moving away from their existing one-size-fits-all approach, this company began a personalized one using customer email engagement and other factors to indicate addresses which could and/or should receive a more frequent email stream.

The company continued talking to everyone on its list at a base frequency, but turned up the volume for fans and people indicating they may be in a purchase consideration cycle. By comparing those who received this customized cadence to a group continuing to get the “batch and blast” approach, we are able to quantify clear impacts.

When your email stream volume is too high

Here are three negative impacts this has on your long term success:

1. Customers will turn off your email

A funny thing about unsubscribes is that email campaign reports tend to show that the more you email, the lower your unsubscribe rate. This is a very misleading data effect which occurs because the more opportunities (emails) a customer has to leave, the more spread out the abandoners are.

It’s somewhat like a sieve ― the more holes it has for volume to leave, the less volume goes through any individual one. Many marketers monitor these metrics, convinced that their low rates indicate there is no opt-out problem.

To truly understand how often to talk to a customer each of the touch points and responses must be considered as a holistic conversation. A customer opt-out rate is a good metric to monitor. The numbers associated with customer opt-outs are much higher than campaign opt-outs, often between 1-3% of the entire list in a given month.

Numbers of this volume can have a real impact on your list size and results over time.

The market test of our retailer showed a 30% reduction in monthly customer opt-out rates for those with a customized volume stream. The reductions were even stronger in some strategic segments.

Maintaining the ability to email customers over a longer period of time increases the likelihood that the company will have an email presence when the customer is moving into an active buying cycle.

2. Customers will complain

As a digital marketer, you know the importance of a clean reputation for sending emails. Without one, you may not even make it to the inbox. Perhaps you even actively clean/scrub your list through hygiene processes to keep your reputation pristine. But have you looked at your spam complaints as they are associated with email volume?

Through the market test, the retailer above was able to achieve more than a 35% reduction in spam complaints. They still talked to everyone on the list regularly, but at a pace that approximated the current customer interest level. Customers appreciated this adjustment!

3. Customers will tune you out

It’s like when a friend that you haven’t talked to in a while reaches out. You’re eager to hear what they have to say. When email volume is reduced, customers are more likely to open what you do send. This can be very powerful for critical importance messages.

The retailer above observed that when they sent messages to the full audience, open rates were higher (2-25% higher depending on segment) for those who had been in the customized stream. Furthermore, click rates were roughly 9% higher for that same group.

[FREE WHITE PAPER] How much are email opt-outs costing your company in revenue?

Put these learnings to work

You probably could have guessed the reactions to too much email. But how do you start to make intelligent changes to your program which will avoid those issues? Start here.

Realize: Your customer’s interest in your email will vary over time

Make it a priority to keep customer level opt-outs low. Use email as background support for the brand until the customer shows heightened interest. Turn it up to full volume only when the customer is engaging your brand.

Allow for quiet time before big announcements

Reducing volume before critical messages makes it more likely that your customers will open and view their next message. This can be a great tool for new product launch announcements or other messages that you really want your customers to hear.

Measure customer reactions to your email conversation

While you should continue to monitor campaign metrics, you also need to measure reaction to your overall email stream at a customer level. Create reporting that looks at opt-outs and even email engagement as basic customer rates every month.

Go for the long game

Recognize that your email list is an asset to be used and curated carefully. Work to keep more customers without losing sales by adjusting your cadence. The accounts you save today will be your revenue generators for tomorrow.

While adjusting contact frequency to match customer interest seems intuitive and obvious, common reporting methods of measuring opt-outs and conversions at a campaign level (rather than a customer level) have led to brands which tend to over-contact.

It can be difficult to convince colleagues to try something else. Augment your reporting measures and share ideas of how to look at the long term view and value of the customer, as well as short term campaign results to take your program to the next level.

Suzanne Cashman Rain is VP Analytic Consulting at RRD Marketing Solutions. To learn more about the negative effects caused by over-emailing, access our free white paper “How to Avoid Email Fatigue” today.

 

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