Performance Marketing

Less is More | Our Concise Method to Email Send Frequency

BY: Jasmine Bienvenue

PUBLISHED: 5/30/2019

Open Rate is a staple of an email’s KPIs. If a subscriber doesn’t open your emails, how do you expect them to click through and eventually convert?

From our experience, there are several tactics that effectively improve open rates. 

  • Inbox deliverability 
  • Subject lines 
  • Send day and time 
  • Send frequency 


In this instance, we’ll focus on send frequency: how often should you email your subscribers?


It’s the golden question these days and if you ask ten people, you’ll receive ten different responses. This is because the answer is brand specific. It’s a combination of the customer lifecycle, the health of the email list, and the type of content you’re trying to communicate.  


The world of email marketing has finally caught on that throwing an email together every day and sending to everyone is no longer an effective way to connect with consumers. Marketers are moving away from “batch and blast” to segmentation and defining new business rules for groups of audiences. 

Engagement segmentation is one of the strongest methods for improving overall open rates. Too often, brands will send every email to every sendable subscriber in their database. Deploying a campaign every day to a subscriber who hasn’t engaged with an email in over 6 months not only drags your KPI’s down, but it also threatens your sender reputation with email clients like Outlook and Gmail. 

Sending to unengaged subscribers at the same frequency as your engaged customers will not give you the same desired results.

Sometimes less is more – meaning send less to unengaged subscribers to elicit more of a response. So, find out who in your list is not engaging with your emails and send to them less.

Here are two examples:


Example One: 

Our client, in the retail vertical, was seeing low open rates after migrating to a new ESP.


First, we determined what we considered to be unengaged.* In this case, if a subscriber hadn’t opened or clicked on an email in 6 months they were unengaged. For the 2018 holiday season, we sent to these unengaged and engaged segments separately without changing the send frequency, to find our baselines. 

It’s important to note that the engagement segments refreshed every day, if a subscriber in the unengaged audience would interact with an email, they would be moved into the engaged segment. And if a subscriber in the engaged segment didn’t interact with an email after 6 months, they would be moved into unengaged. 

At the beginning of 2019, this client started reducing the send frequency for unengaged to once per month. Since November 2018, the engaged audience went from a 21% open rate to a 26% open rate in March 2019. Alternatively, the unengaged audience had also had an improved open rate from 1% in November to 5% in March!


Overall open rate showed the most improvement with a 47% increase from November to March and click-to-open rate has remained stable overall.


Example Two:

Another client in the apparel vertical was having engagement (and deliverability) issues in the fall of 2018, where their overall open rate dropped 36% from August to December. And looking year over year, they also decreased in engagement, so we concluded this wasn’t a result of holiday overload.


Once we reduced the send frequency for unengaged, the overall open rate improved to 20% in March. Conversion rate also improved 63% December to March. Looking at previous years, these KPIs outperformed 2017 and 2018 performance.


You might be wondering about revenue lost?


Good question, in both examples, the client did not see significant revenue impact from reducing send frequency. In fact, some months out-performed previous years.

Even with the effort of sending less, some subscribers are just not engaging with email. What about those subscribers who aren’t interested at all?

The Fix: A Re-engagement Program to bring back lapsed subscribers and if that doesn’t work, you can eventually suppress those subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked on an email in over a year (this time frame is variable depending on the brand’s specific customer lifecycle).

Find that fine line where you’re communicating enough but still adding value. If you stop adding value by communicating too much, the subscriber becomes desensitized and thus unengaged. Sending to your lapsed subscribers once a month (or once per week, twice per month) will make whatever you deliver more impactful because they haven’t seen your brand name in a while. Pair that with a solid subject line and strong send time – you can win them back.


Originally published on and authored by Jasmine Bienvenue, Senior Strategist SMS and Email.