How to get more consumers to read your emails



This is no April Fool’s joke: According to an emailed March 31 Center for Media Research Brief  [no link available], a majority of consumers (60 percent, a Technology Advice survey of more than 1,300 adults found) do read the marketing emails in their inboxes. But only 16 percent read them regularly, 12.8 percent read more than half of the marketing emails they receive, and only 8.1 percent said they read three-quarters or more. The difference between being among that 8.1 percent and the 40 percent of emails that get trashed as spam is as clear-cut as the difference between sending prospects information that could be of use or value to them and sending emails that heavy-handedly try to trick them. In other words, “the majority of American adults are open to receiving emails from businesses, and they read a fair amount of these correspondences and offers,” the Research Brief notes. But “[m]ost readers are quite discerning about which emails they open, which represents the catch in the email marketing proposition.”

(Two caveats here: First, respondents were talking about marketing emails they’d subscribed to receive. And second, the percentages they gave were estimates. So while the overall findings are valid, don’t take every single specific that follows too literally.)

Probably the simplest and most effective way to increase your emails’ readership is to better match their content to your subscriber list, because how people read emails varies with age and gender. Readership drops markedly among recipients over 45 years old, while nearly half (47 percent) of respondents aged 25 to 34 said they read 25 to 75 percent of all emails sent by businesses. Men and women read emails for different things – men for news and updates, women for promotions and discounts.

You could also make your emails more effective by sending fewer of them. A plurality of respondents (almost 44 percent) said they’d be more responsive to business emails if the businesses sent them less often.

Most important, you could strive to make sure your emails actually have some relevance to the recipients. Almost half the respondents (49.1 percent) complained of getting irrelevant emails every day, another 29 percent every week. That’s just about eight out of every ten consumers who get marketing emails. (I’m amazed that number’s not higher. There’s not an hour, much less a day, that goes by without my inbox being crammed with the same repeated emails about cures for my nonexistent diabetes, sealants for the floor of my nonexistent garage, thanking me for my nonexistent visit to Walgreen’s, offering sure-fire systems for winning the lottery [which I’ve never entered even once], and shrieking about some nonexistent “health scandal” involving Oprah or some other celebrity I couldn’t care less about.)

Consumers aren’t dummies. As the survey shows, they’re willing to give their time (and often their dollars) for something that’s worth their while. And ready to instantly bounce or trash all those mindless emails that are nothing but thinly disguised con games.

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