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Do’s and don’ts of re-engagement emails for better deliverability

Ah, re-engagement emails. They provide a powerful opportunity to reignite your subscriber’s interest in your company and a chance to better connect with your audience. Yet, as an email marketing pro, you know that email re-engagement is not without its challenges.

You want to avoid damaging the high domain reputation you’ve worked so hard to maintain by sending unwanted emails to outdated, disengaged contacts. It’s not great for business (and definitely not great for your deliverability). 

Fortunately, approaching your re-engagement emails with finesse is easier than you think. By following these simple tips for reconnecting with your subscribers, you can safeguard your domain reputation—and win your subscribers over! 

Let’s jump in.

Re-engagement email best practice: Vet your list

For an effective re-engagement email, you’ll want to take time to assess your current email list, separating the engaged from the inactive subscribers. This will help refine your re-engagement campaign and ensure your targeting is on point.

Do rely on historical engagement information for the audience you want to re-engage with over email. If this list is coming from another one of your email service providers (ESPs), take care when importing the information into your destination platform.

Don’t email the individual if their address has previously hard bounced or they’ve marked your email as spam. If you decide to import the contact, ensure they are marked as unsubscribed from the email in your destination ESP.

Do consider bringing the contact over if you have another way to engage them, such as a phone number for SMS. While you might not be able to email them, you can still engage with them another way.

Do import the date indicating the last time contacts interacted with (opened) an email from your brand. The last engagement date will determine how to handle the contact (and if you should actually email them).

Recommended reading: How your ESP affects your deliverability

Re-engagement email best practice: Use an email verification tool

Sending your re-engagement emails to an audience you haven’t engaged with recently is like playing Russian roulette.

Don’t assume that email addresses that did not bounce four or six months ago are still valid. You might get some opens and clicks, but many recently closed email addresses will bounce, and people who have forgotten they once subscribed to your brand may mark the message as spam.

Do run the lists through an email verification tool like Kickbox, BrightVerify, or ZeroBounce. These systems can tell you which email addresses are likely to bounce and identify known spam traps, two measures used by inbox providers to assess your practices.

Re-engagement email best practice: Set an expiration date

We recommend our customers limit email communications to contacts who haven’t opened an email in the last four months.

If a contact hasn’t opened an email from you in more than four months, we suggest enrolling them in a re-engagement campaign. If they still don’t engage with your emails, we recommend sunsetting that email address at the six-month mark until (and unless) they re-opt into your email list.

In the rare case where you want to re-engage emails that stretch this criteria:

Do set a reasonably safe last engagement date, like six to twelve months, for the vetted and verified email addresses to define your audience. Then let the other ones go. The longer the contact has disengaged, the fewer emails you should send to re-engage them. 

Don’t risk sending emails to an older address you’ve never messaged before—or that hasn’t opened an email from you in two years or more. This is so important that we prohibit this practice in our Terms of Service Anti-Spam policy.

Re-engagement emails: Negative metrics due to sending to aging list
Negative metrics from sending emails to an aging list

Re-engagement email best practice: Throttle re-engagement emails

Since inbox providers don’t like to see a large spike in bounces and/or spam complaints, it’s best to spread your email re-engagement campaign over several days.

Don’t send all the re-engagement emails to your entire audience in a day or two.

Do follow the 90/10 rule. Limit your re-engagement emails to comprise no more than 10% of daily emails sent to your engaged audience. For example, you can throttle your re-engagement emails in by rate-limiting a newsletter over several days or creating a drip campaign to space them out. 

Re-engagement emails: rate-limited your sends in

Re-engagement email best practice: Give subscribers a reason to open

You’re reaching out to an audience that hasn’t engaged with you in quite a while, so make sure you’re sending a message they genuinely want to receive!

Don’t send the same email to everyone on your list. One-size-fits-all rarely works in email marketing, and your subscribers will have different reasons for disengaging. 

Do use whatever data you have to personalize your message to a user’s specific use case. For example:

  • Customize the copy based on previous buying behavior or content they’ve interacted with in the past.
  • Personalize the email based on where they dropped off in the buying lifecycle.

Do make your CTA a request for opt-in—and ensure anyone who doesn’t explicitly opt in is removed permanently from your marketing list. And remember: once someone has opted back in, they no longer need to receive the rest of the emails in your re-engagement campaign.

Do send an A/B test to a subset of your re-engagement audience to optimize your subject lines for the highest open rates or your CTAs for conversion rates. For example, with Journeys, you can automatically send winning newsletters to your remaining audience once the A/B test is complete.

Re-engagement emails: setting up an A/B test in

Recommended reading: How helped Journy 3x response through effective testing

Re-engagement email best practice: Follow up on another channel

Depending on how a contact previously interacted with you, your re-engagement emails may be going directly to the junk folder, never to be seen again. This can happen even if previous messages haven’t been marked as spam.

Not to worry. Another opportunity is to enlist a different channel at your disposal to re-engage your audience. But remember: every message you send should provide value to your subscribers if you want them to take action.

Do offer enticing content like a new ebook, discounts, or step-by-step guides using push, in-app, or SMS. Then, send that content to the newly opted-in subscriber over email. Emailing people their requested content improves the odds of opening and engaging with the message.

Do try promoting high-value content they can’t resist on your social channels, such as Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, or TikTok, to entice an action.

Re-engagement emails: sending high-value content via Push notification

Recommended reading: Double opt-in best practices

Do use the segmentation power of your messaging automation platform to target your ads at your re-engagement list. For example, you can do this with Data Pipelines and Journeys Ad Audience Sync.

Re-engagement emails: Ad audience sync with

Re-engagement email best practice: Consider abandoning email completely

Let’s face it. Some people want to avoid interacting with your brand over email. That’s why some of the best re-engagement campaigns don’t include email at all!

If people are still logging into your website, using your mobile app, or interacting via SMS, meet them where they live.

Don’t assume the best way to offer a promotion, talk up new features, or give onboarding guidance will always be by email.

Do note a user’s preferred channel and contact them that way, whether push, in-app, or SMS.

Re-engagement emails: sending users campaign with preferred message channels

Recommended reading: How to automatically identify a customer’s preferred messaging channel in

Re-engaging your email list

When re-engaging an email audience, it’s best to identify the pros and cons of a campaign and then weigh the risks against potential rewards. If there’s a measurable, achievable goal for re-engaging your audience, follow the best practices above to minimize deliverability snafus.

If you’re using Journeys, precision is key. You’ll want to continuously analyze and refine your re-engagement strategy. This will help you determine what success looks like in the long run and create a better experience for your subscribers. And that’s all that really matters.

Ready to learn more? Reduce spam rates and grow deliverability by taking this online Deliverability Workshop.