How to Engage your Inactive Email Subscribers

KC Anderson
Senior Account Manager

In the era of big data, a common and sometimes overlooked issue many companies face is the growing number of inactive email subscribers.

According to Epsilon’s Q4 2013 Email Trends and Benchmarks Report, 42% of the average email list is “dormant”, meaning subscribers who have not opened or clicked on an email in 12 months or more.1  Large numbers of inactive email addresses can undermine your performance metrics by inaccurately representing email engagement, waste resources that would deliver a better ROI when focused on engaged subscribers, and pose deliverability liability as ISPs factor activity into the algorithms they use to determine whether to deliver or block email messages.

You see, like many things in life, it is the quality not the quantity of subscribers in your email list that really matters.
Okay, if so many of subscribers are inactive, what should you do with them?  For most companies, a reengagement campaign can help identify those subscribers that still want to be contacted and segment out those who do not.

First, you need to evaluate your situation by identifying the inactive subscribers on your email list. Each company’s criteria for determining an active or inactive subscriber will differ.  Depending on your business, customer lifecycle, available data, and email list health, you may use a combination of opens, clicks, purchases, login attempts, or other success metrics to define inactivity.

Once you have clearly defined who are inactive subscribers, it is time to develop a reengagement campaign.

Reengagement campaigns come in many shapes and sizes, but there are five characteristics that all reengagement campaigns should include:

1. A Good Incentive.

You have already established that these subscribers are not engaged, so an incentive is a must and it has to be a good one! The reengagement incentive has to be something better than what you generally offer if you want to wake up those sleeping subscribers.

2. Clear and Concise Message.

Assuming that your good incentive has grabbed the attention of those inactive subscribers, it is important that your message is clear, direct, and concise.

 3. Sense of Urgency.

In addition to communicating a clear and concise message, you want to make sure the subscribers act by creating as sense of urgency, such as with a clear offer expiration date or other deadline.

 4. Option to Unsubscribe.

Remember the goal is to have an engaged email list.  Don’t forget to provide your subscribers with the choice to unsubscribe.  If a subscriber is no longer interested in your emails, make it easy for him or her to opt-out.

 5. Multiple Touches.

You are dreaming if you think all of your inactive subscribers will see and open your first reengagement email.  I recommend that a reengagement campaign include a minimum of three possible emails that are sent based on how a subscriber interacts with the previous email in the campaign.  For instance, did a subscriber open the email, click on it, etc.  Multiple email touches also give you the opportunity to try different tactics to encourage reengagement.

The inactive subscribers that did not take any action in your reengagement campaign should be segmented from your other engaged email lists.

Depending on your situation, you may decide to no longer email those subscribers (if so, be sure to include this information in your emails) or include those subscribers in another reengagement cycle where they periodically receive unique incentives to reengage.

Reengagement campaigns are a perfect way to activate inactive subscribers and improve your list quality and metrics.


KC Anderson
KC Anderson, Senior Account Manager at eROI.
1417 NW Everett St. Suite 300
Portland, Oregon 97209 United States
(503) 221-6200
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