Why subscribers become inactive and how marketers can avoid it happening

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There a a number of things you can do to reduce the number of inactive subscribers on your email lists

In a recent post I highlighted some of the best practice ways to re-engage inactive subscribers (read it here). These reactivation campaigns are a great way of getting back in touch with customers or potential clients who have for one reason or another slipped off the radar.

In this post I’d like to delve into the reasons why customers become inactive as understanding the causes can really help marketers avoid losing touch with contacts.

What follows are some of the top reasons subscribers become inactive followed by a few top tips on how to avoid it happening.

Expectations were not set at the start of the relationship

When someone subscribes or signs up to receive communications from a brand they need to be aware of what they’re signing up to. They should not instantly start receiving emails that are completely irrelevant to the thing which persuaded them to sign up in the first place. This is likely to annoy them – which is the last thing you want.

When someone signs up to receive comms from you, they should know exactly what they’re getting.

Ask yourself:

  • Have you set expectations at point of email collection?
  • Have you communicated to the subscriber what they have signed up for in your welcome programme?
  • Are you sticking to what you promised the subscriber at opt in in terms of content AND frequency?

Adopting the right frequency

No one likes to be peppered (dare I say ‘spammed’?) with countless messages. Often frequency can be a huge turn off regardless of how pertinent and exceptional your content is. This is similar to the previous point about setting expectations – you don’t want to provide contacts with something different from what they’re expecting. Perhaps it’s worth including a frequency option during the sign up process? Different people are likely to have different preferences after all.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you ask subscribers how often they like to be emailed and are you honouring that commitment?
  • Are you sending at the time the subscriber is more likely to open?

Optimising content

Modern consumers demand a relevant and positive experience. This also applies to your communications. If you’re not providing something that is relevant to them and their needs, chances are they’re not going to engage – especially if your competitors are. Personalisation has been a major topic over the past few years (check out this 4-step guide to personalisation from Marie Myles) and can range from first names to dynamic content with specific offers or creatives sent depending on the information known about the recipient.

As marketers you should be tailoring your offerings to suit each customer or customer segment. Of course, this depends on the strength and quality of your data and your ability to create reliable segments (white paper on customer profiling anyone?).

However, personalising inaccurately can sometimes be worse than not personalising at all (imagine receiving an email addressed to someone else – what are you going to think of that brand?).

Ask yourself:

  • Do you use what you know about your subscribers to tailor content?
  • Do you use personalised information and drop in the most relevant content?
  • How is each section of the email preforming? Are you undertaking content and copy testing?
  • Do you use surveys to understand how your subscribers perceive your emails?
  • Is there a preference centre to capture what the customer wants to hear about?

You have captured an incorrect email address

The quality of your data is really important. It is of course, about verifying that an email address is valid but most importantly, it is about making sure the customer hasn’t made a mistake when subscribing.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you follow best practice and use a double opt-in?
  • Do you use an email verification tool to clean your data at point of capture as well as understand if the address is active?

Other factors

There are of course a whole range of factors which contribute to contacts dropping off the radar. It’s almost impossible to predict them all but here are a few.

  • Loss of interest
  • Emails are irrelevant
  • Job change – if it’s B2B then a simple job change could mean the message, service and product are completely irrelevant
  • Email address change – sometimes emails change – if you cannot get the new one then an unused address is not going to engage much

Being aware of these will help you refine your strategy to ensure you are able to pick up on those factors before they occur.

Remember, consider the customer first

Keeping customers engaged relies on two critical things: 1) getting the right sort of customers in the first place and 2) saying RELEVANT things to them.

It all comes down to giving your prospects as good an experience as possible. If they’re not engaging because they’re not interested in what you provide then you should try to understand why they aren’t and what they ARE interested in. Last resort may be to stop emailing them if they fail to engage with your brand after a significant period of time.

Subscriber lists shouldn’t be measured solely by size. They should be measured by whether they include the right people and the overall percentage of engagement.

For more on email marketing click here, or download the white paper on writing reactivation programmes here.

Experian Marketing Services is the leading global provider of customer insights, data quality and cross-channel marketing. We help organisations intelligently interact with today’s empowered and hyper-connected consumers.

By helping marketers identify best customers, find more, and then coordinate seamless and intelligent interactions across the most appropriate channels, Experian Marketing Services can deepen customer loyalty, strengthen brand advocacy and maximise profits.