Email Churn – Smart strategies to lower your churn rate in the post-lockdown period

 In Email Deliverability, Email Marketing

Consumer perspectives and email behaviors are bound to change in the post-lockdown period. This will eventually increase the email churn rate from a marketer’s mailing list.

We already saw the anomalies in their email habits in our global survey report. With the COVID-19 crisis, email churn is on the rise due to the changed expectations of the general population. We analyzed the same in the survey where a sizeable audience wanted to receive email updates on essential goods rather than anything deemed luxury. 

It becomes all the more important for a brand marketer to understand their consumer motivations in the new normal. It will ultimately help them to reduce their churned users and retain current customers. 

Such systemic jolts to the economy create a new mold of a customer, where they can swing from one extreme of minimalism to another of extreme consumerism. The lock-down period around the world has thus given rise to a new kind of demanding consumer who wants to fulfill their basic needs first and then pay heed to any non-essential requirements. 

Your business may have had gaps of inactivity during the peak of the crisis. Delivery of your products may have been stopped due to government restrictions. Now that your business is opening up, how do you communicate with your key customers again? How do you stay in touch to retain them for your brand? 

Arresting churn from your mailing list becomes all the more important. We have talked about the types of email churn. Here, we first have a look at the concept of email churn. Furthermore, we have listed down some of the strategies to help a marketer to reduce their churned users, navigating the post-lock-down period.

What is Email Churn?

Email churn is an omnipresent challenge for a marketer today. Email churn will refer to customer attrition from a marketer’s mailing list. This is the inability to keep your users engaged with your brand. Dissatisfaction is the primary reason why users change their loyalties quickly in the current fast-paced digital world. One of the many side-effects of churn marketing. 

Increased customer attrition will result in reduced mailing size, which will ultimately mean a significant reduction in your business opportunities to convert these users. Keeping with the Pareto principle, 80% of your revenue should come from 20% of your customers. Thus, you get the reason why most email marketers will be trying every possible strategy to retain their loyal customers. 

It is estimated that the average churn rate for a mailing list is around 30-35% year on year. That is a major part of your audience, churning out. 

So let’s get down to what strategies can a marketer use to combat this email churn and do retention email marketing.

Strategies to reduce email churn rate

  • Arresting email churn starts early

A marketer should start devising ways to retain a subscriber from the moment they sign up to your newsletter. Collect their preferences at the beginning to have an idea of what kind of content they prefer. Deliver them on the same lines with their desired mailing frequency to avoid overwhelming them with your mailing. 

For those users who show a pattern early on of being ‘silent’, start the reactivation campaigns for such users right from 3-5 campaigns of non-activity. This period for starting these campaigns vary for different brands but it is vital that you closely monitor your engagement metrics to have a pulse on them.

Monitor where your new subscribers are clicking first, and what is their website browsing activity. This should give you a fair idea of their interest levels and products interested. Look at this data and engage with them on the same product lines. 

Try to engage the non-responders early, before they go silent. 

  • Storytelling within an email

A good story has great power in boosting your email engagement. People are attracted to good stories that keep them interested. Embrace it. Use it within your email newsletters to convey the larger picture to your users each time. 

We conducted some growth experiments with our own content newsletters and the results point towards one fact - “A good story within your email, will get you better engagement than the biggest product offer you can provide.” No one likes to engage with mundane and repetitive content. 

Storytelling builds your brand value in the user’s inbox and helps them connect and have an affinity for it. 

 Use the power of storytelling to get more engagement and reduce your churn rate. 

  • Increase your brand equity inside the inbox

As a marketer, you are the gatekeeper for increasing or lowering your brand perception among your customers. Email is one of the best ways to build it, but could also be the last thing you do in the company if it goes dead wrong. 

Branding establishes an image of your company, about their core values and motto. Your brand equity makes a decision for a customer to stay long-term or leave. Building your brand equity will prevent losing your core customers.  So before you send any email to your subscribers, especially in this crisis time, think twice about it. 

Ask yourself a few questions 

  • What is the strategy behind sending this email?
  • What is your USP that your users remember you for?
  • What are the end goals you are trying to achieve?
  • Does this increase your brand equity with your potential customers?

If you have positive answers to the above questions then go for it. Building your brand value inside a user’s inbox is a sure-fire way of retaining them. A user will look at your brand before making a transaction decision. So, marketers need to be careful in what kind of impact their email campaigns are making on their branding before sending them. 

Having a USP and a strategy to build on it will increase your brand equity in a user’s inbox.

  • Make every email count

In my opinion, a customer is more vulnerable to churn between their first and second transaction. So a marketer needs to come up with unique campaigns to engage the users who are most likely to churn out. 

Example: If a customer has transacted on a mattress from an e-commerce store, can you think of sending any content to them to engage?

Maybe you can send some scientific information to the user on the benefits of good sleep. Link that to your mattress and that provides a compelling angle for the user to check out. If you are a marketer in the automotive sector and wish to engage your transacted customers, some ideas on thinking out of the box. You can send them maintenance schedules, servicing emails, educational content on taking good care of your car etc. 

Think outside of normal offer based campaigns and design your customer-centric strategies to get them to engage with your content rather than just read and delete that mail.

Make sure every email you send should have valuable content. 

  • A/B test to reduce concealed email churn

In the types of churn, there are types like overt and silent churn. In the case of overt churn, it is concealed from the marketer as these users are regular openers of your campaigns but don’t click on the CTA to explore further. They are disinterested in your campaign content. 

These customers need to be retained for they form a major part of your mailing list. Clicks should be the metric to achieve for these strategies. 

Some ways to test win-back campaigns for these users

  • Do A/B tests for subject lines and content to check which campaigns get the most clicks. 
  • Personalize and send highly contextual content to get the users to respond. 
  • Increase the number of deals on display to achieve a better CTOR ratio. 

Using the above might help you to increase the brand affinity of the user and get them to explore your deals by clicking on the CTAs. 

Testing is fundamental to observing what works and doesn't work for your audience. 

  • Analyze user activity on all channels

We recommend that you have a holistic view of your users from their activities on as well as of email. Some questions to consider

  • Is the user having any affinity with email as a channel? 
  • If not, what are the other channels they are browsing on?
  • What is the platform that the user responds to? 

Considering the above questions, it will be up to the marketer to analyze the data acquired and draw some truths out of it. A holistic view of a user profile will provide some smart ways for a marketer to target a user. 

Example:  A certain user with a buyer persona might not be checking their emails much but spend a lot of time browsing on Facebook. Can you then pivot your offer to take that user to Facebook via your email campaign? Or just target them with a Facebook ad rather than wasting time on email. 

So there is no one size fits solution and targeting every user will vary according to the activity data that you can gather from data analysis. 

Reduce your mailing frequency to users who prefer other channels to reach out to them.

  • Click worthy permanent campaigns

Sometimes the best strategy is to have a good set of permanent campaigns ready for welcoming your new subscribers. Welcome series is an underrated technique for getting a user to connect with your brand from the start. An attractive welcome email should set the high standards of content with your subscriber. 

The following will be good pointers to follow

  • The campaigns should be click-worthy. 
  • The incentives on offer should be attractive for the user to get curious.
  • The series of welcome emails should be personalized and relevant to your audience.
  • The starting point of your subscriber journey. Make them highly interactive and contextual. 
  • Keep the user engaged and increase your brand equity within their inbox. 

A good set of permanent campaigns from the get-go will set the tone for the rest of your communications journey with the subscriber. It also essentially eliminates the majority of the work for a marketer to get the first engagement from new users. 

Good quality first communication campaigns could be a powerful tool to get your next set of loyal customers. 

  • Balancing your deliverability

Though we suggest using win-back campaigns to engage your inactive responders, there is a catch here that needs to be kept in mind. Nothing can be achieved in email marketing without good email deliverability. Now with major ISPs considering engagement as an important metric in spam filtering decisions, inactive users will receive your emails in spam automatically after a period of time. This means, your email deliverability should be at the forefront when making decisions on running campaigns to re-engage users. 

Nothing in your email program should come at the cost of ruining your domain hygiene and inboxing. So, pay equal attention to that. If your inboxing is dipping every time you run a campaign for inactive users, then pause them for the near future.  

Deliverability should be at the top of a marketer’s concerns when dealing with win-back campaigns for at-risk churners. 

  • Have a strict sunset policy in place

If you used all the above tactics and some part of your list is still not responding to your mails, then just sunset them! Remove those users from your list and don’t engage with them as they have no affinity with your brand. 

The biggest issue we have when talking strategy with some brands, is their need to target every single email address in their mailing list. The best practice is to segment your audience according to their interests and target them for better engagement. 

There is no point in emailing your entire list for the sake of gaining a few extra engagers. If the email deliverability goes for a toss due to targeting inactive users frequently, then it could be a show-stopper for your mailing activity. 

Will it be worth re-engaging those inactive users any more? 

My take on this: go through your engagement metrics and your mailing list meticulously. Sunset the non-responders for the last 6 months. 

An engaged mailing list is a productive list. 

Wrapping up

Email churn is a massive challenge for a marketer to reduce. Especially, in the post-lockdown period, when the perspectives and email behaviors have changed so much. Marketers will have to be smart to arrest churn using the above strategies. 

Data analytics would play an important role in re-engaging with your once-loyal customers. Going deeper into activity-based POV of user segments will provide clarity into crafting strategies to engage them. 

The strategies will be a good foundation to stick to as currently, the subscriber behavior can go through shifts. A marketer will have to keep experimenting and testing your users to check for what works. 

 

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