To Engage or Not To Engage? 3 Truths About Inactive Email Subscribers in eCommerce

Marian Sahakyan
Marian Sahakyan

Content Manager

About the author

Published on: July 7, 2022

Last updated on: August 2, 2022

When it comes to inactive email subscribers in the eCommerce ecosystem, email marketers are torn. Some ruthlessly delete these emails from their lists or segments; others are strictly against doing so.

But what’s the catch? What should you do?

I’ll let you make that decision, but in the meantime, let’s go into three common truths about inactive email subscribers, how they affect email performance, and understand the scenarios on when eCommerce marketers should and shouldn’t eliminate these subscribers.

What’s an Inactive Subscriber?

An inactive email subscriber is someone on your contact list who hasn’t engaged with your emails in a long time. While no set equation or metric gauges this type of engagement, you can usually understand email engagement by looking at a subscriber’s track record of opens or clicks for the past few months.

You can also monitor email engagement through various marketing metrics to help you decide whether a subscriber should remain on your list for re-engagement.

Types of Inactive Subscribers

In a given inactive list, there are three types of subscribers:

  • Never-actives: these are subscribers who have never engaged with your email content since the moment they signed up to be on your list.
  • Lapsed customers: these are subscribers who at some point engaged with your content but stopped opening or clicking on your emails, which means that while they remain subscribed to your emails, there’s no objective evidence that they’re converting.
  • Current customers: these are people who are still converting or buying from your brand. Most call these “low-risk” inactive customers because they’re already interacting with your company, which means much of your email offerings are already influencing their decision-making.

The following are three truths about inactive email subscribers.

1. Inactives Create a Safety Net for eCommerce Marketers During Holidays

Some email marketers hold on to the inactive emails for when the holiday season rolls around. Think about it — more eCommerce marketing emails are sent out during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or even Labor Day sales than most other times of the year. And the more “inactive” subscribers are, the more likely they are to receive targeted emails, often hinting at their inactivity.

These emails compel consumers and awaken a sense of urgency, a fear of missing out on a good deal. That’s why a smart eCommerce marketer always launches re-engagement campaigns around the holidays, which often regain the consumer’s attention, eventually resulting in conversions.

2. Inactivity Often Means Permission Withdrawal

Brands often fail to recognize that not all subscribers choose to go to the lengths to unsubscribe from promotional emails. That’s why they remain inactive for a good chunk of time after subscribing to be included in an email list.

More often than not, inactivity in the inbox means that the subscriber has unofficially withdrawn their permission to be contacted by your company. But this is when you need to pay closer attention to this consumer’s offline shopping trends and activities associated with your brand.

In such a case, investing in marketing automation technology that does the activity mapping and connects the client’s online and offline behaviors is critical.

3. You’ll Eventually Stop Contacting Your Inactives

One way or another, most inactive emails will, at some point, stop receiving communication from your brand. However, if you keep sending unwanted emails to already-inactive clients, then know that you’re risking being blocked or marked as spam by the users or inbox providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, or others.

Nonetheless, a brand will tolerate only so much inactivity before suppressing a user or many users within a segment or email list. The best practice, in this case, is to automate your suppression list management efforts, connect the dots between online and offline consumer behaviors, and be intentional and courteous about how you engage inactive users.

Keep your finger on the email marketing pulse by staying tuned and connected with MailCon to receive more insightful content, industry news, trends, and strategies. 

About the author

Marian Sahakyan
Marian Sahakyan

Content Manager

Marian Sahakyan is a Content Manager at MailCon. She’s a journalism graduate from California State University, Long Beach with a background in marketing, technology, as well as writing for Business-to-Business audiences.


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