Email Engagement’s Hidden Benefit: 5 Early Warning Signs of Customer Attrition

Stop paying so much attention to email deliverability and start focusing on subscriber engagement. Keeping track of declining engagement will provide red flags, showing you when you need to re-engage your subscribers and change your messaging to save the relationship. If your subscribers are actively engaged, they’ll take care of deliverability for you.

Five engagement red flags to pay attention to:

1. Your subscribers are starting to ignore you
To measure this, look to see if your subscribers’ delete-without-reading rates are trending upward, or if their open or read rates are declining.

2. Your subscribers have stopped taking action with your messages
To gauge if content is resonating with subscribers, look at the “this is not spam” rate, a trusted indicator used by email providers to correct errant spam filtering decisions. Also look at the number of subscribers that have whitelisted or added you to their address books, as well as how frequently your messages are forwarded. These are all indicators that subscribers want your content–and want to share it. If this activity is slowing down, you need to take action.

3. Your competitors are stealing your spotlight
By looking at how much of your audience is shared with your competitors, and then comparing the engagement rates of campaigns to the same audience, you can make better decisions about what to offer, as well as what content and keywords will resonate with your audience. Doing this regularly can warn you when your audience is shifting their attention to your competitors.

4. Engagement by subscribers from specific sources is declining
Are you tracking the source of your email acquisitions? If not, you should. Email marketers usually have a subscriber growth goal, but instead, they should focus more on the quality of leads and subscribers versus quantity. In some cases—for instance addresses from point-of-sale promotions—subscribers’ expectations may focus more on the promotion than on joining your list. By analyzing the engagement of your list sources, you’ll identify the best sources for new (engaged) subscribers.

Tom Sather is Return Path’s senior director of email research. Tom uses his knowledge of ISPs, spam filters and deliverability rules to advise marketers on how to get their email delivered to the inbox. He began his Return Path career as an email deliverability consultant working with top-brand clients like eBay, MySpace, IBM and Twitter. Tom’s previous experience includes roles with email service provider Experian and on the abuse desks for AOL, Bellsouth, AT&T and GTE.
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