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What are the best ways to re-engage inactive email subscribers? Take the time to show them you care or offer them a fixed discount, according to a recent report from Return Path.

The analysis of 33 win-back campaigns by retailers found that reactivation emails with the words "miss you" and "come back" in their subject lines had higher read rates (13% and 12.7%, respectively) than emails offering standard percent-off discounts (11%).

Fixed-amount ($ off) discount emails had the highest read rate of any win-back tactic examined (21%), yet they were sent far less often than percent-off emails.

Re-permission emails, where the sender attempted to get long inactive recipients to opt into receiving emails again, were found to be ineffective, with only a 1.8% average read rate.

Below, additional key findings from the report, which was based on data from 300 million emails sent to 100 million subscribers.

Read Rates

  • 92% of the win-back emails examined made it to consumers' inboxes.
  • However, only 12% of subscribers who received win-back emails took the time to read them.
  • AOL mail users had the highest win-back email read rate at 23%, Yahoo mail users had an average read rate of 15%, and Gmail users had a read rate of 16%.


  • 45% of recipients who received a win-back email engaged with subsequent emails from that brand.
  • However, only 24% of those who opened later emails actually read the win-back email, indicating that a brand should not rush to cull its list if it does not see good a response to an initial re-engagement campaign.
  • Moreover, re-engagement often takes a while: The average length of time between when people received a win-back email and when they read a subsequent message from the sender was 57 days, the analysis found.
  • Some recipients were still opening emails from brands 300 days after receiving (and ignoring) a win-back message.

About the research: The report was based on data from 300 million emails sent by retailers as part of 33 win-back campaigns conducted between April 1, 2013 and January 31, 2014.

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image of Ayaz Nanji

Ayaz Nanji is a digital strategist and a co-founder of ICW Media, a marketing agency specializing in content and social media services for tech firms. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji