I went to a breakfast seminar the other day on customer engagement in email marketing. It wasn’t what I was expecting. For starters, there was a selection of bacon, sausage and egg sandwiches, instead of the usual day-old croissants…

But the content of the presentations wasn’t the normal hard selling of software and products, and talk of all the new magical and wondrous things you can do that’ll 100% guarantee to get your subscribers reading and acting on your emails.

No, it was simpler than that, and it was a bit of a wake-up call. The overall unofficial theme of the seminar was; Most of your subscribers are not you, or the person sitting next to you, or the person paying your salary. Most of your subscribers are not marketers or techies. Do not expect them to behave like you.

As I said it was simple, and when you think about it, kind of obvious!

Subscribers’ behaviour [1]

  • Less than 10% of people spend more than 4 hours on email a day.
  • 38% spend less than 2 hours.
  • 31% only have one email address. 34% have two.[2]
  • 55% Don’t access email at all while at work. I repeat, 55%!
  • 61% spend less than 2hrs on email when at home.
  • 48% don’t care about gmail tabs[3], 33% are pleased about it.
  • 53% people say their preferred content in a marketing email is money off coupons.
  • 25% of people think half of the marketing emails they receive are relevant.
  • 75% don’t.
  • 70% don’t share emails on social networks.

Some things to think about:

  • Subscribers might not work in an office
  • Subscribers might not be as well off as us
  • Subscribers probably won’t notice frequency and timings of emails like we do
  • Subscribers don’t really care about the majority of the emails they receive

What was also kind of obvious was a description of our subscribers’ relationships with our emails. They are not sat waiting in eager anticipation of receiving our communications. They are not deliriously happy when it arrives. Nor do they hate us with such passion that they refuse to unsubscribe so that they can continue to hate us and our emails forever more.

Our subscribers, generally, have a life. And our emails are a teeny, tiny, little part of that life. They probably wouldn’t notice if they were a little later or earlier than normal, or if it didn’t arrive at all. Only we notice and care about that stuff.

BUT when it arrives, sometimes it does get noticed. And if we send regularly it’ll get noticed more. And remembered. The tv adverts we remember are those that appear frequently and often. The same applies to email. If we don’t reach out and tell people about our stuff, and ask for their attention, we won’t get it. Don’t be afraid to send more frequently, as long as your emails remain of quality. Frequency drives engagement according to Dela Quist (CEO of AlchemyWorx), just don’t break his Don’t Be Stupid Rule: Don’t send 100 emails an hour to the same people. That’s just stupid. Don’t send out emails for the sake of it. That’s just stupid. But don’t be afraid to send out another email that’s of worth and interest to your subscribers.

Also, don’t be so concerned with relevancy. There was a beautiful little anecdote of when Dela had a message from his wife to buy some tampons on the way home. He didn’t know which were the ‘correct’ ones, but he bought ones he’d heard of. Because he’d seen adverts. Adverts, that at the time of viewing weren’t relevant to him – but the name stayed in his head. If you worry too much about segmenting and targeting, you might miss an opportunity…

Email has a long tail. It’s not always an immediate click through and purchase. When receiving an email with an interesting product in, 49% of people said they’d save it and think about it, 25% said they’d go to the shop to make the purchase.

Mobile Email

  • When viewing an email from a trusted brand on a mobile device, 37% will open and then delete it.
  • 38% delete it without opening it.
  • Less than 4% would make an immediate purchase from an email read on a mobile.
  • 39% would wait till they were at a desktop to make the purchase.

Desktop is still king for email. Consensus seemed to be that it’s only worth doing responsive email if a) you actually have people who open and act on email on a mobile and b) it’s not to the detriment of your desktop email. But there was some vagueness on the question of whether if more brands did mobile email well, would engagement with the medium increase, and subsequently more people would feel comfortable making purchases on the back of an email in future?


[1] From a survey interviewing 1337 ‘normal’ people.

[2] There was a big jump in the past year of people who have 3 addresses – looks like people are cottoning on to the idea of having a separate email for signing up for  things that they consider will result in being sent ‘spam’

[3] These are probably non-gmail users

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