Why Engagement is More Important than List Size

Marketers should always be looking for new ways to grow their lists. But what if you already have a 100,000-person master list? Should you send to everyone on it?

The answer is a resounding “No.”

Sending the same email to a master list of 100,000 people can look an awful lot like spam. That’s why engagement – not list size – is what truly matters when you send an email campaign. It’s quality, not quantity.

The difference between an engaged and an unengaged list means 30% open rates versus single-digit open rates. The truth of the matter is, low open rates can lead to poor deliverability. So, while conversion rates are the most important metric to look at in terms of a campaign’s success, you need to reach the inbox before an email can convert.Movie Fifty Shades Darker (2017)

There are two key steps you can take to make sure you’re sending to an engaged list.1. Make Sure Everyone You’re Sending to Has Opted InThis one may seem obvious, but it’s absolutely critical. This means:

NO Purchased Lists
This violates many ESPs’ (including Klaviyo’s) Terms of Service. Aside from that fact that it’s just plain rude to send emails to people without their permission, it’s a surefire way to get recipients to mark your emails as spam.

Double or Single Opt-in
A double opt-in means new subscribers have to confirm their email address after signing up; because of this, these subscribers are typically more engaged and higher quality leads.

A single opt-in signup will give you a larger quantity of subscribers, but they may not be as engaged. This is an easier signup process, since subscribers don’t have to confirm their interest. This also means you’ll collect more invalid email addresses.

Ultimately, whether or not you use double or single opt-in is a personal decision for your business. If you’re more concerned with the quality of your leads rather than the quantity (and sustained engagement), we recommend using double opt-in.

No Customers (Unless They’ve Chosen to Hear from You)
Many email marketers make the mistake of assuming that just because someone has purchased, they have opted in to receive marketing emails. This isn’t the case and, although it doesn’t violate the CAN-SPAM Act, technically you don’t have permission to send your customers newsletters unless they have explicitly signed up for them.

The one caveat to this is if you have an area on your checkout page where customers can opt in to receive marketing emails. We recommend you default to this box being unchecked to eliminate the possibility of customers accidentally subscribing to your newsletter. If a customer starts receiving your newsletter and doesn’t remember this step in the checkout process, they may mark your emails as spam.2. Segment Based on Previous InteractionsWe recommend that all marketers segment their newsletter list to optimize for engagement. This way, you’re not repeatedly reaching out to cold leads and negatively impacting your open rates (and possibly your deliverability). There are a few ways you can define engagement based on how subscribers have interacted with you.

Recently Opened an Email
The most common way to determine engagement is by segmenting your newsletter list based on when a subscriber last opened an email. We recommend confining this segment to subscribers who have opened at least one email in the past 90 days.

You can adjust this timeframe based on your needs. For example, you could extend the timeframe to capture a larger but less engaged group, or shorten it to capture a smaller but more engaged one.

Recently Clicked in an Email
You might choose to define engagement by clicks. Since people open emails more often than they click them, you can have a broader timeframe for determining engagement — around 120 days. Clicking is also a stronger indication of interest than simply opening an email, so you can get away with allowing more time.

Recently Viewed a Product on Your Website
You can also define engagement by activity on your website. This might not be the sole factor you use to determine engagement, but it’s a great “or” condition to hone in on who might find your emails most relevant, while also expanding your audience. If they’re perusing your site, you’re likely top-of-mind.

To get even more targeted, you can narrow down this condition to only include people who have visited your site a certain number of times. For example, your engaged list might contain newsletter subscribers who have opened an email in the past 90 days or have visited your site in the past month.

Recently Purchased a Product (and Subscribed to Your Newsletter)
The reasoning behind this one is similar to including those who have recently visited your site — you want to reach subscribers who are thinking about your brand. Nothing indicates interest more than making a purchase, and adding this as an “or” condition broadens your reach in terms of who you’re sending to.

Again, it’s important to keep in mind that these customers must also be subscribed to your newsletter list in order for you to contact them with marketing emails.What About Your Unengaged Subscribers?How you define your unengaged subscribers depends on how you define your engaged ones. Let’s say your engaged segment contains subscribers who have opened at least one email in the past 90 days. In this case, your unengaged segment will contain those who haven’t opened an email in the past 90 days.

You will want to message your unengaged subscribers differently — namely, you’ll want to send them win-back emails. Win-back emails are a crucial part of customer retention and strengthen customer loyalty. Since you already know a lot about these customers based on their previous purchase history, you’re leaving money on the table if you choose not to leverage this insight.Bottom LinePart of a marketer’s main objective is to grow their email list. However, this is not the same as  blasting everyone on that list with the same email. The quality and engagement of your list is by far more important than sheer numbers, from both a deliverability and a subscriber experience viewpoint.Keep LearningInterested in getting more tips and advice like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get our freshest content on ecommerce marketing and more.

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