Inside the Inbox is a series created by Emma to empower you with an inside look at your customers’ favorite emails.
We’re tracking down family, friends, coworkers, and random passersby and asking them to share the current state of their email inbox with us, ultimately giving you unfiltered consumer insight you can’t find anywhere else.
From email messages they open right away to those that go directly to spam, we’ll uncover the good, the bad, and the undeliverable—and how you can use this intel to fine-tune your own email marketing strategy.
This week, we're diving Inside the Inbox of Ashley Davidson, a CycleBar Studio Manager who loves receiving emails from her favorite fitness brands but isn't afraid to click "delete" if something isn't tailored to her needs.
How many unread emails are currently in your inbox?
"Zero because I don’t like to have any unread notifications on my phone. I will open emails the moment they come in just to avoid having 'red bubbles.' Usually, I’ll read the preview that comes up on my phone and decide whether to send it automatically to the trash or flag it to read later."
Takeaway: Focus on your subject line and preheader text
Ashley mentioned that she previews an email before she decides whether or not it’s save-worthy. This means that some of your readers aren’t even getting past the subject line and preheader text of your emails. Don’t forget: iPhones will cut off a subject line that’s more than 32 characters.
Which emails have you opened recently?
Laura Lea Balanced: "Laura Lea is a local chef and nutritionist, but she’s also just a really fun person to follow! She’s always talking about things I love, and her “current obsession” email newsletters are full of great recommendations I trust."
Pure Barre: "This one caught my eye because they’re currently doing a double-punch promotion! I almost always open Pure Barre’s emails because they usually provide an incentive inside, and they’re always relevant to the location where I attend class."
Takeaway: Build brand loyalty with relevant offers
Notice how Ashley wants to open a Pure Barre email even before she knows what’s inside. Through repeated offers, event invitations, and email incentives, they’ve created a brand-loyal customer by showing her that it pays to engage with their content.
22 Days Nutrition: "This business sells protein powders, but the subject line, 'What will your mystery offer be?' really got me. They will send you a 'mystery product' with any purchase. The suspense was killing me—how could you not open that?"
Whole 30: "I’m a sucker for anything that sounds like good news, and that’s exactly what this was: 'Happy Birthday to the Whole 30 Slow Cooker Cookbook.' It’s a simple and email based on a cookbook I purchased, but I love feeling like I got to be a little part of the celebration."
What about the trash?
National women’s clothing brand: "They email me too much! I get way too many emails from them in a week, and they’re all basically the same with a lot of information. Not to mention there's so much small print at the bottom that it makes me feel like the coupons won’t work for anything I actually want!"
Emails from my apartment complex: "Especially since these emails contain relevant information, I wish they’d get to the point in the subject lines. 'Window washing on Tuesday' would be a lot better than 'Good morning.' I don’t have time to see if something is urgent or not!"
Anything good in your spam folder?
Personalized shopping recommendations: "I am always looking out for these emails because it tells you when your favorite brands are on sale at various stores. You can even let them know when you’re looking for a particular item for an event or season change and they’ll send you recommendations—however, there are so many images that it gets sent to spam a lot, and even then, the images don’t render."
Wellness blog newsletter: "These are really good emails that I would love to be seeing, but they keep going to my spam! There are great offers inside but I miss out on them."
Takeaway: Prioritize deliverability to make sure you reach the inbox.
What’s the last thing you remember buying because of an email?
"Madewell sent me an email about an extra 30% off sale, so I bought a few of my favorite crop box tees that always seem to be out of stock, and I even bought a few things that weren’t in season because they were on sale."
"I have my eye on an Everlane jacket that’s made of recycled bottles—it makes me feel like I’d be investing in something good!"
Takeaway: Segment your sends to improve engagement.
When Ashley talks about the emails that she didn’t like, a lot of the problems revolve around relevance and timing. Segmenting your audience into groups is one of the best ways to customize your content and ensure you remain relevant. Her Everlane example is great because it’s strategy-first content curated for her and backed by a cause.
How often would you say you check your email?
"Way too often. I used to have the notifications turned off and I would only check it when I thought about it, but with the notifications on, I can’t turn away from email—It’s constant."
Choose three adjectives to describe your ideal email experience.
"Personalized with attention-grabbing design and thoughtful timing."
What do you wish email marketers knew about you?
"I’m a sucker for a deal. Subject lines are gold, especially when I’m checking multiple email accounts for work, personal, and my side hustle, so you have to work to grab my attention. I’ll open almost anything that has 'sale' in the subject line."
Takeaway: Know your customer and meet their needs.
One of Ashley’s email must-haves is thoughtful timing. This means not only keeping in mind what’s going on with your business but also what’s going on with your customer at all times. She mentions having at least three different email accounts, which is a great reminder that, as email marketers, we need to step up our game and be wise with our customers’ time.
From attention-grabbing subject lines to the importance of timing, we can take so much away from this behind-the-scenes peek at Ashley’s inbox. Now, it’s time to put those strategies to the test and create emails your customers will love, too.
About the Author
Kaitlin Wernet is a content specialist on Emma's marketing team. When she's not restraining herself from using too many exclamation points or grabbing one more La Croix from the office kitchen, she can be found working on her first book or planning her next big travel adventure.