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The Best Email Frequency for Small Business Marketing

Reading Time: 7 minutes

One of the most popular questions that we get in conversations with email marketing beginners is about email frequency. They all want to know the same thing—how often should you send your email campaigns?

In fact, the right email frequency can have a big impact on your email campaign success. The best strategy involves finding the right balance between top-of-mind awareness and not becoming too spammy.

Email frequency is one of the many aspects that we analyzed in Omnisend’s email marketing statistics based on our customer data.

This time, we focused on the open and click rates by looking at the frequency of the email campaigns our users are sending out.

Although open rates might not be among the most critical metrics moving forward, including them in these figures give you a better picture of the impact of email frequency.

Email Frequency of Omnisend Clients

The Omnisend ecommerce email marketing platform is focused on small and medium-sized businesses.

The majority of our clients are new retailers who sell apparel, accessories, books and small electronic devices.

They start implementing email marketing with a small database (up to 5,000 subscribers) and send email campaigns gingerly—about once a month to once a week.

Email frequency

This also goes in line with the fact that the smaller the brand is, the fewer emails they send, while the larger brands send more emails (sometimes even daily).

In our 2016 Omnisend Research data, we noted that online stores that have more than 5,000 subscribers send email campaigns two to seven times per month.

Online stores that send emails every day or twice per week usually have 50,000 subscribers or more.

This also makes sense because usually larger senders have more products or produce more content which is worthy to be shared in bulk email campaigns.

How Customers React to Email Frequency

It’s one thing is to send an email campaign once, twice, or four times a month. It’s another thing entirely to have those email campaigns be successful.

So, how do our brands’ subscribers respond to the different emailing frequency?

Let’s look at the chart below. At first sight, it seems like the more often you send emails, the less willing your subscribers are to engage with them.

Open and click rates compared to email frequency based on Soundest Research 2017

However, is this really the case?

Let’s assume that you have 1,000 subscribers and send them a newsletter once a month.

Your subscribers are engaged with your brand and the subject line is good, so your open rate is 28% and click rate is 7%. This means that 280 subscribers open your email each month and 70 click somewhere.

The average order count for monthly newsletters is 1.64, so you end up with about 2 purchases for the month.

The average order count based on email frequency

Now, if those same subscribers get your emails four times a month, the average order count per campaign goes up to 4.79. Each time you send a campaign, you get about five orders.

If you multiply that by the four campaigns you send a month, that means that at the end of the month you get about 20 orders in total.

So while the open rate does go down as the email frequency increases, you can still expect purchase rates to increase.

This is even more dramatic when we only focus on those campaigns that have at least one order per month, as in the chart below:

Average order count per campaign (at least 1 order) based on email frequency per month

Looking at both charts for the average order count per campaign, we can see that customers positively react to emails sent up to 19 times a month.

While the open and click rates drop dramatically as the email frequency increases, the average order count per campaign goes up steadily (up to 19 emails/month).

Email Marketing Frequency Risks and Opportunities

This article will probably inspire you to change how often you send out your email campaigns, which is good. But before changing your email frequency, take these risks and opportunities into consideration.

If your emails are not frequent enough:

  1. No matter how cautious you are with your emails, by sending too few promotional emails you miss the opportunity to sell more. This is a fact.
  2. The more emails you send, the more visible your brand is. Even if customers do not open your email, it helps to stay at the front of their mind.
  3. Rarely sending emails may put your reputation at risk. Consistency and frequency are important in building your online reputation.
  4. Your subscribers will forget about you if you do not engage with them for a while.

On the other hand, if you email too much:

  1. Content cannot suffer just by sending frequency. Make sure your emails continue providing value to subscribers. People unsubscribe if you keep sending the same offers.

    Worse, they will report your campaign as spam, which will affect your sender’s reputation. The more spam complaints you receive, the higher chances are that your future emails will start landing in the spam folder more often, therefore your overall sales performance might drop.
  2. For more frequent communication, you need content, and generating quality content is very time-consuming.
  3. Engagement with every single campaign will drop. Customers will start to skip your campaigns and open them less.

    Email campaigns with lower engagement are at risk of being automatically marked as spam by inbox providers. So this game is always a bit of a gamble.
  4. If you send too many emails, customers will unsubscribe from your newsletter. After they opt-out, you lose permission to market them via email.

How Often to Send Marketing Emails

Omnisend statistics show that the best email frequency is between 10 and 19 emails per month. That means sending emails three to five times per week can bring in the best results.

Unfortunately, the real answer for your business isn’t as simple. There isn’t a chart you can consult, and you can’t just come up with a figure based on your subscriber count, either.

While some of the most active brands can get away with sending daily promotional emails, others could lose their subscribers doing the same.

Determine your ideal email frequency based on the unique traits of your business and the strength of your relationship with your audience.

It will be up to you to find the magic number that will enable you to reach out as often as possible without compromising how much value you offer per email.

How to Find the Right Email Frequency

How you space out your emails throughout a campaign is what marketers typically call your email cadence. Since the right cadence varies between businesses, you’ll need to find your own answer.

Here are some things you can do to determine how often to send marketing emails:

Let Your Subscribers Choose

Allow subscribers to decide on email frequency according to their preferences. You can do this as part of your opt-in form, so you can segment your customers accordingly.

You could also add a link to edit email preferences at the footer of every message.

Depending on the types of content you provide, you can ask them to choose between multiple times per week, once a week, bi-weekly, or monthly.

Giving your customers more control over how they receive communications from you makes every email more welcome and, consequently, improves click-through rates.

Additionally, it helps you lower your unsubscribe rate, which is one of the many critical metrics that determine the success of your campaigns.

Split Your Subscribers into Two Groups

Let the first control group receive the same frequency of emails as you send currently. Start to experiment with the second group—try sending emails twice as often compared to the first group and see what happens.

Bear in mind that for noticeable results, you may need a month or even two. It depends on your current frequency.

To determine your best frequency, you need to monitor the engagement and performance of the two subscriber groups separately. Then, compare the results over the period—open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribes, and conversions.

For the best campaign performance, conduct this type of systematic testing for every subscriber segment you have.

Keeping Your Subscriber List Clean

It might not seem relevant, but email list hygiene is one of the most important email marketing best practices. It is absolutely critical to the success of your campaigns.

This is especially true if you’re about to increase your send frequency.

Subscribers become stale for many reasons. Inboxes could be too full and addresses could be inactive. Additionally, recipients that are no longer interested might mark your messages as spam rather than unsubscribe from your newsletter.

The more frequently you send emails to stale subscribers, the more you compromise your sender reputation and affect your deliverability.

Keeping your email list clean also improves your campaign performance rates. Don’t worry about losing subscribers—the level of interest of each individual subscriber is much more valuable than the total count.

By keeping recipients limited to those who are actually interested, you get better campaign results overall.

Among the most effective yet low-effort ways to maintain good email hygiene is to set up automation workflows to reactivate inactive customers.

This gives you an opportunity to engage idle subscribers and hopefully encourage them to reconfirm their interest. If a recipient is still inactive after several attempts to re-engage, you’re better off without them.

Wrap Up

Getting cadence right is critical to the success of your entire email marketing strategy.

On one hand, you need to keep your audience engaged and aim for top-of-mind awareness for your brand. However, sending too frequently can backfire and increase your unsubscribe rate.

Recent data shows that 10 to 19 emails per month are the most ideal send frequency for small businesses engaged in ecommerce.

That’s a good place to start, but you should still determine the best cadence based on your subscribers’ preferences and expectations.

By enabling your audience to declare their preferred frequency as well as conducting systematic A/B testing, you’ll get the most accurate information on how often to send marketing emails.

Once you’ve determined the frequency that works best for your audience, you should also consider recent data on the best time to send emails for optimum campaign performance and better sales revenue.

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Bernard Meyer
Article by
Bernard Meyer

Bernard is the Director of Content at Omnisend, with a passion for good research, helping ecommerce businesses with their marketing automation needs, and beating absolutely everyone in Mario Kart 64.

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