AWS Messaging & Targeting Blog

What’s an inactive customer?

You are an email sender.  You’re most likely sending to real people.  When should you call it quits and stop mailing a person?  That’s an easy question to answer if your recipient requests to be unsubscribed.  You should remove those email addresses immediately.  If your recipient complains and you receive that complaint via an Amazon SES feedback loop, you have several options available to you (be sure to check out our recent post explaining what complaints are).

But, what if your recipient hasn’t unsubscribed or complained?  Well, if they’re clicking or opening your messages, it’s probably safe to say they’re happily engaged and want to continue receiving your email.  Keep sending to them responsibly.  But, if you’re not showing any engagement from your customers, you will want to consider when to sever ties and stop emailing.


An active recipient is one who is engaged with your email program as evidenced by their interaction with your email.

An inactive recipient is one who is not engaged with your email program and thus not interacting with your messages in any meaningful (or measureable) manner.  An extreme inactive recipient is one who’s not even engaging with your business, such as not purchasing goods, logging into your site or browsing your webpages.

Each sender defines an inactive differently.  But, a good general rule of thumb is to mark a recipient as inactive after they have not engaged with any of your email after 1 year.  This also coincides with when ISPs tend to convert unused or abandoned email addresses into spamtraps.  If you have marked a user as inactive, we recommend you:

  1. Stop sending email to that address, unless it is transactional in nature.  Some senders will also send a notice to recipients letting them know the email will cease and provide them one last chance to stay opted in.
  2. Message to the recipient via your website that you’ve unsubscribed them on their behalf.
  3. Allow the customer to opt back into your email through your website at any time in a subscriptions preferences center.
  4. Continually scrub your email lists of new recipients that have become inactive.

Over the long run, removing inactives from your mailing lists will reduce the amount of spamtrap hits you incur, hard bounces (as they may have deactivate their address and no longer get your email anyway) and complaints (if they’re not engaged, they’re more likely to not want your email and tell the ISP through the spam button).

Let us know your thoughts on how you handle inactives!