How to Reactivate Inactive Newsletter Subscribers | DMA

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How to Reactivate Inactive Newsletter Subscribers

When a user subscribes to a newsletter, we can assume that he will regularly open it and interact with it, although not necessarily with each edition. But what happens to inactive newsletter subscribers who have not responded to a newsletter over a longer period but have not unsubscribed, either? What are the common reasons for this and how can we avoid this and reactivate inactive newsletter subscribers?

First, we need to define what “inactive newsletter subscribers” actually means. An inactive subscriber is a subscriber who has not responded to emails over a “longer” period of time, i.e. he hasn’t opened them or clicked on them. However, he has not unsubscribed from the newsletter, either. The length of the period after which a subscriber is classed as inactive is at the discretion of the corresponding company and needs to be defined.

IMPORTANT: Opens in email marketing are measured via an invisible track image which is suppressed depending on the email client setting. If you define inactivity as not opening emails, you should include clicks to measure the opens as someone who opens a link in a newsletter has logically opened the newsletter, as well. You can find more information on measuring in email marketing in our checklist The 25 Most Important Email Marketing Performance Figures.

Reasons for Inactivity

There can be different reasons why a user becomes inactive. One of the most important reasons is that many users feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of emails they receive and therefore delete commercial emails immediately. Another reason may be that the content of the newsletter is no longer relevant to the user, but he doesn’t take the effort to unsubscribe. It is also possible that the newsletter does not reach the inbox of the recipient but lands in the spam holder. How can inactive users be reactivated and how can we avoid inactivity?

Avoid Spam

How to avoid your newsletters finding their way into the recipient’s spam folder has been explained in our article 12 Tips on How to Avoid Unjustified Spam Classification

Reactivation Campaigns

In order to reactivate a user you should send him a specific reactivation campaign offering him an incentive to spend time on the email even when the subscriber has currently no interest in the company’s newsletters. This email may contain lucrative discounts, vouchers or special offers, free give-aways, exclusive access to content or early purchase options for products which are not yet on the market. In any case, something which is unique and not usually offered in the newsletter. If a relevant database exists, the reactivation campaign should be individualised as much as possible, i.e. tailored to the requirements of the user. Nothing is more fatal, than trying to reactivate a user with an offer he is not interested in at all.

Since inactive users often do not open a newsletter, the subject line is of particular importance in a reactivation campaign. The subject line must be attention grabbing, standing out from the other emails in the inbox. This generally also applies for the normal version of newsletters so that users remain active in the long term despite the continuous flood of emails into the inbox. However, there are certain stylistic elements which should be saved for individual campaigns such as reactivations, as they wear off quickly. Among them are blatant announcements of especially lucrative offers, an overuse of special characters or emojis, targeted provocations such as general subject lines which are very untypical for the company. Recommended are subject lines which specifically refer to the inactivity. “We haven’t heard from you in a while.”, “Are you sure you want to miss out on xyz?”, “A special offer for our lost customers”. If the user realises that he is wanted back, he also expects a specifically generous offer and is more willing to open the email in order to look at this offer. You can find some general tips on the optimisation of the subject line in our article Optimising Subject Lines in Email Marketing: Do’s and Don’ts

Carters Reactivate Inactive Newsletter Subscribers

In order to draw attention to the reactivation campaign and not loose it between the regular newsletters or have it mistaken for one of these, you should interrupt the regular sending of newsletters to the inactive user for some time prior to sending the reactivation. This can result in a surprise effect when the user suddenly receives an email from a sender he hasn’t heard from in a while. Generally, it is recommended to reduce the send frequency in order to reduce the attention of an inactive user. In the best case scenario, the frequency is controlled by an automated frequency and send time management.

Generate Continuous Activity

The user has been activated. But how do we keep him active? Instead of running the business as usual after a single activation, you should use the subscriber’s attention to tie him into a multi-level reactivation campaign. You should offer him the possibility to reconsider the reason for his inactivity, i.e. via a self-portal where he can adapt the frequency and the content of the regular newsletter.

In general, the following applies: if you wish to retain and keep a user active in the long term, you should continuously deliver relevant, i.e. individualised and context-sensitive communication. Our article Dynamic Content in Dialogue Marketing: Individualised and Context-sensitive demonstrates what this means.

Permanent Inactivity

What to do when all reactivation efforts are in vain? Further target the user in low frequency and keep trying the reactivation once in a while. Even when a user no longer interacts with the newsletter, the company name and subject line per se in the inbox have an advertising effect. And maybe it will work at some point. Unsubscribing long-term inactive users from the mailing list, may make numbers (especially open and click rate) look nicer, but ultimately does not present a real advantage.

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