Surprising Facts About the Emails You’re Sending  

Posted by Laura Christensen and Alexandra Braunstein on

Abandoned cart emails, welcome emails and newsletters are among some of the most common messages sent by marketers. But how well do these messages actually perform? While we always strive to continuously improve our email campaigns, using data to understand where they fall short is the best way to optimize these messages. In our recent guide, 2018 Email Marketing Lookbook, we’ve uncovered helpful metrics for commonly sent emails.

Abandoned Cart Emails
These popular triggered messages, commonly seen in most email programs and used to help persuade customers to complete a purchase, have an average engagement rate but experience an increased deleted before reading rate.

Key Takeaway: Although widely used, these types of emails are actively deleted and ignored by recipients and not achieving their intended goal of conversion.

Application: In order to improve performance, grab subscriber interest, and increase revenue, incorporate the following into your abandoned cart emails:

  • An alluring subject line—One that piques interest in order to stand out in the inbox and also entice the customer to open. If possible include the mention of an offer which may give the customer an extra push to open and purchase.
  • Product recommendations—Within the email itself, besides highlighting the product abandoned in the cart, include additional products, ones that compliment the purchase or customer favorites, in order to give the customer additional options and increase chances of conversion.
  • Message timing—It can be tricky to determine the best time to send these messages—whether it’s a few hours or even a few days after abandonment. And since all audiences are different, this is especially important to determine what will work the best for your program. Run some tests, sending these messages at a few different times, and even consider adding in a few message touches.

Birthday Emails
Not surprisingly, birthday emails have extremely high engagement rates since they are highly personalized but this is the least commonly sent email out of all the emails reviewed in our Email Lookbook. According to our findings, birthday emails also have high TINS (this is not spam) rates, meaning recipients who have found these emails in their spam folder have moved them back into their inbox.

Key Takeaway: Due to the fact that these emails require data capture for subscriber date of birth, many companies lacking this type of information are missing out on sending these highly effective emails.

Application: Birthday emails are a great way to improve your email program by creating a personalized, one to one relationship with your subscribers helping to enhance brand loyalty. While you may not collect this information during sign up, don’t be afraid to ask for it later on in the customer subscriber lifecycle.

  • Collect the data—If you’re already collecting birthday during your email signup process, use it to your advantage by adding a birthday email into your campaign strategy. And if you’re not collecting this information at sign up, ask for it at other points during the lifecycle, such as including it in the welcome message, at the bottom of promotional emails, or creating a stand-alone message.  
  • Be transparent—Explain why you are asking for this information and what they’ll get in return. Whether it’s a special birthday offer or message, let your subscribers know the perks of providing their birthday information.  
  • Personalize the message—When sending a birthday email, this is a great time to use personalization to give the message a one to one feeling. Whether it’s including the subscriber’s name or any other data points, this will help bring additional relevancy to the message. And if you don’t have access to this data, including a salutation to sign the email, or having the creative look like a greeting card are other great ways to create that personalized feeling.
  • Include a special gift or appealing offer—If possible, give the subscriber a gift or an offer to celebrate their birthday as this will go a long way in helping create a positive brand experience. From a free gift to free overnight shipping or a special coupon code, these are also great ways to increase conversion.

Newsletter Emails
Email newsletters are among the most common types of messages sent by marketers. The intent behind newsletters is to keep subscribers engaged and brand-loyal by providing a mix of editorial and promotional content. Yet our research found newsletters have the lowest read rate of all message types, along with a high spam placement rate.

Key Takeaway: A successful newsletter requires an ongoing commitment to inform, educate and inspire subscribers with relevant content they look forward to receiving. Common pitfalls are newsletter content that is cluttered and unfocused or content that is skewed more promotional than educational (this is what promotional emails are for).

Application: Creating an effective email newsletter requires time and effort, but when done right, it is a highly effective method to break through inbox noise and keep subscribers engaged. Effective strategies include:   

  • Understand your audience—Who are your subscribers? What do they expect from your brand? Why do they care about your brand? Make sure you are giving subscribers what they want, not what you think they should have.  
  • Start with the subject line—If your subject line isn’t intriguing, interesting or compelling, subscribers aren’t likely to read the rest of the newsletter content. Avoid generic approaches such as “Your Monthly Newsletter” and instead incorporate attention-grabbing teaser copy. Leverage your pre-header too.  
  • Keep it simple—Avoid newsletter content that is cluttered, unfocused and not skimmable. Consider an overall topic or theme. Provide enough content to be interesting, but leave readers eager to click through to your website, blog or social network to learn more. And keep design mobile friendly!  
  • Provide value—The primary goal of a newsletter is to build a relationship between your subscriber and your brand, not just to make a sale. So be informative with content that is timely, relevant and interesting. Subscribers will see through a promotional email disguised as a newsletter.   

Welcome Emails
The welcome email is the first message new subscribers receive in their inbox, and that first impression is crucial for continued engagement. Unfortunately, welcome messages have the lowest average inbox placement rate across message types, so many subscribers aren’t seeing them. Even if welcome messages do reach the inbox, they have the highest complaint rate of any email message types.  

Key Takeaway: Welcome messages help lay the foundation for building a clean, responsive email list. A Return Path Welcome Email study found that subscribers who read welcome emails are significantly more likely to read subsequent messages from that sender, with an average 50 percent read rate post-welcome message.

Application: Sending welcome emails to new subscribers is a universally accepted best practice in email marketing. Here are some tactics to successfully introduce subscribers to your program; set expectations about the content they will expect to receive, and keep them engaged.  

When prepping for your welcome message:

  • Obtain consent—During sign-up, it’s important to require explicit opt-in from subscribers rather than auto opt-in. Subscribers who don’t actively choose to receive your email are not likely to positively engage after being unexpectedly added to your file.
  • Confirm subscription—Immediately following sign-up, display an opt-in confirmation message on your website which prompts the subscriber to be on the lookout for their welcome email.  

When sending your welcome message:

  • Timing is everything—Trigger your welcome message immediately following sign-up, while your brand is top-of-mind and new subscribers are likely to engage.  
  • Start with a strong subject line—Catch the subscriber’s attention, thank them for signing up, and provide a compelling reason to open the email. Leverage your pre-header to reinforce your subject line.  
  • Set expectations—Reiterate subscription benefits provided during sign-up. Demonstrate immediate value with a preview of what subscribers can expect next, including type of content, frequency, and value.  
  • Personalize the message—Use subscriber-provided data to personalize the welcome message. Or, if subscriber data is not captured at sign-up, use the welcome email to ask subscribers to share their preferences receive tailored messages.  
  • Make it easy to say goodbye—The welcome message should include an easy opt-out method for people who didn’t subscribe or who have second thoughts about opting in.  

Learn more about how other common message types are hitting the mark—or falling short, in our 2018 Email Marketing Lookbook.


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About Laura Christensen

Laura Christensen is an Email Strategist on Return Path's Professional Services Team with a passion for helping email marketers exceed subscriber expectations. With over 15 years experience in the email industry, Laura has worked with a broad range of clients to provide strategic, data-driven guidance to increase email delivery, subscriber engagement and revenue. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Alexandra Braunstein

Alexandra has been helping world class brands grow and optimize their email marketing strategies and initiatives for over a decade. As an Email Strategist for Return Path, Alexandra uses her passion for analytical and creative thinking to help marketers refine their email programs, resulting in more emails getting delivered to the inbox, improved subscriber engagement, and increased ROI.

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