3 steps to re-activating sleepy email subscribers

How can you go beyond personalisation on [first-name] basis for your subscribers?

It’s the same story for so many commerce brands. Your team is hungry to learn more about individual customer preferences, through closely measuring who clicks, opens, converts – working out which content works best for them, so you can optimise and scale your success.

It’s simple in principle.

But what happens when you have a hundred-thousand strong email-base – or even bigger, which has zero engagement from this segment to even start testing?

Of course, you have your engaged subscribers too, but those who have hit the snooze button leave you with a huge gap in your potential reach and impact. How can you re-activate these records who have already demonstrated their loyalty to your brand by subscribing, and yet don’t seem to increase their activity with your current flight schedule?

The following three steps of integrated tactics and journeys will take you away from a centralised retail calendar, to not only reactivate unresponsive records but also enhance the engagement levels of those already involved.

Step 1: from one-to-all to one-to-many


Rather than sending one email to everyone, first segment by basic criteria which takes an overall business objective and characterises it with top-level customer criteria. Take “account status” for example:

  • Have your email subscribers already created an account with you, or are they already a part of your loyalty programme?

You can then split your dormant database two ways; by defining and delivering based on

  • Those who are eligible for an account creation invitation (e.g. a loyalty card), who should receive an email reminding them why they should open an account or apply for a loyalty card
  • Those who have already opened an account, and should instead receive relevant promotions for their subscription type

Apart from the fact that you’re being more relevant by making use of this simple segmentation, this step will also bring in additional profile data to teach you more about your sleepy subscribers, so you can optimise your targeting across channels.

Step 2: from one-to-many to one-to-some


Then, you can use enriched customer profiles to tell the right stories informed by cross-channel data, based on purchase intent or interest.

  • Relocating? Are they also a member of your partner’s relocation database, and interested product-sets related to a new home or change of lifestyle?
  • Heading off on holiday? Have they interacted with ads which imply they have upcoming travel plans, and this is the right moment for you to add value – or not?
  • Looking for sneakers? Have they visited a specific website product category which tells you approximately what they’re looking for, and does this enable you to present them with options?

You can use these implicit but telling subscriber actions found across your other channels to inform and qualify smaller groups of email subscribers for segments of ‘relocators’, ‘frequent travellers’ or ‘shoe-lovers’ and include them in campaigns relevant to their broader preferences and plans.

Step 3: from one-to-some, to one-to-one


You’ve begun to add deeper layers of insight to your basis for email segmentation, and you’re seeing the benefits in opens, clicks, and conversions. Now you’ve successfully breathed new life into your database through data-driven workflows, you can start to make journeys more dynamic and informed on an individual level.

This means setting up the interactive decision making and automation which makes your subscriber feel like they’re receiving an email flow just for them – and that you’re responding directly to their needs:

  • Aligning email sequences to call centre conversations: these one-to-one exchanges are a catalyst for increasing customer loyalty when combined with an automated email sequence. Have they had a negative experience with your brand? Treat them to a discount for a product they’re looking for, or you know they will love.
  • Product-specific journeys: now that your engagement levels are back on track, you can start building click profiles and combining the data gathered via the profile and external data you collected in steps 1 & 2. Based on that, you gain a real-time understanding of audience segments and their preferences beyond best-guesses – gaining direct knowledge about this specific subscriber’s favourite colours, preferred styles, products, budget – and when they’re most receptive to your messages. Eventually, this enables you to predict future behaviour of any subscriber and capitalise on that.

Taking it step-by-step

So if you are dealing with a base full of sleepy subscribers, just remember what to do. First segment them so that you know where you lack profile data. Then add external data from other channels to further enrich your records. To finish things off, start building click profiles via relevant communication you managed to send out via the previous steps. Combine all the data gathered, and use your output to begin predicting future subscriber movements. And there you go, your base is fully awake!


Time to wake up more of your customer data with 4 principles for smarter application of marketing data by Heehang Tsui.