What you need to know about email frequency in 2020

The new year is the perfect time to evaluate your email marketing strategies—especially your email frequency best practices.

How often should you send? Weekly, bi-weekly, monthly? 

If you read five different blogs, they’ll give you five (or more) different answers. So, what’s right? 

All of them. Because it depends on your audience.

In this post, we’ll go over the latest best practices for timing your emails so you can strike that perfect balance.

What are the email frequency best practices for 2020?

Of course, marketing is dynamic and the rules change constantly. 

We think the best way to boost conversions and clicks in 2020 is by revisiting your basic frequency tactics and thinking about your subscribers on an individual level.

1. Glean email frequency info from your unsubscribe rate

Your unsubscribe rate is the best place to start learning about your frequency. Ideally, you want your unsubscribe rate to be as low as possible—under 2% depending on your list size.

If people routinely unsubscribe from your list every time you send a campaign, that could mean three things:

  1. You’re sending too many emails 

  2. You’re not sending enough emails

  3. Your content isn’t interesting, relevant, or unique enough

Let’s look at the first two points. 

Research from MarketingSherpa shows that 45% of people unsubscribe from mailing lists because they either receive too many emails in general or from the brand in question. 

On the other hand, sending sporadic messages could cause subscribers to forget where, how, or why they signed up for your list. Permission reminders can help, but increasing your email frequency is even better.

2. Segment your lists based on engagement

Most email service providers make it easy to break your subscriber lists up into groups based on engagement. 

Create a few unique segments:

  • Subscribers who always open your emails and click

  • Subscribers who never open, or haven’t opened in months 

Start by sending a re-engagement campaign to your least active subscribers. If they don’t respond, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of removing them yourself.

Gmail recently started prompting users to unsubscribe from mailing lists they haven’t opened in the past 30 days. For marketers, this tells us that Gmail is paying closer attention to email open rates for delivery and spam filtering. 

Continuously sending to inactive subscribers could impact your delivery rates and future campaigns, so cleaning up your list is important. 

gmail email example

Source: Gmail

For your active subscribers, however, you could try increasing your frequency (with interesting and relevant content) until you notice a drop off. 

3. Send better content less often

When asked about email frequency, 43% of subscribers say they wish marketers would calm down a bit and send less emails with more informative and personalized content. 

It makes sense. When MarketingSherpa surveyed subscribers in 2017, 80% of people said they unsubscribe from lists because the content was too repetitive, promotional, irrelevant, or generic. 

Going into 2020, subscribers want high-quality content that answers their questions, piques their interest, and offers well-timed promotions or deals. Patience for generic and spray-and-pray marketing is waning by the day.

4. Consider your industry email frequency sweet spots

Business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), non-profit, education—every sector has its own email frequency best practices. As does every industry.

Within B2B, for example, a Software as a Service (SaaS) company may start bothering subscribers if they send more than one email every two weeks. When it comes to a company that provides cryptocurrency updates or stock market info, however, their subscribers probably expect content more often—so use your judgement.

Keep in mind that most people have more than one email address, too—often a primary email and a secondary email for work or marketing communication. 

Our friends at Campaign Monitor did some research to fInd out email benchmarks for all industries.

Industry average benchmarking

Source: Campaign Monitor

Knowing your industry’s standards can help you determine what might work for your brand. But remember to focus on content quality—not quantity.

5. Use A/B tests to nail down the perfect email frequency

Piggybacking off the last point, each brand and audience is unique as well. You probably cater to different audiences than your competitors, right? That means your audience expects a different frequency.

It’s hard to figure out frequency expectations without running some A/B tests. 

Plus, different segments subscribe for different reasons. Some may enjoy your blog content while others may strictly want the hot deals.

A/B testing removes the trial and error because it lets data do the talking. With Emma, you can run A/B tests across different segments or small groups before tweaking your frequency to your larger list. 

6. Find the perfect email frequency for each type of content

Do you send an individual email every time you publish a fresh blog? Or do you wrap all your posts up into one weekly newsletter? 

Each type of content warrants a different email frequency. 

Considering that 19% of people told MarketingSherpa that emails are too promotional, it may be worthwhile to evaluate your promotion frequency. 

Try to strike a healthy balance between informational and promotional content—erring on the side of informational with relevant and useful promotions peppered in—to develop a nice and consistent cadence. 

7. Send out an email frequency survey

While data is always more accurate than survey answers, that rule mainly applies to the subject’s own behavior because things like ego get in the way. 

When you send out a survey about frequency, however, subscribers have no reason or incentive to lie about how often they’d like to hear from you. 

Surveys can be extremely useful for adjusting your send frequency. And with segmentation, you can resend the same survey email to subscribers who didn’t open the first one.

8. Set up a preference center and prompt new subscribers to use it

If you don’t have an email preference center yet, the turning calendar is the perfect time to create one. 

77% of people prefer email marketing over other permission-based advertising methods because they’re in control of the relationship. How can you make them love email even more? Give them more control.

With an email preference center, subscribers can set their own frequency (daily, monthly, only important stuff, etc.), choose their favorite topics, and let you know what they expect from the relationship.

Communication is key in any relationship and preference centers make it happen. When new subscribers join your list, send them to a landing page where they can set their preferences immediately before you ever send an email.

American Enterprise Institute offers a nicely-detailed preference center.

American Enterprise preference example

Source: AEI

9. Figure out the best time to send

Frequency isn’t only about how often you send anymore—in 2020, it also involves timing. 

Some email service providers make it easy to break your subscriber lists up into different groups based on geolocation or what time of day they typically open your emails. 

Punctuality is incredibly important with email today. People travel out of their home time zone and they work odd hours. Fortunately, automation makes it simple to create personalized campaigns ahead of time and schedule them to go out at the perfect time for each subscriber.

The average person is bombarded with 121 emails every day. If you send an email while they’re sleeping or working, your email will end up buried by the time they check their inbox.

10. Set up automated onboarding sequences

The first few emails you send to a new subscriber will always have the highest open rates. Why not take advantage of that with some stunning automated onboarding sequences?

We’ve found that welcome emails have a 50% average open rate which makes them 86% more effective than standard newsletters. Start the conversation on a happy note with some of your best content and multimedia to introduce new subscribers to your brand.

Likewise, birthday emails deliver 342% more revenue, 481% more conversions, and 179% more clicks than standard campaigns. You don’t have to stop there: Post-purchase thank you emails, transactional emails, anniversaries, and holidays are all valuable email real estate with high open rates.

Wrap up

While email frequency best practices for 2020 are important for guidance, it’s even more important to figure out what works for your industry, brand, and subscribers. 

  • Run A/B tests to see what different segments of your audience prefer

  • Check your unsubscribes, opens, and clicks to get an idea of what’s too much and too little

  • Re-evaluate your content and create campaigns your subscriber segments will love

  • Put your subscribers in control with preference centers

Want to learn more about sending emails at the perfect time? Check out these detailed tips on when to use email marketing for different goals.

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our​​ powerful automation and personalization features, you can create and send email campaigns that reach the right customer at just the right time. It's email marketing that works for you.

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