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Data fatigue – how much is too much?

Is there such a thing as an optimal marketing email frequency?

The balance between sending too many and too few emails is a hard one to get right. If the frequency is too high, subscribers will tune out. Too low, and, well… who are you again?

One study by Merkle found that a staggering 73% of those who unsubscribed did so due to high frequency of emails.

So, how do we avoid data fatigue? And is there such a thing as an optimal email marketing frequency?

How many emails do people actually receive each day?

The truth is, no one really knows. But if we take Yahoo, the world’s second largest email server, as an example:

• 80,000 emails delivered by Yahoo per second worldwide x 86,400 seconds per day = 6,912,000,000 emails delivered per day.

• 6,912,000,000 emails delivered per day ÷ 302,000,000 worldwide users = 22.89 emails per user per day.

Yahoo’s online ‘Visualize’ tool shows a live tally of how many emails they are currently delivering per second worldwide.

Of a customer’s 20 or so emails per day, how many are marketing emails?

Again, depending on your source and which country is researched, these figures vary from just two or three marketing emails a day, to 40% (according to a recent 2012 study in the USA by Blue Kangaroo).

How well does your campaign stack up?

Imagine that the average inbox receives about 20 emails a day, of which between three and ten are marketing emails… How can you ensure that yours is one of the marketing emails that is actually ‘wanted’, not glossed over and deleted, or worse still, dropped straight into the unsubscribe (a.k.a. ‘harassment marketing’) bin?

Average email campaign performance

The Q1 2013 Email Trends and Benchmarks study compiled data from 6.1 billion global marketing emails, across all industries, to ascertain an average email performance:

  • Non-bounce rate: 96.4%
  • Open rate: 31.1%
  • Click-through rate: 5.1%

Identify which segments of your brand/service your customers actually want to hear about

By asking your customers which areas of your business they are interested in, you are already one step ahead. Each client’s preferences can be used to direct relevant mail to their inbox, rather than bombarding them with irrelevant campaigns which simply don’t interest them. There are many preference tools which can help you with this process.

‘Don’t bury your head in the email marketing sand and assume that someone who subscribed to your database six months ago is therefore always going to want to be your friend.’

Monitor client engagement

It’s important to take note of how recently a client has engaged with your emails, either by opening them, clicking on an embedded link, or visiting a website as a result of your emarketing.

Once a client has stopped engaging with you, it’s a sign that your emails are not currently relevant to them or that your marketing efforts are no longer being appreciated. You could also be on the slippery slope to being unsubscribed. It’s time to back off… for now.

Monitor frequency across your brand

Once you have backed off from disinterested clients, it’s not the end of the road for your relationship. Think of a re-engagement campaign a little further down the line, but give them time to cool off.

Also, be acutely aware of others within your company who are accessing the same email marketing data lists. Be sure to monitor the frequency of emails, not just from you, but from your brand as a whole. The right email service provider will be able to help your team monitor this information.

Focus on content

It’s not just about how often you contact your customers, it’s about what you have to say and how you say it.

Keep your content fresh, differentiate clearly between overlapping campaigns and offers, and make full use of the interactive potential of email. A client who has engaged with your content by clicking on a link, responding to a survey, sharing your story, or posting your video or competition on social media, is a client who is re-engaging with your brand.


In essence, there is actually no optimum email frequency which will guarantee perfect results. This will depend on your brand, your campaign, and the tolerance of the individual customer.

It is also worth noting that many within the industry believe that, as marketers, we are our own worst enemies, and that it is we – and not the consumers – who perpetuate misplaced fears of over-mailing. In every other broadcast medium, ‘brand awareness’ (a.k.a. frequency of messaging) is pushed to its limits, yet often, as email marketers, we are so wary of being labelled spammers that we actively shy away from getting anywhere near our frequency thresholds. It’s an interesting school of thought.

What we can say with confidence is that the key to managing your email marketing frequency is to:

MONITOR how your customers have responded to your previous emails.

ANALYSE their behaviour relating to your existing emails.

TAILOR your future approach accordingly.

Is data the answer to all your team’s ROI issues? Download our free eGuide: Big data = big fad

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