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10 Consumer Stats to Make You a Better Email Marketer

September 6, 2018

MacBook Air beside black iPhone 7 on a brown sheet
Photo Credit: Bence Boros (photo modified)

From Email Bathroom Habits to What Marketers Get Wrong About Personalization – The Adobe 2018 Consumer Email Survey’s Insights for Email Marketers

At the end of August 2018, Adobe released its fourth annual Consumer Email Survey. It’s packed with insights that will inspire email marketers to put their thinking caps on. From standard behavioral benchmarks to unusual assessments, such as what annoys people, the study gives a comprehensive overview. For this blog, we’ve plucked the survey’s key findings for email marketers. Whether you’re B2B or B2C, we’ve got 2018’s consumer trends and subsequent actionables for your next email strategy planning session right here!

Survey Details

First a word on the scope of Adobe’s survey. The survey uses data collected from 1,000 participants in June 2018. All survey participants were U.S. residents, white-collar employees and smartphone users. Adobe broke down the results for each question by age and gender.

Of course, if you market to target groups outside the U.S., not all findings may be relevant. Nonetheless, many trends certainly cut across national boundaries.

blue stone wall with one stone painted white reading WC
Photo credit: Gilles Desjardins (photo modified)

What Do Consumers’ Email Habits Look Like in 2018?

1. Smartphone usage increases while computer usage drops for both work and personal email.

When asked what primary device they check work email on, a whopping 43% selected smartphone. This represents an 8% increase in comparison with last year’s data.

In contrast, 53% identified desktop/laptop as their primary work-email device, a drop from last year’s 62%.

For personal email, even more people prefer smartphones. 65% said they checked personal email primarily on their smartphone – more than last year. Only 29% check email primarily on their desktop/laptop – down from last year. So overall, fewer consumers in 2018 rely on computers for reading work and personal email.

Your Email Marketing Actionables

  • Use an email marketing software with responsive design. It’s now a must for all email marketing, both B2B and B2C.
  • Design and write for mobile first. Especially if most of your contacts use a private email address (such as in B2C), take a “mobile-first” approach to email campaigns. Just because you might craft your email campaigns on a desktop, doesn’t mean your contacts read them on one. Create first for mobile, then for desktop.

2. Consumers are checking work and personal email often and everywhere. Including while in the bathroom.

On average, this survey tells us, Americans spend 3.1 hours checking work email and 2.5 hours on personal email. And they seemingly read it at all hours and in all places.

For example, for most people, there’s not much time between waking up and checking email. Only 39% of employees wait until they get to the office to check work email. Only 15% wait until they’re in the offce to check personal email. The remaining 59% and 85% read email over breakfast or coffee (27% work email, 44% personal email), when leaving the house (11% work email, 15% personal email), and while still in bed (23% work email, 28% personal email)

On average, Americans spend 3.1 hours checking work email and 2.5 hours on personal email. And they seemingly read it at all hours and in all places. #AdobeEmailSurvey #EmailMarketing Click To Tweet

With more employees checking email on smartphones and outside working hours, it makes sense that email and multitasking now go hand in hand. Perhaps the most surprising information in this study, though, arises from the following question: “In the last month, during which situtations have you checked your email?”

The top five most popular answers: People combine work email with the TV (41%), bed (31%), phone (30%), and bathroom (28%)… Or they don’t multitask while checking work email (25%). As you can see below, these numbers shot up for personal email. The top five multitasking situations for personal email were the TV, bed, bathroom, phone and walking. And “none” earned a measly 8%.

These stats show us just how real the struggle is. Getting attention in the inbox is not a given. Like it or not, we live in the age of multitasking. The fact that the most-cited multitasking situation for checking both work and personal email is while watching TV or movies means that as a marketer, you have a lot of well-produced competition. You’re competing not only against other email senders, you’re competing against the “second screen” – news stations, HBO and Netflix.

a chart showing which situations people check email in
Source: Adobe 2018 Consumer Email Survey

Your Email Marketing Actionables

  • Use attention-grabbing subject lines. So, you’re competing against “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead” for your contacts’ attention? Step up your game and perfect your attention-grabbing subject lines.
  • Embrace multichannel marketing. Leverage overlap times of email checking and television viewing. Instead of treating multiscreen viewing as competition, plan cross-channel campaigns. Marketers made hashtags a pivot point between social media and television advertisements. What unexplored territory awaits us at the crossover of television and email? For example, thematically relevant scheduled sends that align with viewing times.
  • Don’t limit your send time to working hours. The hours outside 9–5 aren’t just for B2C. B2B marketers can embrace nonworking hours for scheduling their campaigns. It might be a refreshing surprise to receive compelling email marketing at 9 p.m.
  • In that vein, correlate send time to emotional approach. For example: Send humorous campaigns in the evening and campaigns evoking accomplishment in the morning.

Any way you look at it, these statistics tell us one thing. With email’s near omnipresence in consumers’ day-to-day, email marketing plays an important role in multichannel campaigns and at all hours.

3. Indifference is the emotion people feel most often when checking email.

As an email marketer, this statistic may very well disappoint you. As the Adobe Consumer Email Survey explains, “Over four-in-ten employees (particularly those 35+) feel indifference when checking either work or personal email.”

Excitement is the second most-cited emotion associated with checking personal email (34%).

In contrast, only 17% of respondents reported feeling excitement when checking work email. We can find a silver lining in the year-over-year comparison, however. Excitement has grown four percentage points year-over-year, while indifference has decreased for both work and personal email.

Silver lining aside, let’s stop and think about this. Four out of ten of your email recipients feel indifferent when they open their inbox. That’s close to half. Even worse, if you’re writing them at their work email, 8% of them are feeling dread or guilt, and 14% are feeling anxiety.

Four out of ten of your email recipients feel indifferent when they open their inbox. That's close to half. #Adobe2018ConsumerEmailSurvey #EmailMarketing Click To Tweet
a charte of the emotions people experience when checking their email, including indifference, accomplished, excitement
Source: Adobe 2018 Consumer Email Survey

Your Email Marketing Actionables

  • Pour emotion into the inbox. Your job as an email marketer is to deploy emotional marketing to pull your recipients out of their indifferent funk. From the subject line to the closing sign-off, consciously choose the right emotional tone. (For more info, check out Neil Patel’s blog post on emotional marketing.)
  • A/B test various emotional approaches to see which ones work best with your target group. A call out to B2B marketers: Beth Comstock, former CMO of General Electric, is credited with saying, “B2B doesn’t mean boring to boring.” If you’re sending B2B email marketing, and your emails are landing in recipients’ work inboxes, you’ve got to work harder to trigger an emotional response than when writing to personal email addresses. Why? Because there’s a higher chance your recipients feel indifferent and a lower chance they’re excited. So ramp up the emotional vocabulary. And if you’re not sure which emotions your recipients respond to, start out small. Run a series of A/B tests to figure out which emotions your audience responds to.

an image of a mailbox stuffed with newsletters
Photo credit: Samuel Zeller (photo modified)

What Percentage of Their Email Do People Actually Look at?

4. People claim to open 77% of work emails and 59% of personal emails.

Some people claim they open and read all emails sent to them. This number skews higher for work email than personal email. Only 12% of participants said they opened all personal email, whereas 41% said they opened all work email. On average, though, consumers report opening 77% of work emails and 59% of personal emails.

Remember, this percentage applies to all email, not just email marketing!

5. Consumers say they open between one-quarter to one-third of all email offers received.

27% of email offers received on work email compelled recipients to open them, and 31% of all offers received in personal email.

Your Email Marketing Actionables

  • Accept that one email is not enough. This is where segmenting and automating can come in very handy. Stop thinking of campaigns as “one email you send once,” and instead plan them as an automation series. Any powerful email marketing software should offer automated campaigns that allow you to segment and personalize based on behavior.
  • Plan branching email campaigns based on open and click behavior. For example, here’s what a possible conversion campaign can look like. After you send one email, plan three to four possible next emails based on behavior.
    • Group recipients who neglected to open your first email into one segment. Re-send the campaign with a different subject line and different wording in the body of the email.
    • Group recipients who did open the email but didn’t click through into a second segment. Send them an email that offers a different incentive to convert, e.g., describe a different feature or unique selling point (USP).
    • Group those who opened and clicked but did not convert. Send them a “second chance” email with a renewed sense of urgency or discount.
    • Finally, send a rewarding email to those who did convert, of course!

Try our email marketing software – it’s free!

a black wall with the white word yes
Photo credit: Jon Tyson (photo modified)

How Do Consumers Want to Be Marketed to?

6. 50% of survey participants prefer to receive promotional offers via email over other channels.

The researchers at Adobe asked the following question: “When it comes to receiving offers from marketers, how do you prefer to be contacted by brands?” 50% preferred brands use email to get in touch. This skewed even higher for consumers over 25. However, the number has dropped 11 percentage points since last year.

50% of consumers prefer brands use email to get in touch. #Adobe2018ConsumerEmailSurvey #EmailMarketing Click To Tweet

Meanwhile, preference for contact via phone and chatbot are growing year-over-year, especially with the under 35 crowd.

A bar graph of how people want to receive promotional offers
Source: Adobe 2018

Your Email Marketing Actionables

    • Keep email marketing at the center of your digital marketing strategy. Email is still king for digital marketing.
    • Complement email with other channels and media, such as chatbots, in-app communications and phone calls. A king shouldn’t rest on his laurels. Pay attention to the marketing landscape, and provide alternative communication options, especially for target groups under 25.
    • Always ask permission before sending emails. The power of email marketing lies its permission-based structure. Consumers like to receive email offers from companies. Give them the chance to opt-in to receive your promotions, and then keep their interest so they don’t unsubscribe.

7. Email marketing functions as added incentive to purchase for 37% of participants.

Listen up, marketers. This insight is an invaluable one. Adobe asked, “When it comes to the marketing emails you receive from brands, what role does email typically play in your purchase process?” Adobe is surveying how email campaigns affect recipients. 37% percent replied that email marketing gave them “additional incentives to purchase.” Consumers over 35 (43%) and women (45%) were more likely to give this answer.

37% percent of consumers say that email marketing gives them 'additional incentives to purchase.' #Adobe2018ConsumerEmailSurvey #EmailMarketing Click To Tweet

Additionally, the answer that email marketing reminded consumers of a purchase they “need to make” was popular with 19% of recipients, up from last year.

Your Email Marketing Actionables

  • Let the word “incentive” guide you when creating emails. Before you schedule a promotional email message, ask yourself, “Is this email offering the consumer additional incentive?”
    • An incentive can be a classic monetary incentive, such as a discount or special deal (2 for the price of 1).
    • Or, you can incentivize by writing compelling copy about product’s benefits and USPs. Show (don’t tell!) how the product adds value. It’s a quick but final important check to run before pressing send.

A sign in a grocery store of the word promotion
Photo credit: JJ Ying (photo modified)

What Kind of Email Marketing Turns Consumers Off?

8. 39% of consumers want brands to provide them with more information and less promotion.

In response to the question “If you could change one thing about the emails you get from brands, what would it be?” The most popular answer: “Make them less about promotion and more about providing me information.”

“But wait,” you’re thinking, “you just told me that promotional emails can act as an incentive to trigger a purchase. And now you’re telling me that consumers want less promotional emails?”

Yes. Keep reading. We’ll cover this in the actionable.

Email marketing has to add value for the customer. 39% of consumers want brands to provide them with more information and less promotion. #Adobe2018ConsumerEmailSurvey #EmailMarketing Click To Tweet

Other interesting findings from this question: 27% want “Content that’s better personalized to my interests.” 9% chose “Incorporate more content from actual product/service users.”

Add up these three numbers. That’s 75% of people unhappy with the type of content they’re receiving (as opposed to the other answer options, which are more about media and links). Email marketers, what are we doing wrong? And how can we fix it?

Graph of what people would change about email marketing
Source: Adobe 2018 Consumer Email Survey

Your Email Marketing Actionables

  • Balance promotion with information. Thanks to the popularity of content marketing and the explosion of blogging, marketers now excel at providing readers with added value on corporate blogs. We know how to inform, how to subtly weave in CTAs, and how to put the reader at the center of our writing. But are we doing the same with our email marketing, or are we reverting to sales blasts? There are two ways you balancing promotion with information.
    • Apply the same expectations to your email that you do to your blogging. Send your contacts emails about best practices, send them listicles, send them tips and tricks so they can learn from your expertise. And then, weave in a relevant CTA at the end of the email. Write emails like blogs. Even recycle blog content as email content. Maybe you’re already doing that with a regular newsletter that’s a round-up of recent blog articles. But what about sending a full blog to your particiants, including the CTA at the bottom? That will read like real value added in their inbox. This is a super quick fix. Other good ways to mix promotional with informational content are email courses (with each lesson pointing to a relavent product or service you offer.)
    • Separate promotional emails from informational emails, and keep a balanced ratio. What happens when you send out emails that are purely informational? You’re not pushing your contacts to do anything, just read your content. They will appreciate you for that. And if you regularly send out compelling informational emails, then your contacts will also be excited about opening your promotional emails.

These suggestions are not either-or solutions, and they’re both relatively quick fixes. It’s about identifying valuable content you’re already creating and delivering that to your recipients’ inboxes. Try both of them out and see what happens.

9. 45% of participants are most annoyed by receiving emails “too often” from a brand.

What’s the fastest way to drive away your contacts? 45% of participants cited “getting emailed too often by a brand.” Consumers are also turned off by “emails that are too wordy/poorly written” (23%). Tied for third place are two consumer turn-offs indicating personalization gone wrong. That is, when it’s “clear that the marketers’ data about me is wrong” (22%) and when they receive “an email urging me to buy a product or service I’ve already purchased” (22%). Not only is incorrect and lacking personalization a problem for customers, but “too much personalization” to the point “where it is creepy” annoys 16% of consumers the most.

bar graph of most annoying traits
Source: Adobe 2018 Consumer Email Survey

10. One-third of consumers say recommendations not aligned to their interests are the most frustrating personalization fail.

Personalization has become a part of all advanced email marketing techniques. But what does it look like when email marketers get it wrong? Consumers find the top two frustrating things to be inaccurate recommendations (33%) and expired offers (22%).

graph of traits that customers find most annoying about poor personalization
Source: Adobe 2018 Consumer Email Survey

Your Email Marketing Actionables

  • Measure your send rate against your unsubscribe rate. Marketing automation and email series are an excellent way to stay top of mind with consumers. As we said above, marketers are fighting big opponents when it comes to getting attention in the inbox. But, sending emails too often turns off a lot of consumers. The trick is to pace your email sends. Here are a few steps for optimizing your send rate:
    • First off, send regularly. If you aren’t doing that, then set up a schedule for regular sending. This can be anywhere from multiple times a week to once every six weeks. But the first thing to do is establish regular sending. Consumers will know what to expect from you.
    • Second, monitor your unsubscribe rate. Wait for the first few rounds, because if you’ve been sending irregularly, then the unsubscribe rate will first perform erratically. We recommend waiting three to five times your sending interval. So if you send weekly, take a look at your unsubscribe rate in the third or fifth week.
    • Third, adjust your send rate and watch its impact on your unsubscribe rate. If your unsubscribe rate is steady and low, then try increasing it. Once your unsubscribe rate starts shooting up, then you’re sending too much. If your unsubscribe rate is pretty high at your first check-in, then it’s time to send less often.
  • Give consumers the chance to choose their personalization. Personalization is key to keeping consumers happy with email marketing. But these statistics show us that marketers have a fine line to walk. If marketers don’t send personalized emails, instead just blasting irrelevant recommendations, recipients will be annoyed. But, if an email is so personalized that it’s “creepy,” then recipients will unsubscribe. Consumers want to be seen. They want the convenience, too, of feeling like they can go into their inbox and get messages tailored just for them. But, in contrast, they also dislike it when brands know too much about them. Anything that feels like “big brother” will freak them out. The solution: Let your contacts choose what information you have on them.
    • Provide choices in your double opt-in form and your email preference center. One way to walk this line is to include optional preference fields in your double opt-in form and sync this into auto-update groups. Let consumers take the lead in telling you what they want. You can also go beyond just asking about preferences relating to your product or services. You can even give them options as to how often they want to hear from you.

In Short

For more success in 2018, email marketers should…

  • Craft mobile-first emails
  • Leverage the reality of “second-screening”
  • Experiment with creative send times
  • Plan emails in a series, not just as a single campaign
  • Focus on getting personalization right
  • Treat every email as an incentive
  • Ensure that their email campaigns provide content

In the U.S. at least, consumers have come to expect customized offers and valuable content in their inbox. Let’s give the people what they want!

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