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Email to Non-Responsive Recipients Endangers Deliverability

Posted on 8.23.2010

A new study from Return Path indicates that only 12.5% take steps to re-engage with lapsed subscribers. 

A majority of the email marketers studied sent email at a steady, high frequency for a 19-month period, despite a lack of response from the subscriber (no opens, no clicks, no purchases). 11 of 40 online retailers studied (27%) stopped sending email to non-responsive subscribers but 10 of the companies stopped sending email without making any attempt to reengage the customer or specifically asking the customer whether or not they’d like to continue receiving emails.

“We were certainly surprised to see how these e-retailers were sending emails to a customer who was completely non-responsive,” said Stephanie Colleton, Director of Professional Services, Return Path. “We strongly recommend that email marketers, not just e-retailers, monitor their subscriber responses – opens, click-throughs and conversions – and adapt their campaigns to either slow down the emails to once per month or send a re-permission email to determine subscribers’ continued interest in receiving emails.”

The lesson is clear according to Return Path: when high-volume email marketers or publishers continue to send emails to non-responsive subscribers they risk endangering their overall email deliverability. When non-responsive subscribers receive a steady stream of emails, or in some cases an increased frequency of emails, they will often begin reporting those emails as spam driving up the marketer’s complaint rate.

Only five of the companies (12.5%) studied actually sent one or more win-back messages – messages designed to reengage subscribers and ultimately drive additional purchases. Bed, Bath & Beyond had the most complete email win-back strategy of the e-retailers studied. They identified the inactive subscribers in their file, decreased the frequency of emails to those subscribers over time (from seven emails per month down to a few more than five per month, and eventually to less than one). After one year of inactivity, they sent a clear, attractive win-back message with a discount offer for an item of the subscriber’s choosing. A week after that win-back campaign, they sent a re-permission email specifying a date when they would stop sending email unless they received subscriber permission. When they received no response to the re-permission email, they honored their commitment and stopped sending.

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