What Pokémon Go Can Teach Us About Email Re-Engagement Campaigns

For a while, Pokémon Go was everywhere. Kids were outside again, adults were kids again, and the immersive augmented reality experience almost made us forget how weird the rest of 2016 was. Then, as quickly as it started, it seemed to go away. Suddenly, nobody was playing Pokémon Go. Journalists declared it dead. Niantic’s attempts to win back users seemed futile.

Until now. Pokémon Gen II is here!

After last week’s Pokémon Go update, a slew of game tweaks, new items, and more creatures to catch reignited interest in the game and filled the streets with aspiring Pokémon trainers again. While it’s too soon to tell just how long the boost will last, Pokémon Go’s return to the top of the App Store charts shows that for now, Niantic has successfully re-engaged dormant users.

Re-engaging sleepy subscribers is a constant struggle in the email marketing world too. Marketers commonly use re-engagement campaigns to bring back once-active users, but what makes a good campaign? After a few missteps, Niantic seems to have stumbled onto a way to get Pokémon trainers back in the game. While you’re planning your next Pokémon Go outing, take a beat to start your next email marketing campaign too with these tips from the folks behind Pokémon Go.

1. Check the data. And we’re not talking about the mobile data you’re plowing through every time you play. While you’re collecting monsters, the Pokémon Go app is collecting a data monster, amassing tons of user data that can be leveraged in infinite ways. Whether used to improve user experience or revenue opportunities (or both), data is at the heart of every decision.

Likewise, before you take your next step, listen to your data. What were your active users engaging with before? How long do these users stay engaged? How do the behaviors of email addresses collected from varying sources differ? Campaigns rooted in hard data will ensure that you’re not just haphazardly throwing emails at an inbox like a trainer desperately going after that elusive legendary Pokémon.

2. Review and renew your content. Pokémon Go’s meteoric rise proved to be its own downfall. When it was first released, obsessive users exhausted nearly all the game had to offer within weeks. The most active users had little incentive to keep playing. Not satisfied with catching one Pidgey after another, these frustrated users quickly became former users. With the introduction of 80 new Pokémon to catch, however, these trainers came back, many as if they had never left.

Did your readers stop engaging because they got bored? If you’re offering up the same tired content with every newsletter, that may be the case. Like the new updates that have Pokémon Go users oblivious to the world around them, a renewed commitment to useful and entertaining emails might just be enough to get your readers staring intently at their inboxes again. Even just freshening up your template may signal new reasons to click on your content. Keep it interesting, and you might just keep those readers around this time.

3. Provide actionable incentives to re-engage. When discounts didn’t drive users back to the game, Niantic explored other ways to re-engage former trainers. These included temporary power-ups, exclusive Pokémon, and boosting the chances of finding rare Pokémon (one day Lapras, one day). The Pokémon Go promotions that most successfully re-engaged users weren’t cheap items; it was additions to the game that made things more fun or incentivized users to act quickly that brought people back.

If your readers have been missing in action, provide them with an incentive to take action again. A steep discount on a paid subscription may entice your regular visitors, but it will be less effective for readers who might not remember the value of your content. Instead, show them an enticing read that gets them back to your site. Point them towards an exciting new offering. Call their attention to an objective they have yet to finish. Incompleteness provides a powerful psychological incentive for users to move, which is why Pokémon Go users are so eager to fill in the holes in their Pokédexes.

4. Give readers something to look forward to. While the newest Pokémon Go update re-engaged old users, it’s the promise of future additions to the game that keep users coming back. Long-awaited features such as Pokémon trading and player-vs-player battles seem to be closer than ever. While these additions are taking longer than players would hope, many users are happy to stick around in the meantime as long as the experience remains satisfying.

It’s not a successful re-engagement campaign if you get readers to click once and then go back to sleep. Once you’ve got them back, make sure you keep them this time! Build a reputation for good email by making every newsletter as engaging as the one that brought them back. Of course, this is easier said than done. Without an adorable yellow mascot and twenty years of nostalgia on your side, it will take a bit more effort to maintain reader engagement. Still, if there’s anything to be learned from Pokémon, it’s that you can do anything you put your mind to. Unless you’re Team Rocket.

5. Above all, remember why your users first engaged. Although some Pokémon Go updates have received criticism for not going far enough, it’s this consistency that retains the familiar user experience. Features have come and gone and bugs have been worked out (many, many bugs), but the game fundamentally remains the same. A dramatic overhaul would make a steeper learning curve for returning users, potentially turning them off before they can even restart. The warm familiarity of the bright map, colorful icons, and nostalgia run amok is what allows returning users to effortlessly slip back into the game.

Whether it was insightful articles or entertaining content, your initial offering was enough to make your readers hand over their email address in the first place. Staying consistent with your voice, company branding, and the kind of content you’re known for is important to any successful email marketing campaign. After all, you’re not trying to gain a new reader, just to re-capture the old ones. Remind them of what first brought them around.

Pokémon Go-for-it! One of the most notable effects of the Pokémon Go craze was how easily it connected people. Bonded by their common interests, people congregated in public places as strangers and left as friends. Like Pokéstops, the individual nature of the email inbox makes it a perfect place to build relationships with new readers and nudge old ones. Sending an effective re-engagement email to these readers’ inboxes might just be what you need to be the very best email marketer that no one ever was.

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