15 Proven Ways to Re-engage Inactive Email Subscribers


Email marketing continues to change the landscape of customer acquisition and retention for SMBs. According to a report by Emarsys, 81% of SMBs rely on email marketing as their core customer acquisition channel while 80% of them use email marketing to drive customer retention.

Bearing this in mind, it makes sense why marketers invest a ton of resources into building their email lists.

But what happens when a large portion of your email subscribers are unresponsive and inactive? How do you re-engage subscribers who have not opened or clicked on your email in a while? 

In this article, we’ll walk you through 15 effective ways to re-engage inactive email subscribers according to dozens of email marketing professionals. 

  • Why Do Email Subscribers Become Inactive?
  • 15 Effective Ways to Re-engage Inactive Subscribers

Why Do Email Subscribers Become Inactive?

There are dozens of reasons why email subscribers go quiet. Below are some of the most common reasons:

i) Expectations were not clearly defined

Before people subscribe to join your email list, they need to be clear on what they’re signing up for, the benefits of signing up to join your email list, and how often they’ll be hearing from you. Not clarifying all these pointers could haunt you over time. 

ii) Email frequency

No one wants to be annoyed and chased down with emails way more than they’ll like. If you promised to deliver weekly emails only, there’s no reason why you should change that without informing your subscribers. Remember that the average person receives about 121 emails daily. You don’t want to be part of the noise. 

iii) Irrelevant content

Subscribers become disengaged when the content you send out does not cater to their needs, pain points, or interests. One way to fix this problem is by segmenting your email lists properly and personalizing your emails to match the needs of their recipients.

Regardless of the reasons why subscribers stop opening and clicking on your emails. Inactive email subscribers cost you money and resources. 

How do you get them interested again?

15 Effective Ways to Re-engage Inactive Subscribers

It is easier and cheaper to re-engage people who have an affinity for your brand. Below, dozens of email marketers share their best practices and tips on how to re-engage your dead email lists.

  • Send Video Messages
  • Reward Subscribers for Email Engagement
  • Change Up Your Subject Lines
  • Email at the Right Times
  • Create a Survey 
  • Turn Your Content on Its Head
  • Offer More Choices
  • Say Goodbye
  • Provide Interactive Features
  • Plan a Giveaway
  • Deploy a Plain Text/Unique Coupon Code Campaign
  • Allow Customers to Alter their Email Frequency
  • Take Personalization a Step Further
  • Be Super Relevant
  • Launch a Personalized Re-engagement Campaign

Send Video Messages

A simple, effective way to reengage inactive email subscribers is by utilizing video content. For example, an unusual approach would be to send a personalized video message to each recipient. 

This adds a level of personalization and differentiation that can help capture the attention of previously disengaged subscribers and make them feel valued uniquely since this type of content isn’t seen all that often. 

A message from either a customer service representative or team leader could help create genuine connections and get those inactive individuals excited about receiving future emails again. This might sound like a labor-intensive process. However, you can make videos more evergreen by recording similar audio for all customers, and then customizing the content by adding text titles with the customer’s name.

Michael Alexis, CEO, swag.org

Reward Subscribers for Email Engagement

An effective way to re-engage inactive email subscribers is to devise a tiered rewards system. An uncommon example of this would be to offer a free Kindle e-book for those who subscribe and engage with at least three emails in a sequence. 

By rewarding subscribers for engaging with multiple emails, it motivates them to invest more in the subscription service, increasing their affinity and overall engagement levels. This type of gamification helps foster loyalty and commitment from users over time—two fundamental metrics that drive success for any email subscriber service.

Tasia Duske, CEO, Museum Hack

Change Up Your Subject Lines

Maybe one reason that some of your subscribers are less inclined to open and view your emails is that your email subject lines are a little bit boring or spammy. Inspect your current subject lines and see what works and what does not. 

Your headers could involve too many emojis or exclamation points, or they sound too professional or out of touch. Run some A/B tests to see which ones of your subject lines are performing well and lean into that. Try to spice things up with attention-grabbing subject lines or try to be a little less serious with a punchline.

Brandon Brown, CEO, GRIN

Email at the Right Times

Overall, open rates for emails are highest on Mondays (22%), and lowest on Sundays (20.3%), as reported by Campaign Monitor’s Ultimate Email Marketing Benchmarks for 2022. The percentage of clicks to open an email is highest on Tuesdays (10.8%), and lowest on weekends (10.1%). 

In my opinion, it would be beneficial to let clients choose how often they receive emails. Getting inundated with too many messages is a common reason individuals quit reading and responding to their inboxes. 

Send an email that lets your clients choose how often they receive emails from you; just the act of expressing that you care may be all it takes to have them click again.

Edward Mellett, Co-Founder, Wikijob

Create a Survey 

Rather than speculating on the reasons for inactivity among your contacts, why not reach out and ask them directly? 

By sending a short questionnaire, you can turn this into an opportunity to gain valuable insights into your subscribers’ preferences. Leveraging the power of surveys is a proven method for gaining deeper insights into your customer and subscriber base.

Use this approach to understand why your contacts have become inactive and what types of newsletters or content would reward them to re-engage. This will help you create more targeted and effective email campaigns that resonate with your subscribers.

Ilija Sekulov, Marketing and SEO, Mailbutler

Turn Your Content on Its Head

One of the biggest reasons email subscribers stop engaging is that they get bored with the same old content over and over. It’s the truth. No matter how good you are at curating amazing marketing emails, if it revolves around the same content, it’s inevitably going to get stale. 

People can only hear about the summer collection so many times. Therefore, if you want to reinvigorate your email subscriber list, try turning your email marketing content on its head. Step back, reevaluate the nature of your content, and do a 180. 

Don’t do anything that degrades your branding, but if you can bring some fresh content to your emails and come in from a new angle, you might very well be able to re-engage subscribers. 

Don’t be afraid to get a little edgy in your emails or hit them with a borderline obscene GIF. What can it hurt? If it doesn’t work, you’re just right back where you started—with a subscriber list of zombies.

John Ross, CEO, Test Prep Insight

Offer More Choices

Having a one-size-fits-all email campaign may maintain active subscribers, but it does little to get back lost ones. However, providing options is one effective way to re-engage inactive subscribers. 

You have already seen that inactive subscribers are not responsive to your current campaigns, so giving them choices outside of those efforts can stimulate interest and make them more noticeable. 

Providing choices where they can opt to receive promotional offers, newsletters, and links to live to stream, as well as the frequency with which they receive such information, provides a multitude of options that will more likely spark their interest. 

By reaching out with choices to inactive subscribers, you heighten your chances that they will find something that draws their attention and will more likely be able to successfully reengage them.

David Derigiotis, CIO, Embroker

Say Goodbye

We normally try to re-engage our subscribers by saying goodbye. This means that we are telling them we are sad to see them go, but since they haven’t interacted with our emails in X days, we will delete them from our list. 

If they are not interested in that, they can click a button. This way, we re-engage a lot of users who don’t want to miss our newsletters, but we also clean up our subscriber lists. We normally send them 1-3 of these kinds of warning/goodbye emails before actually deleting them.

Anders Thornild, Digital Marketing Manager, CyberPilot

Provide Interactive Features

Including interactive features in your marketing emails, such as polls and surveys, will make your marketing emails more interesting and engaging. Plus, it’s a great way to gain first-party data from your subscribers. The results you gain from them will give you many helpful insights for future marketing initiatives.

Drew Sherman, Director of Marketing and Communications, Carvaygo

Plan a Giveaway

To plan a giveaway in your email campaign, it’s important to set clear goals for the giveaway (e.g., increase engagement, and gather leads). You’ll also need to determine the prize that will appeal to your target audience. 

Create a landing page for the giveaway, with clear instructions on how to enter. Promote the giveaway in your email newsletter, social media, and other marketing channels. Establish rules and eligibility criteria. Choose a random winner and follow through with delivering the prize. 

Finally, follow up with participants after the giveaway to maintain engagement and gather feedback. By following these steps, you can get inactive subscribers to engage with your email newsletters again.

Dustin Ray, Co-CEO and Chief Growth Officer, IncFile

Deploy a Plain Text/Unique Coupon Code Campaign

One of my favorite strategies to re-engage inactive email subscribers for an online retailer is to use plain-text emails in combination with a unique coupon code created specifically for the recipient. 

All of this can, of course, be automated with e-commerce tools such as Shopify and Klaviyo for sending emails. The plain-text approach works well because it is more likely to land in the inbox of a subscriber who is unengaged and so rarely opens your email campaigns. The personalized, unique coupon adds a little urgency if you set an expiration date. 

These campaigns are fairly simple to deploy and usually have an excellent ROI. The messaging can be delivered across two different emails around a week apart-one to introduce the offer, and a second to remind someone it is expiring soon. 

Ryan Turner, Founder, EcommerceIntelligence.com

Allow Customers to Alter their Email Frequency

One typical reason individuals stop opening or responding to emails is that they receive too many of them. Sending an email that allows them to change the frequency will ensure that you are emailing your customers on a schedule that works for them. I believe that even the simple act of demonstrating your concern for them may be enough to encourage them to click once more.

Nely Mihaylova, Marketing Manager, UNAGI Scooters

Take Personalization a Step Further

Hyper-personalization, not just personalization, is the key to re-engaging inactive email subscribers. Personalization works, but hyper-personalization requires you to take it a step further by diving into the data and segmenting your audiences based on their interests and preferences. It is beyond the demographic details. It includes psychographic, technographic, and behavioral data. 

When you segment your emails into hyper-personalized user groups, you can craft customized messages for each group to ensure relevance in every communication. You can also use dynamic content to further personalize the emails based on specific user preferences. This will help you increase the engagement rate and re-engage inactive email subscribers. 

Justin Thomas, Founder and Lead Consultant, JourneyEngine

Be Super Relevant

Relevance is essential for all email communications. Just today, I received an email from a fashion brand with the must-have bridesmaid dresses of the season. I have previously ordered men’s jeans, a pair of Converse, and a pair of hiking boots. Bridesmaid dresses? What? 

When faced with inactive email subscribers, you must first consider why they are inactive. It could be a dormant inbox, bad deliverability, lack of relevance, poor email quality, etc. Look at their activity with your brand, their buying behavior, and the data you know about them, and pool them into segments with lookalike subscribers.

 Build an email that is short, catchy, engaging, and clickable. Your subject line is the most important bit of copy you will ever write. Take your time with this, make it eye-catching, and work on multiple iterations until you feel you’ve nailed it. Each segment should have its subject line, and A/B test these on small groups before larger sends.

Ash Ledran, Freelancer, Ash Ledran

Launch a Personalized Re-engagement Campaign

Launching a personalized re-engagement campaign can be a meandering task, but it will be worth it once you see members re-subscribing. When launching a personalized re-engagement campaign, I recommend focusing on the segmentation process. 

To make it very personalized, you’ll want to segment your email list on at least three levels: 

  1. behavior, 
  2. last activity
  3. location

For behavior, you’ll need to target inactive members. Then, look at their last purchase or activity. Did they buy it because of last year’s mega sale? Did they buy last month’s bundle? This will give you an idea of what incentives would be appropriate to include for each segment. 

Last, segment by location if you want to make it more personal. People typically appreciate receiving emails that are written in their native language.

Jonathan Merry, Founder, Moneyzine

Wrap Up

As humans, our interests and needs change over time and this reflects in the things we consume, which is why you have to treat your email campaigns like an ever-changing media wall, constantly shifting to coincide with the interests of your audience. 

Having inactive email subscribers cannot be avoided but it can be managed.

By using the tips and best practices shared above, you’ll be able to re-energize your email list, reduce your email churn rate and maintain your inbox placement rate.


Author bio

Rachael U. Bassey (Community Development Manager at Terkel.io, a Question and Answer site for experts looking to share their expertise and insights). 

She believes our silenced stories can change the world if shared.  She loves conversing about how marketing agencies and SaaS businesses can leverage data for sustainable growth, content marketing, travel, volunteering, and books.