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Lapsed customers aren’t the same as unengaged subscribers



I’m a little irritated right now.

A brand sent me an email with this subject line: “Do you still want to hear from us?” I see emails like this one all the time, but this one really irked me. I buy from that brand a few times a year, and I consider myself to be a loyal customer. I don’t open every email it sends me every day because I’m not in the market every day. When I’m ready to buy, I might click through from an email (because it came along at the precise moment I was ready to buy), or I might even bypass the email when I see it in my inbox and go right to the site.

Either way, this reengagement email indicates the brand doesn’t recognize me as a regular-but-infrequent buyer. It treats me the same as people who don’t open or click on emails and need to be persuaded to engage. This scenario is the opposite of the “right message” mantra we’re all trying to achieve, and it can be enough to drive customers like me away. We aren’t the same – why are we being treated as if we were?

If your reactivation program doesn’t give you the results you want – more revenue, more
purchasing, more email opens and clicks – you might conclude reactivation programs just don’t

No. Your reactivation program isn’t working because you’re going about it wrong. You are
treating all of your lapsing customer and subscriber ghosts the same, no matter why they
appear to have drifted away.

Get the terminology right: Lapsing/lapsed versus unengaged

Marketers run into trouble when they treat lapsed or lapsing customers like email subscribers who don’t appear to open or act on emails. These are two different segments of your audience. Although they can overlap, they still have different motivations and characteristics.

Lapsed or lapsing customers are email subscribers who either haven’t bought or otherwise converted in your regular buying cycle/s or are getting close to the end of that cycle. If you sell unique, higher-price products (furniture, luxury bedding, fine jewelry), your buying cycle will likely be longer than a brand that sells consumables like cosmetics, household cleaners, meal kits or diapers. Ditto if your brand’s products are tied to seasonal events like holidays that appeal to once-a-year buyers.

Unengaged subscribers are those who no longer open your emails. Or, depending on your definition of unengaged, they might open messages but not click on them. Now, to make things even more complicated…

Lapsed/lapsing customers might also be unengaged subscribers. These are your true ghosters. They have left the building to go to another brand. Or they don’t need your products anymore but haven’t unsubscribed from your emails.

However, seemingly unengaged subscribers might actually be shopping on your site. Just seeing your emails appear in the inbox might be all the incentive they need to go directly to your site without opening the message first.

This is email’s famous “nudge effect.” It’s one reason why a memorable and informative subject line is so important.

When you compare these two audience segments side by side, you can see why you need to address each one separately – why a single reactivation campaign can flop if it sends the wrong message.

Often, the problem is a data failure because your email platform doesn’t integrate with your e-commerce or CRM systems and is missing those crucial pieces. You might also rely too much on open rates to measure engagement. That’s a failure, too, because opens have always been an unreliable measure, and Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection further muddies the waters.

Furthermore, the email industry itself is failing marketers because many articles and commentaries treat reactivation and reengagement as if they were interchangeable terms for the same challenge.

I’m calling on the email industry as a whole to create a distinct naming convention for reactivation and reengagement and clearly identify exactly which audience they’re targeting when discussing or writing about it.

What could go wrong?

Plenty! Here are a few dangers of sending the wrong message:

1. Confusing customers

This was my reaction to receiving the “We miss you” email. I might appear unengaged on email, but I did buy something relatively recently. So I’m confused and annoyed that the email didn’t recognize my purchase and the brand considers me inactive.

Humans long to be recognized as individuals, whether it’s a shopkeeper greeting them by name or an email message that reflects their preferences, behavior or purchases. Your customers expect your brand to use their data to personalise and tailor messages that reflect the data.

2. Unnecessary incentives

Every incentive, like a free product, an upgrade or a discount, cuts into your product margin. I’ll wager yours are razor-thin right now.

Is a discount really the best way to bring back a lapsed customer, or could something else make your brand appealing again? Will the incentive that encourages more customers to buy also nudge more disengaged subscribers to open your messages?

3. Inaccurate activity measurements

These can lead you to make ill-advised decisions that damage your email program’s viability. For example, you might send a reactivation program to any subscriber who hasn’t opened or clicked on an email for three months. A substantial number of people could ignore that email if they aren’t in the market just then.

When you analyze your metrics for those reactivation emails, you’ll see a big zero for opens and clicks from these subscribers. So, you’ll assume, incorrectly, that they aren’t interested and take them off your active list. But if they don’t see your emails, because their priorities do not align with yours at that moment in time, how can they convert from them?

Read next: Why we care about email marketing: A marketer’s guide

How to fix the problem: Create objective-led email programs

I suggest we email marketers change the way we think and talk about reactivation. Let’s make our
objectives lead the way in naming and designing these email programs.

1. Create a reengagement program

This is for email subscribers whose email activity has fallen off the radar based on what you know from their open and click behavior. The objective is to persuade customers to start opening and clicking on emails again. Exclude any customers who have purchase data within the chosen period. Think about why these customers aren’t acting on your emails. Start with your inbox – maybe you need a friendlier “from” name in the sender field or a more interesting and informative subject.

That’s the first step. Next, retool your content to encourage more clicking. Use what you know about your customers to create content that will be more likely to push these subscribers to open and click. Review your emails and identify whether you’re addressing all four buyer personalities, as this is often a contributing reason why a subscriber doesn’t act on your emails.

I’m not talking about buyer personas here. Rather, you should know whether your customers are more likely to pore over product data before they’ll click, buy on impulse or respond to emotional triggers more than discounts or product features.

One last consideration: If you don’t have customer behavior like browsing, purchases or conversions to inform, resist the urge to simply unsubscribe your nonresponders. Opens and clicks give you only a small piece of the engagement story, and that’s not enough to guide this permanent decision.

Consider creating a new segment of these seemingly unengaged subscribers and testing
content that explains the benefits of engaging or suggests other means of staying in touch.

2. Create a reactivation program

This is for subscribers who have purchase history but are either on the verge of lapsing or have
already lapsed according to your buying cycle. The objective is to bring back these customers to

Hence, they need good reasons to buy from you now instead of waiting. It’s not enough to say
“We miss you.” What they’ll hear is “We miss having you spend your money with us.”

Instead, show them what they’re missing and what you can offer that other brands don’t:
● Store redesigns or new locations and hours.
● New services like personal shoppers, curbside pickup, extended hours or services.
● New brands or product lines.
● Improved customer service or return policies.
● New ways to pay such as “buy now, pay later” or alternate methods like PayPal, Venmo
or bitcoin.

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Next steps

Think deeply about your objectives for your lapsed/lapsing customers and your unengaged
subscribers. Use those objectives to guide your planning and execution for separate email
programs to help you achieve those objectives. Name each program according to the objective
to cement the decision-making process.

A reactivation program aims to bring back your customers who have stopped purchasing from
you. A reengagement program reaches out to subscribers who no longer act on your emails.
Each program will have its own creative direction. When you view them in this manner, you’ll
see right away why a one-size-fits-all plan just won’t work.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

7 common problems that derail ABn email testing success
Kath Pay is CEO at Holistic Email Marketing and the author of the award-winning Amazon #1 best-seller “Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionise your business and delight your customers.”

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Comparing Credibility of Custom Chatbots & Live Chat



Building Customer Trust: Comparing Credibility of Custom Chatbots & Live Chat

Addressing customer issues quickly is not merely a strategy to distinguish your brand; it’s an imperative for survival in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace.

Customer frustration can lead to customer churn. That’s precisely why organizations employ various support methods to ensure clients receive timely and adequate assistance whenever they require it.

Nevertheless, selecting the most suitable support channel isn’t always straightforward. Support teams often grapple with the choice between live chat and chatbots.

The automation landscape has transformed how businesses engage with customers, elevating chatbots as a widely embraced support solution. As more companies embrace technology to enhance their customer service, the debate over the credibility of chatbots versus live chat support has gained prominence.

However, customizable chatbot continue to offer a broader scope for personalization and creating their own chatbots.

In this article, we will delve into the world of customer support, exploring the advantages and disadvantages of both chatbots and live chat and how they can influence customer trust. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of which option may be the best fit for your business.

The Rise of Chatbots

Chatbots have become increasingly prevalent in customer support due to their ability to provide instant responses and cost-effective solutions. These automated systems use artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to engage with customers in real-time, making them a valuable resource for businesses looking to streamline their customer service operations.

Advantages of Chatbots

24/7 Availability

One of the most significant advantages of custom chatbots is their round-the-clock availability. They can respond to customer inquiries at any time, ensuring that customers receive support even outside regular business hours.


Custom Chatbots provide consistent responses to frequently asked questions, eliminating the risk of human error or inconsistency in service quality.


Implementing chatbots can reduce operational costs by automating routine inquiries and allowing human agents to focus on more complex issues.


Chatbots can handle multiple customer interactions simultaneously, making them highly scalable as your business grows.

Disadvantages of Chatbots

Limited Understanding

Chatbots may struggle to understand complex or nuanced inquiries, leading to frustration for customers seeking detailed information or support.

Lack of Empathy

Chatbots lack the emotional intelligence and empathy that human agents can provide, making them less suitable for handling sensitive or emotionally charged issues.

Initial Setup Costs

Developing and implementing chatbot technology can be costly, especially for small businesses.

The Role of Live Chat Support

Live chat support, on the other hand, involves real human agents who engage with customers in real-time through text-based conversations. While it may not offer the same level of automation as custom chatbots, live chat support excels in areas where human interaction and empathy are crucial.

Advantages of Live Chat

Human Touch

Live chat support provides a personal touch that chatbots cannot replicate. Human agents can empathize with customers, building a stronger emotional connection.

Complex Issues

For inquiries that require a nuanced understanding or involve complex problem-solving, human agents are better equipped to provide in-depth assistance.

Trust Building

Customers often trust human agents more readily, especially when dealing with sensitive matters or making important decisions.


Human agents can adapt to various customer personalities and communication styles, ensuring a positive experience for diverse customers.

Disadvantages of Live Chat

Limited Availability

Live chat support operates within specified business hours, which may not align with all customer needs, potentially leading to frustration.

Response Time

The speed of response in live chat support can vary depending on agent availability and workload, leading to potential delays in customer assistance.


Maintaining a live chat support team with trained agents can be expensive, especially for smaller businesses strategically.

Building Customer Trust: The Credibility Factor

When it comes to building customer trust, credibility is paramount. Customers want to feel that they are dealing with a reliable and knowledgeable source. Both customziable chatbots and live chat support can contribute to credibility, but their effectiveness varies in different contexts.

Building Trust with Chatbots

Chatbots can build trust in various ways:


Chatbots provide consistent responses, ensuring that customers receive accurate information every time they interact with them.

Quick Responses

Chatbots offer instant responses, which can convey a sense of efficiency and attentiveness.

Data Security

Chatbots can assure customers of their data security through automated privacy policies and compliance statements.

However, custom chatbots may face credibility challenges when dealing with complex issues or highly emotional situations. In such cases, the lack of human empathy and understanding can hinder trust-building efforts.

Building Trust with Live Chat Support

Live chat support, with its human touch, excels at building trust in several ways:


Human agents can show empathy by actively listening to customers’ concerns and providing emotional support.

Tailored Solutions

Live chat agents can tailor solutions to individual customer needs, demonstrating a commitment to solving their problems.


Human agents can adapt to changing customer requirements, ensuring a personalized and satisfying experience.

However, live chat support’s limitations, such as availability and potential response times, can sometimes hinder trust-building efforts, especially when customers require immediate assistance.

Finding the Right Balance

The choice between custom chatbots and live chat support is not always binary. Many businesses find success by integrating both options strategically:

Initial Interaction

Use chatbots for initial inquiries, providing quick responses, and gathering essential information. This frees up human agents to handle more complex cases.

Escalation to Live Chat

Implement a seamless escalation process from custom chatbots to live chat support when customer inquiries require a higher level of expertise or personal interaction.

Continuous Improvement

Regularly analyze customer interactions and feedback to refine your custom chatbot’s responses and improve the overall support experience.


In the quest to build customer trust, both chatbots and live chat support have their roles to play. Customizable Chatbots offer efficiency, consistency, and round-the-clock availability, while live chat support provides the human touch, empathy, and adaptability. The key is to strike the right balance, leveraging the strengths of each to create a credible and trustworthy customer support experience. By understanding the unique advantages and disadvantages of both options, businesses can make informed decisions to enhance customer trust and satisfaction in the digital era.

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The Rise in Retail Media Networks



A shopping cart holding the Amazon logo to represent the rise in retail media network advertising.

As LL Cool J might say, “Don’t call it a comeback. It’s been here for years.”

Paid advertising is alive and growing faster in different forms than any other marketing method.

Magna, a media research firm, and GroupM, a media agency, wrapped the year with their ad industry predictions – expect big growth for digital advertising in 2024, especially with the pending US presidential political season.

But the bigger, more unexpected news comes from the rise in retail media networks – a relative newcomer in the industry.

Watch CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose explain how these trends could affect marketers or keep reading for his thoughts:

GroupM expects digital advertising revenue in 2023 to conclude with a 5.8% or $889 billion increase – excluding political advertising. Magna believes ad revenue will tick up 5.5% this year and jump 7.2% in 2024. GroupM and Zenith say 2024 will see a more modest 4.8% growth.

Robert says that the feeling of an ad slump and other predictions of advertising’s demise in the modern economy don’t seem to be coming to pass, as paid advertising not only survived 2023 but will thrive in 2024.

What’s a retail media network?

On to the bigger news – the rise of retail media networks. Retail media networks, the smallest segment in these agencies’ and research firms’ evaluation, will be one of the fastest-growing and truly important digital advertising formats in 2024.

GroupM suggests the $119 billion expected to be spent in the networks this year and should grow by a whopping 8.3% in the coming year.  Magna estimates $124 billion in ad revenue from retail media networks this year.

“Think about this for a moment. Retail media is now almost a quarter of the total spent on search advertising outside of China,” Robert points out.

You’re not alone if you aren’t familiar with retail media networks. A familiar vernacular in the B2C world, especially the consumer-packaged goods industry, retail media networks are an advertising segment you should now pay attention to.

Retail media networks are advertising platforms within the retailer’s network. It’s search advertising on retailers’ online stores. So, for example, if you spend money to advertise against product keywords on Amazon, Walmart, or Instacart, you use a retail media network.

But these ad-buying networks also exist on other digital media properties, from mini-sites to videos to content marketing hubs. They also exist on location through interactive kiosks and in-store screens. New formats are rising every day.

Retail media networks make sense. Retailers take advantage of their knowledge of customers, where and why they shop, and present offers and content relevant to their interests. The retailer uses their content as a media company would, knowing their customers trust them to provide valuable information.

Think about these 2 things in 2024

That brings Robert to two things he wants you to consider for 2024 and beyond. The first is a question: Why should you consider retail media networks for your products or services?   

Advertising works because it connects to the idea of a brand. Retail media networks work deep into the buyer’s journey. They use the consumer’s presence in a store (online or brick-and-mortar) to cross-sell merchandise or become the chosen provider.

For example, Robert might advertise his Content Marketing Strategy book on Amazon’s retail network because he knows his customers seek business books. When they search for “content marketing,” his book would appear first.

However, retail media networks also work well because they create a brand halo effect. Robert might buy an ad for his book in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal because he knows their readers view those media outlets as reputable sources of information. He gains some trust by connecting his book to their media properties.

Smart marketing teams will recognize the power of the halo effect and create brand-level experiences on retail media networks. They will do so not because they seek an immediate customer but because they can connect their brand content experience to a trusted media network like Amazon, Nordstrom, eBay, etc.

The second thing Robert wants you to think about relates to the B2B opportunity. More retail media network opportunities for B2B brands are coming.

You can already buy into content syndication networks such as Netline, Business2Community, and others. But given the astronomical growth, for example, of Amazon’s B2B marketplace ($35 billion in 2023), Robert expects a similar trend of retail media networks to emerge on these types of platforms.   

“If I were Adobe, Microsoft, Salesforce, HubSpot, or any brand with big content platforms, I’d look to monetize them by selling paid sponsorship of content (as advertising or sponsored content) on them,” Robert says.

As you think about creative ways to use your paid advertising spend, consider the retail media networks in 2024.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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AI driving an exponential increase in marketing technology solutions



AI driving an exponential increase in marketing technology solutions

The martech landscape is expanding and AI is the prime driving force. That’s the topline news from the “Martech 2024” report released today. And, while that will get the headline, the report contains much more.

Since the release of the most recent Martech Landscape in May 2023, 2,042 new marketing technology tools have surfaced, bringing the total to 13,080 — an 18.5% increase. Of those, 1,498 (73%) were AI-based. 

Screenshot 2023 12 05 110428 800x553

“But where did it land?” said Frans Riemersma of Martech Tribe during a joint video conference call with Scott Brinker of ChiefMartec and HubSpot. “And the usual suspect, of course, is content. But the truth is you can build an empire with all the genAI that has been surfacing — and by an empire, I mean, of course, a business.”

Content tools accounted for 34% of all the new AI tools, far ahead of video, the second-place category, which had only 4.85%. U.S. companies were responsible for 61% of these tools — not surprising given that most of the generative AI dynamos, like OpenAI, are based here. Next up was the U.K. at 5.7%, but third place was a big surprise: Iceland — with a population of 373,000 — launched 4.6% of all AI martech tools. That’s significantly ahead of fourth place India (3.5%), whose population is 1.4 billion and which has a significant tech industry. 

Dig deeper: 3 ways email marketers should actually use AI

The global development of these tools shows the desire for solutions that natively understand the place they are being used. 

“These regional products in their particular country…they’re fantastic,” said Brinker. “They’re loved, and part of it is because they understand the culture, they’ve got the right thing in the language, the support is in that language.”

Now that we’ve looked at the headline stuff, let’s take a deep dive into the fascinating body of the report.

The report: A deeper dive

Marketing technology “is a study in contradictions,” according to Brinker and Riemersma. 

In the new report they embrace these contradictions, telling readers that, while they support “discipline and fiscal responsibility” in martech management, failure to innovate might mean “missing out on opportunities for competitive advantage.” By all means, edit your stack meticulously to ensure it meets business value use cases — but sure, spend 5-10% of your time playing with “cool” new tools that don’t yet have a use case. That seems like a lot of time.

Similarly, while you mustn’t be “carried away” by new technology hype cycles, you mustn’t ignore them either. You need to make “deliberate choices” in the realm of technological change, but be agile about implementing them. Be excited by martech innovation, in other words, but be sensible about it.

The growing landscape

Consolidation for the martech space is not in sight, Brinker and Riemersma say. Despite many mergers and acquisitions, and a steadily increasing number of bankruptcies and dissolutions, the exponentially increasing launch of new start-ups powers continuing growth.

It should be observed, of course, that this is almost entirely a cloud-based, subscription-based commercial space. To launch a martech start-up doesn’t require manufacturing, storage and distribution capabilities, or necessarily a workforce; it just requires uploading an app to the cloud. That is surely one reason new start-ups appear at such a startling rate. 

Dig deeper: AI ad spending has skyrocketed this year

As the authors admit, “(i)f we measure by revenue and/or install base, the graph of all martech companies is a ‘long tail’ distribution.” What’s more, focus on the 200 or so leading companies in the space and consolidation can certainly be seen.

Long-tail tools are certainly not under-utilized, however. Based on a survey of over 1,000 real-world stacks, the report finds long-tail tools constitute about half of the solutions portfolios — a proportion that has remained fairly consistent since 2017. The authors see long-tail adoption where users perceive feature gaps — or subpar feature performance — in their core solutions.

Composability and aggregation

The other two trends covered in detail in the report are composability and aggregation. In brief, a composable view of a martech stack means seeing it as a collection of features and functions rather than a collection of software products. A composable “architecture” is one where apps, workflows, customer experiences, etc., are developed using features of multiple products to serve a specific use case.

Indeed, some martech vendors are now describing their own offerings as composable, meaning that their proprietary features are designed to be used in tandem with third-party solutions that integrate with them. This is an evolution of the core-suite-plus-app-marketplace framework.

That framework is what Brinker and Riemersma refer to as “vertical aggregation.” “Horizontal aggregation,” they write, is “a newer model” where aggregation of software is seen not around certain business functions (marketing, sales, etc.) but around a layer of the tech stack. An obvious example is the data layer, fed from numerous sources and consumed by a range of applications. They correctly observe that this has been an important trend over the past year.

Build it yourself

Finally, and consistent with Brinker’s long-time advocacy for the citizen developer, the report detects a nascent trend towards teams creating their own software — a trend that will doubtless be accelerated by support from AI.

So far, the apps that are being created internally may be no more than “simple workflows and automations.” But come the day that app development is so democratized that it will be available to a wide range of users, the software will be a “reflection of the way they want their company to operate and the experiences they want to deliver to customers. This will be a powerful dimension for competitive advantage.”

Constantine von Hoffman contributed to this report.

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