Best practices for effective email marketing: Studies

Best Practices for Effective Email Marketing: Studies

The fact remains that email marketing is still an important component of digital marketing activities due to its numerous advantages albeit some disadvantages. However, reaching the target market or maintaining a relationship with existing customers via email can still be tricky.

Some inbound and outbound marketing emails end up unopened. In some instances when recipients attempt to open and read a particular marketing-charged email, the marketing message goes unnoticed. Other recipients would not dare subscribe to a mailing list. Some would unsubscribe to existing ones to declutter their inboxes.

The Best Practices: Evidence-Based Tips for Effective Email Marketing

1. Maintain Personalization through Customization

Recipients often ignore emails containing generic subject lines and messages. Hence, it is important for digital marketers, including copywriters, to personalize their emails according to the profile of the recipients. Doing so involves customizing the subject line and adding limited customer-specific information to the email body.

Marketing researchers N.S. Sahni, S. C. Wheeler, and P. Chintagunta conducted randomized field experiments involving three companies selling diver sets of products. Their findings revealed that including the name of the receiver to the subject line increases the likelihood of the recipient opening the email by 20 percent, which in turn, increases sales lead by 31 percent and decreases rates of individuals unsubscribing by 17 percent.

2. Provide Enticing Incentives to your Recipients

One of the conclusions from the case study by Namira and Wanderbori involving an online retail company in Indonesia states that using incentives is effective in encouraging recipients to subscribe to a mailing list, keeping them from unsubscribing, and pushing them to purchase or respond to marketing call-of-action embodied within an email.

Effective email marketing through incentives can include sales promotions such as one-time discount code or coupons from signing up to a mailing list, other discounts for enticing sales or responding to call-to-action embedded within the email body, electronic books or PDFs, and other promos or freebies related to the business.

3. Craft an Engaging Messaging Using Text and Images

Plain messages can bore the recipients. However, too much contents can drown the marketing message. Like in any other marketing activities, form and substance are critical in effective email marketing, particularly in keeping recipients from unsubscribing and encouraging them to respond to calls-to-action.

The email body should capture and retain the attention of the recipients. Doing so involves the use of engaging contents such as attractive headlines and subheadings, as well as visually appealing images.

4. Be Mindful of the Frequency of Sending Emails

Findings from the study of researchers X. Zhang, V. Kumar, and K. Cosguner concluded that an organization should send five to 14 emails per month. The frequency of email rollouts should be based on the past behaviors and relationship level of the recipients with the organization. Too frequent or less frequent emails can discourage recipients depending on their particular relationship level with the organization.

To be more specific, recipients with a low-level relationship with the organization respond to frequent emails as demonstrated by their high purchase levels. However, over time, sending more emails to these recipients with an established high-level relationship with the organization can decrease their purchase levels. For an effective email marketing, the trick is to keep recipients at a medium-level relationship.

5. Place Links at Appropriate Areas within the Email Body

The email body for marketing purposes normally contain links that redirect users to the website of the sender, specific web pages containing detailed product information, or virtual point-of-sales for purchasing a particular product promoted through the entire email. However, the placements of these links are critical for optimal click-through rates.

Researchers Kumar and Salo investigated the effects of link placement within the email body in click-through rates. Findings showed that click-through follows a U-shaped pattern. What this means is that the responsiveness of recipients decreases gradually as the users follow the links placed on a U-shaped path. In other words, links placed on the right area of the email body have low response rates while those placed on the left region have higher impacts and those on the top-left region have the highest.


  • Kumar, A. & Salo, J. 2016. “Effects of Link Placements in Email Newsletters on their Click-Through Rate.” Journal of Marketing Communications. 24(5), pp. 535-548. DOI: 1080/13527266.2016.1147485
  • Namira, S. R. & Wanderbori, H. 2016. “Measuring the Effectiveness of E-Mail Marketing Toward Consumer Decision Journey: A Case Study in Indonesia.” Journal of Business and Management. 5(6), pp. 727-738
  • Sahni, N. S., Wheeler, S. C., and Chintagunta, P. 2018. “Personalization in Email Marketing: The Role of Non-informative Advertising Content.” Marketing Science. 37(2), pp. 117-331. DOI: 1287/mksc.2017.1066
  • Zhang, X., Kumar, V., and Cosguner, K. 2017. “Dynamically Managing a Profitable Email Marketing Program.” Journal of Marketing Research. 54(6), pp. 851-866. DOI: 1509/jmr.16.0210​​​