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The subscriber secrets hiding in your email data

Your success as a marketer heavily relies on your understanding of your audience’s wants, needs, and interests. So if you could gain deep insights into their preferences with minimal effort, you would take that extra step in a heartbeat, right?

It may seem like a pipe dream, but here’s the good news: You already have those insights right at your fingertips. All you have to do is pay close attention to the response data from your email campaigns. Did a subscriber open one campaign but not another? Do they engage with one type of content more frequently than another? Data like this can do wonders when it comes to helping you understand your audience, improving your response rates, and amping up conversions.

Here are a few key things you can learn by simply paying attention to your subscribers’ actions in the inbox.


1. When to send

One of the questions we receive most often is, “When is the best time to send email?"

Everyone hates the answer, but it will always remain the same: There’s no golden, magic send time that works best for every brand. Think about it – some marketing expert says that 10 a.m. on Tuesday is the best time to send marketing emails. Then, every brand starts sending at that time. Inboxes become overcrowded, and it suddenly becomes the worst time to send your campaigns.

That’s why using an educated trial-and-error process is the best way to determine the ideal send times for your audience. Start by thinking about who you’re talking to – is your audience B2B or B2C? When would they be most interested in hearing from you?

Then, pick a starting point: Let’s say 8 p.m. on Sunday for a retailer. Test different times, and if you see the needle moving in a positive or negative direction, adjust from there. It’ll help you hone in on when your audience most likes to hear from you, and your open rates will improve as a result.


2. How often to send

It isn’t just send time you should pay attention to – it’s also important that you monitor your frequency. No one likes to get bombarded with emails, but you also don’t want your audience to forget you exist. So pick a frequency that feels right (if you’re starting from scratch, once a week works well for many brands) and monitor your response results.

If you see your open rates dipping, try reducing your frequency. If your audience engagement is fantastic, they might want more content from you, so consider adding a couple more mailings to the mix.


3. Where your audience is opening

The percentage of your audience that opens your email on desktops vs. mobile devices, as well as the percentage opening in different email clients, can teach you a lot about the best way to reach them. For example, does a large portion of your audience use Outlook? In that case, there are several considerations you need to keep in mind while designing your email campaigns (it’s a known fact that Outlook hates email designers).

And while we always advocate for designing with mobile in mind, seeing the actual distribution will help inform your overall marketing strategy. For instance, if a very large portion of your audience opens on their smartphones, you can more easily make the case for investing in mobile responsive landing pages and forms (which you should be anyway). And if they primarily open on their desktops, that tells you they’re probably at work, so your send time should land during the work day. Every audience is different, so understanding how yours is viewing your email helps you make smarter choices to draw them in.


4. Which subject lines capture attention

It’s one of the most important elements of your email campaigns: After all, if your subject line doesn’t capture attention, your subscribers won’t hesitate to send it straight to to the trash bin (that’s the cutthroat marketing world for you). And if no one’s opening, you’re wasting all that work that went into writing and designing it.

That’s why it’s absolutely critical that you test your subject lines. If you feel like going bold, do it – but maintain a safety net by setting up a simple A/B test. If the bold subject line wins, it’ll get sent to the majority of your audience. But if it doesn’t, you’ll know it didn’t hit the right note without sacrificing a ton of opens.


5. What type of content to include in your mailings

Take a look at your click map (or however your ESP displays engagement with your mailings). What are people clicking on the most? It may seem like a no-brainer, but be sure to include more of that type of content in future campaigns. Your audience will show you what they want through the data you receive after sending each mailing. And those preferences are likely to change over time, so keep an eye on your response results after each and every send for the most up-to-date information on what they’re digging these days.


6. The best practices that drive engagement

Though there’s a set of tried-and-true best practices email marketers preach, we have an insider secret for you guys: They won’t always work. That isn’t to say that you should start completely ignoring expert advice, but every audience has its complexities.

An example: Maybe your audience prefers reading a lot of copy within your email as oppose to clicking big, beautiful images that link to a landing page (our designers just physically cringed). You should design your emails with the end user in mind, not just mindlessly conform to what other marketers tell you. Even if it goes against everything you’ve been taught, in the end, the data doesn’t lie.


What other vital insights have you gotten about your audience from data? Sound off in the comments!