Email Hangovers: Cures for Subscriber Fatigue

Subscriber fatigue is real, and wrecking havoc with your response rates! This is the primary conclusion from our fourth annual Return Path Holiday Email Survey. Respondents told us that relevance is in their eyes, not the eyes of the marketer. More than half (56.4%) of respondents say they receive high volumes of “junk” from marketers—defined as “email from companies I know but that is just not interesting to me.” “Junk” is second only to “spam” (“email I never asked to receive”) which 65.7% of respondents say they receive in high volumes. One-third say that marketers email them more frequently than promised. Most of this email is simply deleted unread, but subscribers do not hesitate to complain about unwanted messages (reporting the email as spam).

Value—like beauty—is always subjective. Surely all marketer’s email programs will have bad hair days, but there is chance for deeper beauty yet. There are some proven strategies to improve the value of email programs:

● Many respondents say they determine the value of each email message by using the subject line (58.6%). Spending more time to create compelling subject lines and test them effectively could make a difference for many marketers.

● The subject line and from line, as well as a consistent schedule of mailing may help boost response. Most respondents simply delete messages they don’t recognize (52.3%) or that they feel come too frequently (29.1%). Knowing and trusting the sender is key to that “open or delete” decision.

● It was encouraging to see that slightly less than a third (30%) of subscribers say they only open messages from brands they know. This is likely from the increased education about phishing and spoofing and spam tactics. However, another 14.4$ said that regardless of brand, they only open if they requested the particular message type. With most subscribers claiming they get more email than they expected at sign up, marketers must be cautious when sharing internal files or adding new message streams to existing subscriptions.

Marketers have benefited from consumers’ love of email. But even email tolerant subscribers don’t consistently read email unless it offers real value—and most consumers have figured out how to block or ignore future emails they don’t want.

Look back at your own Q4 email program. What did you do to engage with subscribers, and create a more compelling experience that breaks through the clutter? The only way to improve revenue from this channel is to create great email experiences over and over again. That means “great” from the subscriber perspective—relevant, timely and at the proper frequency.

—Stephanie Miller of Return Path