February 17, 2015

Email Marketing Chart: How customers want you to change your email marketing

SUMMARY: From previous Charts of the Week, we learned that Americans overwhelmingly prefer to receive email over other channels and that 91% of people want to receive promo emails.

However, that doesn’t mean that customers don’t see room for improvement.

In this MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week, we take a look at research from 1,748 American adults who want to receive company emails to help you discover opportunities for improving your email marketing.
by Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content

In a survey fielded in January 2015, we asked:

Q: In which of the following ways, if any, would you like company emails to change? Please select all that apply.

View Chart Online

Click here to see a printable version of this chart

Note: The data has been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

Over one-quarter of people want more promotional emails …

We surveyed 2,057 American adults, and the above chart shows data from the 1,748 respondents who indicated that they do want to receive company emails.

Basically, these are the people who are already on your side. They want your emails.

That said, nearly half of these people (48 percent) want to see some change in promotional emails. Listening to conventional wisdom, one might think the change they want is less coupons and sales notifications. However, while 20% want fewer promotional emails, 28% of people actually want more.

Females 65 or older is the demographic that most wanted promotional emails to change, with 54% indicating that preference. However, they were fairly equally split when it came to what that change should be, with 26% wanting more promo emails and 28% wanting less.

When I discussed this data with Thorin McGee, Editor-in-Chief and Content Director, Target Marketing, he said, "I'm surprised the number wanting change isn't more than 50%. If it's done well, the email benefits the recipient, and it’s tailored to their preferences. They want more of it. If email is done poorly, it's about as welcome as a phone call during dinner to buy life insurance, and people want less."

… and less content emails

Here’s another surprising finding — 25% want fewer non-promotional emails such as newsletters, community updates, articles, videos and contests, while only 6% want more content emails.

Don’t overreact to this data

I’m certainly not saying to run out and make changes to your email program based on this data. For example, the flip side of the above statistic is that 75% of people do not want fewer content emails.

My point is this — these findings go against much of the common industry buzz. You should understand that, within your own list, there may be a sizable enough minority that wants more email offers and less content.

Over one-quarter of people want more personalized emails

To the above point, 29% want emails that are more personalized to their individual preferences and behavior (just 6% want less personalized emails). Your job is to find the group that wants more promotions and then tailor those promotions to their specific needs.

"Sometimes this gets lost in the clamor around privacy and spam, but customers really do love when their favorite marketers know what they want and offer it to them," McGee said. "People like shopping, especially when you cut the selection down to specifically the things they're interested in. And people love getting a deal, [for example] your offer! On the other hand, they hate having their time wasted with offers for things they don't want."

About one-third of people want shorter emails

You may want to try doing all of the above in less space, as 30% of people want to receive shorter emails, perhaps a preference that affected by the increasing tendency to read email on smartphones.

Don’t overreact — optimize, test and measure

I just want to reiterate the point I made above — while it is surprising that a greater number of people want more promotions rather than less promotions, and less content rather than more content, these numbers are still in the minority.

The biggest lesson that you can get from this data is not to trust assumptions or buzz about what people expect from your email marketing (or any advertising, marketing or communication with them).

Measure different customer behaviors, make changes to specific segments based on the data, and test to see which changes work best for different segments of your list.

"In the end, you're probably better off to leave them wanting more," McGee concluded. "But if you keep optimizing what and how you email, you might be surprised how far you can push that frequency before customers actually want less."

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Email Research Chart: How often customers want to receive promotional emails

MECLABS Email Messaging Online Course

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