There’s no point in having a huge email list if half your subscribers aren’t clicking. But that’s exactly what happens. Most email lists decline by about 25% a year according to Email Monks.

There are lots of reasons for this. Sometimes it’s about the number or frequency of emails. In other cases, they don’t like the content. Some subscribers only sign up to get a deal or offer. And then there are those who consider doing business with you and then go to a competitor.

But no matter what the reason, it pays to make an effort to get inactive subscribers’ attention again. After all, it’s easier to sell to an existing customer. Plus, increasing your retention rate by just 5% can boost sales by up to 25%.

Totally worth it, right?

In this article, we’re going to share some ways to re-engage your inactive subscribers. By the end, you’ll know how to get them excited about being connected with you so they eventually become customers.

Best practices for re-engagement email marketing

But before you get started with using email marketing for re-engagement, there are a couple of best practices to follow.

Identify dormant subscribers

For a start, you need to figure out who those dormant subscribers are, so you send re-engagement emails to the right people.

This is pretty easy with most email service providers. For example, in MailChimp, you can use existing presets to identify people who joined your list before a certain date and who haven’t opened any of your recent emails. Make those into a new segment, and you’re all set to send emails to just that segment for your re-engagement campaign.

Segment and personalize

That’s not the only segment you need, though. Depending on your business, and who your subscribers are, you may want to send different re-engagement emails. For example, someone who downloaded a resource and never bought anything might get a different email from someone who was a regular buyer and has recently stopped purchasing.

The more relevant your emails are, the more likely it is that people will respond. So as well as looking at activity and inactivity, look at location, gender, past purchase behavior, and more. Here are some of Sleeknote’s favorite email list segmentation strategies to help you get started.

Create a series

If you’re planning to send a single re-engagement email, think again. People who aren’t that interested are going to need a bit of warming up. So think in terms of a series of emails. Many recommend about three.

First, let subscribers know you miss them. Here’s how Duolingo does it, with a call to action emphasizing the purpose of the site (“learn a language”) and how easy it is to start (“5-minute lesson”):

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Second, follow up the initial email. This example from Udemy combines a reminder with a coupon.

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Finally, tell them what’ll happen if they don’t re-engage, as in this example from Framebridge:

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We’ll look at some of these email types in more detail later in the article. The bottom line is that for these subscribers, what you’ve been doing up to this point isn’t working. So it’s important to get creative about getting them interested again. Here are 10 types of emails you can send to make this happen.

10 types of emails you can send to re-engage

1. Find Out the Problem

Sometimes your subscribers aren’t making the most of your service. That could be because they haven’t fully understood how to use it, and therefore have stopped paying attention to your emails.

Asking a question at the right time can help them re-engage with you. For example, you could include a link to a customer survey in your email. Alternatively, follow up your question by a recap of what they need to use your service effectively, as in this example from Gemini 2:

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2. Offer a deal

When you’re thinking about re-engaging subscribers, it’s worth offering a deal. The research shows that:

So, a deal, coupon, or discount is a great way to get those customers engaged and spending again. Check out this example from Grammarly to see one way to approach it:

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3. Get personal

Customers like to get emails that are relevant and personal, and you can’t get much more personal than a major life event, such as an anniversary or birthday. Not only is it a nice surprise if you remember your customers’ birthdays, but it also makes them more likely to spend.

Birthday emails have 3x higher open and 5x spend rates, according to Marketing Profs. More recent data from OmniSend says the open rate for birthday emails is 45% with a conversion rate of 3%.

To do this effectively, all you have to do is collect people’s emails either via your sign up form or at a later stage of your interaction with them. Here’s how Starbucks does it:

EMAIL MARKETING best practices tip #40

Offering a freebie gives customers an incentive to update their details. Once they do, they’ve started to engage with you again.

4. Let subscribers change content preferences

One of the reasons subscribers lose interest is because they don’t enjoy the email content. That’s why it’s a good idea to find out what content they’re interested in. For example, you could use a short survey (shorter is better if you want subscribers to respond). Get Feedback recommends that when collecting content feedback by email, you only put the question you care about most in the email.

You can also ask subscribers to customize their email content preferences, as in this example from Refind:

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When customers click on one of the two links, that gives the company valuable information about their true interests and can help with more targeted content in the future.

5. Allow opt-downs

Here’s some good news: when it comes to your email list, it’s not just a question of being on your list or off it. For people who think they’re getting too much email too often, there’s another option: the opt-down. That lets subscribers choose how often they want to get an email. For example, this email from Refinery 29 allows subscribers to choose the area they’re interested in, and to get emails weekly. See below:

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6. Ask a direct question

Sometimes the best way to get your subscribers engaged is to ask them a direct question about whether they still want to hear from you. This email from Urban Outfitters is an excellent example of how to do this while staying on-brand. The humorous text message conversation will catch subscribers’ eye, and two checkbox options make the choice simple.

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7. Highlight what’s new

If your subscribers are feeling blah about your company, products, or services, one way to re-engage them is to tell them what’s new. After all, you’re always updating, or adding new products, right?

Here’s an example from Aweber, showcasing emails about Aweber pets. On the internet cuddly kittens and frisky canines still rule, so the cute dog drawing is a smart way to pique people’s interest. In addition, this email highlights just how easy it is to get information by email.

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8. Promote benefits

Alternatively, remind subscribers of the benefits you offer, which is probably why they subscribed in the first place. This example from Skillshare reminds subscribers of three of the key benefits of the service. Skillshare also ups the ante by offering a coupon, making it a no-brainer for subscribers to stay on the list.

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9. Send to cart abandoners

One type of re-engagement email that puts money in the bank is a cart abandonment email. Different research studies put the average cart abandonment rate at between 69% and 77%, with an even higher rate of up to 85% on mobile devices. An abandonment email will help you get some of that lost revenue back. Abandonment emails often:

  • Remind people what’s in their cart
  • Check if there are issues preventing them from completing the sale
  • Offer an incentive for completing the sale

The example below from Huckberry offers a free shipping offer (a huge incentive for most people) along with a reminder of the cart contents:

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10. Say goodbye

If all else fails, then it’s time to say goodbye. For those who still care, reminding them that they’ll soon be off your email list can help them decide to engage. The example below from Paul Mitchell appeals to the emotions with “we hate goodbyes”, and lets subscribers know it’s urgent that they respond (suggested by “we’re emailing you one last time”). Then it gives them the chance to click to stay on the list.

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Include the examples above in your customer re-engagement strategy, and you’ll not only keep your list active, but will prime customers to purchase more.

About the guest author

Emil Kristensen, CMO and co-founder, Sleeknote

Emil Kristensen is the CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote, a company that helps e-commerce brands engage their site visitors—without hurting the user experience.

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