Just 19% of email newsletters get read thoroughly
Your email recipients aren’t reading your message. They’re scanning your emails.
Indeed, according to the Nielsen Norman Group’s latest eye-tracking study, email recipients:
- Skimmed 69% of the e-zines they received
- Thoroughly read just 19% of e-zines
- Read the majority of the content of 6%
- Glanced at but did not read at all 6%
So here’s the reading technique for emails: Recipients scan pieces of information quickly, speed reading to find specific information.
“Scannability is important for websites,” writes NNG principal Jakob Nielsen, “but it’s about 50% more important for newsletters.”
Why write skimmable e-zines?
1. Recipients skim even more on mobile.
In NNG’s most recent study, mobile newsletter readers reported that they:
- Skimmed newsletters 74% of the time
- Fully read newsletters 24% of the time
- Glanced at but didn’t read 2% of the time
2. People read only 37 to 200 words of your email.
People spend just 51 seconds, on average, with an email newsletter after opening it, according to another NNG study. That’s only enough time to read about 200 words.
For sales emails, the numbers are even more brutal: People spend just 11 seconds on e-blasts, according to a 2017 report by Litmus. That’s enough time to read only about 37 words.
So which words do they read?
3. They read the microcontent.
Email newsletter subscribers in NNG eye-tracking studies read the headlines and the first line or two of the story. They often skipped the paragraphs, sometimes because they were scrolling too quickly.
Instead of reading the paragraphs, their eyes were drawn to:
- Headlines. If they could get the gist of the e-zine from the headlines and without reading the text, they were happy with the newsletter.
- First 1-2 lines of text.
- Bulleted lists. Subscribers read the first item more than subsequent items and the first words in each bullet more than subsequent words.
- Links. They’re blue and underlined, so they’re the easiest elements to skim on the screen.
Are you putting your email messages where recipients’ eyes are?
Sources: Mike Renahan, “The Ideal Length of a Sales Email, Based on 40 Million Emails,” HubSpot, July 11, 2018
Kim Flaherty, Amy Schade, and Jakob Nielsen; Marketing Email and Newsletter Design to Increase Conversion and Loyalty, 6th Edition; Nielsen Norman Group, 2017
Jakob Nielsen, “Email newsletters: Surviving Inbox Congestion,” Alertbox, June 12, 2006
Jakob Nielsen, “Targeted Email Newsletters Show Continued Strength,” Alertbox, Feb. 17, 2004