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Email frequency in general has been a hot topic recently. Whatever your opinion or approach is on this topic, it’s inevitable that your email frequency is going to increase over the upcoming holiday period.

As you can see from this chart, many retailers don’t hold back! 

We can expect British retailers to be sending more email than ever during the upcoming holiday period, especially with sales predicted to increase by 2% on last year to £88.4bn, making it the best Christmas for retailers since the financial crisis. 

This increase in volume won’t come without a cost though. Sudden increases in your volume can make you look like a spammer to some ISPs, plus your unsubscribe rates and spam complaints will undoubtedly skyrocket.

Luckily there are several tactics which you can implement to ensure you don’t ruin your sending reputation or annoy your loyal subscribers. 

Target your active subscribers

Many retailers and industry experts seem to think that it’s OK to dramatically increase their email frequency to everyone on their list during Christmas. I wouldn’t advise doing this, especially if you have a large number of subscribers who have not engaged with you in a long time.

I’m not saying that you should stop emailing these people completely but you should definitely consider reducing your frequency to them. If I haven’t opened in two years, do I really need to receive an email from you every day in December?

I suggest that you create a mailing schedule based on the engagement levels of your subscribers. 

  • Highly Engaged: receive everything.
  • Engaged between 3 and 6 months: Receive ¾ of all mailings.
  • Engaged between 6 and 12 months: Receive ½ of all mailings.
  • Engaged between 12 and 36 months: Receive ¼ of all mailings.

You should also make sure you identify seasonal buyers and include them within your highly engaged segment. 

Ask your subscribers if they want to opt-in to your Christmas campaigns

Planning on dramatically increasing your email frequency this December with a 12 days of Christmas campaign? Why not ask your subscribers if they would like to receive these emails rather than blasting your entire database?

This helps set your subscribers expectations and will greatly decrease any potential deliverability issues. Plus you could create an opt-out link for this particular campaign, ensuring that you keep these subscribers on your main list. 

L.L.Bean

Give them the option to snooze your emails

Are your unsubscribe rates dramatically increasing during the holiday season? Why not give your subscribers who’ve finished their Christmas shopping the ability to snooze your emails for a certain period of time.

This should help you retain a large number of subscribers who you would have otherwise lost. Ensure that you ask them for their frequency preferences after the snooze period. 

Whatever you do this Christmas, ensure that you delight your email subscribers with relevant offers and content that they actually want to receive. Follow that rule and you won’t go too wrong. 

Andrew King

Published 5 November, 2013 by Andrew King

Andrew is senior strategy consultant at Lyris and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can read his blog here, or follow on Twitter.  

5 more posts from this author

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Parry Malm

Parry Malm, CEO at Phrasee Ltd.

Andrew - interesting point of view. Lots of great food for thought!

Couple of random thoughts:

If people were heavy email users last Christmas season, then they probably deserve their own segment. So I'd suggest creating another group in the ones listed above, say "engaged between 10 and 12 months ago" and make sure they receive everything.

I'm not sure I understand the logic of asking people how often they want to receive emails though. People will always say "less;" who wants to get more spam? But what people say they want is different from they'll respond to. So it's a bit of a tricky one - do you focus on user experience, or the propensity to buy? Each have upsides and downsides.

Anyways I love the email frequency debate, thanks for chiming in with two great cents!

about 3 years ago

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James

Parry. After saying yesterday that we should, "send out as many emails as you can. And then send out a few more." You've now referred to all emails as "spam" in your comment.

Some people want more frequent comms. And even if they don't won't they be happier, and more likely to buy something, if they feel they can control their own inbox?

It's worrying when the 'experts' start promoting mass, unspecific mailings, with no frequency control.

Good article above though, and one that does say: "You should also make sure you identify seasonal buyers". Just saying.

about 3 years ago

Parry Malm

Parry Malm, CEO at Phrasee Ltd.

Hi James - well, the use of the phrase "spam" was meant facetiously. I thought British people understood sarcasm? :)

This 'expert' isn't advocating mass, unspecific emails with no frequency control.

Perhaps you're reading into what I said and taking a few liberal leaps. For example, where I said, "You should send out loads of unspecified, mass market emails with no frequency controls."

Oh wait, I didn't say that.

What I did say is that people should send out more emails. And perhaps not photoshop a picture of Santa into their designs.

Email is just advertising, James. At Christmas, retailers should do more advertising. Retailers buy more TV spots at Christmas, buy more pages in broadsheets, buy more outdoor ads, spend more on PoS campaigns, buy more banner ads, do more btl promotions, etc etc etc.

Why should email be any different?

Anyways, thanks for the debate, always happy to discuss my views with another 'expert' :)

about 3 years ago

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James

I agree email is just advertising but, to answer your original point, my belief is that user experience will always win out in the long run (Look at Ryan Air's recent backtracks). So the logic of offering a frequency service seems sound.

The main point about unspecified content was that, whilst everyone else focussed on targetting in their portion of the article, your focus was on volume.

For the record I've got no issue with subject lines being as important as design, and I'm definitely not an 'expert'. But then I wasn't quoted in an article as being one.

about 3 years ago

Parry Malm

Parry Malm, CEO at Phrasee Ltd.

If everyone is tap dancing off the side of a cliff, does that make it a good idea? Perhaps my point of view is unpopular, but it's based upon revenue maximization. If one's goal is not to maximize revenue from the email channel, then perhaps a different conversation should be had. Let's bear in mind that the original question was whether or not it's acceptable to send out more emails over the Christmas period.

It's cool, we can agree to disagree. And thanks again for the debate! I'm by no means intending to be adversarial, I apologize if that's how it's come across.

Hey, it's all good, what can I say, iconoclastic is my middle name :)

about 3 years ago

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James

Like you say, maybe there should be a different debate on morality vs. profit.

That said, I still think good user experience will help with profit in the long run too.

about 3 years ago

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Chuck

@james you lost me at morality. We are talking about email marketing, not Greenpeace saving whales.

What is clear is that there is more email at Christmas than not at Christmas. So why would you not send out more too?

I've gotta side with the "more is better" argument, more compelling than UX as an excuse to make less money.

about 3 years ago

Ajay Prasad

Ajay Prasad, Founder & CEO at GMR WEB TEAM

Dear Andrew
I got several tactics which we can implement to ensure we don’t ruin our sending reputation or annoy our loyal subscribers and also I am with your suggestion that we should create a mailing schedule based on the engagement levels of our subscribers.

about 3 years ago

Andrew King

Andrew King, Sr. Strategy Consultant at Lyris

Remember that many ISP's now take your overall email engagement into consideration when determining if your emails should go into the inbox or the spam folder. If you are emailing a large number of people who are not engaging with you these ISP's are going to notice and it's going to negatively impact your overall deliverability. There's no point in increasing your sending frequency and volume if you're going directly into the spam folder.

I'm on board with sending more to your active and engaged subscribers who like what you're sending them.

about 3 years ago

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Jordie van Rijn - email marketing consultant

It is good to “mind the in-actives”. But segmentation of course can go much further, thinking about products bought and last visit to site / browse info for instance.

On engagement, the DMA released a discussion paper on email engagement and open reach earlier this year.
http://www.emailmonday.com/has-engagement-email-marketing-finally-arrived-with-open-reach

An Interesting read and certainly food for thought!

One of the charts in the paper outlines:
"Highly engaged customers spend more per person than less engaged customer. however as there are fewer highly engaged customers the majority of overall revenue is from less engaged customers.

Focusing on improving the source of the bulk of revenue makes more sense than investing highly in the smaller portion."

about 3 years ago

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Andrew Robinson, Senior Strategist at Zone

Interesting article.

Whilst time on the list could be used as a segmentation methodology, to my mind this is a bit simplistic.

It depends on your audience segments and how they purchase your products over the Christmas period.

You should aim to be in the inbox at the point of consideration and purchase - which will undoubtedly be different for different segments and audiences.

Simply upping the volume because everyone else is isn't necessarily the smartest approach, but upping the volume with more targeted and relevant messages at the point of consideration is.

about 3 years ago

Neale Gilhooley

Neale Gilhooley, MD at Evolution Design Ltd

Andrew: I think the idea of a snooze button is excellent.

Also giving people the option of receiving less is far better than losing them. It takes so long to acquire good names it's a tragic waste to let them go because of 1 poorly targeted or annoying e-mail. Ask them once to forgive rather than just exit. I often want to regulate the amount of mail rather than block forever.

about 3 years ago

Andrew King

Andrew King, Sr. Strategy Consultant at Lyris

@Andrew R + Jordie, I agree that you could definitely get more complex with your segmentation and you should if you have the time, resources and ability to do this.

The fact is that your average retailer will be batching and blasting this Christmas. The above tactics are simple enough for most retailers to implement and will ensure that they get into the inbox and not the spam folder.

about 3 years ago

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webmoghuls

totally agree with you. Great post.. Really enjoyed it

about 3 years ago

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James Hannan, COO at IPMG Digital

@Perry, apart from email marketing being an advertising channel, there is no doubt that you are using this post channel to advertise your supplier services in Email Marketing!

about 3 years ago

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