How many emails do you get in a day? Probably more than you’d like. Worldwide, people send and receive 104.9 billion emails per day. With cluttered inboxes, it’s not uncommon for people to merely skim the subject lines and delete the emails that don’t pique their interest. This daily onslaught of email into consumers’ inboxes poses a big challenge for marketers.

And it might get even harder. Research shows 1 in 5 consumers will unsubscribe from emails if a brand sends too many, and only 15 percent say a brand’s emails are useful to them. 

More than half of the emails brands send go unopened, meaning consumers are essentially saying “no” to the content. You have a limited opportunity to capture their attention and compel them to open your email. Many marketers struggle with finding the right formula to get recipients not only to open their emails, but also to engage with the content — in many cases, curated content and better targeted messaging seems to be the solution.

Why Your Emails Aren’t Being Seen

Customers most often ignore emails if the content is irrelevant to them. Everyone has slightly different needs and behaviors, which you need to capture to deliver relevant content. Sending everyone the same thing — the old “batch and blast” — limits engagement and your brand’s potential. 

Brands sometimes talk about themselves too much in their own emails, which quickly becomes tiresome. We previously worked with an iconic beer brand that had an email-based loyalty program in which it talked about the product and its history — in every email. Email open and engagement rates fell dramatically when the brand kept that up because people got sick of hearing the brand talk about itself.

Once you’ve established your story, you need to mix it up. Email is like a benefits program. If you join, you want a variety of benefits to offer a broader and more interesting appeal.

For the beer brand, we mixed in elements that would have real value for subscribers. We partnered with a high-end food blogger, a clothing retailer, an Instagram photo printer, and an outdoor and adventure supply company to supplement the content, provide real offers, and give the brand new — and valuable — things to say. Subscribers loved it. 

Email frequency is also a big challenge. Sending the same thing too often turns people off, but not emailing frequently enough makes people forget about you. The general rule is to send as often as you think your consumer expects to receive it and when you have something truly interesting to share. So how can you help prevent fatigue in your email programs? Here are a few simple strategies: 

1. Capitalize on FOMO 

The fear of missing out (known as FOMO) is a major driver for consumers. People will open emails because they don’t want to be excluded from interesting, unique, or new information or offers. If you surprise and delight subscribers with special opportunities and content, they will engage. FOMO also keeps people from unsubscribing — they might ignore most of your emails, but when something good comes around, they want to be in on it. 

2. Onboard Strategically 

Establishing a rapport early on is the only way to create an immediately valuable dialogue with customers through email. Set expectations and foundations early by sending relevant emails in a welcome series. This onboarding process helps keep the relationship going strong for the long term. We’ve found that when we optimize a welcome series, we can extend the engagement rates of subscribers for six months or more. 

3. Don’t Make It All About You

It’s OK to promote other people’s content. Most consumers are intelligent enough to realize you’re not the only great brand out there. Finding other relevant resources supplements your content and declutters your messaging. This transparent approach will win the trust of your customers and improve email engagement every time. 

With the number of emails people receive today, you have to be strategic, thoughtful, empathetic, and relevant if you want to break through the clutter. How do you ensure that your emails get opened? Let me know in the comments on social.


Josh Perlstein has more than 20 years of experience in the digital marketing space and is the CEO of Response Media. Response Media is a digital and direct CRM agency that combines customer acquisition and lead generation with intelligent and relevant email marketing. Its proven approach integrates data-driven strategy, performance-based media, marketing automation, and behavioral email marketing to deliver tangible results for its clients in customer growth, loyalty, and ROI. Josh has amassed diverse experience in digital media and relationship marketing for some of the world’s largest advertisers and most successful brands, pioneering best-of-class consumer acquisition, brand partnerships, and relationship marketing platforms for the likes of Procter & Gamble, Pampers, Enfamil, Anheuser-Busch, Red Bull, Coca-Cola, ConAgra Foods, IBM, Disney, and Capital One.