The newsletter is one of our central channels. We constantly ask ourselves the question: what measure optimizes a newsletter. Our goal is to find out more about the recipients’ interests.
We are indeed satisfied with the average opening rate of 22% to 25%. Mailchimp also attests that we are above average. However, further evaluation brought a surprising result and showed great potential. Because 46% of our recipients are inactive users. Although we are talking about regular and clean addresses with written consent or double optin.
We have defined that a recipient is inactive if he has not opened the last ten newsletters. Since we send out a newsletter every two weeks, these subscribers have not responded to our emails for a good six months. We can certainly discuss this definition. For us, this period seems quite long. Anyone who hasn’t opened for that long is already a dead card.
The procedure: Instead of deleting addresses, send a farewell mailing.
A large part of the inactive addresses was also quite old. They were part of the first stages of our newsletter around 2011. As you can imagine, it is difficult for us to do without half of our addresses right away. Even though they are dead files, deleting them seems weird. After all, we were happy with each one we generated.
Objectively, it would have made sense to directly delete the inactive ones, because we can no longer reach these users. Maybe they filter us, maybe we end up in the spam filter, I can’t tell you exactly. But one thing is relatively certain: we haven’t been able to reach some of these users for years. We opted for a two-step automation as a last resort before deleting the addresses. 1,009 addresses ended up in this group of inactive users.
We sent two emails to this segment. In the first email comes the question “Why don’t you open to us anymore?”. Although this courier in the next three days has not been opened, a final farewell email is sent. After this email, the address will be removed from the mailing list. We were hoping to activate at least a few more addresses.
Reactions and results of the experiment: optimization of a newsletter.
Just the Monday after our last newsletter, we started automation. We were very excited to see what was going to happen. Because if you write 1000 dead files, probably nothing should happen. But there were some reactions. This campaign therefore had an opening rate of 5%. This is significantly less than the retailer’s average, but also significantly more than the expected 0%. There were a few cancellations, around 15 in total, so it looks like we got it right after all. Some recipients have written to us asking to be kept on the mailing list. There were also those who criticized our approach and asked exactly what we were doing at the moment. And there were the 95% who didn’t open that email either. The 95% that we really can’t reach because the addresses are dead. Here is the summary of my knowledge of the action. Maybe this will help you optimize a newsletter you send out.
Observation 1: The segments must be defined very precisely.
Some things were already noticeable when creating the segments. When creating segments, the devil is in the details, so to speak. The first segment I built had over 4,000 addresses. That would really make a lot of relative users, since our newsletter only has 2,200 subscribers. The reason: Mailchimp also includes unsubscribed users in segments. Which I find very exciting, because I’m not allowed to write to them. Such errors are at least so visible that you notice them directly.
Another problem: there were also addresses in my segment that had only received less than a dozen newsletters. Anyone who had recently subscribed but hadn’t opened the emails was immediately on the results list. It was not planned like that.
Observation 2: the imprecision of the opening measures in the newsletters.
At the second preview, I felt a little stupid. I regularly tell people at seminars that measuring email open rates is inaccurate. However, I cracked myself. The open rate measurement is based on the fact that images are embedded in emails. Many users have removed the automatic loading of image content. This makes the measurement inaccurate.
The facts were indeed known. However, it only really became clear to me as the recipient said they regularly read our newsletter. And then we got a little nervous. Do we perhaps write to dozens or even more who diligently open and read, but do not understand? It wouldn’t exactly help optimize a newsletter if you’re kicking people off the mailing list due to a measurement error diligently opening it.
We may not have reacted rationally, but we reacted very humanly: First of all, everything was on hold. One user gave a direct hint that took us further. She reads regularly, but rarely clicks. So I built another segment, made up of people who did not open or click. I would have expected this segment to be empty. But that was not the case. This came as a surprise and was the precursor to the next achievement.
Lesson 3: Clicking does not fix a missing hole.
I assumed that Mailchimp corrects the open rate when a user clicks on a link. After all, how is someone supposed to click without opening the email first? It’s not logically possible, but it still happens in reports. There is a small group of about 60 people who have not opened any of the last ten emails, but have clicked on a link in those emails. It was another realization.
So, on the one hand, the effort of community management, on the other hand, finally, a tendency as to the height of imprecision. I set it to around 6%. How can I get the number? Of the 1000 addresses, 60 clicked but did not open. This corresponds to approximately 6%. It could also be a bit higher if there are a lot of users who always read but never click. However, since we’re only looking at ten emails, I suspect they don’t have a major impact on the number. However, I cannot support this statistically.
Insight 4: Press the button now. Even when it hurts.
I don’t know if it’s this “fear of missing something” is, but it feels really weird to remove half of the distribution list. Addresses don’t need spaces, that’s my thinking. But rationally, these addresses are useless.
So my fourth and perhaps most important finding: we often talk about quality rather than quantity. When it comes to deleting, you almost have to force yourself to press the button. Facebook says “move fast, break things”. I often preach: “Where there is planing, there are chips”. But in the end, sometimes the head says “Yes, it helps to optimize a newsletter”, but the heart and the guts always object.
With that in mind: push the button now! And that regularly. As you can read here, we are constantly optimizing our newsletter.
Addendum: The original text has been supplemented in response to a comment in order to clarify certain issues. For all newsletter addresses, consent is given by double opt-in or written declaration. Part of this agreement was our data protection rules and the reference to Mailchimp’s report / tracking, which is the basis for the ratings presented.