There is a popular myth, created by the media, of the ‘inbox overload’ that would have marketers believe consumers are constantly worried and deeply affected by the hundreds of emails in their inbox. This has led some marketers to send fewer emails and to try to send the right message, to the right person, at the right time in pursuit of higher open rates. However, this strategy ignores the effectiveness of email as a brand recognition tool, in addition to being an engagement channel.
The myth of ‘inbox overload’
The idea that consumers are constantly worried by hundreds of emails in their inbox completely ignores two key points. Firstly, nobody gets that many emails to their personal email address and studies that claim otherwise invariably include a work email account, which will always skew the results towards unwanted email. Second, most people simply don’t worry about their inboxes in that way, whether they have 1 or 100 unread emails – when was the last time you were at a party and your friend said they were having a terrible day because they have 100 unread emails in their personal inbox?
According to research from Merkle, three quarters of consumers (74%) actually prefer to receive commercial communications via email over any other channel. Whether it’s for personal or commercial messages, email remains at the heart of consumers’ digital lives. When compared to all other communications channels, such as social media, email still beats every single one in terms of audience and engagement. Why? Because email subscribers have made a purchase or a decision to subscribe.
Many marketers are still pursuing the Holy Trinity of email – segmentation, timeliness, and relevance – which have their roots in traditional direct marketing and still have their place. However, email should no longer be viewed simply as a direct marketing tool, but instead as a broadcast channel that also remains at the heart of many consumers’ daily lives. Instead of focusing on messaging for the subscribers that open and click the email, marketers need to acknowledge that the subject line has a brand impression on everyone that received the email.
Can less be more?
To have long-term success brands need to ensure they are consistently reminding consumers about their brand just as they would across any other broadcast marketing channel. If TV airtime was free, media buyers would not advertise less, they would book as much time as possible. So why do brands believe that trying to get more return from fewer, highly targeted emails is the most successful approach? The cost of sending to a smaller audience in potential lost sales far exceeds the incremental cost and effort required to send to the whole audience.
Brands need to get past the idea that consumers should engage with every email they receive from a brand and the idea that consumers are overloaded by email. Consumers won’t engage with an email they don’t receive, and they won’t remember a brand name they don’t see regularly. Email remains one of the most effective consumer engagement and brand recognition channels, so marketers must stop trying to send less email and wake up to the opportunity to send more.
Dela Quist is founder and CEO at Alchemy Worx