How to Properly Sunset Inactive Subscribers

It’s Monday morning and you login to your Klaviyo account to get the latest on how your marketing campaigns are doing and you notice something weird. Your email open rates have steadily been coming down over the last calendar year and it currently averages around  ~20%.

Considering that average open rates in the UK have been hovering around the 24% mark for the past couple of years it’s nothing to complain about but still, you’re a little concerned.

So you dig a little deeper and find out that the decrease in open rates is mainly because of an increased number of subscribers who have either never opened any emails from you or haven’t done so in the past six plus months.

Now you’re left with a choice. You can go ahead and simply delete all the inactive subscribers and be done with it, they’re not opening or responding to your emails anyway so what’s the point, right?

That’s one way of looking at it, sure, and it’s the easiest way to clean your lists. Then again, each and every person on your list is a (potential) customer and at some point, they were all interested enough in what you offer that they went ahead and either bought something from you or at the very least signed-up to your list to get news, offers and updates.

Add in the generally accepted notion that selling to an existing customer base is almost always easier than trying to convince new people to buy from you and things are starting to look a whole lot different.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the different actions that merchants can take to address inactive subscribers.

Not all inactives subscribers are created equal

Your first order of business is to decide how you’ll define an inactive subscriber. Is an inactive subscriber someone who hasn’t opened or clicked or not done both in the last 12 months? Or is that from the last 18 months? Or maybe 6 months is the sweet spot?

Typically in email marketing, a subscriber is considered inactive after six months of inactivity. Meaning that that person hasn’t opened (and/or clicked) your campaigns in six consecutive months.

A thing to note is that the timeframe is largely dependent on your campaign frequency. When you’re sending out monthly campaigns (one campaign per month), it’s safe to take action after six months or in other words, six unopened emails. When you’re sending more than one campaign per month, the time to take action can be shorter than that.

Whatever you decide is right for you, eventually you’ll end up with a number of subscribers who you consider inactive.

Now that you have a list, you could simply go ahead and delete them. But I wouldn’t recommend that. Instead, a better way is to design a sunset flow to send these inactive subscribers on their way. Doing this gives inactive subscribers a last chance to re-engage with you and only after that final inactivity will you let go knowing that you really did try everything.

What follows are action steps for a fictional ecommerce merchant that sends out a monthly campaign (one campaign per month) and that has decided that six months of inactivity is the limit for taking action. As not all subscribers are created equal, they have been divided into two segments based on their history with the merchant.

Segment #1: Has never purchased from you

These are subscribers who haven’t opened your campaigns for at least six months AND they have never purchased from you.

Their sunset flow consists of two emails. The first one is essentially a re-permission email that requires them to click a link in the email to confirm that they want to continue receiving emails. When that is ignored, it’s time for the final goodbye.

Alternatively, you can combine the two and send one final email:

Another example:

Image via Pinterest

And one final one:

Image via Pinterest

Segment #2: Last purchased over 12 months ago

These are subscribers who haven’t opened your campaigns for at least six months BUT they have bought from you in the past. Because of this, they are “worth” putting more effort into re-engaging them.

A sunset flow for them consists of two parts: a re-engagement/win-back campaign to get them to buy again and a goodbye email similar to the one that was featured under segment #1.

We have written extensively about re-engagement/win-back campaigns before, so I’ll not go into too much detail here (find articles under Recommended Reading), but a successful re-engagement campaign sends relevant content as an incentive for subscribers to interact with your brand again.

That relevant content could be items similar to what that person has bought and/or browsed before or things like coupons and discounts on things that matter to that person. Personalization is key here.

You have to be careful here with buyers who buy from you only once or twice a year. They might be seasonal buyers meaning that they’ll only buy when the season is on. They might also only buy various holiday gifts and thus only buy once a year.

Just the fact that the last purchase was 6 months ago should not be enough to get into the sunset flow. Check further so as not to alienate your seasonal and holiday buyers.

When you really want to take things seriously, you should also note subscribers purchase history and design win-back offers based off of that. A client who has spent $10,000 with you is probably worth more than someone who bought a $12 teddy bear. Your win-back offers should reflect that fact.

Recommended Reading:

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Final thoughts

Not all inactive subscribers are created equal. There some that are worth fighting for and some, who really shouldn’t get that much extra attention from you.

By using actual sales data and designing win-back campaigns based off of that data you’re making sure that the people you’re sunsetting are really the ones that should be removed.

 

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2 comments

  • Great post, thanks.
    Once you have completed this process, would you actually Delete the unengaged from Klayvio, or would you Supress them?
    I’m not sure if it makes a difference. I think if you Suppress them you could try to reengage with a Facebook remarketing ad, if you Delete you can not.

    Cheers

    Mike

    • Hey Mike, thanks for checking out the post! Suppression is generally better for data retention, and because they could re-engage later. If you’re using Klaviyo, you don’t pay for suppressed profiles, so might as well keep them. 🙂

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