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Consumer Thinking and Email

In an article based on research done by emaillabs, MarketingSherpa reports that on average, readers spend between 15-20 seconds reading email they chose to open.

The article also reports, readers span about 50 words, fewer if there are graphics to view.

It appears to me, the online consumer is becoming more sophisticated in their online behavior. This information indicates to me that online consumers are no longer tolerant of long-winded, fluffy email sales letters or sales letters disguised as newsletters.

I believe the online consumer is becoming much more discriminating concerning what they open and read in their email boxes. Remember, online consumers, on average are seeking information when they are online and they don't like blatant selling.

One can assume, with some safety that when a consumer opens email they are doing so with some level of expectation; they have a goal and a motive for going online. Everything that is incongruent with the consumer's goal and motive is probably going to get filtered and deleted.

Email is used by consumers primarily to communicate. Its secondary purpose is to receive news, product information, ezine information, etc. Many people like the convenience of ordering competing product information and reviewing it via email delivery.

Thus, you should ask yourself, "Is what I'm sending my email list going to fit into their reason for being on line and subscribing to my offering?" Consumers aren't going to read your ezine if it's a low budget incognito sales offering if they subscribed to and are expecting an information rich, article based offering.

In application, this means that your email offerings should be tightly focused and obvious in content. Online consumers don't like cutesy or vague, it wastes their time.

You should also make sure you're sending emails that are congruent with your recipient's expectations. For example, I advertise my ezine as "the most value-laden ezine on the net", which means when people subscribe to it they are expecting valuable content, that is relevant. If I send them a bunch of fluffed up sales letters there's going to be a lot of unsubscribing.

Third, you should get rid of your graphics with the possible exception of your brand impacting logo. You want recipients to be reading your content not wasting their 20 seconds of scan time on graphics they may consider irrelevant, although there are some exceptions to this suggestion.

The final suggestion is to add an audio component to your ezine when you are able. Research suggests that people learn primarily through hearing with the visuals as supporting aspects in the learning process. Thus, with an audio component you can tell your recipient what's important in your offering and why. Perhaps, you'll run down the table of contents or narrate highlights from your primary article. All of this can be done within about 20 seconds and research also indicates that listeners tend to retain audio information if it is spoken abit faster than normal.

In summary, understand who is receiving your emails and why they are receiving them. The information needs to be congruent with their expectations if it's to be opened and have impact.

Remember, online consumers are becoming very discriminating in their evaluation of content as well as being very pressed for time. They'll delete in a moments notice if they believe reading your offering is not worth 20 seconds of their time.

Darrin F. Coe holds a master's degree in professional psychology specializing in consumer thinking. He operates Consumer at You can subscribe to The Darrin Coe Ezine at

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