Articles on: Email Marketing

Email Sunset Policy


ONE highly encourages all merchants to continuously update their email sending practices by instituting an email sunsetting policy. By enacting such a policy, merchants can meaningfully increase engagement rates for their marketing emails, which can help improve deliverability to major inbox providers.

What is an Email Sunset Policy?

Sunsetting is the strategy of reducing the number of email recipients in your email marketing database to improve both deliverability and engagement rates. While it may seem counterintuitive that you can increase these rates by sending to fewer recipients, it's a highly effective measure that email marketers can take. By sunsetting specific email addresses, you will drastically improve results in both metrics.

The reason engagement and deliverability improve is due to the purposeful reduction of the number of recipients not actively engaging with your emails. When you do send out emails in the future, the proportion of people engaging with your emails is higher relative to those who are not. When inbox providers like Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft see improvements in engagement rates, they deliver a higher proportion of your emails to the target inbox instead of the spam folder.

Why is Sunsetting email contacts important?

While email marketers are typically tasked with sending marketing emails to as many people as possible, the true metric they seek is maximizing the number of people viewing or clicking on content within those emails. Having a larger email list can help get more eyeballs and clicks on content, but it can also be damaging if a large proportion of that recipient list is not engaging with the emails at all.

Continuing to send to old and inactive email addresses can have a few damaging consequences:
Lower overall engagement rates
Annoy subscribers, leading to increased spam complaint rates
Increase the number of spam traps you are sending emails to

It is particularly important to note the last point about the increased number of spam traps. By sending emails to spam traps, your brand or business may be placed on a third-party blacklist, which can majorly damage your email sending reputation. Once you are on one of these blacklists, it can be extremely hard to ensure that your marketing emails find the target recipient's inbox instead of their spam folder. Inbox providers use these third-party blacklists to filter out which types of email content should go to the spam folder and which types should go to the user's inbox.

Pro Tip: Trying to get your brand/domain delisted from these blacklists can be challenging and time-consuming, so it's better to take preventative measures and not get on them in the first place.

An example of such a third party blacklist is Spamhaus. If you want to check your domain's reputation or see if your domain is on any blacklists, you can use this free tool:

Once you're on a third-party blacklist, it can be difficult to get off. This makes the importance of having a sunset policy even more crucial.

How to sunset your unengaged contacts

There are many different ways to act on your sunset policy, but in general, there are a few components of a framework that anyone can use to set up their policy. Here's an example of a simple checklist to follow:

Segmentation - segment your email database into different recipient segments. The segments can be based on when the contact was collected or it can be based on the last time they engaged with from your store or I could even be something simple as when was the last time they made a purchase from your store.
Email those Segments - once you have developed those segments, the next thing to do is to send the exact same email to those different segments. What you'll be able to observe, is variability in the engagement rates across those different segments.
Identify weak engagement - identify the segments that have the weakest levels of engagement. Start here and purge email addresses that have not engaged with your content for a very long time. HERE is how you can do that quickly in Shopify

Conclusion and Takeaways

Shift the focus away from the number of emails sent and more towards the engagement rates of your emails. Here's a quick summary of why:

Inbox providers want to protect their users from unwanted emails. If an inbox notices that their users keep getting content they're not reading, they will eventually start sending that content to the spam folder.
If emails start going to the spam folder, it doesn't matter how many emails your brand is sending out.
There ends up being a flywheel effect where more of your emails go to spam, and then you continue to get less engagement.
Given the benefits of enacting a sunset policy and the risks of not enacting one, ALL brands should have a sunset policy in place.

If you need help getting started, don't hesitate to reach out to our team!

Updated on: 07/02/2024

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