Send More Emails, Make More Money

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Return Path studied 600,000 inboxes and found that marketers may be a little too shy about filling them up.

Send too many emails to subscribers and risk cheesing them off and losing their business. That's a truism in direct marketing, but it may not be entirely true, according to a study of more than 600,000 email account holders by Return Path. The email analytics company found that the people who complain the most also read the most emails and buy the most stuff, and these “primary accounts” say five emails a week from a single marketer is okay with them.

“At a lot of companies, there would be a fight over sending people five emails a week, but when we factored in the amount of emails people were receiving, you can get up to five until you see a marked increase in complaints,” said Tom Sather, senior director of research at Return Path.

That was especially true for primary accounts, who comprised only 24% of email recipients, but who accounted for 83% of opens. “Secondary accounts” made up 65% of users but only 16% of reads. They also registered 49% of complaints, but that's far less on a per capita basis than the smaller field of primary subscribers who accounted for 50% of gripes.

When it came to the question of sending more emails, however, the groups behaved similarly: The more they got, the more they opened. Return Path fed the data from the study into its ROI calculator and found that primary subscribers who received three emails a week instead of two would open 43% more emails in aggregate, and return a similar lift in revenue. The increase was 33% for secondary accounts who received an average of 1.4 emails a week instead of 1.05.

The clarion call to email marketers, says Return Path, is to by all means send more emails, but to take more care in determining how many to send to secondary accounts. “With the secondary group, you have to measure the value of the types of emails you're sending them,” Sather said. “You may want to look at their activity beyond mere click-through. What are they looking at on your website when they get there?”

Marketers also may want to move beyond the usual limited time deals and abandoned cart emails and send more content-rich messages, Sather added. “This study is telling us that people have higher tolerance for emails than most of us thought they had, but the wisdom of relevancy is key here. If they are fans of your products, emails don't always have to be promotional in nature.”

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