You don’t have to spend long in the email industry before you hear mention of re-engagement or winback campaigns. Most marketers would likely tell you these are synonymous and their general goal is to elicit engagement from subscribers who have exceeded a defined time period —often a maximum of 12 months— without opening or clicking an email. That was the case once upon a time, but the rules have since changed.
Separating Channel Engagement and Purchase Behavior
Subscribers have taken control of the long-heralded mantra of “right message, right person, right time” and added a new layer — right channel. It is critical that we separate engagement in the channel from engagement with the brand. This is a fundamental shift in how we approach these campaigns:
This simple grid visualizes how a subscriber can be completely unengaged with the email channel yet an actively purchasing customer. To avoid any confusion, it’s important to point out some terminology first. At BrightWave, we define channel behavior as engaged/un-engaged and purchase behavior as active/inactive.
On the other hand, a customer could be very engaged in the email channel yet an inactive (or infrequent) purchaser. All four quadrants represented here require a unique communication approach, and the goals for each vary widely. This approach connects channel engagement to purchase behavior, enabling winback efforts that can be deployed in whatever channel the consumer has shown a preference for:
Re-engagement efforts, meanwhile, are channel-specific and focused on eliciting activity in a given channel. This is not to say that re-engagement campaigns aren’t important (because they are!), but the focus has shifted. It’s no longer about forcing someone back into a channel in which they aren’t interested; it’s about respecting their channel preference while protecting our deliverability reputation. This requires a realignment of goals surrounding these campaigns. It’s unrealistic to expect that a subscriber who has not opened or clicked an email will suddenly choose to do so as a result of this single campaign. Instead, we should reframe these campaigns as list hygiene efforts and instill a quality-over-quantity mindset across the organization. It’s now less about getting subscribers back and more about being ok with letting them go.
To that end, it’s important to be very clear about the purpose of a re-engagement message. “We miss you” is misleading – what do you miss about me? My purchase behavior? My interest in your emails? The below example from SurfStitch is great because it follows a few simple rules for an effective re-engagement campaign:
- State your purpose. Be very clear about the reason for your message.
- Entice me. Re-introduce the benefits of being a subscriber. What have I missed by not opening your emails?
- Provide options. Allow me to tailor my inbox experience by choosing the content and/or cadence of messages you send me.
- Keep your word. Don’t collect content or cadence options if you aren’t prepared to use them.
- Let me go. Make it easy to unsubscribe if that’s what I choose.
Engagement Can’t Be an Afterthought
Instead of focusing on re-engagement campaigns as a last-ditch effort to elicit behavior in the email channel, we need to ensure our programs are set up to deliver the most relevant content from the outset of the subscriber relationship. To learn more about how to set your program up for success, watch the video of our “Personalization at Scale” session from EiQ 2019.