Understanding (and Improving) Subscriber Engagement

There’s a fundamental truth in email marketing that doesn’t get anywhere near the recognition it deserves. The number of subscribers on your email list doesn’t matter.

That’s right, I said it: It. Does. Not. Matter.

Now that I have your attention, I’ll qualify that statement. It doesn’t matter if they’re not engaged subscribers. If they’re not opening your emails, clicking through, engaging with your brand, and purchasing your products, all you’ve got is a bunch of email addresses. That and $2 will get you a cup of coffee.

To be effective, email marketers need to start looking at the performance of their email lists in terms of engagement. That’s why we’ve launched a new List Engagement Report for Klaviyo users.

Introducing the List Engagement Report

The List Engagement Report is designed to show you the quality of your list or segment. Specifically, are people engaging with the emails you send them? How does engagement change based on the age of each profile in a list or segment, across every email they’ve ever received? Answering these questions is a great way to start getting a complete feel for how your subscribers are interacting with your messaging.

To access your report, navigate to any list or segment you want to learn more about. On that page, you’ll see an option in the List specific navigation bar to access the Engagement Report.

What is the List Engagement Report based on, you ask? It’s based on opens. We’ve calculated an average open rate across all emails received for every subscriber on your list. Then, we looked at the distribution of subscribers on your list based on their engagement category:

  • Very Engaged – opened greater than 50% of emails ever received
  • Somewhat Engaged – opened 20%-50% of emails received
  • Barely Engaged – opened 0-20% of emails received
  • Not Engaged – opened no emails received
  • Never Received an Email – hasn’t yet received any emails

The four main parts of the List Engagement Report

Aggregate distribution summary

The aggregate distribution summary shows the engagement breakdown of all the people on the list based on the last 30 days. You can use this to see whether or not the majority of subscribers are opening the emails you send them.

Generally speaking, more than half of your list should fall in the “engaged” or “somewhat engaged” category. No more than a quarter of your list should fall into the “not engaged” camp.

Stat summary

The stat summary shows the aggregate open rate for all the subscribers on your list across over the last 30 days. This is calculated by dividing all opens over all deliveries over the last 30 days. Stat summary also shows the aggregate click rate and the aggregate order value.

A healthy aggregate open rate for any given list is 30% or higher.

Engagement over time

The engagement over time chart shows the distribution of engagement for subscribers of different ages. Here, we’re talking about how long it’s been since the person first gave you their email address (not how many birthdays they’ve had).

You can use engagement over time to see engagement across different cohorts of subscribers. This will help you identify whether there’s a specific point in time where your subscribers start to disengage from your brand. If there is, you can use that information to do things like setting up a specific email flow that targets customers with special offers or exclusive content. Whatever it takes to get them to stay engaged.

Additionally, you can look at engagement over time every week to measure and improve the quality of the subscribers you acquire.

Average email opened vs. age of profile

The average email opened vs. age of profile chart offers another perspective on how the age of your subscribers impacts their engagement by showing the open rate by subscriber age. Again, to be clear we’re not talking about the number on their driver’s license.

This view can also help you understand whether there’s a specific age at which subscribers begin to disengage from your brand. By looking at your open rate trend, you can see if people get more or less engaged with you over time, and by how much. If you want to drill in, you can see how many members are engaged or unengaged by age.

By looking at where you start seeing the highest volume of unengaged subscribers, you can also use this chart to figure out if you should use the age of a subscriber as criteria for segmenting and/or cleaning your list.

For example, if you have a high volume of engaged subscribers who subscribed over 36 weeks ago, you might want to separate those subscribers into their own segment and consider emailing them less frequently.

Things that influence list engagement

The age of your email subscriber is typically the most obvious factor that influences how engaged a recipient is — that’s why it’s important to focus on growing your list. But there are two other areas that you’ll want to consider when mapping out strategies to increase your email list engagement:

  1. How relevant is your content?
  2. How did each subscriber first sign up?

Sending consistently relevant content is important because it’s the best incentive you have to offer if you want to extend the average length of time of an engaged subscriber.

If, for example, you’re always featuring the same products; offering the same incentives; and/or you’re keeping your emails purely transactional — you’ll see a consistent drop off in engagement as your subscribers age.

In short, if your email content strategy doesn’t vary much, your subscribers are probably getting bored and aren’t looking forward to seeing what you send next. To avoid bored subscribers, consider incorporating the following into your email content strategy:

  • Pick different themes to message against each week or month. If your goal is to sell products, make sure you either vary the products you send to a given list or segment or choose different dynamic feeds so there’s always something new for your recipients to look at. You can also segment based on the category of product people have bought in the past, and offer promotions on products that are in similar categories. For instance, if someone recently bought a Tom Brady poster from you, don’t follow up with a campaign featuring iPhone cases.
  • Switch up your promotions. If you consistently offer the same free shipping incentive, segment the subscribers who have never responded to your promotion and consider extending a BOGO or discount instead.
  • Embrace content. Follow in the footsteps of brands like Annmarie Skincare or Beardbrand and offer an educational, content-based series that complements your product line.
  • Use email flows! Make sure you have event-based, automated series set up for abandoned carts, welcome series, browse abandonment and post-purchase communications. Messaging to your audience based on actions they’ve recently taken is one of the best ways you can send them more relevant information — and your engagement will improve as a result.

How someone signed up for your list in the first place also has an impact on engagement.

If you’ve signed people up with a sweepstakes, for example, you may find that those subscribers are less engaged than subscribers who organically volunteer their email address to you so they can get special offers. And of course, a customer who has already bought from your brand will likely be more engaged — particularly right after they buy! — compared to someone who wanted a coupon but never got around to using it.

Managing unengaged email subscribers

Once you’ve gotten a read on list engagement, and started to think about why customers are and aren’t engaging, you’ll want to consider what you should do with current unengaged subscribers.

Your first move should be to segment your subscribers in such a way that, at the very least, any future campaigns you send are targeted at those recipients most likely to open. Scrub anyone who has never opened an email from you off of your list. Regularly cleaning your list not only ensures that you’re sending to engaged subscribers and is one of the best ways to boost your sender reputation, but it also helps get your emails delivered into the inbox.

Once you’ve cleaned your list, turn your attention to recipients that are barely engaged (those who have opened less than 20% of the emails they’ve ever received). Take this band and segment it further into people who have engaged with you recently (those who have opened an email in the last 90 days).

From there, see if you can experiment with your content strategy to drive engagement among this population. Just be conscientious of your sender reputation. If you run a promotion against this population and see less than a 15% open rate on your campaign, stop sending and focus your efforts on your engaged population instead.

The wrap

Focusing and measuring your marketing efforts based on how engaged your email subscribers are is perhaps the single most impactful move you can make as an email marketer. List growth itself should not be your primary goal — only focusing on sheer quantity without considering who is on your list and how they respond to your promotions is a sure way to get diminishing returns from your email marketing over time.

Klaviyo’s List Engagement Report is one tool you can use to make sure you’re paying attention to how people are interacting with your brand over time.

 

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