Email List Hygiene

Help! Am I Suffering From List Fatigue?

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Have you noticed that your opens or clicks are dropping? Do you have a higher number of unsubscribes or complaints lately? You may have a case of (dun dun dun…) list fatigue.

If left unaddressed, list fatigue can take a major toll on your email program, and ultimately, your bottom line. Let’s dive deeper into what list fatigue is, how to fix it, and how to prevent it from affecting your email performance in the future.

What is list fatigue?

List fatigue occurs when you aren’t meeting the expectations of your subscriber list, causing them to lose interest in your brand and stop engaging with your campaigns. This usually happens for one of two reasons:

  • Emails are being sent too frequently. When subscribers receive too many emails from you, it can start to overwhelm them. (Nearly 75 percent of Americans are overwhelmed by the number of emails they receive!) Eventually, subscribers can become tired of the constant influx of emails and stop engaging with them altogether, or worse—report them as spam.
  • Email content is irrelevant to subscribers. When people subscribe to an email program, they expect to receive content that is relevant to their interests. If you haven’t taken the time to create content that they’ll enjoy or find useful, they’ll have no reason to continue engaging with your content.

Each of these factors negatively impacts the subscriber experience, and once this starts to deteriorate, diminishing returns begin to afflict your most important marketing channel.

Fewer clicks mean fewer conversions, which ultimately impacts your bottom line (i.e., lowers email ROI). Not to mention that continuously sending to unengaged subscribers can register as spam-like behavior to mailbox providers, causing them to send your messages to spam or block them entirely. This hampers your reputation as a sender, harms your deliverability, and decreases the effectiveness of your email program. Yikes.

Even experienced senders can succumb to this malady! Subscriber expectations can subtly change over time, and if you aren’t adjusting your email strategy to keep up with the changes, subscribers will move on to other brands that have.

To ensure your subscribers stick around, it’s crucial to maintain a positive subscriber experience—and this begins with monitoring list fatigue.

Why is monitoring list fatigue more difficult in today’s climate?

Thanks to the release of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) and other privacy shifts, finding and treating list fatigue within your program is much trickier than it used to be.

These outside influences severely reduce the value of opens because proxy servers are providing those open rate metrics, not your subscribers. This makes it difficult to tell whether your subscribers are truly engaged and gets in the way of your ability to identify list fatigue.

So, how can you spot the symptoms of list fatigue given these obstacles? Start by following these best practices:

  • Segment suspected Apple MPP subscribers from non-Apple MPP subscribers. This makes it easier for you to find and address engagement issues in the reliable, non-Apple MPP audience.
  • Chart your bounce and click metrics to get an idea of your average email performance. A spike in bounces will then stand out as a fatigue indicator. A drop in clicks can signal a need for more compelling, relevant content or call-to-action (CTA) adjustments to encourage subscriber engagement.
  • Use email validation to clean your list. Removing invalid addresses from your list is crucial in preventing bad address metrics from muddying subscriber disengagement metrics, which are needed to identify list fatigue.
  • Pull in metrics from other marketing channels, like your website or SMS program, to get a more holistic view of subscribers’ behavior and interests instead of relying solely on email metrics.

How do I prevent list fatigue?

As the doctors say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s hard to use a list of negative metrics to determine if the cause is list fatigue, and there’s no quick or easy fix. That’s why it’s crucial to focus on prevention.

Here are some wellness tips to keep your list energized:

1. Use deeper segmentation tactics.

Try experimenting with deeper segmentation tactics to relate to your subscribers on a more personal level. If you normally segment your list based on demographics, such as age, gender, or location, take things a step further by segmenting based on behavior, such as website activity or purchase history.

For example, if you’re planning a “Back in stock” campaign for one of your products, consider segmenting your list so the campaign is targeted at subscribers who have purchased the same product, or similar products, before.

You can even take things another step further by segmenting based on people’s values, beliefs, and interests. If you have a preference center, use it as an opportunity to ask subscribers about their interests. Then, use this zero-party data to create a personalized experience for each list segment.

For example, if your business sells sporting goods and a portion of your subscribers indicated an interest in soccer, you can segment your list so any soccer-related content is targeted at that group. The inclusion of specific and relevant content keeps the subscriber interested, while personalization builds trust between subscribers and your brand.

2. Ask for subscriber feedback.

One of the best ways to find out if subscribers are interested in your emails is to ask them directly. Not only does this provide you with the information you need to better segment your lists and craft compelling content, but it shows subscribers you care about their opinion and are taking proactive steps to improve their experience.

Surveys are an excellent way to ask subscribers how they feel about your emails. Savage x Fenty encourages subscribers to participate in their survey by clearly stating its purpose upfront: “to help us get to know you better.” The brand also mentions how much they appreciate their subscribers’ time and input, which can help strengthen the relationship between them.

Savage x Fenty email survey campaign

Chubbies takes things a step further by offering subscribers a 30 percent discount as a thank you for completing their survey.

Chubbies email survey campaign with 30% discount

3. Find the right mail frequency.

Recommendations for weekly send volume vary by industry. Try increasing or decreasing your sending frequency and measuring the results to see which frequency works best for your brand. Or, if you prefer, you can go straight to the source and use an email preference center to ask subscribers how frequently they wish to hear from you.

4. Find the right send time.

Timing can make or break your campaign. While an email sent at the right time can result in a higher level of engagement and convert subscribers into lifelong customers, an email sent at the wrong time can significantly reduce engagement and raise the number of unsubscribes. Therefore, it’s important to get it right.

Most emails are sent at the top of the hour. To avoid overwhelming subscribers and getting lost in the inbox, consider pushing back your send time by 15 minutes. You can also try scheduling emails to be sent at different times throughout the week, and then review metrics to determine which emails saw the most engagement.

5. Know when to say goodbye.

Sending to inactive subscribers is indicative of poor list hygiene, which can harm your sender reputation and lower your deliverability. It’s important to suppress inactive addresses after a certain period of time to ensure optimal email performance.

Start by revisiting your recency algorithms to determine which subscribers are prime candidates for a re-engagement campaign. For example, if there’s a significant decline in send volume and conversions once your brand emails anyone whose last click was over six months ago, consider implementing a re-engagement campaign when subscribers reach six months of inactivity. Then, suppress the remaining addresses.

Remember that how you view inactivity may differ from how mailbox providers view inactivity. Having a recency threshold of 150 days is no good if Gmail’s definition is 30 days. Be sure to research how top mailbox providers define inactivity before determining a recency threshold.

When sending re-engagement campaigns, there are many techniques that can be effective at winning back subscribers. Dinnerly, for example, piques subscribers’ interest by offering a $50 discount.

Dinnerly re-engagement email campaign with $50 discount

Michaels encourages subscribers to re-engage by playing on their curiosity and including a “mystery coupon.”

Michaels re-engagement email campaign with mystery coupon

Boost the effectiveness of your email program

Knowing how to prevent list fatigue is essential to achieving optimal email performance. Be sure to follow these tips to start improving your subscriber experience and boosting the effectiveness of your email program today.

As mentioned, personalization is an incredibly effective tactic when it comes to preventing list fatigue—and preference centers are a great way to let subscribers personalize their interactions with your brand. To learn how to take your preference center to the next level, download our checklist, “Easy Steps to Power Up Your Email Preference Center.”