6 Ways to Re-Engage Inactive Email Subscribers

re-engagement campaignIf you’ve worked in marketing for any length of time, you know a large email list isn’t an indicator of a successful email marketing program. In fact, if an email list contains too many inactive subscribers who don’t engage with your content, your emails will likely do more harm than good.

Fortunately for marketers, re-engagement campaigns are an effective way to spark a renewed interest from inactive email subscribers– a shocking 71% of marketers say re-engagement campaigns are effective. But, surprisingly, only 57% of marketers actually use this type of campaign (source).

So, if your among the marketers who have yet to delve into the world of re-engagement campaigns, today’s blog post is for you. Keep reading to learn about the importance of email re-engagement and top tips for executing your own successful re-engagement campaigns.

Why is email re-engagement important?

Email marketers have three options when it comes to inactive email subscribers. They can ignore their inactivity and continue to send them emails, they can remove them from their list entirely, or they can target them with re-engagement campaigns. Although the first two options require the least amount of time and resources, there are multiple risks associated with these courses of action.

Here’s the problem—emailing inactive users impacts open rates. If your open rates drop low enough, internet service providers (ISPs) take note and your email reputation will suffer.

Now, the next option is to remove inactive subscribers altogether. But, studies show that on average, an inactive subscriber is worth 32% of an active subscriber (source). In other words, if you don’t attempt to win back inactive subscribers, you’re leaving a lot of revenue on the table.

6 Tips for Better Email Re-Engagement Campaigns

Before you can begin a re-engagement campaign, you must identify your inactive email subscribers and separate them from the rest of your list. Segmenting inactive subscribers accomplishes two things. For one, you can stop sending them the same emails as your active subscribers, which will keep your open rates from dropping. And two, you’ll be able to send your inactive subscribers targeted marketing campaigns developed specifically for re-engagement purposes.

When a subscriber fails to open an email within a designated period of time, move them to your inactive list. From there, you’ll be able to analyze your inactive users and begin to formulate your re-engagement strategy.

Once you master the art of email segmentation, the next steps toward re-engagement are relatively easy. Let’s look at a few different types of re-engagement campaigns bound to get your inactive subscribers opening and clicking on your emails today!

1. Exclusive offers and discounts.

Nothing captures a person’s attention like an exclusive offer. Using your marketing automation platform, trigger an automated email to each subscriber that enters your “inactive user” list. Offer a unique discount code, an exclusive free trial, early access to a new product, or some other promising incentive.

Let’s look at an example from Crate and Barrel: This example is simple and direct, drawing the recipient’s attention to the most important part of the message– the offer. The email also includes a clear expiration date which creates urgency and encourages inactive subscribers to take advantage of the discount before it expires.

re-engagement campaigns

2. Reference the recipient’s lack of engagement.

One effective way to re-engage subscribers is to state the purpose of your email—which is, you’ve noticed their lack of engagement and want them to come back. The majority of re-engagement emails, such as the example above, include statements like “We Miss You!” or “Where have you been?” followed by a call-to-action.

This tactic is effective simply because it’s transparent. It shows the subscriber you’ve noticed their inactivity and it makes them feel appreciated by your brand.

Let’s look at a well-executed example from jetBlue. The tag line– breaking up is hard to do– is attention-grabbing, creative, and it’s unexpected.

email marketing re-engagement

3. Send personalized emails.

Personalization isn’t just crucial to re-engagement campaigns—it’s critical for your entire email marketing strategy. In fact, studies show the open rate for emails with a personalized message is 17.6%, compared to 11.4% for emails that don’t contain a personalized message (source).

Engage inactive subscribers by sending personalized offers. To implement the most effective re-engagement campaigns, analyze each recipient’s purchase history, product usage, and web behavior to determine the best way to earn back their clicks and, ultimately, their business.

Here are a few quick ideas for more personalized re-engagement campaigns:

  • Product recommendations: Examine the recipient’s past activity and purchases. Then, suggest products that align with these buying preferences. For example, you might recommend a product that integrates with a tool the recipient recently purchased.
  • Anniversary discounts: Send special offers to commemorate the anniversary of when the recipient joined your email list. For example, your re-engagement message may say something along the lines of, “You’ve been with us for 6 months, celebrate by taking 20% off your next purchase!”   
  • Birthday gifts: People expect birthday presents from their friends and loved ones, but a gift from a brand they subscribe to may come as a genuine surprise. You can’t go wrong with a personalized “Happy Birthday” email—in fact, birthday emails get 235% more opens and 300% higher click-through rates than typical promotional emails (source).    

In the example below, the company combines an anniversary with a specific discount code– which may be just enough to re-engage a segment of your inactive email subscribers.

re-engage inactive email subscribers

4. Promote online contests or giveaways.

Your re-engagement emails are meant to inspire your subscribers to take an action—and while they might not be ready to buy a product or request a demo, a contest or giveaway may pique their interest.   

Advertise a specific prize within your email and subject line. Once an inactive subscriber enters your contest, follow up with additional content to reintroduce them to your brand. Then, even those who don’t win the grand prize may continue to engage with your emails.

Let’s look at the simple example below. This email offers a free giveaway of their product, which by its self is nothing innovative. But, the reason why contests and giveaways are so successful is that once someone enters, they’re likely to stay engaged with your emails while they wait to find out contest results.

re-engagement campaigns

Learn more about hosting the perfect contest or giveaway in the following article: 3 Essential Types of Interactive Content.

5. Ask for feedback and provide options.

A simple way to understand what your inactive email subscribers want is to ask them. Perhaps a segment of inactive subscribers are interested in your brand but prefer a different form of communication. Or, maybe they only want to receive a specific type of emails.  Or maybe they’re just looking for a simple way to opt-out. The only way to know for sure is to ask.

One way to determine what your subscribers want is to implement an email preference center within your re-engagement email. In short, a preference center is a centralized tool that allows subscribers to customize their own email preferences. They can update their contact information, select what types of emails they want to receive, adjust email frequency, and more.

Your subscribers will appreciate your effort to understand their wants and needs, and perhaps they’ll provide you with a more effective way to communicate with them.

This email from ReturnPath gives the inactive subscriber several options. Not only can they elect to remain or opt out of the email list, but they can select what types of emails they prefer to receive.

re-engage inactive email subscribers

6. Show them what they’re missing!

Maybe you lost a subscriber because your marketing materials didn’t resonate with them. Or maybe you didn’t have a product that fit their exact needs. For this reason, sending product, design, or company updates can be a great way re-engage inactive subscribers.

Think about it, your inactive subscribers haven’t been paying attention to your business for an extended period of time. Because of this, they’ve likely missed out on exciting changes and updates. Consider announcing a new line of products, a revamped website, or innovative content unlike what you offered before. And maybe, this update email, is exactly what your subscribers were looking for the first time around.

This email from Lowe’s highlights the changes they’ve made since the subscriber stopped engaging.

re-engagement emails

Final Thoughts on Re-Engaging Inactive Email Subscribers

Here’s the hard truth: It’s impossible to win back every inactive subscriber on your email list. Even the most thorough and targeted campaigns will fail to re-engage certain subscribers. After several failed efforts, learn to recognize when it’s time to move on and remove a subscriber from your list.

But remember, even if you lose a few subscribers for good, that number will pale in comparison to the number of subscribers you could potentially re-engage. We hope this article gave you some inspiration for your next re-engagement campaign. For more top email marketing tips and tricks, check out the following articles:

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