Email Tip: Re-engagement Emails 101

This month, we welcome a guest blog post from our Digital Strategist, Allison Cutsinger.  Allison is responsible for the overall email strategy, production, scheduling, delivery, and reporting of behavior-based, targeted email, website, mobile, and search campaigns for B2B and B2C e-commerce clients.


In the age of personalized content at your customers’ fingertips, email marketing campaigns are a must. After all, it’s a simple algorithm. You send engaging emails, make millions of dollars, and skip off into the sunset to live happily ever after.

While this may be your story, it’s often not that simple. Estimates suggest that by 2021, we could reach an all-time high of 320 billion emails sent daily around the globe. Competition for inbox placement and your customers’ attention is a universal challenge.

Every savvy email marketer struggles with subscriber disengagement. Broadly defined, email contacts are considered disengaged if they do not open any of your emails within the past 6 months.

It’s not uncommon for contacts to become disengaged. In fact, you can expect to lose roughly 22% of your subscribers on an annual basis (either from disengagement or from opting-out).

With heightened competition, even the best subject lines might not save disengaged customers. Today, we’ll cover engagement basics and how to re-engage at-risk subscribers.

Is Emailing Disengaged Contacts a Risk?

Emailing disengaged addresses can have wide-reaching repercussions beyond artificially low open rates. Risks include:

  • damaging your overall brand’s reputation by creating unwanted noise in their inbox
  • deliverability issues to certain email domains, resulting in active customers not receiving your messages
  • blacklisting your IP address, preventing you from sending emails

Getting Started with Re-engagement Emails

Creating a re-engagement program is one of the best ways to combat the natural decline of your subscriber database and to keep your sender (and overall brand) reputation in good health. Re-engagement emails are direct and pose the question, “would you still like to receive our emails?” Let’s get started.

1. First, put on your waders and dive into those subscriber metrics. While the widely accepted timeframe to start re-engaging contacts is at 6-months of disengagement, check if this cadence fits your audience. Factor in business metrics like your customers’ buying cycle to make sure you’re emailing with appropriate frequency going forward.

2. Identify your strategy. Will your re-engagement program be a series or a single send? Will you develop unique creative for each email? Will you offer a discount or other incentive? Will you continue to send them marketing messages during this time? How will you measure success (an open, a click, a purchase, etc.)? All of these questions factor into your strategy.

Don’t forget to think through the call-to-action. Your email’s goal is to retain the subscriber, but not all contacts will commit. Determine if you’ll point customers directly to the unsubscribe form or to a preference center, so they can pause or customize the message frequency.

3. Create and schedule the email(s). Automate your emails to send at an appropriate cadence. Then, measure how your audience reacts and tailor your ongoing strategy.

Brands Getting It Right

Subject Line: Are you wearing camo? We haven’t seen you in a while.

The subject line reflects the outdoor retailer’s brand and clearly speaks to the nature of the email, without being overt.


Subject Line: Hey, we want you back.

Cosmopolitan’s subject line clearly and conversationally speaks to their customer. Additionally, they carry the same tone throughout the email body using witty and informal copy.

Rather than a single unsubscribe, Cosmopolitan gives their newsletter subscribers the option to downgrade to a less frequent subscription. We also love that they provide alternate means to stay in touch with their brand (via social media).


Mud Pie
Subject Line: Is it something we said?

Our client Mud Pie communicates the value-add of maintaining a subscription throughout the email body. An attention-grabbing subject line, descriptive CTAs, and engaging copy stay true-to-brand from subject line to footer.

Mud Pie

Get Started

Many companies resist decreasing the size of their email list, especially since it’s much less costly to keep existing customers than to acquire new ones. Hanging onto disengaged subscribers is not worth the risk of bad data hygiene, damage to your IP reputation, or negatively skewing your metrics (lower open rate, lower click rate, and higher send costs by unnecessarily sending to unengaged recipients).

Clean up your email list by sending a re-engagement email or series. If customers continue to ignore your mailings, then it’s time to remove them from your list and focus your efforts on subscriber acquisition.