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

Posted by Bonnie Malone on

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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    About Bonnie Malone

    Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying, and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape. Bonnie leads the knowledge and consulting teams at Return Path, the global leader in email deliverability. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and writes monthly for the Return Path blog and TotalRetail.

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