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Unengaged Members: What Should Restaurant Marketers Do?

paula_post2Fishbowl defines unengaged members as guests who have not opened an email in a year. Disengagement is an inevitable challenge of email marketing, but one that restaurant marketers must take steps to address on an ongoing basis.  If the percentage of unengaged members in your list increases too much over time, there could be a negative impact on your marketing programs, which would be reflected in your:

  • Engagement metrics (lower opens and clicks)
  • Deliverability metrics (slow downs or blocked emails)
  • Campaign data comparisons – year over year metrics, e.g. , could become undependable

So what should marketers do?  Some assume the best option is to cull the unengaged members from the list.   It turns out that the answer is not completely straightforward.  Paula Carren, Director of Professional Services at Fishbowl, has in depth experience analyzing the impact of unengaged members on restaurant marketing results and has advised many clients on engagement strategies.  According to Paula, “We look at each client’s corporate goals and objectives and then consider the pros and cons of removing unengaged members.  We use that analysis to make recommendations accordingly.”

What are the pros and cons?  Removing unengaged members from a list can lead to:

  • Improved open, click-through, and redemption rates
  • Lower email costs from having a lower list size
  • Protection of “sender reputation” and faster email delivery

But there are also potential negative results from culling unengaged members:

  • Preliminary Loyalty Analytics data indicates clients experience a drop in revenue after removing unengaged members from lists.  Our current data suggests that even unopened emails drive brand awareness and action.  While more data is needed to determine whether the correlation is valid, any list culling should be monitored closely for impact to revenue.
  • Smaller lists generally will not be able to generate as much revenue as larger lists in the long run.

Managing unengaged members is one part of an overall engagement approach.  Ultimately, you need to understand how all your eClub members interact with your communications.   To do this, you will need to track or understand:

  • The percentage of a list that meets the unengaged criteria
  • How that percentage changes over time
  • At what point members tend to become inactive
  • The impact of message type on activity levels
  • The differences in engagement behavior exhibited by different groups of members, such as members categorized by acquisition source