You spend hours perfecting your email marketing campaign – briefing in image requirements to your graphics team (or creating them yourself!), crafting the right message, agonising over subject lines, arranging text and image blocks, checking mobile responsiveness on different devices, maybe even setting up split tests. EDM creation is no trivial task.
All that effort and a great email to boot. Why then are your contacts not reading your email?
Read on for 14 reasons why your EDMs are going unopened and what to do about it.
How to Tell If Your Emails Are Going Unopened
Firstly it’s worthwhile taking a look at how to work out whether your email is being opened. In your email platform (like the FindThatLead’s email sender) you should be able to see how many emails were delivered and opened, as well as whether recipients clicked on any links or unsubscribed.
For the purpose of this blog post, the important metrics to worry about are delivered and opened. A change to either your delivered rate or open rate will affect the number of people who are seeing your emails.
Note: often marketers will take a ‘delivered’ status to mean that the email has reached their intended recipient’s inbox. In actual fact, it just means that the email was received by the recipient’s server (and that the server did not block/bounce/defer status – check out more information about delivery statuses).
Simplified crash course on how email is sent:
- On your email service provider (or email client – for example Outlook, Gmail), you click send
- Email is sent from your email client to it’s server
- Your email client’s server communicates with the server for the recipient
- This server then passes the message to the recipient’s email client
If your emails are not being read, chances are you will see one of these changes in your email metrics:
- Marked decrease in delivery rate
If your email platform shows that your delivery rate is decreasing, this is likely to do with your email client and sender reputation. If your delivery rate has declined, chances are that you will see that the total number of email opens has decreased also.
- Marked decrease in open rate
Oops. Something went wrong – wrong targeting, spam filters, your subject line, it could be any number of reasons which we go into detail below.
- Slight decrease in open rate
If your open rate is slowly but surely on the decrease, this could be your contact list naturally getting stale. Time to do some list cleaning! (See reason #4 below).
Read on as to the most common reasons why these metrics are being affected and what you can do about it to ensure you get the most out of your email marketing.
Reasons Why Your EDMs Are Not Being Opened
If you aren’t getting your message to the same numbers of people that you were before, it could be due to any number of reasons – your contacts didn’t receive the email, didn’t see the email or actively chose not to open the email. Here are a few of the most common reasons hampering your EDM’s success.
Your Contacts Didn’t Receive the Email
Did you know that 1 in 6 emails don’t even reach their recipient? Data from Validity showed that 83% of emails reached their intended recipient last year.
Depending on the reason why your email failed to be delivered, you may either see that your delivery rate has decreased or your open rate has decreased. Either way, find out how to improve getting your email into your contact’s inbox.
- Your EDM Got ‘Dropped’
If your email has a status of ‘dropped’, it means that your email platform has identified your email as potentially spammy and has stopped the sending of the message. Bulk email platforms (like ClickSend, FindThatLead and ActiveCampaign) have the incentive to stop sending messages that could be identified as spam, as this can affect the delivery of other outgoing messages.
Here are our best tips for ensuring that your email does not get flagged as spam and dropped:
- Make sure your contacts have opted in to your marketing – in most countries, it’s illegal to send unsolicited marketing material. Buying a contact list is never worth it.
- Avoid phrases that are known to trigger spam filters – ActiveCampaign have put together a great list of spam words.
- Never ignore unsubscribe requests – if someone no longer wants your emails, be gracious and let them go. It’s not worth damaging your sender reputation over.
- Run a spam test – we recommend this checker.
- Your EDM Got Blocked
Similar to if your email got dropped, but further down the email journey – if your email gets identified as spammy by the receiving server it may choose not to deliver the email to your recipient. This is different to reaching a spam filter, as it will never appear in the email program of your contact, filed away under ‘spam’.
If your email gets blocked (this is also sometimes called a hard bounce), then check out our tips above for making sure your email doesn’t come off as spammy.
- Your Recipient No Longer Exists
This one can be more pertinent to those in the B2B space – for example, when people sign up to your free trial or newsletter with their work email. Then they leave their company and the associated email account gets disabled or simply neglected.
In the case that it gets neglected, it will look like that subscriber no longer opens your emails. Or you may start receiving automated responses saying that this address is no longer active. Weeding out these email addresses can seem tedious but the benefits are worth it, including:
- Increased engagement on your emails
- Reduced bounce rates – which affect your email deliverability almost as much as spam complaints! 😱
- Save money – many email platforms charge you based on your list size. There’s no point in letting your email list balloon out with unengaged contacts, especially if your email package is based on your contact list size (and thus will charge a higher monthly fee!)
This is one of the few ways that your contact list may get stale.
- Your Contact List Got Stale
It is normal to see a slight decrease in open rates and engagement over time – your contacts may no longer require the service you offer, they might unsubscribe, or they may no longer be using the email address they supplied to you.
Think of your contact list as a living, evolving list. For it to stay healthy, you need to give it care to help it grow but you may also need to prune back some of the dead leaves.
That’s why it’s important to continue with your contact list building efforts. You also want to maintain a clean list and should consider scrubbing your contact list on a regular basis by:
- Checking your bounced emails – if your email platform hasn’t already removed your hard bounces from your contacts, ensure that you do.
- Note that soft bounces have the potential to become hard bounces. Take a look at these, it could be as simple as a typo in the email address which is an easy fix. We’ve seen all sorts – gmail, yhaoo, oultook, etc.
- Check for duplicates (if your email service provider doesn’t already) – you can do this quickly by exporting your contacts to a spreadsheet and using the COUNTIF function.
- Remove contacts who have not opened your emails recently – before doing this you may want to consider a re-engagement campaign as a last ditch attempt to win your subscribers back.
Note: if setting up a re-engagement campaign, you may want to try a different medium to ask your customers whether they still want to be contacted by your business – try SMS marketing for massive open rates.
- If it has been a long time since you’ve scrubbed your contact list, you may want to consider using a list cleaning service (yep these exist!). Some of them not only check for typos and duplicates, but also verify the emails addresses actually exist.
Your Contacts Didn’t See Your Email
There are a number of reasons that your contacts did not see your email, even if it did make it into their inbox.
- Email Got Buried
With the sheer volume of email sent every day – promotional, transactional or personal messaging – it’s easy for your recipients to scroll right past your email and not notice it amongst the clutter.
And that’s on a quiet day…
If this is the case, think about ways to best get noticed – test your subject lines (perhaps add emojis to be even more eye catching) and think about when your best send time is. There are a ton of pages online about when is the best email send day and time, but ultimately this depends on your business and audience.
For example, many studies have been done by email service providers concluding that open rates are highest on Tuesdays. Klaviyo went on to look at revenue brought to the business and while Tuesday had higher open rates, emails sent on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday brought more money into the business.
So as always – test, test, test!
- Inbox Tabs
When Gmail introduced new tabbed inboxes, it was met by a lot of panic from marketers. We spend hours trying to work out when is the best time to send messages to be as hard to miss as possible, only for Gmail to separate out your EDM to a separate inbox.
Turns out this was actually a good thing. While it means that your open rates may take a hit, users who do open your email are actually engaged and sought the email out. Meaning that they will be more responsive to your message and actually want to receive your email.
- Spam Filter
This is different from the message being blocked or bouncing, as it has made it further through the email journey and the intended recipient can access the message.
As in your message made it past your email service provider’s checks, their server passed the email to the recipient’s server and your message was delivered to their email provider. Then the email triggers an automated rule in the email service provider that sends the message to spam.
Again, the best way to avoid this from happening is to follow best practices when created your email
Learn more about how to avoid falling on the spam list with this guide we have prepared for you.
Your Contacts Didn’t Open Your Email
Okay your email made it past servers and email platforms and spam filters to get eyeballed and ignored. Check out some of the most common reasons EDMs fail to launch.
- Your Email Wasn’t Engaging Enough
Your recipients may enjoy getting your emails but may have scrolled past because the message didn’t grab them or resonate with them. Create engaging subject lines and A/B test them to see which produces better results. We like this email subject line tool for helping to create clickable subject lines.
- Your Email Wasn’t Personalised
Another reason why the subject line did not resonate with the recipient could be because it was not personalised to them. By personalisation, we don’t mean simply adding a placeholder for their first name in your message (although this is a good start!). Consumers are increasingly expecting a personalised experience online; long gone are the days where you blast your entire database with the same message. It’s easy when conceiving an email to think you have a great idea and forget who your customers are, so really use your data to work out how you can provide value to your subscribers based on what interests them. Consider location, gender, age and interests when creating your email and segment accordingly.
For example, some products/services are region specific. If your promotion is happening in only your flagship stores, segment out your customers who do not live in a state with a flagship store to save your customers frustration of finding that out on their own. Or if you’re advertising cheap flights between Sydney and Melbourne, subject lines like ‘Fly to Sydney for Only $99’ comes off as deceptive to people in Perth (over 3000km away). And once your recipients feel deceived they’re likely to a) not open your emails, b) unsubscribe or worst of all c) report spam.
Other products may depend on previous purchase history. If you’re a clothing or shoe retailer, why not segment out your customers by the style and size they purchased before? Then send them offers for similar styles where the size is still in stock. If your customers are clicking through to a landing page to find that all the styles they like are unavailable in their size they will be less likely to be as responsive to future emails.
- Your Subscribers Were Disappointed Previously
Look to your previous email campaigns – if you notice that engagement is diminishing (ie. lower click rates and higher unsubscribes), it could be that your content didn’t resonate with your subscribers. They may have found it boring, been disappointed by an offer that didn’t apply to them, or even did not like your message.
If your content consistently misses the mark, your emails simply won’t get opened. So focus on creating great content or compelling offers for your customers based on what you know about them.
- They Didn’t Want Your Emails in the First Place
Mix-ups happen – sometimes people enter their email address incorrectly and it happens to belong to someone else. Or they bought a product and didn’t read the tickbox that opted them into your contact list.
This is why it’s best to double-opt in. When someone gives you their email address, send them an email asking them to confirm that they consent to receiving your emails (you should be able to automate this through your email provider 🎉 ).
Sure, it means that it’s a little slower to build your email list (as sometimes people will forget to click the link, or it was sent erroneously), but those who are on your list are verified and engaged.
- “Who are you again?”
From a customer perspective, it’s really easy to forget that you’ve subscribed to a mail list, when so many businesses are asking for your email. Think about all the loyalty cards that amass in your wallet – and those are just the ones from businesses still handing out physical loyalty cards! That’s why it’s helpful to include “You’re receiving this email because…” at the bottom of the message.
- No Longer Interested
Some products may only be needed for a particular occasion that has passed (eg. weddings or funerals) or be only appropriate for particular age groups (eg. children’s clothing). Or once someone signs up for a service, it repeats and they are no longer in the research phase (eg. insurance or loans).
If people are consistently not opening your emails, you could send them a re-engagement message. Or better yet, why not try to find out why they are no longer interested in your email? Send a survey and incentivise it if you wish, so you can find out whether recipients did not like your email, had a bad experience with your business or simply do not need your product anymore. We’ve seen several businesses utilise re-engagement postcards in order to be unmissable, with great results.
- Emails Are Too Frequent
If customers feel like you’re sending emails too frequently, they’re likely to ignore your messages – either on occasion or for good. Make sure when sending emails, you have a clear message and purpose. If you’re sending emails because you haven’t sent one in a while or need to reach arbitrary KPIs around emails sent, you’re sending for the wrong reasons.
Some businesses have been even more proactive about send frequency by giving their subscribers options to specify their preferred frequency. This is great as it sets subscriber expectations.
Ultimately when sending marketing emails, if you:
- focus on creating great quality, targeted content for your subscribers
- build your contact list with people who are engaged and want to hear from you
…you should evade spam issues and see healthy open rates (and click through to boot!).