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Emails have a shelf life of only 48 hours.
Emails have a shelf life of only 48 hours.

If you let a week go by without paying attention to how your customers are engaging with you via emails, you may be losing a load of business. That's what Quinn Jalli, SVP of digital marketing solutions at Epsilon, told a roomful of marketers at a client lunch in New York yesterday.

He said his analysis of Epsilon client campaigns uncovered the eye-opening fact that two-thirds of emails are opened on the first day people get them, and one-third are opened within two hours. Most marketers, he said, highly overestimate the shelf life of their emails. “After 48 hours,” Jalli said, “your email is effectively dead.”

Forget about an annual plan for converting new customers. The reality, according to Epsilon, is that the deal is done in the first quarter. Some 96% of click activity through emails occurs within three months of a customer's last interaction. Breaking it down further, half of all people who engage with a brand through an email do so in the first week and of those customers, 50% tend to re-engage with the brand within the year, making that first week all the more crucial.

One month appeared to be the cutoff date to engage with customers who have been non-responsive on email. “After that the re-engagement rate of consumers drops to 11%,” said Jalli. “There are some companies who try win-back programs after a year of non-activity. They're wasting their time. Those people are gone for good.”

Being top-of-box is essential to hitting that two-hour open window, said Jalli, who advised using both first and third-party data to determine the best time to send emails to individuals. “It's fine to ask new customers when and where they like to be contacted, but the answer they give you may be related to what they're doing at the time they respond and won't reflect their actual behavior,” he said.

Also crucial is knowing what devices consumers use to check emails at what time of day. Jalli said that most emails on the East Coast go out betweet 6 a.m. and 9 a.m, a time when many consumers are driving to work and unable to open emails.. He advises having a presence in inboxes at 6 a.m., when people are more likely to be on their desktops or at the breakfast table with their tablets.

Mobile handhelds, however, are a different story. While Jalli allowed that mobile phones are revolutionizing the way consumers interact with companies, his experience is that people don't buy on them. His research showed a 33% lower click-through rate and a 75% lower conversion rate on mobile phones versus desktop and tablet computers. But he offered an antidote to this condition: Retarget opens on mobile phones with follow-up emails meant to hit other devices at the proper times.

“Retargeting is the most underused tool in the trade today,” Jalli proclaimed. “Marketers are afraid that they'll annoy customers, but the reality is that 70% to 80% of retargeted emails get opened and the complaint rate is zero.”

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