What Consumers Really Think About Your Email Program
Email marketing has been alive and well for more than a decade. At this point, there's plenty of data available that documents how customers engage with email programs as well as what marketers are doing to improve that engagement. This information is highly valuable, making it easier to establish email program benchmarks and develop optimization strategies based on how consumers behave. But there's less access to information that provides insight into what consumers say about marketing emails. When you come right out and ask them, what do consumers really think about your email program?
For the second year running, my company, an enterprise email service provider (ESP), worked with a third-party research group to survey 1,000 consumers from metropolitan regions across the U.S. to gather feedback about the state of email marketing. Additionally, we spent several hours conducting our own "man on the street" interviews to understand how people interact with and react to the email marketing messages they receive. Here's what we learned:
Consumers engage everywhere with email
In the digital marketing space, there's more talk than ever about developing a "mobile first" strategy. The data we've collected supports this approach:
- Almost 85 percent of respondents own a mobile device that's enabled to receive email, up from 77 percent 12 months ago.
- Although they still primarily read emails on a laptop or desktop computer, this year 36 percent of respondents said they most often read their email on a smartphone (7 percent cited tablets).
- A majority of respondents (75 percent) say they sometimes or always use their mobile device to sort through emails before reading them on a desktop.
Consumers are comfortable signing up for email programs in many different places and ways. The table below shows the five most popular methods used to subscribe to an email program.
Question: In the past year, which of the following means have you used to subscribe to an email program?
So not only are they reading emails while on the go, consumers are using mobile-specific channels (e.g., apps and SMS) to sign up for email programs. Since consumers are comfortable sharing their email addresses with companies online and offline, brands may gain more new subscribers when offering multiple email address acquisition channels.
Consumers won't cut you slack for ugly email
Incoming mobile emails that don't look good are deleted by 80 percent of respondents, and 30 percent say they'll unsubscribe. That's up considerably from last year, when 18 percent said they'd go so far as to unsubscribe.
Question: If you get a mobile email that doesn't look good, what actions do you take?
Additionally, for two years running, about 75 percent of respondents told us that regardless of the device they use to read their emails, a poorly designed message gives them a negative perception of the brand that sent it.
What's the takeaway for marketers? Mobile is no longer optional. Today, email programs must be developed to be viewed, managed and engaged on consumers’ mobile devices. Make sure that your user experience is optimized for mobile as well.
Consumers want discounts and much more
Surprise, surprise, the top reason consumers say they sign up for email programs is to secure discounts. However, responses from "man on the street" interviews indicated that in addition to discounts, consumers recognize many other types of value unique to email.
Taking a look at survey data and interview responses collectively, a common theme emerges: Regardless of whether emails are delivering discounts, convenience or personalization, consumers are asking, "What's in it for me?" to help judge the value of email. Marketers are wise to keep that same question in mind when developing their email programs.
Consumers hate too much email
This year, 30 percent of the consumers we surveyed told us that they get 10 or more email marketing messages in their personal email accounts each day. And in 2013, a correlation between volume and consumer engagement started emerging.
For example, when asked in 2012 about the reasons why they unsubscribed from an email program, respondents cited relevance as the primary reason (31 percent), followed closely by email frequency (30 percent). This year, the top reason is frequency (35 percent), followed by relevance (25 percent) at a much greater spread. Add in "inbox overload" at 24 percent this year, and the story is compelling. Even relevant email may get the boot if the frequency is too high.
As an ESP, we always recommend that companies use engagement and behavioral data to develop their email program strategies and optimize their tactical approaches. When you add consumer sentiment to that strong foundational strategy, companies can gain a richer, more comprehensive view of the customer and drive better results.
Click here to view the full 2013 Consumer Views of Email Marketing report.
Susan Tull is the vice president of marketing for BlueHornet Networks.