Email Fatigue: Are Your Customers Tired of Receiving Email?

May 6, 2014
By TowerData

email fatigue towerdataEmail marketers often ponder the optimum frequency for sending emails. Is the number of emails we’re sending too high? Too low? Just right? Finding a sweet spot that keeps subscribers engaged without overwhelming them is harder than Goldilocks finding the right porridge.

Jen McGahan, content marketer and founder of MyTeamConnects, suggests marketers focus on how to get subscribers to “appreciate more emails” rather than worrying about sending too many. After all, the risk of email fatigue is outweighed by the benefits of engaging subscribers over multiple touches.

What is Email Fatigue?

Email fatigue occurs when buyers get tired of email. They start to ignore messages, then delete, unsubscribe or send to spam. Direct marketing veteran Dave Lewis points out that “Email fatigue is the result of two things: mailing irrelevant content and mailing at too frequent a cadence.” In other words, sending the wrong message to the wrong people at the wrong time, a fundamental yet common marketing blunder. 

Is Email Fatigue an Actual Problem?

It’s not that consumers don’t like getting emails. ExactTarget found that the preference of email for commercial use—marketing messages—has been on the rise since 2008, and now at least three-quarters of consumers prefer email for receiving branded communications.

It’s just that consumers don’t like getting emails that aren’t relevant to them. Again, it’s all about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. Most emails are generic templates sent to large email lists. If emails aren’t personalized, segmented or triggered by consumer behavior, all you’re doing is blasting the same untailored message to your entire list, a non-strategy that will derail an email marketing program faster than you can say “spam filter.”

As a person receives one unwanted or irrelevant email after another, the likelihood of that person disengaging from your messages and your brand grows significantly, regardless of his actual level of interest in, or engagement with, your brand. As a result, your email list starts ignoring, deleting and unsubscribing. This negatively impacts your email deliverability and ROI, making inbox placement and overall email program success harder to achieve.

How Can Marketers Defeat Email Fatigue?

Fortunately, there are a number of proactive steps marketers can take to reduce and prevent email fatigue.

  • Use data to monitor for signs of email fatigue: Gradual decrease in standard engagement numbers—opens and clicks—are a common symptom of email fatigue and should be investigated further, especially in a segment of historically engaged subscribers. 
  • Update permissions regularly: Lewis reminds us permission is not a one-time thing, but should be revisited on an ongoing basis to adjust for subscribers’ evolving preferences and needs. Offer subscription options based on topic or email frequency and prompt your recipients to update their preferences regularly.
  • Segment your list: This brings us back to the idea of sending the right message to the right person at the right time. Your subscribers are unique individuals with unique needs and levels of interest and it’s critical you communicate with them accordingly. Use demographic and behavioral data to learn more about the people on your email list and send them email that’s going to pique their unique interests.
  • Know when to disengage: An important consideration to help combat email fatigue and its related consequences is knowing when to deploy a reengagement campaign and when to simply let subscribers go. Unengaged subscribers drag down your performance metrics so it’s best to focus resources toward leads that show an ongoing level of interest.

One of the strongest defenses against email fatigue is leveraging data for list segmentation and tailored messaging. Learn more about how to use data for modern marketing strategies in the eBook “3 Ways to Use Subscriber Data to Modernize Your Email Marketing.”

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