Oct 28, 2009

Segmenting your email campaign based on subscriber engagement

We just added the ability to segment based on subscriber engagement:


So now you can send a special campaign to your most loyal customers. Or, send a "come-back" campaign to the inactive members on your list before you clean them out.

Here’s why this feature is so important.

The Move To Engagement Measuring

If you follow the email marketing industry, you know that engagement is quite the buzzword lately. We recently talked about how one of the major ISPs is measuring engagement and using it to decide who gets to the inbox, and who goes to the junk folder (See: Feedback Loops Being Replaced by Engagement?).

That ISP is basically looking at whether or not your subscribers open, click, and in general, "interact" with you. If you send an email that mistakenly goes to the junk folder, then the subscriber moves it back out, you scored some engagement points. If your subscriber hits "reply" to send you a message, you get some engagement points.

Cleaning Inactives Helps Deliverability

Returnpath’s George Bilbrey goes into more detail in this article on Mediapost: "Engagement: The New Frontier in Deliverability?" At one point, he advises that senders:

"Treat inactive subscribers differently: This is probably the biggest change that most marketers need to think about.  Mailing to a lot of inactive accounts may actually make your reputation look worse at some ISPs.  Segment out inactive users and run a win-back campaign. If you cannot win back these subscribers, you may simply want to stop mailing them altogether."

Fascinating? Then you’ll also like this from ReturnPath: How Engagement Metrics Influence Deliverability

Over at Clickz, Jeanne Jennings had this to say about inactive members of your list:

"If these folks really aren’t that into you, they may take the next step and report you as spam. It’s like that shunned suitor who just won’t go away; eventually the victim will consider him a stalker and get a restraining order. Keeping inactive names on your list can open you up to blacklisting and deliverability issues."

See: Really Simple E-mail Segmentation: Reengaging Inactives

More Sophisticated Than Open and Click Ratings

Some clued-in users have asked us for ways to "segment based on those who haven’t opened the last 6 months" or "those who haven’t clicked in my most recent 3 campaigns."

It’s awesome that people want to follow best practices and clean out their lists. But the problem with this approach is: 1) open tracking isn’t totally accurate, and 2) "my most recent campaigns" can mean something very different if you send daily emails vs. monthly or quarterly emails.

And neither of these approaches take bounces, spam complaints, and un-then-re-subscribers into account.

So we take a more holistic approach to measuring engagement, by looking at the historical activity of all your subscribers, and taking into account even more variables that are indicative of engagement.

BTW, if you’re into complicated equations, there’s some talk about metrics one could measure in "Future Vision of Email Measurement" at Deliverability.com.

How and Why MailChimp Measures Engagment

We’ve actually been tracking engagement data across our entire system for quite some time now (Chart: Gmail users more engaged?).

Then in March of this year, we unveiled our "List Activity Score" to make sure your best recipients got rewarded with the best deliverability rates.

Note that I did NOT say that our "best senders got the best deliverability rates."

That’s because we found that our best customers often had multiple lists. And some lists were not as well maintained as others. So we stopped putting our "best senders" on our best IPs, and started sending emails to our best subscribers from our best IPs.

This is meant to reward senders for proper list management. Hence the awesome laurels you’ll find for the best lists:


But if you’re good at reading between the lines, you’ve picked up on the fact that this also means you really, really, really should clean out inactive members from your list.

And with this new release, we’ve made each of your subscribers’ activity score (or level of engagement) visible to you, so you can clean your list appropriately.

Here’s what the stars mean:

1 Star – negative activity. this person has unsubscribe and resubscribed, or soft bounced in the past
2 Star – no activity. most likely a new member, or a previously engaged member who’s gone dormant
3 Star – limited activity. this recipient has started opening or clicking your campaigns
4 Star – more activity. this recipient has started opening or clicking your campaigns
5 Star – lots of activity. this recipient is very engaged

How To Segment by Engagement in MailChimp

Whenever you create a campaign, step 1. is to select your list.

Click on "send to segment:"


Next, choose to segment by "member rating:"


If you want to send a special "come-back" campaign to your inactive members, you might select subscribers with 1 or 2 stars.


If you want to send a special offer to your most loyal subscribers, you’d click 5 stars:


In both cases, be sure to hit the "refresh" button to see an updated count of the segment:


Alternatively, you can perform a search on your list under the Lists tab, then click "View All" members:


Note the handy "download spreadsheet" link.