Published by Sita Kalluri on July 10, 2014

Tips to improve engagement and make subscribers (and MSPs) love your emails

Google says ‘Make users love your email’. This statement is quite simply put but tough to crack. Could we indeed quantify love and measure how much your customers love you? Measuring engagement is harder than one would think. But with your inbox delivery relying heavily on this criterion, let’s see how best we can improve the levels of user engagement.

Use different metrics to measure user engagement

Don’t obsess over any single element (metric)/ campaign but get a more holistic view of how the campaign succeeded in engaging your customers.

For example: An email campaign sent to 10,000 subscribers has 1200 opens and 50 clicks. Decent performance with 12% open rate and a click rate of 0.5%. Good engagement of users.

But true analysis of user engagement doesn’t stop at that. Your user engages with you in many ways. Let’s say, in the given example:

-          20 found the subject line interesting and opened the email but found the content disengaging and deleted the email

-          20 clicked on product A, while 10 clicked on product B

-          10 clicked on the social icons and viewed your brand’s facebook page

-          7 people found it very interesting and shared with friends

-          20 moved the email back to the inbox from trash

-          5 marked the email as being important

-          10 marked as Spam because they didn’t expect to be bombarded daily with emails from you, while 2  users clicked unsubscribe link and 1 reported abuse

-          Some users continued to ignore the email when it was routed to Spam folder by their MSP

MSPs track user engagement based on the parameters mentioned above and filter emails accordingly. While some of the parameters (marked as important, moved to inbox) are difficult to track, you need to look at various other metrics to get a more meaningful observation of your user’s engagement.

Each MSP has its own unique way of analysing user engagement and no two MSPs have the same way of prioritizing some metrics over others. For example, Gmail’s threshold for complaint rates is much lower than other MSPs.

Some quick tips to increase user engagement:

-          Separate your active and inactive base and send emails specific to each segment; with lower frequency to inactive

-          Encourage interaction by making your emails responsive on mobile

-          Run Split A/B campaign on email content and subject lines

-          Reply is said to be the highest amount of engagement a user can have with an email from the brand. Brands should plan contest driven campaigns wherein users interact with the brand over a reply.

-          Ensure your subject line and email content are in harmony with each other

-          Don’t merely  include social icons symbols in your email, instead prompt the user with action (Eg: Along with the icon add text such as ‘Share the offer’, ‘tell your best friend’, ‘Multiply happiness, share with friends’)

-          In the above example, you can increase relevancy to customers clicked product A by sharing recommendations, product reviews and customer testimonials in follow up mails instead of sharing those random promotional mails.

Go beyond number crunching

All marketers love numbers and stats. I guess the statement would have made more impact if it included a stat in it as well! But somewhere we need to take note that not all can be deciphered into numbers. Your user engagement shouldn’t be measured only on numbers and metrics. True, they are critical parameters but it is your ability to look at the big picture that will sail your email straight into the inbox.

I find O’Brien’s conceptual framework for defining user engagement particularly applicable in our scenario. It has emerged from his research that a user’s engagement may be characterized by the following attributes-


(Click to view larger image)

So every time you plan a campaign, running a quick checklist on how many of these attributes are met gives you an idea about your user’s engagement.

MSPs can keep changing their algorithms but brands must realize no one knows your customer like you do and if you leverage the data you have, you can build highly engaging emails.