New Study: Many Marketers Miss the Opportunity to Re-activate Subscribers

Pundits in the email industry have been declaring the end of batch-and-blast email for years. Return Path wrote the obituary four years ago.

Oh, if only it were true.

Instead, our new study finds that way too many top-brand marketers ignore signs of inactivity and instead send the same type of message, at a high frequency, over and over and over and over.

In a follow up to our 2008 study of email practices amongst ecommerce companies, my colleague Stephanie Colleton and I analyzed email from 40 retailers who sent messages to a former buyer who did not open, click or purchase for more than a year and a half. What we found was not completely surprising, though it was a bit depressing.

Here were our key findings:

  • The retailers studied continued to send high frequency of email – averaging as much as 9 to 11 messages per month – to inactive subscribers.
  • Only 5 of 40 companies studied attempted to “win back” these subscribers with an email aimed at re-activating them (12.5%).
  • Of those five companies, only one sent an email asking for permission to continue sending email.
  • None of the companies studied explicitly offered the option to change preferences for content or frequency.
  • None of the win-back messages was customized based on the subscriber’s previous purchase.
  • Sending email without regard to whether or not its relevant for subscribers is not a winning strategy and there are costs associated with sending email to people who are unlikely to ever respond.

    Here are four things you can do now:

  • Monitor your deliverability metrics, particularly complaint rates, by activity levels.
  • Moderate frequency based on subscriber interest and activity levels
  • Make your email program a dialogue with subscribers. Solicit feedback through polls, surveys, preference centers and more. Learn to “listen” to feedback that comes through in diminished activity, opt outs and other mechanisms.
  • More is not always more. Regularly prune chronically inactive subscribers from your list to reduce your sending costs, protect your reputation and to focus on active recipients.
  • Download our study now. It has much more detail on our findings and includes several screen shots of the few bright spots.

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