Retention Programs Start With Defining An Inactive Subscriber

Andrew Kordek

3 minute read

Retention Programs Start With Defining An Inactive Subscriber

This is an updated repost of one of our most popular blog entries. As this information is still highly relevant and valuable to those looking to understand email design challenges, requirements, and solutions regarding responsive design, we wanted to share it again. Enjoy.

I have been reading a lot of posts recently on how you should reactivate your inactive subscriber base.  Some email pundits agree that with a good strategy and program you can reactivate a portion of your inactive subscriber base and once again make revenue off of them. Other people say that reactivation programs don’t work well sometimes and are not worth the effort.  There are of course other views that people have and for the most part, all of them are right. You see, reactivation programs are not for everyone or every company.  Some will succeed and others will fail where they shouldn’t have. I truly believe that all reactivation programs should work, but with the proper preparation, database analysis, and segmentation. This preparation process should take almost twice as much time than it will to actually pull the campaign off. To have a successful reactivation program, you have to do the legwork.

Let me explain:  Organizations need to do a better job of defining an inactive subscriber. Inactives to one company might not be to others. In fact, the difference can be subtle or even great despite companies who are competitors. So…before you jump on the reactivation campaign bandwagon before your holiday rush or your end of quarter revenue push, take the time to sit down and truly define an inactive.

Below is a little help from yours truly to get the conversation going:

  1. Are they openers? Clickers?
  2. Non-purchasers?
  3. Were they once purchasers that haven’t purchased in X period of time?
  4. Were they once clickers but have not clicked in X period of time?
  5. Are they email subscribers who have done nothing but purchased in store?
  6. Were they once downloaders and are not coming back to the site for anything?
  7. Were they once readers of your email, but have not visited the site in X period of time?
  8. Were they once site visitors, not readers of email, but have done nothing for X period of time?


And on and on and on…the possibilities are endless. This is where you as a smart email marketer need to put a stake in the ground with management and agree upon what truly an inactive is. In addition, the general rule of thumb for X amount of time has long been 6 months. Not sure who made that rule up or why all of us (me included) have used it as gospel over the last several years, but 6 months cannot be further from an industry standard. There are so many factors that need to be looked at: seasonality, product mix, previous engagement metrics, time to inactivity, trending etc….that 6 months is no longer the standard.

For example, I once had a client tell me that if their customers did not buy something within the first 18 days after signing up for email, that the probability of them ever purchasing was 2%. In that instance, an inactive subscriber would be after 8 or 9 days and they better have an effective onboarding program coupled with a triggered inactive program waiting to deploy at a moment’s notice.

The key takeaway in all of this is simple: Define what an inactive subscriber means to your company and then put a solid plan together as to how you are going test into reactivating them.



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About the Author(s)

Andrew Kordek

Andrew Kordek is a Co-Founder of Trendline Interactive.

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