Tune-Up Tips: Email Edition

February 25, 2019

(Editor’s note: This is part of a monthly series about tuning up different aspects of marketing activities.)

“If social media is the cocktail party, than email marketing is the ‘meet up for coffee.’” – Erik Harbison, AWeber chief marketing officer

When done well, email can be a dynamite communications channel that drives awareness, interest and sales. There’s several factors that go into effective email, from making sure it reaches the inbox to sending subscribers what they want.

We share 5 tips to help tune up your email marketing that range from improving deliverability to refining its contents. We also provide a mini-dive into how consumers interact with emails and a second mini-dive examining why consumers unsubscribe from emails.

Tune-Up Tip #1: Don’t Get Lost in (Digital) Space

Signing up to receive email updates doesn’t guarantee that a company’s emails will reach that consumer’s inbox. But overall inbox placement did increase from 2017 to 2018, which means the number of emails that reach a subscriber’s inbox is improving.

The increase in email deliverability is happening on both a global scale and in the U.S. The average global inbox placement increased 5% from 2017 to 2018. Messages sent to US subscribers reached the inbox an average of 83% of the time, which is an increase of 6% from the previous year.

How often emails reach subscriber inboxes varies by industry. The average placement rate by industry (globally) is as follows:

96% Banking & Finance

96% Distribution & Manufacturing

94% Travel

93% Apparel

93% Computers & Electronics

92% Household & Home Improvement

91% Deals & Rewards

91% Food & Drug


90% Health & Beauty

88% Automotive

88%  Business & Marketing

88% Media & Entertainment

85% Social & Dating

83% Education/Nonprofit/Gov’t

There are three common issues that cause deliverability problems:

Getting labeled as spam

How to Fix It: Only add subscribers to your email list after asking them for permission and make the unsubscribe link easy to find.

Getting blacklisted

How to Fix It: Keep an eye on complaints and check to see if your IPs/domains are on blacklist websites including Spamhaus, SURBL and Barracuda Reputation Block List.

Not authenticating emails

How to Fix It: This is an electronic way to verify that email comes from who it claims to be from. How to ensure authentication is turned on varies by email provider.

Tune-Up Tip #2: Design to Impress

Over 281 billion consumer and business emails are sent every day. A well-designed email can help your email stand out from the digital clutter.

Appearance matters. 32% of email recipients are either dissatisfied or indifferent to the current design of the emails they receive. And 83% of 18-34 year-olds say that it’s important that emails are designed in a way that makes them excited to read them.

How does your email design look on a mobile device? 69% view marketing emails on a smartphone two to three days per week. 39% said marketing emails were not well-designed for their mobile devices.

Here is our rundown of best practices to include in your email signature design:

Branded Header

It goes at the top of your email and contains your company’s logo and branding.

Why is it important? It immediately shows subscribers who the email is from.

Branded Footer

It goes at the bottom of your email and contains your company’s contact information, links to your social media accounts and link to your website.

Why is it important? It makes information easy to access.

Call to Action

What action do you want your customer to take?

Why is it important? Make it easy for people to do what you’re emailing them about.

Single-Column Format

Format content in a single-column rather than laying it out with two or more.

Why is it important? It’s easier to read, especially on mobile devices.

Clickable Links

Make images or buttons that subscribers can click on that take them to additional resources or relevant pages on your website, such as to an ordering page.

Why is it important? This is important for tracking responses, data and activity.

Unsubscribe Button

Is it easy to find? They are usually part of the email’s footer.

Why is it important? If they can’t find the unsubscribe button or link, they may flag your email as spam or junk, which will hurt its deliverability.

Big, Bold Images and Taglines

Use attention-grabbing images and taglines. Copy should be written in 16 px at the smallest so that it is readable on every screen (except in the footer).

Why is it important? It makes the email reader-friendly and skimmable.

White Space

Give your copy and images space.

Why is it important? It helps keep the design from looking too busy.

A note on images: make sure you have the right license for the images in your email. (Check out our Image Licensing 101 article if you need a quick overview on image licensing rights.)

In doubt about how to design a great email? Hire a professional to execute it for you.

Tune-Up Tip #3: Audit Your Message Mass

How often should a company send consumers email? Daily is too often and once a year isn’t often enough. How often do customers want to receive emails from a company or brand?

36% Want weekly email offers

22% Want  monthly email offers

18% Want email offers twice a month

Send emails when you have relevant or useful content. Monitor open rates and experiment with your email volume to determine how often to send them.

Increasing the email frequency tends to decrease open rates, especially if there is a sudden spike in email send frequency. For example, if your company sends one email every two months or so and then sends six emails in one month, the open rate would most likely decline.

What is a good open rate? That depends, although there are average industry benchmarks available to help provide a ballpark. Did your company recently start email marketing or restart after a period of inactivity? How big is your list?

Track your email open rate and use your own data as your benchmark. Make tweaks to your email marketing efforts and see what works.

Tune-Up Tip #4: Segment Your Lists

Every subscriber on your email doesn’t need to get the same information. Segmented emails have 39% higher open rates, 28% lower unsubscribe rates and 24% better deliverability compared to non-segmented lists.

To best determine how to segment your email lists, ask yourself what information you have to send and who should receive it. Here are 4 common ways to segment email lists:

1) Geography

Customers in City X don’t need to know about sales or events in City Y.

2) Demographics

Segment your emails by gender, age, income and/or lifecycle stage. For example, if you’re a grocery store, you could send easy meal ideas to your young professionals email list, after-school snack ideas to your list of customers with children and upcoming wine tastings to your 21/older list.

3) Preferences

Ask your customers what they want and how often they would like to hear from you. Prepare a list for your customers to check when you ask using a free or paid survey service.

4) Activity

Do certain subscribers open all or almost all of your emails? Perhaps you have a special offer or event to periodically reward your frequent readers. Do you have a way to entice subscribers who have not been opening emails for a while—a special sale to incentive them to spend money or another way to lead them to the action you want them to take?

These are dozens of ways to segment your email lists (here’s a roundup of 50 suggestions for more ideas). Sending the right message to the right audience will help yield the right results.

Tune-Up Tip #5: Refine Your Line

Whether or not a subscriber opens your emails hinges heavily on the subject and preview lines.

The best email subject lines communicate the value proposition in a short, catchy manner. Why should your subscribers open it if they don’t know what’s in it for them? Speak to the specific benefit (10% off all orders placed by midnight today), create a sense of urgency (sale ends tomorrow), pique their interest (check out our latest arrivals) or find an interesting way to provide information. Think of your subject line as a headline or movie title.

The preview line (also called preheader text) is displayed under the sender’s name and subject line. It should contain the email’s key message in 100 or fewer characters. If your subject line is your movie title, the preview line is the movie’s tagline.

Mini-Dive: How Consumers Interact with Email

Email is a great communications channel because 83% of consumers said they prefer email as the communication channel of choice from trusted brands. And most people—65%—check their email more than 3 times per day.

How do consumers interact with and perceive a company’s email? The Email Addiction Research Report from emailmonday and zettasphere released in November 2018 dives into this. We will highlight key findings from this study below.

Why do consumers ignore emails from companies rather than unsubscribe?

37% Sometimes the email offers are of interest

24% May shop with the brand again

21% Can’t be bothered

7% May miss service notifications

6% Don’t trust unsubscribing

5% Don’t know how to unsubscribe

Why don’t consumers open an email newsletter?

59% When I don’t currently need the brand’s products

44% When I’m too busy

44% When the subject line doesn’t excite me

39% When previous emails from the brand were uninteresting

23% I’ve had a bad experience with the brand

What do consumers expect after signing up to receive emails?

74% Offers/Savings

44% New product information

41% The band to try to sell me things

35% News about the brand

23% Articles/Advice related to the brand products

15% Chance to enter competitions

Mini Dive: A Look at Unsubscribes

Email unsubscribe represent lost opportunities that cost retailers. Retail marketing and email provider

Bluecore detailed these in its recent The Cost of an Unsubscribe report.

Who is unsubscribing from what kinds of email missives?  If we understand this, we can plan email campaigns that matter to our subscribers. We will summarize Bluecore’s findings on typical unsubscribers and what those costs are in this section.

Most people who unsubscribe from a retailer’s email list have never made a purchase from that retailer. Here’s the breakdown of unsubscribes by buyer type:

77% Non-Buyers

Non-buyers make up 55% of email recipients for most retailers

13% One-Time Buyers

One-time buyers make up 26% of email recipients for most retailers

10% Multi-Time Buyers

Multi-time buyers make up 19% of email recipients for most retailers

In general, the unsubscribe rate spikes in November, December and January. Bluecore speculated that the high volume of holiday sales email is a likely reason for this.

What kind of emails lead to people clicking the unsubscribe link? This list is ordered from the highest unsubscribe percentage rate to the lowest:

Post-Purchase Emails

Search Abandonment

One-Time Sends

New Arrivals

Product Abandonment

Back in Stock

Price Decrease

Cart Abandonment

So how much does an email unsubscribe cost? Bluecore broke the costs down in two ways—a dollar amount for lost revenue and soft costs (nonmonetary costs).

Each unsubscribe represents a loss of $17.92 in revenue for retailers with an average order value of $50. One unsubscribe is a $36 loss of revenue for retailers with an average order value of $100.

Losing unsubscribers also results in the following soft costs:

Channels for engagement

Opportunities to raise brand/product/event/promotional awareness

Customer nurture capabilities

Chances to capture relevant consumer data

Key Takeaways: Most subscribers who are already customers are most likely to continue receiving your emails. Since about 3 in 4 non-buyers opt out of emails, re-evaluate what you send to first-time subscribers. Do you have a welcome message with an offer? Perhaps that needs revising, or maybe you need to start sending one. Since post-purchase emails are the most common type that leads to unsubscribes, consider revamping your post-purchase email. Is it a generic thank-you? As you evaluate your email strategy, ask yourself what value the email has for your subscriber. If you don’t have a specific answer, then don’t send it. But since these are general trends. Track which of your emails have the highest unsubscribe rates so you can best adjust your email marketing strategy.

Editor’s note: This is another entry in our monthly Tune-Up Tips series. Look for our next Tune-Up Tips: Digital Marketing Edition on March 18, 2019.

Read the previous entry in our Tune-Up Series:

Tune-Up Tips: Social Media Edition

Service Tags: 
Email Marketing
Marketing Strategy
Multi-Channel Campaign