Q: What happens when you send too many emails to your resort guests?

August 14th, 2012

How many emails is too many emails? Where does the number of interactions you have with a guest start to feel over the top and what price do you pay in reduced email performance once you pass that point? Well, I’m glad you asked because we may have an answer.

The Goods
For this analysis we took seasonal email performance for 95 resort/season combinations (i.e. Resort A 11/12, Resort A 10/11, Resort B 11/12, etc.). We did not include snow reports in this sample. The next thing we did was find an average number of emails sent to each person in that resorts database. On the charts below, that is plotted on the X-axis. On the low end, some resorts sent as few as 3 emails per email address. The high end was nearly 35 emails.

Emails per Subscriber
First, we plotted standard email performance – opens, clicks, and unsubscribers – on the Y-axis and scaled them so they charts could be overlaid. The trend was clear: the more emails you send per subscriber, the lower the average action will be on each email. Interestingly enough, the average unsubscribe rate also dropped right along with clicks and opens.

The next thing we did was slightly different. Now, sending more emails appears to hurt email performance, but does the number of emails provide greater overall reach? In other words, if I send one email to a list of 100 and get a 20% open rate, sending 5 emails with a 10% open rate will still garner 2.5x the number of opens.

To get a better grasp on this, we tried a nontraditional email metric that would show season-long reach. Instead of dividing total opens by total emails sent to get open rate, we divided opens by the number of emails in the database to see how many opens they saw for the average, unique subscriber. Then we did the same for clicks and unsubscribes. Here’s how it looked.

Despite the lower per-email performance averages, the overall reach was much higher for these campaigns. When you send more emails, even though you get fewer clicks on each email, much more action is taken overall.

Finding the Sweet Spot
What we initially looked for was some sort of sweet spot. Somewhere around 10-12 emails per guest per season might be that number where both individual email performance and performance per subscriber are still high.

So there are two, main takeaways. First, the more you send, the lower your per-email performance will likely be. Second, after a certain point, a large increase in emails sent doesn’t correlate to a large increase in per-guest reach of your campaigns. Carefully segmenting your guests so the message matches their needs can help you get the most out of every email you send without going too far beyond the sweet spot.

Remember, though to not let the scope of this analysis steer you away from optimizing individual emails and, one step further, measuring conversion and ROI. Wide-angle views like this are great for seeing trends, but improvements will slowly come on a campaign-by-campaign basis.

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