Emails play an active role in how often subscribers & shoppers buy.
They’re also an inexpensive tool to build relationships that would otherwise cost a lot.
Now those are great reasons to send more emails for your marketing efforts.
However, the BIG questions clients ask us are:
“How many do we send?”
“What number would not annoy customers?”
“How would they react if we send more or send less?”
In fact, these are some of the questions we’ll answer in this piece:
Alright, let’s get started.
eCommerce email marketing frequency best practices
1. How many emails should an eCommerce business send?
There’s no easy answer to this.
But first things first: you don’t want your subscribers to be among the 46.4% who want to unsubscribe because they’re plagued by excessive emails.
So how many should your “sweet” number be?
To get there, let’s start with the size of your business.
If it’s small and maintains a list of about 1000 to 2000 subscribers, sending too many emails in a week or month would result in rapid unsubscribes.
We were once working with a newly launched apparel brand that was eager to create an impression early on. So, they decided to blast discount emails EVERY DAY.
The sad part was that with zero segmentation, all their subscribers received every email they sent—and within a month, their unsubscribe rate had gone up by 500%.
Here’s the truth: most small eCommerce businesses can’t convert readers/visitors into subscribers that easily.
For such businesses, once a week to start with is ideal to be able to prevent unsubscribes.
But as your small business grows, you would likely find the need to segment their list AND not send the same email to every subscriber.
So, let’s say it keeps growing and touches 10,000 subscribers—you can then start sending 4 to 5 emails a week and thanks to segmentation, not worry about all the emails going to the same recipients.
For successful segmentation, fall back on the following:
Not all subscribers who fall within the same segment might go by the average frequency for that segment; some might more and some, less.
For example, a new subscriber who’s purely interested in deals may want to see more of your emails than another who has subscribed simply to see how you match a competing brand they’re buying from.
So offering a preference selection on your website at the time of sign-up can be useful—like Forever 21 does:
Also consider sending an email on preferences who may have been engaging with your emails more often earlier, but not anymore—here’s a great example from Framebridge:
Based on the nature of your business and the products you sell, define a “rule”, for example, not to send emails to someone within 7 days of buying.
You can extend the rule to saying: for every three purchases, we’ll send an email within 10 days of the purchase seeking feedback.
To set such rules, looking at the purchase lifecycle is worthwhile.
For subscription businesses, for example, increasing the frequency around renewal could lead to better engagement.
Point in customer journey
For new subscribers, consider sending up to 6 or 7 emails over the first week after they subscribe.
The point here is to first welcome them and then take their attention to your brand value & product difference, finally nudging them to buy.
However, let’s say, they’ve already bought from you more than thrice—at this point, you may want to use email for only order confirmations & use Whatsapp/texts for limited time offers & bundles.
One brand that creates instant trust by offering multiple opt-in options for shoppers across the funnel is Banana Republic:
What the metrics say
Continuously consider metrics such as open rate, clickthrough rate, click-to-open rate and unsubscribe rate to discern the level of ongoing interest.
This largely depends on the kind of email you’re sending.
For newsletters, sending one a week seems to fetch the best open rate (38.21%), CTR (3.44%) as well as CTOR (9%)
For promotional emails, on the other hand, while one a month may be perfect for B2B businesses, eCommerce can aim for anything between 2 to 6 emails in a week depending upon the quality of deals & content.
When we signed up with India-based eCommerce brand Myntra for example, we had no idea they send one promotional email a day—here’s an example of how many of their emails remain unopened:
Now to find your frequency, here’s what you need to look into:
What kind of products you sell—for example, if you’re into snackables, your purchase lifecycle would be shorter than a makeup brand and your customers would likely look forward to more emails.
For an apparel brand that runs various kinds of promotions, 6 emails a week is common—but this number may be a bit much for a lesser-known brand that’s just starting out.
To avoid coming across as “trying too hard”, send 2 to 3 emails a week.
For a snack brand, it is usually okay to send up to 3 emails a week, especially during the holiday season—given that you have enough interesting content like snacking ideas, age-based recommendations etc. apart from deals & discounts
For a makeup or skincare brand, on the other hand, it’s safer to stick to 2 emails if you have great deals and extend it to 3 emails only if you’re offering value-add (like tutorials) content.
Even with the 2 email-count, consider splitting them into 1 with deals and another 1 with reading suggestions to your blog or popular videos on Youtube.
What kind of brand perception you hold—if you’re known for your flash deals, subscribers would already expect this, but let’s say you’re into luxury travel bags, multiple emails per week would just look odd.
If you’re a luxury brand, for example, it makes sense to send out emails only when you launch new products or restock old popular ones.
Check out how Brooklinen, a D2C brand that sells luxury bed sheets mentions how they reach out during new launches at the opt-in level itself.
What competitors are doing—sign up with some competing brands to see what kind of emails they send, how often and how engaging their content turns out to be.
You might like: Top 20 lead nurturing emails in eCommerce
2. How many emails is considered “too much marketing?”
To arrive at an answer for this, you’ll have to look at your list size.
If you have anywhere up to 2000 subscribers, we don’t recommend sending more than 4 emails in a month. An email a week can often keep your unsubscribe rate in check and with a limited list, it’s something you’ll need to do.
However, if the number of your subscribers is 10,000 upwards, sending about 3 to 4 emails a week may work well—though you may need to reduce the frequency if you see the unsubscribe rate going up.
There are two vital questions you need to ask:
- What are you promoting through an email?
- Who are you promoting an email to?
These questions are crucial because you don’t want to send the same email twice to the same recipient.
However, you can easily send two separate emails about the SAME EVENT to a recipient.
Similarly, you wouldn’t want to promote the same blog twice to the same recipient.
However, if it’s a product guide with multiple use cases, it might still be okay to send more than one email—only if you can differentiate the context and not send in a row.
Signs you’re overdoing it:
- Many unsubscribes per week (at any point in time, if it’s more than 2%, you have to evaluate)
- Poor open rates
- Low engagement with email CTAs
In eCommerce what can also come across as “too much” is often perception—but this is something you’ll have to take care of.
If you’re sending 3 emails per week, but subscribers feel like it’s almost 7 or 8, you have a problem.
You’ll have to evaluate:
- The content you’re spreading across the week (is it being too much cognitive load?)
- The actions you’re hoping your subscribers will take (are they very different from one another?)
Check this out: 20 High-converting examples of automated emails
3. What kind of eCommerce emails should you send more often?
This again depends on the quality and size of your list.
However, some emails that you need to communicate through more often are:
Because they set the tone of a subscriber’s first contact with your brand—what you feature in them can decide how often they will buy from you.
In terms of frequency, some suggest sending one email for 5 days following a sign-up.
What we’ve seen work better is sending 5 emails—
one including the actual welcome email, the next mentioning problems/challenges based on the recipient’s profile, the one after featuring product recommendations, the next one with some review snippets or brand mentions and the final one with a purchase nudge with a discount…
over 7 to 8 days, thus avoiding appearing as “pushy.”
Cart abandonment emails
The more tactical these are, the higher the conversions.
And even when you create a sequence, you want to make sure it’s not an email a day.
Our recommendation? Let the first one talk about what the shopper has left behind, the second one offers a 10-15% discount, and a third one that induces urgency by featuring a timer to how much longer the cart will remain.
Send each email two to three days from each other.
The right deal landing up in the right customer’s inbox is often magical for conversions around the year.
However, too many discount emails don’t necessarily mean too many conversions, quite often the opposite—45.8% would flag emails as spam if they thought the sender was bombarding them.
We recommend sending no more than 4 to 5 a month on an average. Tie them up with new launches/arrivals, popular holidays or even personal dates of relevant, and you can have greater success.
It’s often worth it to regain space in the minds of shoppers who’d engage with your products and content once upon a time—but don’t anymore.
To confirm that an existing customer has indeed gone idle, it’s best to wait for a window of 30 to 60 days.
This also depends on the kind of products you sell.
While for makeup, it’s completely okay to send such a mail after a month and a half, for furniture, you’d want to wait at least 2 to 3 months.
4. What is the best time to send eCommerce emails?
The best day in the week to send eCommerce emails is Friday.
We’ve noticed that Fridays record better open rates, click-through rates as well as click-to-open rates.
The second best day to send eCommerce emails is Monday.
And the third best is Wednesday.
A good time to send during a particular day is early in the morning—make sure the email reaches their inbox between 3 am and 7 am (for US audiences.)
Another time that seems to consistently work for improving email metrics is late evenings, specifically after 10:30 pm—it has a direct correlation to people having more time on their hands.
However, in some market research, it became clear that marketers see maximum engagement between 9 am and 12 pm as well as between 12 pm and 3 pm on most days (particularly the first three days of a work week.)
Idle and non-busy times seem to reap the best effect on email opens and clicks.
And a study that covered email sending patterns for medium to large brands, entrepreneurs and marketers seems to support this:
It identified that while clicks and opens were highest on Mondays and Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays recorded the best Click-to-open rate ratios.
The trends reveal that earlier in the week, average audiences are “busy doing life and work”, and have little time to spare on emails.
So from Monday through Wednesday, it may be wiser to send educational & tutorial content, while Thursday onwards (specifically Thursday to Saturday), it’s ideal for promotional emails.
5. How to decide how many emails to send?
One of the biggest reasons people unsubscribe is receiving too many emails from the same business.
However, there are questions you need to look into before you settle on a definitive answer:
What metric goal are you driving through the email campaign?
Is it higher open rate, click through or conversions?
What marketing goal are you driving through the email campaign?
Are you attempting to build brand awareness? Are you trying to bring back cart abandoners?
Your marketing goal is another facet to freeze on before you decide how many emails to send.
What is the nature of your audience?
Which segment of your audience you’re trying to target is equally important—in the early stages, you may want to send more emails than when shoppers are repeatedly buying.
However, alongside if you’ve targeted the same recipients multiple times, it’s time to also check on their behavior—which emails are they opening, at what time, if they’ve opened an email repeatedly etc.
What is your industry average?
For example, perishable foods would need a different email frequency compared to something more durable, let’s say, microwave ovens—you get the drift?
What kind of content do you create?
So, if you have lots of deals going on throughout the year, frequent online events or even have great content on your blog, consider increasing your frequency.
Are there signs of disengagement?
You don’t want to send emails to someone who, let’s say, hasn't shown any interest in opening your emails the last 10 times. In such instances, it’s better to seek feedback, send an email on preference edits or even automatically reduce the cadence.
6. How do customers react to email send frequency?
The answer to this question depends entirely on whether you’re sending them too many emails or sending them too less.
After all, according to a Fluent study, 33% of US consumers said they didn’t want to receive emails—unless they were relevant, well-timed and carried personalized benefits.
Let’s find out what kind of impact either can have on recipients.
Too many emails:
Subscribers are put off when businesses appear desperate for sales.
This is also just as real—because one recipient of yours has likely subscribed to many other businesses and receives more than they can even pay attention to.
And you don’t want to add to that.
Too few emails:
Fewer emails can make subscribers get interested in other products and competitors, and switch without notice.
This is true even if the recipients love your brand and would love to get more emails from you.
With fewer emails, you’re likely to miss out on relevant selling opportunities.
Overall, shoppers tend to engage better with emails that are actionable.
7. What is “send time optimization?”
Put simply, send time optimization is to send emails when recipients will most likely click on them, read them and click through them to take an action.
You can drill down to create more personalization by seeing the best time per week and even per day.
Other ways to optimize send time:
- Based on geographical location.
- Based on a list’s behavior.
- Based on separate time zones.
- Based on individual behavior/preferences.
If you ask us, the best way to optimize send time is to look at individual data, gathered from past behavior around clicks, opens and click-throughs.
Choose a tool that helps you pick a suitable window for each recipient based on their history of highest email engagement.
In such a case, the more you use the tool, the more data it can collect, and over time, the more precise your send time optimization can be.
No matter how you choose to optimize your send times, consider:
How will it benefit the customer?
Is it content they would want to read given what they’re searching for? Or a deal they can use to buy something that’s sitting in their wishlist?
How will it benefit your relationship with the customer?
Will its timeliness leave the recipient with a better impression about your brand? Will it make them look forward to more emails from your end?
8. How do you find the right email cadence?
Email cadence encompasses the frequency and timing with which a business sends out emails.
There’s no one right cadence for every eCommerce business because:
The number of products varies.
The amount of content varies.
When you have fewer products and the price range is limited, sending more than 2 emails per week can be a bit much.
However, if you have many categories & subcategories, you can send up to even 5 in a week.
The same goes if you have constantly changing deals.
The best way to find cadence is to segment your email list.
In this case, you may want to send emails to new subscribers more regularly.
On the other hand, you may want to send emails to repeat purchasers only when there’s a deal that will likely hook them.
What we’ve noticed is: the email cadence is really working only if you have consistently good open, click-through and click-to-open rates.
So, to take the guesswork out of the picture, create an email preference center on your website.
This lets the subscriber have complete control while increasing the likelihood of them actually engaging with your emails.
Here’s an example from ASOS:
Transform Email Marketing Into A Revenue Machine
Most eCommerce store owners don’t see email as a serious revenue stream.
Ask them about the importance of email marketing, and you'll hear: “we don’t really have a major strategy,” “we mostly use generic templates,” or “we just send emails to people on our list.”
BUT AT THE SAME TIME:
There are stores out there that drive 30%+ of their revenue from email marketing.
Engage can help you do the same - Book a free demo.
We’ll show you:
- workflows we can create for your store,
- proven ways to drive 30% or more $$ from email alone, and
- successful templates and strategies from your industry (and others).