Email marketing can feel like putting your message in a bottle, sending it out to sea, and crossing your fingers waiting for a response. That said, this isn’t an ideal strategy to improve your email engagement rate long-term.

While it’s impossible to reach every subscriber with every single message, the power of personalization — especially through first-party data — can work wonders to cure that “I hope this message finds you well” sense of throwing email into the inbox void and hoping for future engagement. 

So, if you’re searching for ways to improve your email engagement rate this holiday season and beyond, here are six data-driven tips proven to boost the impact of every message you send

Interact on your subscribers’ schedules

Catching subscribers at exactly the right moment is often the key to winning an attention-grabbing engagement. Inboxes are often overflowing with hundreds of email messages, which means most of us are checking in “every few hours,” according to Statista.

That’s why understanding when your target audience is not only checking their inbox, but also engaging with your email messages is important. However, according to Nick Mauro, Marigold Engage by Sailthru Senior Product Manager of Platforms, this is a step far too many brands overlook.

By optimizing your send times based on these two factors, you give your email team the chance to personalize online interactions in a way that recent data privacy changes like Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update can’t affect. And with all of the changes sure to come, that’s a huge advantage to keep your business moving at the speed of the modern consumer.

Focus on your subject line first (and last)

When it comes to improving your email engagement rate, subject lines are the first (and perhaps only) personalized introduction audiences get to your brand online. Even if you’re already calling customers by name in your subject lines, there’s still plenty of room for data-driven personalization that both adds value to your customer experience and encourages long-term engagement. 

For example, when MATCHESFASHION wanted to take personalization (and its email engagement rates) to the next level in its recent holiday email campaign, the brand used advanced recommendation algorithms to track individual engagement levels. And by doing so, the retailer ensured that each email sent offered subscribers brands and products that suited their unique seasonal tastes.

improve your email engagement rate

To improve your email engagement rate, solve problems instead of selling

It can be tempting to try and boost response rates by bombarding subscribers with offers and promotions. But while every shopper loves a good deal, email marketing that is all sales pitch with no substance can leave audiences cold. After all, not everyone reading your messages is ready to buy.

So, Instead of sending one-size-fits all email to audiences whose inboxes are often overflowing with similar messages, dive into the data-driven signals audiences are sending in order to solve problems — not sell products.

improve your email engagement rate

Using first-party data, like abandoned cart updates or other real-time shopping behaviors, in order to alert subscribers when the items they browse are on sale or even sending updates when stock is low is an excellent way to add value to your email experience. Especially if your goal is to build an experience that boosts the likelihood your audience clicks, converts, and buys immediately.

Your number one priority: deliver value

The truth is, audiences consistently engage with content that adds value. Getting to know what your subscribers want, specifically, is key to boosting response rates and improving your email engagement rate.

If a subscriber is open to sharing their contact info, it stands to reason that they’re open to respond to a few quick questions about what made them sign up to receive your messages in the first place. Be sure to add value to future emails by creating a welcome series that asks subscribers for relevant information, but remember: have fun with it!

improve your email engagement rate

When clothing retailer Hot Topic wanted to make sure it was delivering value with its email marketing, the brand asked new subscribers to reveal which Hogwarts house they belonged to. Future promotions included personalized content for each segment, a move that bolstered both engagement and email click-through rates for the duration of this onboarding campaign.

Be direct to improve your email engagement rate

It’s difficult for subscribers to respond to your messaging if they don’t know how! In most cases, the best way to improve your email engagement rate is by viewing your email marketing strategy from the eyes of your subscribers.

Is your CTA clear and easy to understand? Does it stand out from the rest of the text of your email? Are there multiple CTAs making it difficult to know which button to choose? More often than you think, growing response rates is as simple as looking at the design of your emails — and remembering that when it comes to CTAs, a direct approach is always better.

Respect your readers

Sometimes, understanding when subscribers don’t want to hear from your brand is just as important as reaching out. One of the best ways to boost email engagement is actually to track which users are engaging with emails, but also to pay close attention to those who aren’t.

Gmail, for example, pays close attention to which emails its users open and which they ignore, factors that can affect your placement in their inbox. Suppressing sends to inactive users, at least for a period of time, and making it easy for those who are no longer interested to unsubscribe is actually one the best ways you can ensure you’re serving the most engaging email marketing possible.