To keep emailing those individuals now being labelled 'emotionally unsubscribed' may be enticing on the basis that one day they may be in the buying window... but it may also be very dangerous.

I have been interested in this new label and the discussion that has grown up in the last few weeks around the significant number of customers that do not open or click on the emails that are sent over certain periods.

RedEye has done specific research on this subject, because it is obvious that more engaged customers will lead to more orders. Our research shows that an average of 61% of email customer databases are ‘inactive’. Interesting, the range of results spread from 54% to 65%, and across a number of industry sectors.

But the two issues for me are (1) define an ‘inactive’ customer and (2) what you should do about them.

Defining inactives is fraught with difficulties, such as the technical issue of image blocking and the knock on effect this will have on registering ‘opens’, which in turn may skew the number of customers that register as ‘active’.

But my main issue is that it is no longer good enough to accept that because a customer has become ‘emotionally unsubscribed’ you should keep emailing them in the vain hope that they will one day be in the buying window again.

The silver lining of the war against spam is that it is forcing legitimate marketers and the biggest brands to segment and be relevant in order to avoid ISP blocks.

'Never Nevers' (as we refer to them at RedEye – never open, never click) are the first front in this battle (extending the metaphor perhaps a stage too far!). These are clearly people for whom your creatives, offers and information are no longer meeting the expectations set when they gave over their permission to mail them.

In my view these individuals deserve some effort on the part of the marketer to find out why they are not interacting (ask or survey them) and a different approach, stemming from a programme of reactivation.

After all, a more active database should be a more ‘profitable’ one providing more conversions… depending of course on how you define conversion.

But on the flip side ‘emotionally unsubscribed’ (aka bored?) customersmay just take the easy route and register your email as a complaint or junk… and that way leads to disaster.

Matthew Kelleher is commercial director at RedEye .

Matthew Kelleher

Published 24 January, 2008 by Matthew Kelleher

Matthew Kelleher is commercial director as RedEye and a contributor to Econsultancy.

27 more posts from this author

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Comments (5)


Sharon Lee

Interesting post...

Online marketer James Brausch recently wrote about how he "trains" his subscribers and customers to remain active.

Here's the link:

Here's one comment from the post that stood out for me:

"It gets customer’s attention. It makes me stand out as someone who means what I say. It increases the response for my product offerings as well as the number of people who come to my blog and pay attention... And forcing people to pay attention is worth it’s weight in gold."

Thanks for your analysis and insight.

- Sharon

over 10 years ago

Dave Chaffey

Dave Chaffey, Digital Marketing Consultant, Trainer, Author and Speaker at

Hi Matthew,

Nice post. Do you have your Redeye research on this written up?

And what do you define as inactive - no responses in 90 day, 180 day, year?

I'm hearing more cases of email marketers removing 'never nevers' from the list or at least decreasing frequency, eg. to quarterly, major promotions only after trying to reactivate them through surveys/promos, etc. How often are you seeing this?

Dave Chaffey

over 10 years ago

Matthew Kelleher

Matthew Kelleher, Commercial Director at RedEyeEnterprise

Hi Dave!

The definition of inactive was 6 months, believe it or not, but this was only relevant where the email address had been live for that length of time. The base volume of email transmissions studied was 800,000,000. The research needs writing up and I will send you a copy once it is, and feel free to use it as long as you quote us :-)

We don't advocate removing them completely, but setting them aside and testing different strategies, along the lines of what you describe.

If one accepts that, for the 40% or so who are, on average, active, the brand/mailer is doing the right thing and meeting expectations, the recommendation has to be 'keep up the good work'.

But a different approach needs to be taken on the 'Never Nevers' and we see two next steps. 1) to understand why they have become inactive and there are a host of tools and ideas for that. 2) Looking into the lifetime value and recency implications here.

By taking this approach mailers will be able understand more about customers expectations, meet them and improve results...

over 10 years ago

Paul Evans

Paul Evans, Digital Sales Journey Manager at RBSEnterprise

I suppose it depends on user behaviour, I treat some of my email newsletters less importantly than others, and will set up filters so they land into a specific folder/label without even touching my inbox. As such I'll dip into that folder when I have time (a bit like RSS reader behaviour) and this avoids emails demanding my attention and getting in the way of more important emails from real people.

In this respect, I'm sure I'd probably fall into the 'emotionally unsubscribed' category, but with some brands send an email a day, I haven't got the time for it to clutter up my inbox.


over 10 years ago

Dave Chaffey

Dave Chaffey, Digital Marketing Consultant, Trainer, Author and Speaker at

Thanks Matthew!

I look forward to seeing the research.


over 10 years ago

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