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Subscriber engagement refers to the level of engagement or interaction an email subscriber maintains with a brand's email communications. The lack of subscriber engagement has become a critical topic for email marketers in recent years.

Engaged subscribers, generally defined as recipients who have opened, clicked on, or otherwise interacted with an email message in the previous 3-6 months, often make up only 30-40% of an email marketer's database.

It is truly a sad state of affairs when marketers are immune to the fact that at least 60% of email recipients ignore communications.

To make matters worse, email is undergoing rapid change at the subscriber level:

  • The inbox is morphing. Solutions like Gmail's Priority Inbox and Xobni take control away from the email marketer and make it more difficult to guarantee meaningful placement in the inbox.
  • The proliferation of daily-deal sites (e.g., Rue La La, Groupon) has raised consumer expectations around discounting and offer variety.
  • Perhaps most important, Internet service providers are beginning to use engagement as a gauge to determine where emails appear in the consumer's inbox—or whether they should be delivered at all. Confronting such a headwind, email marketers must understand how to maximize subscriber engagement.

Below is a short engagement strategy checklist to help elevate engagement in your email programs.

The Basics

1. The Welcome Series

The welcome series is perhaps the most underused program in the subscriber lifecycle. As subscribers enter your program, setting their expectations—about frequency of communication, content, etc.—is critical.

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Ryan Deutsch is vice-president of strategic services at StrongMail, a leading provider of online marketing solutions for email and social media.