subscriber engagement

Over the last few years, the concept of subscriber engagement and behavior has become an important talking point for marketers and, more specifically, for email marketers. 

Reach is the main reason why marketers choose the email marketing channel to advertise their product or services. Compared to all other channels, email marketing remains the most cost-effective way of reaching a larger number of people in a short time.

The email channel has been used and abused in many ways. In order to protect their customers, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and subscribers themselves have become more fastidious with whom they allow into their inbox and which brands they want to deal with. If trust has not been established, it becomes a lot harder for a brand to get their emails not only into the inbox of their subscribers but also read by them. This behavior of engagement or non-engagement towards a brand defines whether the ISPs delivers the brand’s email to the inbox or to the junk folder. Similar to the real world, etiquette is a very important quality marketers need to have when addressing their subscribers through email communication.

This blog discusses the two most important ways for establishing trust with your subscribers: the sign-up process and the welcome email.

1. The Sign-Up Process

The sign-up process is the first step a potential customer takes to start communicating with you. It is important to make sure that expectations are set at that time. For instance, often we see customers provide their email address to get access to a website not knowing that they are automatically being signed up to receive newsletters. Marketers hide behind the terms and conditions excuse, but let’s be honest, who has the time to read T&C’s when the only thing you want is a coupon? This sort of behaviour creates distrust towards a brand.

In order to ensure that the relationship with your customer is a fruitful one from the get go, customers need to know what they are signing up for when they subscribe to receiving communications from a brand. It is considered best practice to let the customer choose how often do they want to hear from you or what type of mailing should they expect from you.

The sign-up process can also be used by marketers to gather information regarding subscribers’ preferences, to then serve them a more personalized and customized experience with their brand

Here is an example of a good sign up page:

Clicking on ‘email’, in the highlighted example above, shows the following screen as a pop up:


This popup shows the subscriber exactly what they are signing up for and how often will they receive email from Net-a-Porter*. (Net-a-Porter) is not a Mapp Client – create a reference at bottom of blog post)

It is also very important to make sure that the checkbox pertaining to receiving any type of communication from the brand is left unchecked by default. This is also now a requirement with GDPR. This will allow subscribers to tick it themselves and will be actively subscribing to your brand. This will show that there is a genuine interest in the brand.

A good sign up process also allows the brand to organically grow their list with subscribers who are really interested in hearing from the brand and what it has to offer. A lot of the time marketers believe that having a double opt-in process or even a CAPTCHA feature would stop potential subscribers from fully committing to the subscription process. However, it has been proven that having a small quality list of subscribers can generate more ROI in the long term than a large list of inactive subscribers. Inactivity and complaints can negatively impact the reputation of the brand as well as its deliverability.

Once the subscriber has signed up to receive communication from the brand, how can the brand anchor that relationship? The welcome email.

2. The Welcome Email (or Series)

We often hear the first impression is the important, and the same applies to your marketing efforts. The welcome email is the first experience a subscriber will have with your brand and it is of utmost importance to ensure that this experience is a positive one. Welcome campaigns are a good way to introduce your new subscribers to your brand, how it can be beneficial to them and how you as a marketer are willing to listen and communicate with your subscribers based on their likes and preferences.

A study from Return pathhas demonstrated that having a welcome series generates a higher read rate from subscribers. Even if over time the read rate declines it still levels off at a much higher rate than for those who did not read or receive a welcome series.

Welcome series can be used in different ways by marketers. Some use them as a ‘’Thank you for joining” message, others use them to allow the subscribers to define their preferences, others use them to introduce the brand and its ethos to the subscriber.

A welcome message or a welcome series is the best way to start your long-term relationship with your subscriber base, offering different incentives to your competitors, or even making the subscribers feel like they have joined a VIP club can help build that trust.

Here is a good example of a welcome campaign:

Welcome series are also a good way for brands to see how subscribers react to those introductory communications. Marketeers can tailor subsequent sends in a more customized way to increase their engagement with the brand.

In order to establish trust with their subscribers, marketers need to be conscious of the fact that abusing the subscribers trust by either bombarding them with newsletters they have not subscribed to or sending them irrelevant communications will cause issues in the long term like increased complaints. However, seeing this behavior from their customers, ISPs will also take the matter into their own hands to protect their customers, and emails will either be redirected to the junk folder or simply blocked. Once broken, that trust and reputation will take a lot of effort and time from the marketers to get it back—resulting in lost revenue.

Blog Author: Soukeina Premdjee is a Senior Deliverability Specialist at Mapp Digital. She brings a wealth of experience from her time at some of the world’s largest Email Service Providers and has been helping businesses with email optimisation and strategy since 2008. Soukeina is an expert at assisting companies uncover and solve problems with their email program, from deliverability best practices and recommendation to understanding user engagement and behaviour.