Consumers Are Drowning In Email -- Segmentation Has To Be The Answer

So what do you think is the number one reason is that most people unsubscribe for email marketing lists? To be honest, you're probably going to get the answer right, although there may be a slight twist in the reasoning.

Yes -- most consumers unsubscribe from lists because they get too many emails. However, the interesting part, when MarketingSherpa crunched the numbers, is that customers aren't necessarily making this personal. It's not always about you and your brand. Just over one in four -- or 26% -- are saying that they simply receive too much email, in general. That's the number one complaint, whereas receiving too much email from a specific brand in question is the joint third-most popular reason for unsubscribing, cited by 19% of those asking to come off a list --  not too far behind, but still not as common a complaint as the background buzz of too much email.

Interestingly, nestled in between everyone sending too much email and a particular brand sending too much was 21% of consumers, who said the emails in question were not relevant. Again, in joint third place, alongside a specific brand sending too many emails, was the common complaint that the emails are just too sales-y. 

Boring content and not having enough time to read all these emails that keep on creeping into an inbox make up the reasons that resonate with more than one in ten consumers. The remainder of the reasons for unsubscribing tend to involve relevancy, brand trust and appearance. One of the most interesting figures, for me, is that just 7% unsubscribe from lists because the messages display poorly on a mobile phone screen. Hand on heart, I really thought that with a little over half of all emails now being opened on smartphones, designs that do not look good on a small screen would be way up there.

Instead, it's a very simple and all-too-familiar story. The unfair part of this is that email marketers are likely to see someone unsubscribe from a list because of too much email in general, rather than just their own frequency levels. 

However, that's not to say that email marketers don't always prompt unsubcriptions. Every executive knows that too many emails from all and sundry puts consumers off, and that they can only look after their own output while hoping other responsible brands do the same.

So what does good practice look like? Well, the eConsultancy article that carries this MarketingSherpa research suggests the most preferable frequency is once a week, although I've also seen research that suggests twice a week is fine. However, I'd point out that this isn't really the question, or at least it's not the first question that should spring to mind. The main point should always be: have we segmented our audience to know that this offer will appeal to its recipients, and have we personalised the greeting and shown an understanding of this segment? Or are we just hitting send because it's Friday morning and are we also batching and blasting in time for the weekend, whether or not we've got something compelling to say or offer?

Give people on your list a sense that you're not blasting them throughout the week with spurious offers and that there is some brain power put into showing them a particular offer, or set of offers, and they are far more likely to remain on a list. It's like any conversation. Don't just open your mouth in the hope something will come out. Have something to say that you think a segment of your list will find appealing, and then open your mouth. 

A case in point: the last email list I last unsubscribed from, at the weekend, was from the retailer Matalan. I bought two carry-on suitcases a couple of years ago and since then they've blasted offer after offer for blouses and dresses which, I think it's fair to say, aren't exactly up my street, even though I do have the luggage to pack them in.

1 comment about "Consumers Are Drowning In Email -- Segmentation Has To Be The Answer".
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  1. Neil Mahoney from Mahoney/Marketing, February 13, 2017 at 3:22 p.m.

    It isn't just email.  We're inundated in direct mail as well.  Over 70% of the snail mail I get is junk.  It's gotten so bad that I don't even open most envelopes.  I glance at the return address -- or lack thereof -- and toss it.  As a long-time Marketing pro, I have to laugh at the C-suite's fixation on ROI for their ad spending.

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