The key causes of e-mail fatigue and frustration

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I can't remember how many e-mail offers I subscribed to during the last two years. I don't read most of them today, even if I haven't unsubscribed from them officially. With demands on their time and attention, more people are experiencing e-mail fatigue and frustration. It's my belief that e-mail fatigue stems from three primary factors: content, frequency and technology.

Stale and valueless content
With time, e-mail recipients become desensitized to recurring 10% discounts or “new” articles that repeat things. Are you saying something worthwhile? Does your e-mail offer value that merits your recipients' attention each week? People tire of clever marketing, creative HTML designs and good copywriting not backed up by actual value. E-mail campaigns form a distinctive pattern over time. Patterns are good; they help build brand recognition and trust. But recurring message patterns can dilute interest and the perceived value of your brand. Do you trust the store with a perpetual “clearance” sign in the window?

Frequency overload or underload
If I hear from you too often, you're demanding too much of my time. If I don't hear from you enough, I might forget about you between e-mails. It's imperative to find the right frequency balance in e-mail marketing. E-mail marketers once sent their messages on daily, weekly or monthly delivery schedules, in keeping with traditional broadsheet publication cycles. But, companies like Amazon demonstrated how e-mail could be used effectively in response to customer actions and behaviors, rather than by predetermined publication schedules.

My wife once subscribed to Flylady.com, which turned e-mail frequency benchmarks upside down by serving up home organization tips and reminders to recipients in the volume of 500-plus each month. The frequency became too exhausting for my wife's commitment level. She unsubscribed after two months. Look at your e-mail campaigns. How often would you like to receive them? Remember that content determines frequency.

Complicated technology
Technology alone does not make things efficient. Efficiency requires human thought to remove unnecessary steps. Don't make things complicated. If your opt-in, opt-out, click-through or conversion processes require more than one click, your recipients may experience enough fatigue and frustration to abandon the process. Remember, the “Report as Spam” button requires only one click.

People design systems and decide whether they should be easy or hard for users. The choice is yours.
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