In previous posts in this series, you have heard from Andrew Bennett about acquisition and Sebastian Kluth about onboarding. Seb likened onboarding to going on a blind date! Now it’s my turn to take on the mantle of a scribe, and talk about the third stage from Return Path’s Lifecycle Metrics Benchmark—Engagement.
Engagement influences deliverability
Andrew emphasized the importance of good acquisition practices in driving initial engagement. Engagement is particularly important because it is now a key metric that mailbox providers use to determine inbox placement.
For example, emails sent to subscribers from two different brands will generate different behaviors. If Gmail sees for Brand A the subscriber is actively opening, clicking and saving the emails; whereas for Brand B the subscriber deletes the emails without reading them or marks, those emails as junk, what do we think Gmail will do?
For MBPs regular reading/sending of emails desirable positive behaviors, so they will be more likely to deliver these emails – which they believe the subscribers want to see – and more likely to exclude the ones from brands which customers are not engaging with.
We also have evidence of mailbox providers encouraging recipients to unsubscribe from brands. Gmail has been displaying an inbox tip, triggered if emails from a brand haven’t been read within the past 30 days:
Verizon Media Group (Yahoo/AOL) has also been doing something similar. In their case the unsubscribe suggestion is triggered if a customer deletes three or more emails from a single brand (they also offer an auto-archive feature, which is a slightly softer approach).
From a brand’s perspectives, all they see is the unsubscribe. They won’t know it was driven by a suggestion from the mailbox provider, triggered by (a lack of) engagement.
So–with a better understanding of these new threats to maintaining your subscriber relationships, what should you be doing to address them?
1. Practice good list hygiene
By not following good list hygiene practices, brands are basically throwing money away. Even though it’s a small amount (typically less than $1 per email), over time this adds up. Removing non-engaged people not only avoids irritating subscribers (and driving up spam complaints) it will also improve overall engagement and deliverability–and save money too!
What does this entail? The cleaning or “pruning” sending lists to remove inactive subscribers needs to become far more aggressive if Gmail considers inactivity to start at 30+ days. As well as subscribers that haven’t engaged with emails within a given time period, good hygiene should also include suppression of ‘unknown users’ (addresses that don’t exist anymore or never existed due to mistyping).
2. Stay relevant to keep engaged
Evidence of the importance of engagement also comes from consumers themselves. In the DMA’s latest Consumer Email Tracker report, consumers were asked: “What makes you unsubscribe from a brand/shop/site’s emails?”
Among many valid reasons “info/brand no longer relevant” is a top-3 response. Failing to deliver relevant and engaging emails will ultimately drive customers away from your program.
DMA Consumer Email Tracker 2019
This list should act as a great primer on ‘what to avoid’. This is where the power of your brand’s data comes into play. You have demographic data (location gender, ages etc.), stated interests, and previous purchase history/ interactions for your customers. Leveraging these data points helps you apply more effective segmentation and personalization, making the content of your emails as relevant as possible.
These recommendations are reinforced by a great set of learnings from Return Path’s just-released State of Email Engagement report, including:
What can Return Path do to help?
Keep an eye open for the fourth post in this series from my colleague Elliot Hogg–where we will consider effective approaches to keep your subscribers on board when engagement starts to decline.