Let’s face it, no matter how much effort we put into your email marketing campaigns, there is always going to be a group of subscribers that will stop engaging at one point or another. Inactive subscribers are a common phenomenon in all customer databases, some of the reasons are out of our control, such as a subscriber that recently became a parent and now has no time to be checking the Inbox.  Let’s call this type subscriber inactivity as “expected inactivity” and as marketers there is little we can do to prevent it, which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything in our power to reactivate these subscribers.

The other type of inactivity is directly related to relevancy, is the content we are sending to our subscribers appealing? Unlike “expected inactivity” besides correcting it once it has happened, you should be taking necessary measures to try to prevent it on the first place. All CRM Lifecycle programs should always include actions not only to prevent and correct purchase inactivity, but also subscriber inactivity, as a user that is actively engaged with your communications is more likely to buy again than those that are not interacting with your email campaigns.

In FC Barcelona we wanted to move away from the traditional “We miss you! / Where have you been?” reactivation approach, that most of the time relies either on a specific promotion or a summary of things you might have missed. 

The problem with incentivized reactivation is that is a temporary solution that does not address why you became unengaged on the first place and that will eventually lead to the issue repeating again. Plus we cannot rely solely on giving away discounts each time.

The issue of going for a “things you might have missed approach” is that nowadays both campaigns and contents are communicated in all the available channels a brand has, this being the website, social media channels, email, rss, sms, etc. So the fact that a user hasn’t been engaging with your email campaigns doesn’t mean he hasn’t been following you somewhere else. Unless you require to be signed up to browse your website, it is practically impossible to be 100% sure this claim is accurate.

From a CRM perspective this is simply not acceptable, as you are signaling you don’t know your customers. The only way to be true is that some of the content you are sending via email is 100% exclusive to this channel.

This idea of having exclusive content that is nowhere else available, is where we believe lies the key to both prevent and correct email inactivity. If your users know that the only way to access certain contents or promotions is through email, you are giving them reasons to actively engage with your email communications in the long term.

This in practice is easier said than done, since we are always looking for our content, campaigns and promotions to have the higher reach and using all the available channels approach is usually the norm. However, email’s ROI is significantly higher than most push channels, that it well justifies to create at least some exclusive content. Instead of cannibalizing with other channels, we are adding value to the email channel.

The idea behind FC Barcelona’s reactivation campaigns is quite simple, send content that is exclusive to the email channel. Don’t directly inform the user of his inactivity; instead continually remind him that the only way to access certain contents or promotions is via email. We have commissioned a series of games, videos and animated gifs, along specific promotions, that are communicated only by email. 

UntitledEmail exclusive gif collection – Culé at heart 

From the operational point of view, what is key is the ability to easily identify and target users that are unengaged. Here Salesforce Marketing Cloud has been extremely helpful as we are able to segment unengaged subscribers based on different criteria, such as lifetime number of opens or clicks by user, opens or clicks during the last week, month or year, opened or clicked a specific email and ultimately measure if our reactivation campaigns are being successful.

Since launching last January our reactivation campaigns we been able to reactivate close to 30% of inactive subscribers. It still early to see if these reactivated subscriber will relapse, but so far metrics are encouraging, as our monthly inactivity rate has been lower than last year’s monthly average and considerably smaller comparing to same period last year. 

About the Author

Adrián Müller is the CRM Manager on FC Barcelona's Marketing Department.

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