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The 6 stages of email engagement

Ross Kramer
The 6 stages of email engagement Ross Kramer

We all know that mass mailings are a thing of the past. To be a successful email marketer, you must engage your audience in relevant and timely conversations. But what does that mean? There is a lot of hype surrounding email engagement, and everyone has a different opinion on what engagement really means. We have identified the six levels of engagement to help you cut through the hype so you can optimize your email strategies and interact with your subscribers in a meaningful, individualized way.

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Stage 1: Delivered
In the batch-and-blast days, a valid email address was a sign of success. Now, instead of focusing on just reaching the inbox, you must be concerned with the right time to deliver your messages. It requires an intimate knowledge of you customer's shopping habits -- knowing what they like, how they shop, when they buy, what offers they respond to -- and the ability to reach them at the right time with the right message.

Stage 2: Opened
The most basic of email metrics, the open rate was once a measure of a successful email subject line. As email marketing has evolved, the open metric has become an engagement indicator as well. When recipients open your email you know several things about them: They recognized and trusted your brand, you reached them at a convenient time, and they're somewhat interested in hearing from you. However, the open metric can be misleading, as subscribers who opened your message just to unsubscribe count toward your open rate while subscribers who read your message in the preview pane with the images turned off are overlooked.

Stage 3: Credible
Building on the open metric, a more accurate measurement of subscriber engagement is the read rate of your messages. We measure the read rate as messages that have been held open for five seconds or longer, automatically disregarding unsubscribes and subscribers who simply glanced at but didn't read your entire email. This helps determine the credibility of your messages. Credible messages are convincing, reliable, trustworthy, and sincere; they feel more like a dialogue than a monologue.

Stage 4: Relevant
Relevant emails are even more enhanced as they are optimized to deliver messages and offers that are applicable, significant, appropriate, and pertinent to each customer. To create relevant messages, you must use all of the data available to you -- not just open and click rates, but past purchase history, RFM metrics, and clickstream reports. And you need to use advanced email strategies and solutions, such as dynamic messaging, triggered drip campaigns, and behavioral targeting, to automate the delivery of the extremely personalized messages. Mass mailings are relevant to no one.

Stage 5: Interactive
The more relevant your emails are, the more interaction you'll have with your subscribers as you're both participating in ongoing conversations. Relevant emails lead to brand advocates who share your messages with their social networks, write reviews, upload videos discussing their positive relationships with your company and products, tweet and blog about you, etc. Email can support the interaction you have with these customers in a way that no other channel can.

Stage 6: Engaged
Your engaged subscribers represent a small percentage of your list, but they have the highest value to your organization. To truly be considered an engaged subscriber, the individual must meet the criteria outlined in the previous five steps, plus he or she must buy from you regularly. For example, someone could make a single, happy purchase from you that they share with the world, but if they don't come back and buy from you again, you didn't do enough to engage them and turn them into a long-term customer. Achieving this status takes vigilance, determination, and the ability to correctly identify the engagement levels of each subscriber and nurture them along the right paths. It doesn't happen overnight, but your efforts definitely pay off in the long run.

Ross Kramer is the CEO and co-founder of Listrak.

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