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What is Email Engagement ?

July 5, 2011

In the past an ISP would judge your email reputation on the number of complaints they received via feedback loops. And, in the case of Hotmail, the number of unsubscribes via the automatic unsubscribe link. Its fairly obvious that this isn't an accurate measure of reputation. Spammers are very aware of this and send a large number of emails to email accounts that they know are dormant just so their percentage complaint rate is still low and they are not recognised as a spammer.

Now ISP's such as Google,Hotmail and AOL are looking at email engagement as a measure for reputation. Email marketeers are also using engagment as a meaure of effectiveness and sucess of a campaign. So what is email engagement ?

Email engagement is a collective measure of the actions a recipient takes when they receive an email. Do they open the email or simply preview it ? Do they delete it ? If so, how long before they delete it ? Do they click on any links in the email ? Do they respond to the email ? Do they forward the email on ? Do they archive the message to read later ?  ISP's use a combination of these stats to determine how engaged a recipient is with the sender.

In its simplest form, recipients can be split into 3 groups.

  • Engage contacts are people who regulary open your email and click at least one link. They may also visit your website directly and in the case of e-commerce may have purchased something. These contacts are very valuable.
  • Disengaged contacts are people who never open your emails and therefore never click a link. They effectively are not interested in what you are sending. Often your email will end up straight in the trash folder. One of the metrics that ISP's monitor to measure customer engagement.
  • You also have an in-between group. These people are said to be semi-engaged. They occasionally, but not very frequently, open your emails but don't click any links or visit your website.

How engaged a recipient is should determine how you communicate with them. You may still get the occasional lead from disengaged contact when doing a lead generation campaign but in general you don't want to me communicating the same message to all groups.

To your engaged users you don't want to be preaching to the converted. They already know what you do and may have purchased from you in the past. Instead you want to tell them about new products or services that you might be offering or any special offers you have based on their purchase history.

With your dis-engaged recipients the aim is to try and re-engage them. To do this you want to motivate them to take action such as clicking on a link. Try making the message personal and ask them if they are still interested. If after a couple of attempts at re-engagment their is no action then it is time to remove these contacts from your list. They are either not interested or dead email addresses. Continually emailing your disengaged contacts can damage your reputation with the ISP's and make it harder to contact your engaged recipients.

Your semi-engaged contacts need careful handling. If you continue to bombard these people with irrelevant emails they will very quickly become disengaged and may be lost forever. However, with a little nuturing they could also become fully engaged and very valuable.

The idea of email engagement has been around for a while but as the major ISP's s focus on it as a metric for inbox filtering it is becoming more and more important to segment data according to the recipients engagement level.

Posted by Simon Hill

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