Maximizing Your Email Audience Potential: Turning Email Addresses on File into Opt-Ins

November 26, 2019 | 5 minute read
Kaiti Gary
Senior Director of Analytic & Strategic Services, Oracle Digital Experience Agency
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Everyone wants more subscribers who are regularly converting. While going out and attracting new, high-value subscribers is one path that every brand should explore, it’s also the most expensive. That’s because these subscribers are at the very top of the Email Audience Potential Pyramid. Thankfully, there are many other paths open to marketers to achieve their goals when they take a step-by-step approach to maximizing their email audience potential.

One of those approaches is to leverage the email addresses you have on file and try to get more of those folks to opt in for marketing emails. That moves them from the first step on the pyramid to the second step—and some will take another step or two upward, generating even more value for your email program.

With an email address serving as a means of customer identification across much of the digital landscape, when you already know a person’s email address, it’s much easier to reach them than someone who hasn’t shared their email address with you yet. Mining your “un-reachable” email subscriber list can reveal several opportunities to engage these people and grow your business, both via the email channel and other channels.

Deciding How to Approach Non-Opted-In Contacts

Prospects and customers who have given you their email address, but are not currently opted into promotional email marketing fall into one of two groups:

  1. People who retracted their email permission. These are former subscribers. They received your marketing emails for a while, but ultimately decided that your emails weren’t relevant enough or that email was no longer their preferred way of receiving your marketing messages. 

  2. People who have never granted you email permission. These folks shared their email address with you as part of a registration or purchase, for example, but never opted in for marketing emails. They didn’t sign up because either they aren’t aware that you offer these emails, or they weren’t convinced of the value of signing up for them. 

The first step in developing a strategy for how to approach the people in each of those groups is to better understand them and why they aren’t subscribed. Leverage first-party and possibly third-party data to find for the following data points:

For former subscribers:

  • Acquired date: How long ago was each former subscriber acquired?

  • Opt-out date: Did they opt out right away or after a period of time?

  • Email engagement data: Were they ever engaged with your promotional email? If so, what was their engagement level?

For all non-opted-in contacts:

  • Other digital engagement: Are these contacts active on your website, apps, and social media properties?

  • Customer value or purchase data: How valuable are these contacts to the business overall? What have they each purchased in the past? What is the value of their past purchases?

  • Attribute data: Who are they? Besides purchases, what other forms of engagement have they exhibited? What are their interests or hobbies? Where are they geographically located? What age are they? Are they currently in market? Those are just a few of the questions that might be applicable to your audience.

These types of data points can begin to reveal your opportunity size and targeting strategy within your non-opted-in audience. Here are some of the persona groups that you’re likely to find and what, if anything, you should do to address them:

Low-Priority Groups

The following two groups are of relatively low value. Let’s look at each of them and the action that we recommend you take:

Customers and prospects who no longer fit your demographic. Consumers change. They move away from your stores and change jobs. Their incomes and their interests change. Leverage available attribute data to determine if the non-opted-in contact is still a fit for your product or service. 

Recommended action: If they no longer fit your demographic target, consider removing them from your list-building efforts

High-value customers who have opted out. These customers are already top performers for you. Your relationship with them is already strong, so don’t try to fix or spend money on what’s clearly not broken.

Recommended action: Use their email address as an identifier for digital targeting in other channels. Just because they aren’t engaged with email, doesn’t mean their email address isn’t valuable. Consider leveraging their email address to identify them across the digital landscape, targeting them with ads or promotions in custom audiences, display targeting, lightbox targeting, etc. Use attribute data to personalize those ads and messages.

High-Priority Groups

The following two groups are of relatively high value. This is where you should focus your attention. Let’s look at each of them and the actions that we recommend you take:

Customers who have never opted in to receive promotional emails

These are customers who know and like your brand and purchase at least occasionally. They haven’t signed up for your email program because they either don’t prefer to communicate with brands with email or you haven’t done a good job of selling them on the benefits of subscribing. 

Recommended actions:

  • Use all of your owned media to help drive customers to become subscribers. 

  • Clearly define and communicate a value proposition for your email program.

  • Ensure your email capture user experience follows best practices.

We explore each of those action items—and more—in the first post in our “Maximizing Your Email Audience Potential” series, which is about how to optimize your email signup forms.

Former subscribers who were engaged purchasers

Because they experienced at least some value from your email program previously, this group is more likely to respond to a re-opt-in prompt than those who never engaged in any manner. This group should be toward the top of your priority list.

Recommended action:

  • Leverage their email address and cookies to identify these contacts and deliver a personalized prompt to resubscribe. For example, if through a cookied ID or login you know your opted-out subscriber is on your site, consider personalizing the prompt to them with first-name personalization, imagery that fits their known profile, and really sell them on the benefits of signing up. For former subscribers who opted out long ago, stress what’s new about your email program, such as personalized recommendations or improved email preferences, for example.

The Bottom Line

Just like retaining a customer is far cheaper than getting a new one, turning a person that you have an email address for into an email subscriber is far cheaper than attracting a new subscriber from nothing. If you know someone’s email address, then they’re already standing on the first step of your email program’s pyramid. Encourage them to take the next step and some will surprise you and climb all the way to the top and become high value, regularly converting subscribers. And who couldn’t use more of those?

Want more ways to maximize your email audience potential? Check out:


Need help growing your email audience? Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting has more than 500 of the leading marketing minds ready to help you to achieve more with the leading marketing cloud, including audience experts on our List Growth & Demand Generation Services team.

Learn more or reach out to us at

For more information about email marketing and the tools needed to make it successful, check out Oracle Marketing Cloud.




Kaiti Gary

Senior Director of Analytic & Strategic Services, Oracle Digital Experience Agency

Kaiti (Livermore) Gary is a Senior Director on the Analytic & Strategic Services team at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. Her background includes over 16 years of client and agency consulting experience in the in a variety of marketing capacities including product management, customer experience and digital marketing. Given her diverse background, she excels in the development of holistic and innovative marketing solutions that balance strategy, technology and operational needs.

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