Does Email Contact Frequency Impact Email Engagement and Retention?

Do the industry's highest email contact frequency and the highest email engagement align?

Little-known fact: If you send out an equal number of (1) content-rich email newsletters and (2) straight product spotlight promotions versus sending only promotions, email engagement improves. In fact, the length of time you’ll retain an active email name will almost double.

Again: The active lifetime of an email name almost doubles when you email an equal number of (1) free editorial newsletters and (2) product promotions instead of sending only promotions.

It’s true. In a test we did over multiple years, the average term of an email newsletter subscriber was 2.7 years when the ratio of valuable free content and promotional messages is 50/50, versus an average lifetime of 1.6 years for email names who were sent only promotional messages.

These results have been proven with long, expensive, time-consuming tests.

By doubling the contact frequency — provided that half the emails include valuable editorial content — the recipient will choose to remain active for almost twice as long before opting out.

Download a FREE copy of Best Email Subject Lines for Selling Premium Subscriptions and Memberships and discover an extensive list of email subject line frameworks that are consistently proven to sell and boost revenue for publishers.

But where’s the proof of this improved email engagement?

In Mequoda Pro, our membership website for subscription publishers, we encourage users to ask questions, and we recently had a question come up that asked:

“Do you have any data that supports sending an email newsletter (ENL) daily? When we ask readers about preferred ENL frequency, we get predictable responses aggregating around weekly. We do 2-3 a week but suspect daily would lead to more traffic; keep our brand name out in front, and likely wouldn’t increase our “unsubscribe” volume, which is currently low. Do you have normative data on key email metrics for B2C positions?”

The normative data this publisher is looking for is performance around email engagement and retention, including the email open rate, email click-through rate, monthly retention rate, and the average contact frequency per week.

In terms of a qualitative answer, we see minimal impact on retention rate or any of the other key metrics above when we increase contact frequency as long as the content is relevant and of high quality.
In terms of benchmark numbers, our Gold Members have an average contact frequency of 10-12 times per week. Compared to many publishers, that would be considered higher than the industry standard, so let’s take a look at our last year’s email marketing benchmarks to compare:
  • Open Rate: 33.92%
  • Click Rate: 3.38%
  • Monthly Retention Rate: 95.22%
According to Campaign Monitor and Mailchimp, here are the industry averages:

Disclosure: Campaign Monitor had a 100% retention rate in their chart, which seemed like an error, and doesn’t match anything I’ve seen from any resource, so I went with Mailchimp’s number on that one.

Across all industries, numbers are much lower. Privy, who aggregated data from sources like Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, and GetResponse report an average open rate of just 20.4% and a retention rate of 81%. Unfortunately, they didn’t calculate the Click Rate.
So given that our publishers know that more is better, should you send more email newsletters? The answer is: if you can afford to, then yes.

Can you afford it?

Suppose you can average $50 in revenue per 1,000 emails sent to your email newsletter subscribers, and your contact frequency is daily (five emails per week). In that case, you’ll generate an average of five cents per subscriber every time you mail. At five times a week, that amounts to 25 cents per week or about $13 per year for every email newsletter subscriber.

So, if your average value per subscriber is $13, and you have 100,000 subscribers, your subscription business is grossing $1.3 million annually.

And if you generate $60 per subscriber per year based on a three-times-weekly contact schedule, you should be able to generate $100 per subscriber per year based on a five-times-weekly contact schedule.

However, this plan only succeeds if you have sufficient products to offer your loyal email newsletter subscribers. Plus, it would help if you had the online copywriting horsepower to create sufficient, engaging editorial content.

Do you agree or disagree? We’d love to hear about your data proving or disproving the idea that increased email frequency improves email engagement across the board. 

Download a FREE copy of Best Email Subject Lines for Selling Premium Subscriptions and Memberships and discover an extensive list of email subject line frameworks that are consistently proven to sell and boost revenue for publishers.

    Peter S.

    Very useful set of normative data. trying to apply same in our business. Do you have any normative data on metrics for digital magazines ? We have great content ( or so says extensive, large sample research vs. audience ) but I believe our digital magazine’s engagement is poor. We email the issue link to over 200,000 “requesters”and yet only about 8 % ( 16K ) open and engage with the issue.The average total duration for any one digital magazine reader is 10 minutes. I think this is pretty poor. Agree ? Two possible issues. Platform is traditional archaic PDF page turner and all the content in any issue is freely availableon our website which enjoys about 1 million UVs a month with an average duration of over 3 minutes with direct sourcing bigger than organic search. Mequoda Pro is great…just wish it were a precursor to more ad hoc consulting work available from Mequoda. Don is deservedly legendary and Kim’s content and responsiveness are both top shelf. Thank you !


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