Email Engagement Rates Falling? Here’s How to Keep Yours High

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“Same old, same old” isn’t working anymore. Not in media, not in marketing – not email marketing, either. We’ve all got to up our game if we want to get our subscribers’ attention. The inbox is a really competitive space.

Even if your email engagement rates are doing relatively well, you’re probably watching them closely. Maybe worrying about them a little, too. That might be ‘cause it’s summer, and engagement rates tend to fall. But, actually, any time of year is important for marketers.

Even now, in mid-August, we’re in the back to school cycle. And as you probably know, up to 40% of shoppers will start their Christmas shopping by September. In B2B? You don’t get a reprieve, either. Q4 is upon us, and you need to stay top of mind to get in on the new deals and investments for 2017.

There is good news, though: None of those challenges has to be a problem. They can actually be an opportunity. Over the next month or two, you’ve got a nice window to test a few engagement tricks.

Some of the engagement tactics we’re about to show you might work great. In all honesty, a couple could fall flat. But if you get started now, you’ve got enough time to find out what works best for your list. Then you can roll it out when the stakes are higher a few months from now.


1) Personalize.

Are you one of “those” people who collects a bunch of data in your opt-in forms, only to keep sending emails with no personalization?

Don’t feel too bad about it. Lots of email marketers are still doing this. But it’s time to change. Personalization has been shown to double engagement rates in some cases, and smart use of it can consistently raise both engagement and revenue.

Want proof? Here’s research from VentureBeat about how personalization affects open and click-through rates:



Want to get some of those results for yourself? It’s time to try some personalization in your email messages. You happen to be on a really good website for that.   🙂


Caption: Nifty Images lets you personalize the images in your emails.


2) Write for non-openers.

This is advice from Loren MacDonald, a guy who’s been around email for years. What Loren is referring to when he says “write for non-openers” is to optimize your subject line, preheader text and sender name as much as you can.

This is critical real estate for a bunch of reasons. First, even if you don’t get the open, just having a subscriber see those three elements of your email message in their inbox is meaningful. It’s almost like a mini advertisement in their inbox. Some email experts have even wondered if that little ad is enough to prompt people to act later, when they see another message from you.

The second reason those three inbox view elements are so critical is that they’re the first screening you’ve got to pass. When your customer checks her inbox in the morning, she’ll probably have fifty to one hundred messages to deal with. She’s not going to read every one, so that means she’s got to do a quick assessment and then cull everything she doesn’t need.

Your email’s subject line, pre-header text, and sender name need to pass that assessment – or forget about getting an engagement later on.


Caption: Image courtesy of Campaign Monitor, one of the many email marketing service providers that work with NiftyImages.


3) Segment.

Relevancy is the secret sauce of successful marketing. That’s why good segmentation can do such beautiful things for email engagement. According to new data from MailChimp, segmented campaigns get 14.48% higher opens and 58.99% higher clicks than non-segmented campaigns.




The trick is to segment intelligently. That means not just segmenting based on what subscribers say they’re interested in. Also segment based on their behavior (what they click, which emails they tend to open) and possibly on their location or anything else you know about them.

More work? Yeah… a little. But way more results, too.


4) Send triggered emails.

These are sometimes referred to as “marketing automation” or behavioral emails. Neither reference is wrong – they certainly are a form of marketing automation, but they’re a simple form of it. Don’t misinterpret that to mean they’re not effective. Triggered emails get crazy high engagement rates.

Why? Well, basically, they strike while the iron is hot. Triggered emails can happen based on a user’s activity. Or they can happen based on inactivity. Here’s a few examples of common triggered emails:

  • Welcome emails sent right after someone has signed up.
  • Order confirmation emails.
  • Shipping notification emails.
  • Birthday emails.

That’s just a few examples, but I think you get the idea.

Want to take things even a step further? Blend personalization with your triggered messages.


5) Send a welcome series.

For email, first impressions can have long-lasting consequences. Sending a welcome email (or even better, a welcome email series) can get your relationship with your subscribers off to an excellent start. According to Experian’s Welcome emails Best Practices Guide, welcome emails generate 86% more clicks than a typical promotional email. Welcome emails also get 336% more transactions and 320% more revenue per email.




Welcome email series have benefits over time, too. That’s what Return Path found when they were doing research for their ebook, How America’s Top Retailers Set the Tone with Welcome Emails. The more emails someone opened in a welcome series, the more orders they placed – and the larger those orders were, too.




There are many other tactics for increasing engagement rates, but those are the most likely to work, and the most likely to deliver significant results. Aim to try at least a few of these before the year-end rush. You might have an extra-merry Christmas.


What do you think?

What’s worked to improve engagement rates for your list? Got any blow-our-doors-off stories of improving email engagement rates? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.


Pam Neely has been marketing online for 18 years. She has a background in publishing and journalism, including a New York Press Award and a Hermes Creative Award for blog writing. Pam holds a Master’s Degree in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University and is the author of a bestselling Amazon Kindle book “50 Ways to Build Your Email Marketing List.” Follow her on Twitter @pamellaneely.

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