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Please (Don't!) Unsubscribe: Why Consumers Get Email Fatigue

Too many is too much

February 13, 2017 | Advertising & Marketing | Email

Email marketing—a mainstay for grabbing customers’ attention—only works when it is not abused. Research shows that internet users are most likely to unsubscribe from email lists because they get too many emails in general.

Reasons that US Internet Users Unsubscribe from Email Lists, Oct 2016 (% of respondents)

When MarketingSherpa asked US adult internet users why they unsubscribe from email lists, one in four said they did so because they receive too many emails—the most common reason among respondents in the October 2016 survey.

Users were also likely to unsubscribe if a specific company sent too many emails. About one in five internet users said too many would spur them to quit.

For marketers wondering how often is “too often,” an August 2016 survey from Mapp Digital found that 40% of US internet users said receiving marketing emails once a week was preferable. This was more than twice the number of respondents who felt receiving emails monthly was about right—the second most popular choice.

The content of the emails is also a factor in a user’s decision to unsubscribe. About one in five respondents told MarketingSherpa they’d unsubscribe if an email was irrelevant to them, if it’s constantly pushing a sales message or if the content of the email is boring or repetitive.

When it comes to how useful consumers find marketing emails, there’s room for improvement, according to October 2016 research from Fluent LLC. Only 15% of email users said they find marketing emails “often” or “always” useful, while 29% said they were sometimes useful. And more than half (57%) said they were “rarely” or “never” useful.

When recipients unsubscribe, it’s time to clean up a list’s quality, advised eMarketer analyst Jillian Ryan. “Email list fatigue occurs when consumers unsubscribe to mailings because they feel overwhelmed by marketing emails,” she said. “This impacts performance and deliverability over time, as it diminishes audience size and causes lower engagement. Maintaining a high level of list health and subscriber quality, as well as including relevant, personalized messaging, can combat some of these concerns.”

—Alison McCarthy

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