How Re-engagement Campaigns Work According to Return Path Study

11 July 2014

Email engagement is a very important metric for email marketers. ISPs, such as Gmail and Yahoo!, monitor how your subscribers interact with your messages. If your mailing list becomes filled with unengaged, inactive subscribers you lose a vital touchpoint to connect with those current or prospective customers, and your inbox placement rate (i.e. deliverability) can suffer. This is what a recent Return Path study found by analyzing 300 million emails sent by the top 33 brands named in the most recent Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Do re-engagement emails work?

As a benchmark for brands in e-commerce, re-engagement emails achieved a 12% open rate (vs. an overall open rate of 14%) in the Return Path study. Surprisingly, re-engagement emails (also called win-back emails) have a carry-forward effect in subscriber engagement, as stated in the study: “while win-back emails have a respectable engagement rate, what happens after those messages go out may surprise some: 45 percent of recipients who received win-back emails read subsequent messages. And of that 45 percent, just 24 percent had read win-back emails.”

Source: Return Path: Email Win-Back Programs

This is proof that win-back emails work! Let’s look at three examples of successful re-engagement email campaings.

Re-engagement Email Campaign Examples

Example 1: Our own attempt!

Let’s look at our own example of a re-engagement email campaign. Notice that MailUp is an email marketing platform with which you can run re-engagement campaigns. This example was our own attempt at re-engaging inactive subscribers who stopped opening our monthly newsletter in a 3 month period. As a tip, our results should be benchmarked to the B2B software industry. We achieved a:

  • 17.6% unique open rate
  • 1.8% click-through rate (CTR)
  • 5.6% in bounces (this allowed us to clean our mailing list from bounced email addresses)

In the end, this win-back campaign resulted in successfully re-engaging a high number of inactive subscribers with a very positive effect as our followers happily shared on social media. For example, Nadia from Italy tweeted (“MailUp noticed that I wan’t reading and told me they were missing me!”:

Example 2: Free Starbucks giveaway!

This example comes from our customer Relentless Marketing who manages, a popular daily deals website. Sending daily offers via email is a competitive industry and keeping your subscribers engaged by providing them relevant offers are key objectives. As we see in the email below, offering your subscribers to enter a gift giveaway contest is a great way to keep them engaged. This campaign achieved a:

  • 14.3% open rate
  • 1.6% click-through rate (CTR)
  • 11% click-to-open rate (CTOR)
  • 1.5% bounce rate (this is an impressive result, as having a low bounce rate means that you are keeping your mailing lists clean and up-to-date)
Source: Starbucks Giveaway

Example 3: The “best” confirmation email due to CASL

As many of you know, on July 1st, the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) went into effect. This resulted in a frenzy of re-confirmation emails being sent left and right (sometimes even unnecessarily). If you’re interested in CASL, read our practical guide to CASL compliance. The nature of these re-confirmation emails is almost identical to re-engagement campaigns because you are in fact, as a sender, trying to persuade your subscribers (or soon to be subscribers) to continue to receive your commercial emails from you.

Perhaps the best example of a re-engagement campaign originating from CASL is this one, highlighted to us on social media:

Tips for re-engagement email campaigns

Here are a few tips and tactics to help you run successful re-engagement campaigns:

  • Define who an “inactive” subscriber is to your business and industry.
  • Think re-engagement series (i.e. send more than 1 email): expect to re-engage subscribers with 2-3 re-engagement emails.
  • Use personalization: include your recipient’s first name and personalize the content/offer in the email.
  • Test different subject lines: “We miss you” and “Come back” perform very similarly according to the Return Path study.
  • Test different content and offers: Including a cash discount (e.g. $10 off) performed better than a percentage discount (e.g. 10% off) in the Return Path study. Consider a gift giveaway contest as an incentive.
  • Include one clear call-to-action (CTA).

Questions? Comments? Let us know below!

By the way, with MailUp you can manage your inactive subscribers and run re-engagement campaigns.

This article was written by

Sergio Mandrone

Sergio Mandrone

Sergio is Associate Product Marketing Manager at MailUp in the San Francisco office. With 5 years of digital marketing experience, he writes for the MailUp blog, manages the Email Design Workshop blog, and is currently working with the MailUp BEE team to grow the line of BEE products.

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