3 Surprising Email Subscriber Lifecycle Stats
For email marketers, the people on the other side of the screen are the ones that will make or break your annual performance goals. Let’s start marketing to them accordingly.
In my last article, I extolled the benefits of an optimized subscriber experience and provided some recommendations and best practice examples that illustrate how to make the most of each stage of the lifecycle. Today, I wanted to follow up with some data points that illustrate the high stakes related to creating a rewarding subscriber experience from day one.
I’ve recently been involved with the development of Return Path’s new Lifecycle Insights report. The goal of this report is to provide clients with visibility into the subscriber experience and help them compare their performance against other commercial senders in their vertical with benchmark data. The individual client data has been fascinating, but the benchmark section has challenged many of our assumptions about how subscribers interact with email programs.
We have new research on email subscriber lifecycle benchmarks coming out in mid-November, but I wanted to provide a sneak peek at some of the numbers in the context of the subscriber experience.
Subscriber Trust and Expectations
This is the foundation of the subscriber experience. If your subscribers don’t trust your email or your intentions, you are already at a disadvantage. As one of my colleagues eloquently described in her recent article on trust in email,
“When email marketing is built around trust, subscribers are more likely to opt in and not only engage with messages, but also convert and remain loyal to a brand.”
While this is the goal we should all be shooting for, the data tells us that we’re falling short.
On average, approximately 50 percent of all new subscribers provide an email address that they rarely interact with. This clearly demonstrated that, as an industry, consumers do not trust us to send relevant, interesting mail. In addition, on average, 3.5 percent of new subscribers will submit a spam complaint within the first 30 days of being on our list.
What can you do to enhance the experience?
- Don’t play fast and loose with the opt-in. Regardless of whether subscribers are entering your program through a website opt-in, purchase path, or third party (which makes the deliverability expert in me cringe a bit), make sure that they are fully aware that they are opting in to receiving marketing emails.
- For less explicit opt-ins (I’m looking at you, pre-checked box in the purchase path), consider sending a different version of the welcome message that sets expectations and provides a clear means to manage preferences or opt out. I understand that this will result in more opt-outs, but honestly, the people that opt out immediately are the ones that would have given you grief down the line.
- Use your first point of contact to clearly spell out the benefits of the email program. Make sure that your description of the program is sincere and accurate. If you’re promising exclusive offers, make sure you’re prepared to deliver!
Email Program Perception and Churn
Once a subscriber is on your list, you have a very small window to prove value. We always knew that the average email subscriber’s attention span was short, we just didn’t realize how short the average email subscriber lifecycle was. On average, subscribers churn after just 33 days on the list (factoring in unsubscribes, complaints that are suppressed via feedback loops, and brand level suppressions as measures of churn).
Let me repeat that stat: On average, subscribers only stay on a marketer’s active email list for 33 days. One of the biggest contributing factors is the high rate of subscribers that churn within the first few days. This goes back to trust and expectations.
Sure, your list growth strategies may be bringing new names onto the list. If you’re doing a volume grab, abusing your subscribers’ trust in your brand, or sending unanticipated mail, payback is swift and impactful.
What can you do to enhance the experience?
- Send messages that your subscribers expect! There are very few people out there who are delighted to receive unanticipated commercial emails. Sure, you worked hard on your program and you’ve got goals to meet. That’s your responsibility—not your subscribers’.
- Ensure that your messages are relevant and resonate with the audience. You don’t have time to build a case for the value of your emails. If you’re not doing so within the first few points of contact, your average day of churn is going to tell the tale.
- Don’t assume that your subscribers want to hear from you as often as you want to talk to them. Overmailing is the No. 1 reason that subscribers unsubscribe from commercial mail. The volume is just overwhelming. Curious about the second reason? See the point above.
Want more data on the email subscriber lifecycle? Keep an eye out for Return Path's upcoming study. The findings are eye opening, to say the least!
As a Senior Email Strategist with Return Path, Casey specializes in driving increased engagement and boosting deliverability. Casey has a healthy fixation with helping marketers realize the potential of their email programs by addressing human needs, building better relationships, and ultimately driving improved results for the business. Her nine years of experience and obsession with evolving the email space helped land her a spot on ExpertSender’s list of “25 Email Geeks to Help You Get Your Geek On.”