Email List Segments Improve Deliverability & Engagement

As an email project manager, I get to work with fantastic clients on everything from email strategy to executing regular newsletters and email blasts. One report metric that I constantly have my eye on is the soft bounce rate, which affects the deliverability rate.

deliverability

 

 

 

 

Soft bounces happen for a range of reasons:  the recipient’s inbox may be full or the recipient’s email client may see a particular campaign as spam. Deliverability in the email world is very complex, and when I’m asked what can be done to improve soft bounces, I have one particular suggestion that at first thought seems counterintuitive: stop sending regular campaigns to your entire list.

Why?

While you may be content with your unique opens rate, an email provider such as AOL isn’t happy when you send a campaign to 2,000 of its customers while 400 of those addresses are no longer valid. Based on this alone, an email provider (i.e. AOL) may block your campaign or only allow a certain percentage through to the intended recipients. People cancel email accounts, change email addresses, lose their jobs, or abandon their account altogether, without ever letting you know (despite your beautiful preference center).

soft bounces

While you may be content with your unique opens rate, an email provider such as AOL isn’t happy when you send a campaign to 2,000 of its customers while 400 of those addresses are no longer valid. Based on this alone, an email provider (i.e. AOL) may block your campaign or only allow a certain percentage through to the intended recipients.

Segment Your Lists to Lower the Soft Bounce Rate

After segmenting a few clients’ lists that had deliverability issues with high soft bounce rates pertaining to large email clients, the deliverability rate increased immediately by 5%. Where 98% and above is ideal, I was able to lift deliverability rates from 90% to 95% in just one campaign by leaving out people who hadn’t opened or clicked on a single campaign — ever.

bounces

There is an assumption here that if an email address has never been tied to an “open” or a “click,” then it may be dormant or invalid. Because deliverability is so complex, this may not even be the reason why the deliverability rate increased after leaving out these “dormant” or unengaged addresses. Perhaps just by sending to 15% less of your list, you somehow passed the email service’s threshold for the amount of campaigns coming from the same sender.  An in-depth A/B test would need to be conducted to understand this better and we may only know the answer if we were the email provider.

Segment the Engaged from the Unengaged

Deliverability aside, segmenting your list based on engagement is another excellent way to send messages targeted to your contacts. Clearly, if 15% of your list has never opened or clicked on one of your emails, your campaigns are not resonating with them. Why not take the opportunity to run a re-engagement campaign to this segment separately and remove them from your regular campaigns until they have re-engaged?  Because of the higher probability that this segment contains invalid addresses, high ISP complainers, etc., I’d also look into having the list “cleaned” before running a re-engagement campaign.

email list segments

Treating unengaged contacts differently will not only will increase your deliverability rate, it will also ensure that more contacts will see your email in the long run. The longer you have issues with soft bounces, the more likely it will lower your sender score and decrease your ability to successfully deliver email campaigns to any email client.

If you use the OpenMoves platform and are not sure how to segment for inactive contacts or how to do a list “cleaning,” please contact your email project manager or Support for help. You can also learn how to setup a re-engagement campaign.

P.S. you may find these related articles helpful

http://openmoves.com/blog/plan-for-success-2014-email-checklist

http://openmoves.com/blog/email-reengagement

http://openmoves.com/blog/when-do-people-open-their-emails

http://openmoves.com/blog/how-mobile-are-your-emails

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