Dare to remove email addresses from your opt-in database

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7, May 2020

Every email marketer tries to increase their open rate, but sometimes this seems like an impossible mission. Whatever you try, some recipients simply are no longer opening your emails. Yet we continue to email them, which can negatively impact your email database

In general, us email marketers are not doing badly in the Netherlands. According to figures from the National Email Benchmark (Dutch version) from the DDMA, the average open rate is relatively high, at 38%. At the same time, that does mean that 62% is not opened. However, do we ever look at that percentage? Or do we just focus on the number of people who do open? The latter is often the case. In this article, I would like to tell you which three steps you can take to improve the quality of your email database. 

What not opening an email once says about the loyalty of your recipient

Does the rate of opened and unopened emails say something about the success of your follow-up email communications? What is the probability that someone will open your email if they haven’t opened the first one? Are there risks of emails not being opened in general?

We asked ourselves these questions, and our small study found the answers. Based on more than 1 billion sent emails*, we analysed the opening behaviour of email recipients after the first unopened email.

Open probability in %

email database
Number of sent emails

*The above figure shows the results of an analysis based on > 1 billion sent emails in 2018 (EU organisations), with no distinctions made between b2b/b2c, newsletters/trigger-based, sector and season. 

The leftmost column is the first email that is sent after an email was not opened. From this we can see that the probability that the recipient will open the next email is only 22%. If the recipient has not opened the first two emails, the probability that they will open the third email is less than 15%. And after three unopened emails, the average open rate decreases to 10%. 

A lost contact

By the time the recipient has not opened eight emails, the probability that they will open the next drops to below 5%. But where does it end? If the recipient has not opened 50 emails in succession, this percentage decreases to below 1%. The first sign that is given is therefore more important than you think. If you don’t take any action, the “level of loyalty” goes from less loyal, to least loyal.

Think about the following:

“A call centre will stop phoning the contact after an average of 3 to 5 attempts; but when it comes to emails, sometimes we never stop. We keep trying to get a recipient to respond until they simply unsubscribe or the email address bounces. Why?” 

Improve the quality of your email database: respond to non-openers

1) Increase relevance 

The results of our study show that there is a low probability of someone becoming active again once you have lost their interest. So respond actively if you see this happening. But how

The most important thing you have to start off with if you want to improve your ratios and results from your email marketing, is to find out what the recipient wants to read. Relevance is the key to success. You can increase relevance with a profile enrichment campaign in which you ask the reader to fill in an enrichment form to learn about their interests. You can also create a profile based on historical click behaviour. 

But don’t forget the traditional methods either, such as structured A/B tests. Personalize your subject line. That is, after all, the first moment you can tempt someone to open the email. Read our blog entry about the perfect subject line.

2) Keep your recipients active through campaigns 

It is better to prevent rather than to cure. This also applies when it comes to your recipients. Keeping a recipient active involves more than just an email. You can use various types of campaigns for this.

Take for example Friesland Campina, that won the DDMA Email Campaign of the year in 2018. They showed that a good welcome campaign can ensure that a recipient becomes active, remains active for longer and displays more of the desired behaviour. 

You can also use an onboarding campaign, lifecycle campaign and/or a reactivation campaign, to reactivate sleepers.

3) Unsubscribing has more advantages

Have you sent relevant content, but the non-opens continue? Decide when it is time to say: “this recipient will no longer bring me anything” and with this in mind start the unsubscribing process. Actively unsubscribe the recipient from further communication and delete opt-ins that are no longer relevant. 

With an increase of activity in your emails (opens & clicks) the reputation of your emails also improves and thereby the general deliverability of your mailings. So regardless of how counterintuitive it may seem: don’t be afraid to delete addresses from your email database.

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Sean Barten

​Client Service Director +31 85 773 99 90