Practical Ecommerce

5 Ways to Freshen Your Email List

Your email-marketing program depends on a quality list. It’s easy for a list to stagnate over time. An email database that is left alone, without refreshing, combined with an email marketing program that is not stimulating, will lead to lower open and click rates.

In this article, I’ll address five ways to keep your database fresh, increasing your open and click rates.

1. Process Change-of-Address Notifications

When you send out an email, there will always be address-change notifications. Ensure your reply handling is set up in such a way that you are receiving these notifications. Then, when you receive them, make sure you process them timely. You may get several of these every time you send an email. If you aren’t continually updating your database with these changes, over time you will lose a significant percentage of your file. Moreover, when email addresses become stagnant, they could become “spam traps” — email address used by Internet service providers to monitor the quality of a list — which can affect your overall deliverability.

2. Remove Inactive Email Addresses

When contemplating a database “cut,” look at several factors to determine if the recipients are engaged. Typically, I’ll look at last time the recipient opened or clicked an email, combined with the last time they purchased or product or visited the site. Depending on your customer lifecycle and the average time between purchases, determine a removal formula that makes sense for your business. This could be subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked in six months or have not purchased in over a year. Then cut those subscribers from your list.

Having a smaller, more responsive list will allow you to better gage the success of your ongoing email promotions by eliminating non-responsive emails. In addition, you will likely save money on your email service provider fees. These costs may be minor. But over time they add up.

3. Don’t Permanently Delete Inactive Subscribers

It’s good to clean up your file and market only to those subscribers who are active and engaged. However, keep the purged email addresses in a separate database. Email them occasionally with an offer that may reengage them. For those that respond, add them back into your “active” file.

4. Consider a ‘Reverse Data’ Append

Analyze your current active subscribers. Record when and how they opted in. That will greatly help to determine strategies to get new subscribers. If you possess only limited information about your subscribers, consider a reverse data append. Major data compilers, such as Acxiom, can examine your file, and provide pieces of information missing from it, such as subscribers’ physical addresses, demographics, shopping behavior, likes and interests. This information could provide insight into who your subscribers are, or allow you to develop a segmented email strategy.

5. Locate New Subscribers

The value of a single email subscriber is high for many ecommerce merchants. It’s important, therefore, to have an ongoing strategy to develop new subscribers, adding them at a rate greater than removals or unsubscribes. There are many strategies for locating and encouraging new subscribers. For quick lifts, try an entry pop-up on your site or a contest or giveaway that is linked to your social media communications.


Reductions in open and click rates do not necessarily mean your email marketing is less effective, or your subscribers are not as engaged in your products or services. Email address churn. Ensuring you are continually updating your file, replacing inactive addresses with new ones, will only help grow your program.

Carolyn Nye

Carolyn Nye

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  1. ArjunSai June 19, 2012 Reply

    Great article! Can you recommend a good platform to manage an email list? I am considering between <a href="">AWeber</a> or



  2. Natalie June 20, 2012 Reply

    Another really useful article. It may seem a bit facetious, but the success of your email marketing campaign is fully dependent on your subscribers seeing and responding to the email you send.

    Investing in email validation tools that can prevent incorrect addresses permeating your contact lists from the onset. The end result is a more accurate database of new contacts that will generate better response rates and increase productivity of your sales and marketing efforts.

  3. Elizabeth Ball June 28, 2012 Reply

    I would extend number 3 Don’t Permanently Delete Active Subscribers.

    Sometimes you don’t need that product or service all that often, even if the service is fantastic. You might want to hear from gift websites about a month or so before your partner’s birthday for example, only once a year.

    With my own database, I plan to do something VacationsToGo does. After I had a Caribbean cruise in July 2006, I wasn’t really interested in hearing from them so much and went to unsubscribe.

    I was impressed to see that they had a delay menu option (ie pulldown to not hear from them until say, November 2007), a frequency option (weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly etc) and a total unsubscribe.

    In the ideal world, I would also add to this the option just to get sale offers on a particular item ie Thailand spa resorts in say October 2012 when I’m next ready to book a break.

  4. Jaypepe1961 January 10, 2013 Reply

    Great article! I do follow all the steps listed here however I complement my efforts using a great website I found a few months ago which helps me lots verifying email lists. Indeed, it has become the first stage of the cleaning process. Furthermore, it’s a real FREE open source, its website URL is It’s free because it’s sponsored by advertisers.. Also, one more thing, it’s multilingual so I think it’s used all across the world. It works for me…