Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How to avoid email anxiety in your messaging

By Juliette Aiken, global marketing director, Dotdigital

We’re all too familiar with the feeling of email overload. That sense you get when you’re chasing your own tail, your inbox is overflowing, and more emails just keep coming in. Research suggests that on average we might receive over 100 emails a day at work, and then we’re faced with more in our personal inboxes too. 

That can lead to real “email anxiety,” where you might fear receiving more emails, the content contained within unopened messages, or pending reactions to emails you’ve sent.  For the many of us already grappling with high levels of stress or anxiety, the constant influx of emails can act as a tipping point. 

With April representing Stress Awareness Month, it’s important to recognise that relentless emails can potentially intensify these feelings of anxiety, and to be mindful of this when crafting marketing emails. Subject lines designed to create a sense of urgency or FOMO might just be causing consumers more harm rather than attracting them to your products.

Below, we look at ways you can avoid these email “red flags” and craft a positive marketing messaging without adding to email anxiety – and causing the people you’re trying to reach more stress as a result.

The top red flags to avoid

With consumers up against a higher cost of living across the globe, they’ve become much more conscious of their spending. As a rule of thumb, people are seeking value and authenticity from brands and are tending to avoid promotional emails stuffed with hyped-up language.

We’ve seen this at Dotdigital through our latest global trends report, which has shone a light on what’s working and what’s not when it comes to email marketing. The findings reveal insights about the types of subject lines and language that are putting customers off and contributing to feelings of stress.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, subject lines containing overused words like “code,” “exclusive,” “discount,” “save” and “offers” performed poorly in general, suggesting customers are becoming numb to these aggressive sales tactics. They don’t want to be constantly bombarded with “amazing” promotions and false urgency created by phrases like “last chance” and “don’t miss out.”

How to resolve email anxiety

So, what kind of subject lines and messaging should marketers really be using? Our research found that positive, engaging language like “love,” “discover,” “experience” and “introducing” resonated far better with customers.

The key is to create a sense of excitement and intrigue without the hard sell. To get true engagement from your target audience, you should move away from vocabulary that is forceful or deceptive. Try to adopt an approach that makes people feel valued and respected as individuals instead.

Easier said than done? Maybe. But with a wealth of customer data and insights at your disposal, you should look to personalise promotions based on buying history, preferences, or abandoned carts. A curated, tailored experience boosts trust and confidence – and that’s especially important at times of uncertainty.

You should also analyse campaign metrics to identify why underperforming emails are, well, underperforming. Is it the subject line putting people off initially? Is your call-to-action not driving clicks? Or is the content itself not personalised or engaging enough? 

Once you’ve been able to identify the “red flag” for low click-through and engagement rates, you can reevaluate and optimise your campaigns to make them less likely to cause stress and anxiety to customers – and ultimately make them far more effective.

The path to authentic engagement

If your promotional emails are filled with urgent calls-to-action and language that feels pushy, it could be that you’re doing more harm than good. By contributing to email anxiety, you’re more likely to be alienating consumers than drawing them in. Instead, craft personalised, positive messaging.

Urgency within marketing does have its place when delivered through alternative communication methods. For example, SMS methods or push notifications through apps can deliver short and snappy call-to-actions for users without causing overwhelm. By using a broad range of marketing channels to communicate with your customers, you can deliver curated messages in different ways, reducing email inbox overwhelm while driving campaign deliverables.

Not only will this improve open rates, click-throughs, and conversions, it’ll give your marketing a good knock-on effect too – customers will look forward to your emails rather than feeling stressed out by them. And that’s a win-win for companies and consumers alike in today’s era of inbox overload.