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UK marketers’ number one New Year’s Resolution must be to improve the email experience they offer their subscribers.

People are simply being force-fed too much email, which is typified by the sheer volume of emails sent during the festive period, consisting of sales and promotional emails that are mostly one-dimensional, monotonous and repetitive.

Personally, one of the biggest headaches about getting back online after a nice, relaxed and hopefully unplugged Christmas holiday is the pile of emails stuffing up my inbox.

I know that I will have a mountain of out-of-date, last-minute Christmas and New Year sale offers that will simply end up being deleted unread. Others might have less patience and unsubscribe from all future emails from these brands or mark these messages as spam.

Marketers can do their bit to battle the bulge of emails over the holiday period by sending relevant messages to their target audience. Sending the right email to the right person at the right time drives higher response rates from subscribers.

Doing this over the Christmas season can be even more challenging than normal as marketers have to compete with the pressure to send more emails to hit their numbers and sales quotas.

However, sales messages can be targeted for relevancy too. One way of doing this is by using subscriber-level data such as website use activity, demographic statistics and past purchase information to customise offers.

Marketers are running out of excuses for why they can’t support and implement such best practices, and the ones that don’t will fall behind their competitors and find it increasingly more difficult to drive ROI from email.

Moreover, unique, targeted emails have higher ROI and conversion rates. Marketers who simply blast the heck out of their database and send the same thing to all their subscribers will drive consumer disengagement, unsubscribe requests and complaints.

The savviest marketers will enhance relevancy even further by using dynamic content in email templates to offer consumers more immediacy with up-to-the minute content based not on when the email was sent, but on when the recipient opens it. 

Sadly, it’s not just the festive period that sees a bloated circulation of emails. The wider picture is that UK workers are drowning in emails all year round. A recent survey found one in five workers in the UK spends over one month on email every year.

Star, a market research company, questioned 1,000 people and found the typical respondent sends or receives more than 100 emails every day. 20% said they spent more than one hour per day cleaning out their inbox, which works out to spending 32 days a year on this menial, but necessary task. 

Marketers must make sure their messages are read and interacted with, rather than lumped with the junk and “cleaned out.” As well as sending more relevant communications, marketers can also help to trim the inbox fat by taking a more proactive and innovative approach to email campaigns:

Enable pause subscriptions

This preference centre feature allows subscribers to pause their subscriptions and lets them choose the dates they will be away over Christmas and New Year, and any other holiday period, and sync up their email delivery with those dates.

Just like cancelling newspaper deliveries during a holiday, this ensures that subscribers don’t return to a mountain of out-of-date emails that will never be read.

Give subscribers control

Subscribers are more likely to engage with a brand when they are given the choice of what emails they receive, and when and how often they receive them. It also ensures relevancy and keeps marketers’ emails out of the spam folder.

Make messages interactive

Combine different social media channels to encourage recipients to engage with the brand through other channels, in addition to, or instead of, email during the Christmas season.

Now more than ever, email relationships are about respect. Subscribers are spending more time dealing with spam, phished and spoofed messages and the overflow of irrelevant inbox flab. It takes willpower, but marketers must focus on sending relevant, useful and interactive content and enable subscribers to choose what they want to receive, when they want to receive it in order to stand out in inboxes.

This festive season, when you’re full to the brim with mince pies, turkey sandwiches and mulled wine, spare a thought for your subscribers and the amount of emails making their inboxes expand even more than their waistlines.

Margaret Farmakis

Published 20 December, 2010 by Margaret Farmakis

Margaret Farmakis is Senior Director of Strategy Consulting at Return Path and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

9 more posts from this author

Comments (4)


Math police

"20% said they spent more than one hour per day cleaning out their inbox, which works out to spending 32 days a year on this menial, but necessary task. " 1hr * 365 days / 24 hrs = 15 days per year. Just sayin'.

almost 6 years ago


Correlation police

The 4.8 million employees is an irrelevant figure. Just sayin'.

almost 6 years ago


Georgia Christian - Mail Blaze

Thanks for the informative post and stats Margaret. I do hope email marketers start taking heed and cut down on their seasonal campaigns. I think it's a great option to be able to suspend your subscriptions. 

almost 6 years ago



very nice thank you for your sharing

almost 6 years ago

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