Sunset Emails: Keeping Your List Clean of Inactive Subscribers

Sunset Emails: Keeping Your List Clean of Inactive Subscribers

Posted on September 22nd 2021, 12:34:02 am

Category: SEO

Maintaining a clean email list of engaged customers is one of the most important aspects of email marketing. 

Doing so helps ensure good email deliverability and reduces the chances of your emails ending up in the spam folder. 

And one of the best of doing this is to use to create segments based on engagement so that you can identify and remove disengaged customers. 

Traditionally, this has been achieved by looking at open rates. 

If a particular customer has not opened any of your emails over a long period of time (usually six months) then they are considered to be disengaged and it’s recommended that be removed from your email list. 

However, since , open rates have become significantly less reliable and no longer a good indicator of email engagement. 

Because of this, click-through rates are now the best and more reliable metric we have to gauge email engagement.

The problem, however, is that click-through rates are still not as good as open rates used to be. 

Just because someone is not clicking on any of the links within your email campaigns it doesn’t mean they’re not actively opening and reading them. 

That’s why sunset emails are important. 

What are sunset emails?

A sunset email is simply an email automation you send to customers who you’ve identified as being disengaged with your email marketing. 

This email will then do either of two things:

  • Ask your customer whether they’d still like to receive emails from you. And if they do, get them to confirm this by clicking on a link.
  • Inform your customer that you’ve unsubscribed them from your email list as they have not been engaging with your campaigns. As well as include an option for them to signup again should they still want to receive your emails.

Below is an example of this type of email automation from Framebridge.

sunset email example

As you can see, the goal of sunset emails is to assist you with removing disengaged customers from your list (to improve email deliverability and effectiveness) while ensuring that you don’t accidentally remove anyone who still wants to receive your emails. 

This is why sunset emails are fantastic at maintaining a healthy and engaged list without losing any potential sales by prematurely unsubscribing customers. 

How to set up an email sunsetting strategy

So now that you know what sunset emails are and why they’re important, let’s take a look at how you can set up an email sunsetting strategy within SmartrMail. 

Step 1: Identify disengaged customers

The first step is to identify who should receive your sunset emails. In other words, identify those customers on your email list who are not engaging with your campaigns. 

As mentioned, open rates are no longer the best way of doing this. Instead, you’ll want to create a segment based on clicks.

You can do this in SmartrMail by going to “Subscribers” > “Smart Segments” and then clicking on the “Create new segment” button. 

Here you’ll be able to name your segment something like “Disengaged” and then select the rule “Has not clicked all emails in (# Days)” and give it a value such as 180 days. 

This should leave you with something like what’s shown in the example below.

sunset email segment

Note: The 180 days (roughly equalling six months) is only a guide. You may want to make this timeframe longer or shorter based on your typical email engagement. 

For more information on using our Smart Segments, .

Step 2: Set up an automation for this segment

Now that you have segmented out your disengaged customers, it’s time to set up an email automation to send to them. 

You can do this in SmartrMail by going to “Automations,” clicking on “New Automation” and giving it a name such as “Sunset Email.”

For your trigger setting, you will then want to select “Whenever someone joins a segment” and then select the segment you created from step 1.

Once you’ve done this, you then just need to drag an email onto the automation that will be your sunset email.  

setting up sunset emails in smartrmail

To learn how to use Automations in SmartrMail, . 

Step 3: Create your sunset email

Once you’ve dragged the email into the sunset Automation, you’ll then need to go in and compose the email. 

turning on sunset emails

This will lead you to the standard SmartrMail email composer where you can design and create your sunset email as you would any other email in SmartrMail. 

When designing your sunset email, it’s important to keep the following best practices in mind:

  • Explain why they’re receiving your sunset email (because you’ve noticed they might not be interested in receiving your emails any longer)
  • Express how you hope your customer will choose to stay on your email list
  • Include a clear, large call-to-action button to entice customers to stay on your email list
  • Remind customers of the key reasons to keep getting emails from you (receive special offers, be the first to know about new products, get tips, etc.)

If you want to, you could even include a special offer to entice customers to stay on your email list Spy has done in their sunset email below.

sunset email example

However you decide to design your sunset email however, it’s important that there is a link for people to click to stay on your list. 

This is because you’re determining whether someone is engaged based on whether they’ve clicked on a link within your emails. 

On a side note, it’s important to still include an unsubscribe link in your sunset email. 

Even though it might seem that this isn’t necessary as you’ll effectively be unsubscribing them anyway if they’re not interested, including an unsubscribe link is important to ensure your email is compliant with regulations like CAN-SPAM. 

Not including an unsubscribe link will also make it likely that your email will land in your customer’s spam folder even if they may have wanted to stay on your list.

Step 4: Enable your sunset automation

Once you’ve designed your sunset email, you then simply have to enable the automation. 

As soon as your automation is enabled, it will send automatically to customers who you’ve identified as disengaged. If they click on the ‘keep me on the list’ call-to-action button, they will then be automatically removed from the ‘disengaged’ segment as well. 

Step 5: Exclude the disengaged segment from future emails

To ensure your disengaged customers no longer keep receiving emails from you, make sure you exclude your ‘disengaged’ segment from all future emails and automations. 

excluding the segment


Sunset emails are an incredibly effective way to keep your email list healthy and engaged. And this is more important than ever following the iOS 15 update to email open rates.

By automating sunset emails to send to customers you’ve identified as disengaged, you’ll stop annoying customers who don’t want to receive your emails anymore without accidentally removing customers from your list who still want to be on it. 

This will ensure your email marketing remains as effective as it can be and that your emails avoid customers’ spam folders. 

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