Why too much content is crushing your click-through rate

When it comes to email marketing sometimes less is more.

You may think you’re giving your customers emails that are crammed full of useful content but in reality you’re just confusing them.

This is based on something psychologists call the choice paradox. The premise is that by presenting consumers with lots of options they become paralysed with indecision. The theory states that when people are faced with having to choose one option out of many desirable choices, they will begin to consider hypothetical trade-offs. If they’re faced with the decision of reading lots of content or not, they start weighing-up if they have time or are simply baffled by which bit to read. This leads them to simply shut-off or tell themselves they’ll read it later.

You may think that this sounds like a pretty high-brow debate but when we’re talking about email marketing it’s extremely relevant…

The choice paradox

The average adult attention span is eight seconds (Statistic Brain, 2015). This means as marketers we’re trying to distill a lot of information into a short period of time. Our ability to capture people’s attention is especially important when you consider most people read emails on their mobiles – they’re on the go and primed for distraction.

As marketers we sometimes think of email newsletters as a chance to tell people everything. We have a scarcity mindset that this is our only chance. There’s also the fear that what we’re telling our consumers about won’t interest them so we hedge our bets and tell them everything in an attempt to spark their interest. In fact by doing this, it has the opposite effect.

The recipient’s attention is split. They see content that they start reading and then get distracted by another call-to-action. Their attention is torn and their brain looks for a quick solution. It often ends-up in bookmarking the content or favoriting the email – saved for a later date when we’ve got more time. And let’s be honest we know when that time is – never.

How do we know? Because we’ve all got bulging inboxes full of interesting things we ought to read but never get around to.

So how, as marketers, do we protect ourselves from being filed in the saved items? There’s a straightforward solution – be simple and single-minded in your approach to email content.

  • Newsletters are often the dumping ground of great stuff which it takes too long to create separate emails for. Instead of telling everyone everything, consider segmenting your audience and telling people the things that are the most relevant to them.
  • Stretching your email communications out rather than delivering it in one monthly lump will keep them intrigued, engaged and eager to read the next bite-sized snippet. It also means you can keep your content relevant by only sending the bits of content to the people you think will actually be interested. This is a good thing – after all we’ve told you enough that relevancy leads to conversion.
  • When it comes to designing an email keep it brief and directional. Again think of the short amount of time the recipient has to read it. Keep it scannable and get to the point fast. Don’t tell the whole story in an email – tease it. Then link to the website so your recipients visit your website and find all the other interesting stuff you have there.
  • If you want your recipients to do something as a result of receiving the newsletter then be clear. Offer one call-to-action and make it obvious. Don’t confuse recipients with choice – they’ll simply shut-off.

So next time someone asks you to squeeze one more thing on the email, stop. Think about the pay-off and think about choice paradox. Because sometimes less really is more.


Email Marketing Trends 2017 Report