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What Is The Best Email Frequency For Retail Marketing?

By Cory Smith, Head of Email at Metric Digital

I used to work with a large client who had the following phrase stapled to the wall of their cubicle:

"Send more email, make more money!"

It was a simple proposition. Every time they sent an email, they made money, so it made logical sense to them that the more they sent, the more money they would make.

Right? Right?

Well, yes, but it's not quite that simple. Today we’re going to explore the many facets of email frequency for retail marketing and how your company can tie to greater revenues.

Defining your company’s what before the when

The first challenge you have to tackle as a business is: 

What will you send these people?

Every email you send should provide some value to your users. It should showcase your products with them in mind. If you send out an email that says only “buy my stuff” without telling the user why, then you’re doing them a disservice.

But let’s assume you’re doing that part correctly already. Right? Right.

In our audits and initial conversations with many of our customers, "How much email do you send?" is one of our first questions. Prior to working with Metric Digital, some of our clients said they sent email once or twice a month. They had apprehension about scaling up to mailing weekly or even more than weekly.

And here’s why. Mailing more will yield more unsubscribes, managing additional content can be a gargantuan task, inventory can be harder to manage, and the list goes on. 

How much email do you send?

Tackling the technical concerns first

Now that we've talked goals, let's try an experiment. Let’s say it’s the start of the month, and your company is looking at the following:

List Size: 100,000
Average Unsubscribe Rate: 0.3% (300 users)
Average List growth per day: 50 users

If you send twice a month, at the end of the month, your list would have lost 600 users, but you would have gained 1500 users in the same period.

If you increase to four times a month, you would have lost 1200 users, but still gained 1500, so the net positive is 300 users.

Basically, you'd still be coming out ahead in this case if you increased the amount of email you sent.

Here’s how the math plays out:

Sending twice a month
(50 users per day * 30.5 days a month)
(2 sends a month * 300 users per send)
= 925 users

Sending four times a month
(50 users per day * 30.5 days a month)
(4 sends a month * 300 users per send)
= 325 users

But Cory, what about money?

Well, what about it? Let's say every time you send an email, you're looking at the following:

List Size: 100,000
Average Conversion Rate: 0.2% (200 users)
Average Order Value: $75

This would mean that every time you send an email, you make $15,000.

Right? Right?

Well, again, it's not that easy. Reminds me of what my email marketing chaps over at Litmus said about email frequency:

“When asked about the frequency of emails sent to a subscriber in a week, or even a day, we weren’t surprised to find out that many of the replies included the words 'it depends.'”

Typically, when I work with clients who start to send more email, their average conversion rate goes down on a per-email basis. In this case, I'd expect the conversion rate might drop from 0.2% (200 users) to 0.17% (170 users).

Here's why.

The pool of subscribers who purchase isn't going to double just because you send twice as much email. However, people may be more likely to purchase from you if they see you more often.

Meaning, conversion rate per email goes down, but conversion rate for the overall audience rises. Average order value typically remains steady in this model, unless you start offering different products or have some kind of promotion that might push average order value down or up. 


Old Send Rate
400 orders/month x $75/order = $30,000

New Send Rate
680 orders/month x $75/order = $51,000

By now, you’re asking yourself: Wait, why don't I just send email every day?

For each increase in frequency, it's likely that conversion rate will drop a little. At some point, that decrease in conversion rate (paired with the increase in unsubscribes) will negate the positive effect that emailing more often might have.

Of course, the more money you make, the more money you can spend on growing your business and gaining new users. If your growth rate increases, this has the potential to change the math significantly and raise the ceiling on all of the hypothetical numbers I discussed above.

This brings us back to our original question:

"Does sending more email make more money?"

Maybe. Probably. 

As with all things in email marketing, nothing will beat a test. 

That’s the beauty of the modern email landscape. If you (and your agency) can stay ahead of rapid changes in the marketplace by testing things that haven’t been tested, you will build a real foundation for scale.

No matter how many phrases are stapled to the wall of your cubicle.

Want to discuss your email marketing program, and if you should be sending more email? Get in touch here. 

Get our tips straight to your inbox, and start driving revenue today.


Cory Smith Head of Email The Metric Digital Blog A Blog on All Things Digital Marketing