Has a user subscribed to your newsletter, you’ll assume that he is going to open it regularly and interact with it – ok, maybe not with every single issue. What about the inactive suscribers who haven’t responded over a longer period and haven’t unsubscribed either? What are the common reasons for this, how can you avoid inactive subscribers and how does re-engagement work?

Let’s define what „inactive subscribers“ actually means in a first step. An inactive subscriber is a subscriber who hasn’t responded to any of your mails over a „longer“ period of time, i.e. he hasn’t neither opened nor clicked. However, he has not unsubscribed from the newsletter either. It’s at your discretion how long the period of time is until you identify a subscriber as inactive.

IMPORTANT: Openings in email marketing are measured by invisible tracking pixels which can be denied depending on the email client’s settings. If you define inactivity by not not opening mails you should also track clicks. Because if a user clicks on a link in your newsletter it is obvious that he has opened the newsletter.

Reasons for inactivity

Subscribers are inactive for different reasons. One of the most important reasons is that the user feels overwhelmed by the amount of emails he receives and especially commercial emails are deleted immediately. Another reason can be that the content of your newsletters is no longer relevant to the subscriber, but he doesn’t make the effort to unsubscribe. Or maybe your newsletter doesn’t get to the subscribers inbox but is stuck in the spam folder? How can inactive subscribers be re-engaged and how can you avoid inactivity?

Avoid spam

Read in our blogpost 12 Tips on How to Avoid Unjustified Spam Classification how you can avoid being stuck in your subscribers‘ spam folder.

Re-engagement campaigns

Marketing automation technologies like ELAINE detect inactivity automatically and react with special reactivation campaigns. Re-engagement campaigns should offer something special to your subscriber, it should incite him to deal with your email even though he is currently not interested in your newsletters. 

This incentive can be a lucrative discount, vouchers or special offers, free give-aways, exclusive access to content or an early purchase opportunity of products that are not yet available. In any case: something unique and something that is not offered in the ususal newsletter. If a relevant databasis excists, you should personalise your re-engagement campaign as much as possible, i.e. tailor your email to your subscribers needs and requirements. It would be fatal to try to re-engage a subscriber with an offer that he isn’t interested in at all. Manage your own focused re-engagement campaign based on KPIs and criteria you define with marketing automation systems like artegic’s ELAINE. In doing so all aspect of inactivity can be taken into account to adjust the frequency of your communications, to choose the right channel or the right incentive.

Since inactive subscribers often do not open a newsletter, the subject line is very important in your re-engagement campaign. The subject line should be attention grabbing and outstanding in the receiver’s inbox. This also applies for your usual newsletters. However, there are certain stylistic elements that they wear off quickly and which is why you should save them for individual campaigns like re-engagements. Among those stylistic elements are blatant announcements of especially lucrative offers, an overuse of special characters or emojis or provocations as well as subject lines that are very untypical for your company. Recommended are subject lines that directly refer to the inactivity. “We haven’t heard from you in a while.”, “Are you sure you want to miss out on xyz?”, “A special offer for our lost customers”. If the subscriber realises that you want to win him back, he will expect a specifically generous offer and will be more willing to open the email in order to look at this offer. Find some general tips on the optimisation of the subject line in our post Optimising Subject Lines in Email Marketing: Do’s and Don’ts.

Carters Reactivate Inactive Newsletter Subscribers

Carters Reactivate Inactive Newsletter Subscribers

You’ll want your re-engagement email to stick out and you don’t want it to get lost in your regular newsletters or to be mistaken as one of those. In order that this will / won’t happen, you should interrupt the regular email dispatch to inactive subscribers for some time before your re-engagement mailing. This might also lead to a certain surprise effect when a subscriber suddenly re-receives an email from a sender he hasn’t heard of in a while. Generally, it is recommended to reduce the dispatch frequency in order to reduce the attention of an inactive subscriber. In the best case scenario, the frequency is controlled by an automated frequency and dispatch time management.

Generate continuous activity

The inactive subscriber has now been re-activated. But how can you keep him active? Instead of running the business as usual after a single activation, use the subscriber’s attention to tie him into a multi-level reactivation campaign. Offer him the possibility to reconsider the reason for his inactivity, i.e. via a self-portal where he can adapt the frequency and the content your usual newsletter.

In general, the following applies: if you want your subscribers to commit to you and keep them active in the long term, you should continuously deliver relevant, i.e. individualised and context-sensitive communication. Our blogpost Dynamic Content in Dialogue Marketing: Individualised and Context-sensitive demonstrates what this means.

Permanent inactivity

What to do when all re-engagement efforts are in vain? Keep on sending newsletters to your subscriber but in a lower frequency and keep trying to re-engage once in a while. Even when a user no longer interacts with your newsletter, your company name and your subject line popping up in the inbox do have an advertising effect. And maybe it will work some day. Unsubscribing long-term inactive subscribers from the mailing list, may make your KPIs (especially opening and click rate) look nicer, but ultimately doesn’t bring any real advantage.

Marketing automation example

In this example, each subscriber is daily checked when the last time was they opened a newsletter, clicked on a link in the newsletter or has made a purchase. If the user has not performed any of the defined actions within 30 days, he will receive a reactivation for the following action:

  • If the subscriber hasn’t opened any mail, he’ll receive an email with an activating subject line.
  • If the subscriber hasn‘t clicked, he‘ll receive an individual offer.
  • If the subscriber hasn‘t made a purchase, he‘ll receive a discount coupon.

If he doesn‘t react to the re-engagement mail after one week, he‘ll receive another reminder with a different subject line or different content.

The only data you’ll necessarily need for this kind of mailing campaign is the date of the last purchase made by the subscriber as well as the activity score or the date of the last time the subscriber openend or clicked.

Tip: Manage your dispatch frequency according to your subscriber’s communication activity. A to high dispatch frequency is a common reason for inactivity. The „right“ frequency is very individual and not at all the same for all subscribers. When you successfully re-engaged a subscriber, let him (gradually) participate in the regular communication.