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Email Marketers Give Up on Inactive Customers Too Soon

Online merchants highly value the shoppers who sign up for their email marketing newsletters given the cost of acquiring a new customer and the effectiveness of using email to keep customers engaged. But a new study shows that marketers may be removing valuable subscribers from their lists if they aren’t strategic in dealing with inactive users. Many marketers lost the investment made to acquire their customers, as well as their future revenue potential, the study concluded.

Return Path found that win-back campaigns, or email marketing campaigns designed to re-engage inactive subscribers, serve a vital purpose. Marketers who made no attempt to win back inactive users, or who quickly stopped sending emails to inactive users, appear likely to be removing valuable subscribers from their lists.

The new research study, “Email Win-Back Programs: Everyone Recommends Them, But Do They Work?” analyzed 300 million messages sent to 100 million subscribers by top brands. It found that companies sending the most mail to unresponsive subscribers had the most mail blocked or diverted to spam folders, especially at Gmail, whose inbox was the hardest for mailers included in the study to reach.

In email marketing, win-back email campaigns separate entirely inactive subscribers from less active or seasonally active subscribers, reducing the risk of low inbox placement across all campaigns.

Based on the analysis of the study, Return Path shared some actionable advice for marketers:

  • The content of win-back emails played a dramatic role in their effectiveness. In general, campaigns that reengaged the most users tended to clearly convey their purpose in the subject line. Those containing “miss you” and “come back” performed better than conventional promotional offers.
  • Among discounting offers, fixed amounts ($ off) were significantly more widely read than percentages (% off), although they were used less frequently.
  • Immediately removing people from an email list who do not respond to win-back emails is not a good idea. You may be removing people who are still engaged with your brand or who respond to the message by shopping at a bricks-and-mortar location, or who may reengage in the future.

“As email continues to be the most powerful and cost-effective way for brands to stay connected to their customers, maximizing audience growth and reaching the inbox are both critical to marketing program health,” said George Bilbrey, president of Return Path. “Marketers with the analytical insight to balance those factors across individual mailbox providers, using tactics like win-back campaigns, simply outperform the rest. They grow faster, form stronger relationships, and generate more revenue in increasingly competitive arenas.”

The full report can be downloaded at the Return Path website.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.