Balancing Your Email Frequency

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This post discusses industry increases in email sends, methods to determine the best email frequency and potential consequences of exceeding the appropriate balance. The moral of the story – quality is more important than quantity when it comes to email marketing. Keep reading to learn more.

The time has come to ask yourself the burning question we must all face as online store owners: Are you sending too much email? Yes, you…and all of us. Are we burning out our customer base by bombarding their inboxes with promotions, newsletters and special offers? Unfortunately the answer may well be yes. But how do we know? And what do we do from here?

The reason I raise this question is a personal one. This past December I purchased a handheld gaming device as a gift and have received 23 emails from that company in one month. Twenty three! Needless to say, I opted out of their list and reported them for spam. Apparently it’s not just this one company.

In 2008, 117.3 million email marketing messages were sent, compared to 131.6 million in 2009. This is an increase of 12% in one year (probably attributed to this electronics store and their 23 emails per month approach). With these numbers in mind, we can see why it’s so important to check ourselves on email frequency.

But how do I know how much is too much?

That is the million dollar question with no definite answer. It really depends on each customer – while 23 emails may be overload for me, someone else may want to read more. Thus, it’s important to study the behavior of your audience’s interaction with your emails. Here are a few numbers to study:

  • Open rate: If you send emails at a higher frequency, does the open rate % increase or decrease? If people aren’t opening your message, that’s a major problem.
  • Click-through rate: If you try reducing your email frequency and load the message with more content (e.g. a newsletter), how does this affect the amount of clicks through the email?
  • Conversion rate: Study the amount of sales your online store directly receives from your email messages. Does this fluctuate as your frequency changes?

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Resist the temptation to send out more messages.

What? Don’t send out more email messages? But emails are cheap! Consider the following consequences of email overload, compiled by Mark Brownlow of Email Marketing Reports:

  • In Merkle’s “View from the inbox” report, 73% of survey respondents cited “sending too frequently” as the main reason for opting out of an email program
  • In Epsilon’s “Beyond the click” email branding study, 71% of respondents said it wasn’t OK for companies they know and trust to send email more frequently than they already do
  • According to a MarketingSherpa study quoted in their 2009 benchmark report, 25% of respondents who reported an email as spam gave “too much email from the sender” as a reason for doing so

In addition to subscribers removing themselves from your email list, the reputation of your online store can be severely damaged by sending messages of minimal value to your customers. Some of these include losing customers and credibility or even finding yourself on an email blacklist.

HOWEVER if you don’t send out enough emails, customers may unsubscribe or report you for spam simply because they don’t recognize you. In other words, if your customers are craving more messages, go ahead. But if you see a backlash or a drop in your key metrics, back off and increase the value of the content with each send.

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So now what?

Now is the time to sit down and think about the current state of your email marketing strategy. The most important question to ask yourself is the following: Are my messages of value to my customers? Value can include education, entertainment or special offers – everything you send out is a reflection of your business and can positively or negatively influence the way you sell online.

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And if you’re sending 23 messages a month, it’s too much. I promise.

Happy Selling!
– Matt Winn, Marketing Associate


What is your experience with balancing the number of marketing emails? How do you decide how many to send out each month? What are your thoughts on compiling multiple messages into one email? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the number of emails you receive? Any other questions about this topic? Comments? Share with us!

About 

Matt Winn is Volusion’s Senior Brand Manager, where he helps oversee the organization’s branding and communications efforts. Matt has created hundreds of articles, videos and seminars on all things ecommerce, ranging from online marketing to web design and customer experience. Beyond being a certified nerd, Matt is an avid college football fan, enthusiastic home cook and a self-admitted reality TV junkie.

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