8 min.

No relationship lasts forever, especially between companies and customers. The key factor in the life cycle of email marketing is engagement: let’s take a look at its metrics, the relative results from 2018, and how to improve them.

No company can count on having a pool of clients that they have acquired in advance and that will last forever. Unless your business is… a monopoly.

This is simply a “law of the market”: no single company in the world can consider its relations with its customers as being infinite.

We are touching upon a fundamental theme of marketing: the life cycle, often referred to as customer life cycle, that is to say, the evolutionary path that starts at acquisition and lasts until the end (which, at times, is just an interruption) of the loyal relationship between a person and a company.

Why trace a life cycle?

The specific analysis of the life cycle of a typical customer is essential because it makes it possible to identify the different activities that each company should invest in; it’s a way to calculate the costs and expenses in relation to the duration of the relationship with the customer, in order to optimize them and extend the average life cycle.

Thus each company has its own life cycle model, which depends on the offer and the type of target to which it is addressed. Regardless, let’s try to briefly outline an example of a life cycle. Among the various levels we have: 

  • Acquisition: a sort of pre-relationship (where there is still no real relationship with the customer), which must be considered because it involves costs and investments.
  • Entrance:the most tricky moment, because it coincides with the first purchase. In this phase the customer checks the quality of the product/service and the company’s customer experience. It could be an occasional buyer or a loyal customer of another brand who spontaneously chooses a market alternative.
  • Growth:when the customer has made repeated purchases and the relationship has been consolidated: we can now speak of behavioral loyalty, which must be managed as such.
  • Descent:when the relationship begins to approach the end.  
  • Development: when a customer repeats purchases, a company can reasonably ascertain that the customer has been definitively acquired.  This is where ad hoc promotions and loyalty programs come in.

This schematization concerns the entire set of strategies across different channels and marketing tactics. 

What if we wanted to apply this perspective of the life cycle to a single channel? Let’s see how to do precisely that for email marketing.

The life cycle in email marketing

The sales cycle in email marketing does not consider people as customers, but as users (or recipients, if you prefer).

We can thus break the recipient’s life cycle down into three moments:

  • Acquisition: the moment of registration in a database, when a contact grants the company his or her consent and provides authorization to receive communications from the same.

Database Building: tools and techniques

  • Engagement:when the recipient shows involvement and interest in emails, interacting at different levels.
  • Conversion: the action that corresponds to the final goal of many email marketing campaigns: a purchase, download, or registration, depending on the type and nature of the campaign.
  • Descent: when the recipient understands that the company’s mailings are no longer of interest and opts to end the relationship by unsubscribing.

We often speak of acquisition, conversion and descent in our blog; today we are especially interested in exploring the level of engagement, the real bridge between a user’s acquisition and conversion, as well as the step that offers companies the chance to extend the user’s life cycle.

How to lengthen the life cycle in email marketing: engagement

Engagement measures the success of a message shared with the public.

To get a graphic representation of the engagement of an email, or an entire email marketing strategy, we can rely on the funnel, within which we can place the various metrics.

The 2019 Statistical Observatory provides an excellent opportunity to shed light on engagement; it is the latest edition of our report dedicated to the numbers, trends, and benchmarks of email marketing.

Engagement performance between 2017 and 2018

To introduce the various vertical analyses in terms of the type of email (newsletter, DEM, transactional), the market (B2B, B2C, mixed) and the commercial sector, we made a preliminary comparison of the global metrics of 2017 and 2018 obtained from the analysis of a pool of over 13 billion emails sent. The following picture emerged:

This is the analysis of the main on-email metrics – mailings, deliveries, openings, and clicks – which gives us the level of engagement, that is, of how and at what level the recipient interacts with the message.

The overview reveals how the engagement of emails sent with MailUp improved from 2017 to 2018.

Companies cannot consider the individual metrics as unrelated, but rather as interdependent and connected plans, where each measurement depends on the previous one and influences the next one; just like how the trend of clicks depends on openings, similarly, the latter require good delivery performance.

Let’s analyze the metrics in more detail:


From 2017 to 2018, the delivery rate upheld the previous year’s levels: 98% in 2017, 97.3% in 2018.

A slight decrease that does not raise any red flags, since the permanent bounces (hard bounce email block) stand at a level below 0.3%, while the soft bounces – such as “inbox full” or “address temporarily not reachable” – make up the vast majority, around 2.6% (1.5% in 2017).

Where to intervene:

  • Sending platformThe infrastructure you rely on to send emails is of fundamental importance for this metric. MailUp has concentrated its research on and refined its algorithms for delivery, and is aimed at having advanced automated management of bounces and a better ability to send and deliver messages.
  • List maintenance Database quality is closely linked to delivery capacity. Another fundamental theme is the obsolescence of lists and the need for their careful management, before the number of soft bounces can damage the reputation of the infrastructure and compromise delivery. Consequently, regardless of the sending infrastructure, list management is fundamentally important for delivery rates; we recommend constant re-engagement, cleaning inactive contacts, and the acquisition of new recipients for lists.

Email Deliverability: a team effort
Learn the factors that affect delivery in order to optimize them and improve the quality of mailings.


In terms of engagement, the open rate presents the degree of relevance of messages within a recipient’s inbox: we have noted a decisive average increase in openings in 2018, which grew from 19.2% to 21.1%. A substantial increase of 12.7%.

What does this trend reveal? The constant consolidation of the relationship between companies and recipients: despite the fact that digital marketing has several years behind it, email has solid and deep roots, fueled by a relationship of trust and expectation between recipients and sending companies.

Where to intervene to improve:

  • Subject35% of recipients open emails based purely on the subject line. It goes without saying that the more specific the information is in a recipient’s inbox, the higher the chances he or she will be persuaded to open an email. Also, don’t just think about selling: tell, suggest, move from a mere sales approach to a more narrative one.
  • Preheader This is the short text that appears in the recipient’s inbox after the subject: a copy element that supplements the subject, providing the recipient with further information to get an idea of the contents conveyed by the email. The preheader is strategic and its content must be complementary to the subject.

How to optimize subjects and open rates of emails


From openings we move on to clicks, the metric that presents the degree of relevance of a message once it has been opened: in this case we have also noted an improvement year after year, bringing up the average click rate from 2.4% to 2.6 %.

This increase can be quantified at + 7.8% , which shows how the expansive trend of funnel metrics is not accompanied by a proportional boost in the click rate. This means that the expectations generated in an inbox (as shown by the open rates) would deserve greater finalization (through the click).

This is where companies must improve more and more if they want to increase conversions and expand the life cycle of their recipients.

Where to intervene to improve:

  • Structure The structure essentially serves to find the best orientation for reading an email, thereby improving the recipient’s use of the contents and enticing the recipient to learn more about the offer in just a click. The essential technique? Modular design.

A guide to the structure of emails

  • Call to actionIn this case the goal is to highlight the button as much as possible and optimize it so that it can be viewed under any circumstance, by any client using email.  

How to create a bulletproof CTA for emails

  • Contents The decisive factor – and increasingly so in the coming years – is companies’ ability to model emails based on the individual recipient’s profile, adapting content, offers, products, and services to the interests, habits, preferences, and behaviors of each recipient. This personalization is possible through data collection, which can then be used for segmentation and profiling operations.

Email personalization: theory and tools

The advice is to be aware, if you aren’t already, of the average results of your mailings.

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