True Or False: The More Frequent The Email, The More Irritated The Consumer?

The CMO of a major luxury apparel retailer said to me the other day, "I get email five times a week from major brands like Saks, Nordstrom and even Dell. We govern ours to no more than twice per week per subscriber. Am I the idiot?"

I responded, "Have you got something interesting to send them five times a week?" And of course his answer was, "Not always." Which, unfortunately, is true of a lot of the daily email programs we receive, isn't it?

Our Holiday Survey of consumer email habits provides perspective for all marketers considering increasing the frequency of their programs: Consumers notice when you do it -- and they don't always like it. In fact, 37.4% of respondents say they receive more email than they expected when they signed up - a violation by marketers of at least the perceived permission grant, and at worst the actual permission grant. Representative comments from respondents included, "Some mail order companies emailed me every day!" and, "Some companies really tried to get people's attention, but all they did was turn them off more."



Marketers who keep their promises about frequency, content and value will pull ahead of the pack. As a group, we've done a better job setting expectations about frequency this year, with 28% (up from 26% last year) of respondents saying they got the amount of email they expected at sign-up. But marketers are still not doing as well as they did in 2004, when half (50.1%) of respondents to the survey said the volume they received was as expected.

We are very concerned that half of the survey respondents have become wary of signing up for more email as a result of rising inbox clutter. Yet, we know that consumers reward marketers who send relevant, informative and timely email messages. Email works when it's centered on subscriber needs.

What should you do when considering frequency? Don't fall into the trap of thinking that the experience has to be the same for every subscriber. There is no reason why some (or even many) of your subscribers will want to hear from you five or more times a week

There may be segments of your file that are "in market" during peak periods. Different types of content also allow you to send more permission email. Be sure there are true differences between your offerings. Sign up subscribers not for meaningless differences like "sales" and "great offers," but for programs like "alerts for fashions in your size," "weekly tips for office power outfits" and "Joe's Weekly Most Popular Roundup."

Be sure to respect your existing permission grants when introducing new email programs. Don't assume that all subscribers will want all of your new stuff. Remember that permission is in the eye of the grantee - your customers. We always recommend at least a validated (confirmed) opt-in process.

Trying to "sneak by" subscribers with higher volume, expanded permission assumptions, use of old files, or loose unsubscribe practices doesn't work. Consumers notice, and they resent marketers who abuse their permission grants or take advantage of a customer relationship.

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