Tips for Increasing Email Subscriber Engagement

Increasing subscriber engagement is the hot email marketing topic for 2014. A recent StrongView study reported  “increasing subscriber engagement" as the top email marketing priority for marketers in 2014.  In addition, in the ExactTarget 2014 State of Marketing report, 65% of respondents stated that increasing subscriber engagement and revenue was a top lifecycle marketing challenge. My colleague, Margaret Farmakis, wrote a great blog on "Understanding Engagement" that is a great way to start thinking about, and defining subscriber engagement. So, with that in mind, let's look at some specific ways that email marketers can work to increase email subscriber engagement during the upcoming year.

  1. Improve your targeting and segmentation. Fortunately, the second priority  for email marketers cited in the StrongView study – improving targeting and segmentation – helps with the first priority of increased subscriber engagement. Segments (time on the file, last email engagement, geography, source of email acquisition, etc.) and targeting (past opens and clicks, etc.) can often be based on data already available to you. And once you have some key segments or key elements that can be used to improve your targeting and deliver more relevant content to your subscribers, your subscriber engagement is likely to increase.
  2. Use available data. Increasing subscriber engagement is all about using the various data sources available to you to help you understand your subscribers better. Of course, this is easier said than done given that the top challenge cited in the StrongView study was accessing and leveraging customer data from multiple channels and data sources. Because this can be a huge challenge, start small. Focus on one data source that provides the most value and work to make it happen or go for that quick win and focus on the data that is easiest to access or integrate.
  3. Expand or start a triggered messaging program. Any email that is tied to and automatically sent based on subscriber behavior is more relevant and increases the likelihood a subscriber will engage with the message. Examples of triggered messaging include welcome messages (or better yet, an onboarding email series), abandoned cart and abandoned browse email, anniversary and birthday emails, and emails requesting product feedback/reviews and cross- and up- sell emails. While many of these emails require data integration outside of the email platform, these emails generate higher engagement rates than bulk emails and are worth the effort.
  4. Identify inactive subscribers. It's inevitable. There will be subscribers on your list that aren't engaging with your email program. And as more Mailbox Providers use subscriber engagement to determine where to filter your email, it becomes even more important to identify inactive subscribers on your file that haven't engaged with your email program for an extended period of time.
  5. Develop a reengagement campaign. Once you have identified inactive subscribers, you'll need to develop a reengagement campaign that is focused on identifying truly inactive subscribers and those that still have a pulse and want to receive emails from your brand. These campaigns can take on a variety of forms such as surveys, special offers, and requests for updating email preferences/frequency. These campaigns need to use more aggressive/creative subject lines and different creative to try and pique the interest of subscribers that have been ignoring your email program for an extended period of time.
  6. Plan for mobile. During the 2013 holiday season, 51% of email opens occurred on a mobile device. If your emails aren't rendering well across all devices, your subscriber engagement is likely to stagnate or decrease. Understand where your audience is reading your email and then determine how your email creative must change to meet the changing email landscape.
  7. Get the right subscribers on the file in the first place. It's easier to sustain and increase subscriber engagement when you are building your email file with the right subscribers. Check out these 18 tips for building an email file that is focused on quality, not quantity.
  8. Monitor your competition. How is your competition engaging their audience? What types of email are they sending and with what frequency? Are your competitors' emails engaging your subscribers better than your own campaigns? With a product like Return Path's Inbox Insight, you can not only see what emails your competition is sending, but how engaging these emails are, and then make adjustments to your own email programs based on what is working and not working) for your competition and other senders.

Here's to a new year filled with engaged subscribers and healthy email program ROI!