Engaging Your List for Better Deliverability

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The Challenge:

A national casual dine chain gearing up for the busy holiday season sought to drive additional traffic with a series of emails sent on consecutive days. Unfortunately, they had not undertaken efforts to ensure member engagement in their eClub and they had not unsubscribed unengaged members due to a company focus on list size. With few exceptions, any email address that had ever entered their eClub was still in the eClub at the time of the campaign, and some had been unengaged for years. Email providers noticed the repeated attempts to mail unengaged accounts from the restaurant IP address and placed strict restrictions that effectively ended the restaurant’s holiday campaign.

The lack of engagement between an email recipient and the sender is one of many factors monitored by email providers to determine spam accounts. The campaign’s consecutive emails were delivered to many honeypot accounts. (Note: In the email marketing industry, a “honeypot” refers to an abandoned email address that email providers have converted into a spam trap. Because providers know that the email address is not seeking or responding to any messages, they watch the behavior of senders for spam activities, like sending multiple unsolicited messages.) The honeypot accounts and other spam red flags, resulted in the companies IP address being listed on Spamhaus. They could not send any emails for the next seven days, and even when they were finally allowed to send, they faced a 30-day probationary period in which they had to submit and follow a remediation plan.

The Solution:

With the spam blackout in effect, it was too late for the restaurant to salvage their holiday email campaign, but they now understood the need to deemphasize the total size of the list in favor of an engaged list. Initially, the client paid to have currently unengaged members removed their list. They subsequently set up a series of triggered emails as a re-engagement campaign to support a new strategy focusing on list engagement.

Determining the true engagement status of a list member is not an exact science because individuals engage on their own terms. Therefore, a re-engagement campaign is useful for determining true engagement with a high degree of certainty. This restaurant automatically added members to the campaign after nine months without engagement activity. Once monthly after being added to the list, the member received a triggered mailing with a personalized subject line, information about re-engagement to stay on the list, and sometimes, a more compelling offer than those sent to the engaged list (10% off vs 5% or a BOGO instead of a free appetizer). Any member who did not engage any mailings within 12 months of the re-engagement campaign received a final mailing notifying them that they would be removed from the list.

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While deploying the 12-month re-engagement campaign, the client also tested a campaign that removed members after 6 months. The 6-month campaign reengaged 10% of the members who were added to the list, while the 12-month campaign re-engaged only 6% of members. Fishbowl clients who have attempted one-time re-engagement emails only successfully reengage 0.42% of the list.

Some restaurants prefer a shorter campaign with better offers for high re-engagement, and some prefer longer campaigns in the hopes that the emails themselves, regardless of member engagement, will still keep them top of mind and drive sales and visits. Either choice is acceptable depending on company strategy, as long as it results in an engaged list. The restaurant who found themselves victim to a seven day spamhaus blackout has not experienced any subsequent spam restrictions since committing instituting their re-engagement campaign.