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Andrea Serventi
14 May 2019
Reading time: 8 min

The Life Cycle of Email Marketing: How to Extend It and Improve Engagement

No relationship lasts forever, especially between companies and customers. The key factor in the life cycle of email marketing is engagement: let’s take a look at its metrics, the relative results from 2018, and how to improve them.

No company can count on having a pool of clients that they have acquired in advance and that will last forever. Unless your business is… a monopoly.

Thisis simply a “law of themarket”: no single company in the world can consider its relationswith its customers as being infinite.

Weare touching upon a fundamental theme of marketing: the life cycle, often referred to as customer life cycle, that is to say, the evolutionary paththat starts at acquisition and lasts until the end (which, at times, is just aninterruption) of the loyal relationship between a person and a company.

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Why trace a life cycle?

Thespecific analysis of the life cycle of a typical customer is essential becauseit makes it possible to identify the differentactivities that each company should invest in; it’s a way to calculate the costs and expenses in relation to the duration of the relationship with thecustomer, in order to optimize them and extend the average life cycle.

Thuseach company has its own life cycle model, which depends on the offer and thetype of target to which it is addressed. Regardless, let’s try to brieflyoutline an example of a life cycle.Among the various levels we have:

  • Acquisition: a sort of pre-relationship(where there is still no real relationship with the customer), which must beconsidered because it involves costs and investments.
  • Entrance:the most tricky moment, because it coincides with the firstpurchase. In this phase the customer checks the quality of the product/serviceand the company’s customer experience. It could be an occasional buyer or aloyal customer of another brand who spontaneously chooses a market alternative.
  • Growth:when the customer has made repeated purchases and the relationshiphas been consolidated: we can now speak of behavioral loyalty, which must bemanaged as such.
  • Descent:when the relationship begins to approach the end.
  • Development: when a customerrepeats purchases, a company can reasonably ascertain that the customer hasbeen definitively acquired.  This iswhere ad hoc promotions and loyalty programs come in.

Thisschematization concerns the entire set of strategies across different channelsand marketing tactics.

Whatif we wanted to apply this perspective of the life cycle to a single channel?Let’s see how to do precisely that foremail marketing.

The life cycle in email marketing

Thesales cycle in email marketing does not consider people as customers, but as users (or recipients, if you prefer).

Wecan thus break the recipient’s life cycle down into three moments:

  • Acquisition: the moment ofregistration in a database, when a contact grants the company his or herconsent and provides authorization to receive communications from the same.
  • Engagement:when the recipient shows involvement and interest in emails,interacting at different levels.
  • Conversion: the action thatcorresponds to the final goal of many email marketing campaigns: a purchase,download, or registration, depending on the type and nature of the campaign.
  • Descent: when the recipientunderstands that the company’s mailings are no longer of interest and opts toend the relationship by unsubscribing.

We often speak of acquisition, conversion and descent in our blog; today we are especially interested in exploring the level of engagement, the real bridge between a user’s acquisition and conversion, as well as the step that offers companies the chance to extend the user’s life cycle.

How to lengthen the life cycle in email marketing: engagement

Engagementmeasures the success of a message shared with the public.

Toget a graphic representation of the engagement of an email, or an entire emailmarketing strategy, we can rely on the funnel,within which we can place the various metrics.

The 2019 Statistical Observatory provides an excellent opportunity to shed light on engagement; it is the latest edition of our report dedicated to the numbers, trends, and benchmarks of email marketing.

Engagement performance between 2017 and 2018

Tointroduce the various vertical analyses in terms of the type of email (newsletter, DEM, transactional), the market (B2B, B2C, mixed) and the commercial sector, we made apreliminary comparison of the global metrics of 2017 and 2018 obtained from theanalysis of a pool of over 13 billionemails sent. The following picture emerged:

osservatorio engagement

Thisis the analysis of the main on-emailmetrics – mailings, deliveries, openings, and clicks – which gives usthe level of engagement, that is, of how and at what level the recipientinteracts with the message.

Theoverview reveals how the engagement ofemails sent with MailUp improved from 2017 to 2018.

Companies cannot consider the individual metrics as unrelated, but rather as interdependent and connected plans, where each measurement depends on the previous one and influences the next one; just like how the trend of clicks depends on openings, similarly, the latter require good delivery performance.

Let’sanalyze the metrics in more detail:


From2017 to 2018, the delivery rate upheld the previous year’s levels: 98% in 2017, 97.3% in 2018.

Aslight decrease that does not raise any red flags, since the permanent bounces (hard bounce emailblock) stand at a level below 0.3%,while the soft bounces – such as “inbox full” or “addresstemporarily not reachable” – make up the vast majority, around 2.6% (1.5%in 2017).

Where to intervene:

  • SendingplatformThe infrastructure you rely on to send emails is of fundamentalimportance for this metric. MailUp has concentrated its research on and refinedits algorithms for delivery, and is aimed at having advanced automatedmanagement of bounces and a better ability to send and deliver messages.
  • Listmaintenance Database quality is closely linked to delivery capacity. Anotherfundamental theme is the obsolescence of lists and the need for their carefulmanagement, before the number of soft bounces can damage the reputation of theinfrastructure and compromise delivery. Consequently, regardless of the sendinginfrastructure, list management is fundamentally important for delivery rates;we recommend constant re-engagement, cleaning inactive contacts, and theacquisition of new recipients for lists.


Interms of engagement, the open rate presents the degree of relevance of messages within a recipient’s inbox: we have noted adecisive average increase in openings in 2018, which grew from 19.2% to 21.1%.A substantial increase of 12.7%.

Whatdoes this trend reveal? The constant consolidation of the relationship betweencompanies and recipients: despite the fact that digital marketing has severalyears behind it, email has solid anddeep roots, fueled by a relationshipof trust and expectation between recipients and sending companies.

Where to intervene to improve:

  • Subject35% of recipients openemails based purely on the subject line. It goes without saying that the morespecific the information is in a recipient’s inbox, the higher the chances heor she will be persuaded to open an email. Also, don’t just think aboutselling: tell, suggest, move from a mere sales approach to a more narrativeone.
  • PreheaderThisis the short text that appears in the recipient’s inbox after the subject: acopy element that supplements the subject, providing the recipient with furtherinformation to get an idea of the contents conveyed by the email. The preheaderis strategic and its content must be complementary to the subject.


Fromopenings we move on to clicks, the metric that presents the degree of relevanceof a message once it has been opened: in this case we have also noted animprovement year after year, bringing up theaverage click rate from 2.4% to 2.6 %.

This increase can be quantified at + 7.8% ,which shows how the expansive trend of funnel metrics is not accompanied by aproportional boost in the click rate. This means that the expectationsgenerated in an inbox (as shown by the open rates) would deserve greaterfinalization (through the click).

Thisis where companies must improve more and more if they want to increase conversionsand expand the life cycle of their recipients.

Where to intervene to improve:

  • Structure The structure essentially serves to find the best orientation for reading an email, thereby improving the recipient’s use of the contents and enticing the recipient to learn more about the offer in just a click. The essential technique? Modular design.
  • Callto actionIn this case the goal is to highlight the button as much aspossible and optimize it so that it can be viewed under any circumstance, byany client using email.
  • Contents The decisive factor – and increasingly so in the coming years – is companies’ ability to model emails based on the individual recipient’s profile, adapting content, offers, products, and services to the interests, habits, preferences, and behaviors of each recipient. This personalization is possible through data collection, which can then be used for segmentation and profiling operations.

Theadvice is to be aware, if you aren’t already, of the average results of your mailings.

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Andrea Serventi

I was born in 1986 in Milan, where I graduated in Modern Literature and started writing for online newspapers, magazines and TV news programs. Having now converted to marketing and the digital world, I am a Content Editor at MailUp: I read, listen, collect ideas, and write about what email marketing is and how to use it strategically.

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