Strategies for Boosting Engagement and Reducing Unsubscribes | DMA

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Strategies for Boosting Engagement and Reducing Unsubscribes


This article is written by Grace Roberts, Content Marketer at Deployteq, who is a member of the Email Council's Research Hub.

Welcome to the first in a four-part series, diving into the statistics of the Email Benchmarking Report 2023. In this series we take an insightful look at the facts and debate how that affects us as marketers and what steps we should be taking in the future. This week we’re looking at unsubscribe and bounce rate, followed by click through rates in the coming weeks. Stay tuned to hear more!

How can the seemingly small unsubscribe rate and bounce rate numbers reveal deeper insights about email engagement?

In the world of email marketing, metrics are the window to your campaign's health. But here's the twist: some metrics are like silent messengers, with crucial insights that are often overlooked. As we dive into the DMA Email Benchmarking Report for 2023, two metrics demand your attention like never before: your bounce and unsubscribe rate.

It's not just a number; it's a reflection of your audience's engagement and your campaign's impact. With average Hard (0.11%) and Soft (0.71%) bounce rates, the seemingly modest average unsubscribe rate (0.07%) holds the power to reveal more than meets the eye.

Beyond the Numbers

Within the seemingly small numbers on your screen lie insights that can shape the future of your email strategy. A 0.7% unsubscribe rate per campaign looks to be healthy, however when Guy from Validity presented the idea that “on average organisations send 2 – 3 emails per week, that’s an 11% chance of your audience unsubscribing and 17% chance of a Hard Bounce.” We are reminded that these figures simply can’t be ignored.

Over this article we’ll investigate audience behaviours and factors that shape these numbers and build the foundations to improve your statistics.

Unsubscribes and Bounces: The Detrimental Duo

Let's face it bounces and unsubscribes are like a thorn in the side of your email efforts. Bounces indicate the deliverability and accuracy of your list and there are two types: hard and soft. A hard bounce occurs when an email is undeliverable due to an invalid email address or domain, while a soft bounce indicates temporary delivery issues.

Unsubscribes gauge your content's allure, it measures the percentage of recipients who choose to opt out of receiving future emails after receiving a particular campaign. Picture it as the audience's voice—sometimes subtle, other times resounding—that shapes your brand's reputation.

Why Do People Unsubscribe? The Million-Dollar Question

If we had a penny for every marketer who pondered this question, we'd have, well, quite a fortune. Why do recipients choose to bow out from your emails, and how can you counteract it? A recent study from the DMA discovered most consumers (57%) are unsubscribing because they’re receiving too many emails. 2 – 3 emails a week is considered too many.

Digging a little deeper into the demographics and data we see that Millennials and Gen Z provide an alternative view on the matter: 25% unsubscribe to newsletters due to the cost-of-living crisis and the desire to resist temptation.

And what’s the potential consequences of the alternative?

Users can also choose to register a spam complaint. In the eyes of the ESP’s, an unsubscribe is a neutral behaviour, whereas a spam complaint puts a black mark against an organisation and ultimately has a negative impact on deliverability. While goodbyes are never easy, it's vital to respect preferences and make unsubscribing a simple process for your audience.

But, how to we save those who are unsubscribing due to the content and frequency within our emails?

Strategies for Success

Finding that sweet spot for email content and frequency is like discovering the perfect recipe for your favorite food. It's a balance that's as unique as everyone’s palate. Just like how some people adore extra cheese on their pizza, while others prefer a thinner crust, your prospects and customers have their own tolerance levels when it comes to emails and their own preferences as to what goes in them. Testing frequency and offers for your audience is the best place to start, but to get you started, here’s a few tips to getting the recipe just right:

  • Maintain List Hygiene: Cleanse and refresh your list regularly. Kosta's wisdom on healthy B2B lists is must-read. Double opt-in processes ensure precision while encouraging updates to keep your data in top shape. No matter how engaging your emails are, if an individual’s consent isn’t respected at the beginning of the journey, any further marketing efforts can be considered a waste.
  • Segmentation and Personalisation: Ditch the one-size-fits-all approach. Tailor your emails based on preferences and behaviours. Segmented, personalised content speaks louder, resonates deeper, and ignites lasting connections.
  • Optimise for Mobile: With 79% of people checking their emails on their smartphone in 2023, Mobile is the gateway to your readers' hearts. Make sure your emails adapt seamlessly to any screen. A mobile-responsive experience banishes bounce rates and elevates engagement.
  • Make Unsubscribing Easy: As we’ve already mentioned, we’d rather an unsubscribe than an unhappy client or spam complaint. Our audience are all adults, capable of making their own decisions, so let’s respect their choices and make unsubscribing as easy as possible. We can do this by including the unsubscribe link at the top of our emails, making it more visible, or using list-unsubscribe in the header. Make sure to include an exit survey to gain as much data on why your audience is leaving you, allowing you to improve the experience for others.
  • Frequency and Consistency: It's a dance—be captivating yet not clingy. Striking the rhythm between staying memorable and dodging email fatigue builds rapport. An overdose of emails, though, might lead to that dreaded farewell. Every audience is completely different, and every message requires a different strategy. For example, when sending order updates, a consumer is happy to receive daily updates generally, but your newsletter might warrant a different strategy. Test what works with your audience and adjust each mailing separately.

Looking to the Horizon: What Lies Ahead?

As the email landscape evolves, so too will our strategies.

  • Advanced AI Personalisation:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play an increasing role in personalizing email content. Machine learning algorithms will analyze user behavior to predict preferences, leading to even more tailored and engaging campaigns.

  • Privacy Regulations:

Data compliance is the thread that connects brands and subscribers together and which the basic trust is formed. As data privacy regulations evolve, marketers must ensure compliance with laws like GDPR and CCPA. Stricter regulations might impact list quality and subscriber engagement.

  • Apple’s Link Tracking Protection (LTP):
    While a lot can still change before the release of iOS17, our current research is showing a mild impact to us email marketers. Keep your eyes peeled over the coming weeks where we’ll dive into the effects of LTP later in this series.

In short

The flap of a butterfly’s wings can be the trigger for a Tsunami. Don’t turn a blind eye to the smaller metrics in your campaigns, they tell a much bigger story.

Provide your audience with the content they want to see; at a frequency they want to see it and ensure your lists are clear are great places to start on your road to improving unsubscribe and bounce rates. We’re looking forward to being able to make more comparisons over the coming years with these statistics. This was the first in a four-part series analysing statistics from The Email Benchmarking Report 2023 you can grab your copy here.

If you’re interested in the work the DMA’s Email Council does and would like to get involved, you can find out more information and apply to join here.

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