What it Means That People are Paying More Attention to Emails

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We’ve heard many conversations about the shrinking attention span of the modern consumer. Much of the blame for this gets placed on modern technology. With things like social media, online videos, texting, and a range of other digital distractions, it isn’t long before the individual is moving on to something else. With technology – and specifically the internet – being seen as one of the chief culprits, you would think that email would suffer from the same effect. However, recent research indicates that the trend for email is heading in the opposite direction.

Litmus analyzed engagement from billions of emails that were sent from 2011 to 2016, and they found that users were spending more time reading emails. Instead of finding that people were spending less time reviewing their inboxes, the analysis showed that the percentage of emails read for more than 18 seconds went from 38.4% in 2011 to 44.4% in 2016. It was also found that the average time spent reading email increased by 7% during this time.

With mobile devices starting to be the first point of contact for a growing number of users and their emails, you also have to look at the numbers for mobile email reading. On this front, there are even more gains. The amount of time mobile users spent reading emails increased by 16% over the span of these years. Some people might be tempted to attribute this to a one-year blip in the numbers, but this isn’t the case. User engagement with email increased in each of the years covered in the analysis. In other words, it isn’t an anomaly – it is a genuine trend.

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Increased engagement with email is definitely a good sign for email marketing. It signifies that email has retained its power as a way to reach and connect with customers. In fact, when you look at the growing attention span for email versus the shrinking attention spans seen with many other types of content, it indicates that email can be one of the most important parts of a marketing strategy.

With consumers still paying attention to email and giving more attention to it than they did in the past, it means that you have some real business opportunities. You can connect with consumers in ways that might not be possible through other forms of content that are receiving less of the user’s attention.

While the increase in engagement is a promising trend, marketers still have to be careful about going overboard. Even with consumers spending more time with email, the average read time is still just over 11 seconds. People might be spending more time with their emails, but they still have a short attention span overall. That means that even with this increase in engagement, marketers still need to do their part to get users to engage with their content.

Getting the Most from Email Marketing

With email maintaining its ability to connect with consumers, marketers should be looking for ways to capitalize on the strength of email. Once you’ve reached their inbox with an email verification software, you can begin optimizing the rest of your campaign. Here are a few tips to help your email campaigns moving forward.

Manage Your Email List

You want to continue to grow your email list. Make efforts to attract more subscribers and take steps to verify new ones. Expanding the reach of your campaigns is one of the easiest ways to increase the ROI for email marketing.

Work Above the Fold

The “above the fold” space is the area of the email that is going to be seen when the recipient first opens the message. Much like the above the fold space on a newspaper, this area is important for encouraging the recipient to read on.

Headings, Subheadings and Bullets

The use of headings, subheadings, and bullets can be a good way to organize content and make it easier for a reader to take in. With the right structure, you can communicate your message more effectively.

Use Images

Images can be a compelling part of any piece of advertising content. With the right images, you can attract the user’s attention from the first moment they open the email. This can be a good way to inspire them to read on through the rest of your message.

Good Subject Lines

The subject line plays an important role in getting the recipient to open an email. Make sure you have a subject line that captures the reader’s attention, while also giving them enough information to indicate why they should open the email.

Mobile Email

You have to be prepared for the fact that many of your subscribers are going to open emails on a mobile device. If you want your message to have its full effect on these users, you need to design your emails to be mobile responsive.

Email Links

Linking from an email to a landing page can be a good way to encourage further interaction. However, you need to make sure that you are using the right links. You want to make sure that the links go to a page that performs well, and that it is one that is relevant to the content of the email. If the page doesn’t perform well or it does not connect with the content of the email, you are going to lose the momentum that was gained through the email content.


Email has been a valuable part of online marketing for a long time now. While it might not enjoy the same hype that some of the other options get, the numbers show that it is still as effective as ever, and that there is still significant marketing value. As long as you put in the effort to maintain your email list and develop quality content, email marketing is going to continue to offer a solid return.

This story was submitted by Rae Steinbach of Scully Labs and does not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork. Find out how you can write for Upwork and promote your content

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Rae Steinbach


Rae Steinbach is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China,… more