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I'm working on the email reminder system for a business-to-business social networking site.

I'm not sure how often to send out email reminders for users who have actions to complete. Or even how many to send out.

Personally, I've had one site send me email reminders every day for a week, while others only send me one after five days or so. One is definitely more annoying than the other, but it is more effective?

I'm assuming the task that the user is being reminded about probably determines this to a certain extent. For the site I'm working on, one particular action could require a few hours to complete (uploading a list of products) but other actions, such as connecting with another user, are not very time consuming.

Has there been any research done on the subject?

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don't send too many regular notifications, people will ignore them after some time. –  Lie Ryan Sep 15 '11 at 0:58
    
I don't know about researches on this field. But it would be a good idea to send those notifications depending on the user timezone, I mean, I'm at Venezuela and sometimes I receive notifications from many websites at 3 a.m, you can send it in a hour when the user is probably taking a nap, maybe after the work ¿6pm?, or just in the first hour by the morning ¿8am?, maybe on this hours the user got the time to check your reminder. –  Felix Guerrero Sep 15 '11 at 4:08
    
Felix, I was wondering if time of day had an affect on getting responses. I'm having a fought time finding any kind of research on the subject though. –  Michael Sep 18 '11 at 4:37

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

How about letting the user decide? Start with a fairly aggressive frequency, say a digest of reminders delivered once a day. Perhaps send the digest out late in the morning (according to the user's time zone) so that its something the user encounters when they first hit their inbox in the morning.

At the bottom of each digest place a large, easy to spot button, labeled "Send Me Less Email". When clicked take the user to a very easy to understand alert preferences interface where they can choose to be reminded every day, every other day, once a week, or not at all. Also allow the user to choose specific events to be reminded about immediately (keep this option as completely opt-in).

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I like this idea. We already have this system in place for regular notifications across the site (eg when one user sends a request to connect with another user, an email is sent out with a clear link to notification settings at the bottom). This way we can be sure the person will receive at least one reminder about completing his account, but if he's changed his mind about using our service his inbox won't be bombarded with future emails. Maybe we could add at the bottom of the email, "You will be reminded again in X days. If you do not wish to receive this reminder, click here." –  Michael Sep 18 '11 at 4:57

Something I have seen work effectively is to ask the user upon signup how often they would like to receive emails / notifications, etc. This way you are accomodating the needs of different users without losing clients to trial and error.

I have found myself to be very impatient with unwanted email. I will rarely click the 'Send me less email' - I will just go to the unsubscribe, because I resent my time being wasted with excessive emailings, even if it's a product or company that I generally love.

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This is not a simple answer. I think you're right about setting the frequency of a reminder in relation to the task at hand but it does require some smart task-to-urgency mapping. For example if I am adding Airline tickets to my cart and the plane is leaving 5 days from now, I am going to want a reminder every day until that flight leaves. If I am on a social network and haven't talked to Friend Z in 10 days, I don't necessarily want a reminder to talk to them every day or week, but I might find it helpful if I can see a graph of my interactions once a month.

The best research that I have read on this topic can be found here: http://blog.blueskyfactory.com/best-practice/email-frequency-how-often-is-too-often and the links found within that article.

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Urgency of the task to the user is an important factor. The closer you are to an important expiration window, the more important it is to send a notice. Both parts matter: proximity and importance. (You probably wouldn't send daily reminders to check your annual credit report in a year, for instance.) –  Monica Cellio Sep 15 '11 at 15:05
    
That link has some good ideas in it. Unfortunately it doesn't apply so much to my situation. I'll definitely be able to use those ideas for another project I'm working on, though! –  Michael Sep 18 '11 at 4:49
    
Sadly, that link is no longer live... possibly due to the age of the original answer. –  rachteo Oct 17 at 0:20

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