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How to Use Psychology to Improve Email Engagement

Sep 2, 2015   |   2 min read

Knowledge Center  ❯   Blog


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When it comes to interacting with our email inboxes, we all behave in much the same way. Some of us may be a little more organized, dragging various communications into perfectly labeled folders, but the principle is still the same. As we scroll through the dozens of messages, we make instant micro-decisions.

As email marketers, we focus on engaging subscribers using tactics proven to yield results. But to really boost your engagement rates and create better strategies, it’s important to understand the psychology behind subconscious decision-making.

Here are three common psychological drivers and techniques proven to increase your email engagement:

1. No One Wants to Miss Out

You’ve probably seen the acronym FOMO (fear of missing out). It’s a term used to describe the anxiety people feel when they discover something is happening elsewhere and realize they may miss the experience. Psychologists know this as loss aversion, or the natural human preference to avoid losing something over acquiring something.

In email marketing, you can play to your subscribers’ FOMO, or loss aversion, by rethinking your phrasing. For example, a travel deals site running a seasonal special may use the subject line “$100 off vacation packages through October!” However, considering loss aversion, the site may instead use the phrase “Hurry! Don’t miss $100 off the trip of a lifetime!”

2. Everyone Loves Simplicity

Streamlined, simple, easy, minimalistic, straightforward, user-friendly – there’s a reason these adjectives are suddenly used to describe every application, software and technology product in the 21st century. Our brains prefer simplicity, or what psychologists call cognitive fluency.

How can email marketers apply this knowledge? By making it as easy as possible for your subscribers to get the information they want and need. For example:

3. People Need Affirmation for Choices

Imagine you’re online shopping for a new desk lamp. You find the perfect one, place it in your shopping cart and proceed to checkout. Just as you do, you begin to wonder if you shopped around enough. You really want the lamp, but what if there are other options? What if you find the same lamp at a better price? What if you order this lamp and discover it’s too large or doesn’t match your office decor? In the psychology world, this is known as cognitive dissonance.

People have a tendency to feel buyer’s remorse after a purchase, and crippling indecision before a purchase. As marketers, we can ease this discomfort with product research, reviews and testimonials. Additionally, you can ease your customer’s mind with free returns and an easy exchange policy.

If a decade of psychological research has taught marketers anything, it’s that humans are creatures of habit. By understanding these customer behaviors, and how they drive subconscious decisions, you can increase your engagement with your subscribers and enjoy greater ROI in your email marketing strategy.

Psychology helps us define what drives consumers, and data offers greater insight. Discover more about your subscribers with Email Intelligence.

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