Why Your Email Marketing Needs Power-Packed Data

Nov 20, 2012 1:08 AM  By

Email has unique advantages for communicating with customers that, when used wisely, can strongly increase its visibility and effectiveness in a crowded inbox. Marketers can target message content according to subscribers’ preferences or trigger messages based on customer behavior.

In short, email presents many opportunities to speak directly to your customers. And since marketers have been at it for a while, it also offers ease of entry.

But email’s return on investment is also its Achilles heel. As retailers continually increase their year-over-year sending volume, it is getting progressively difficult for them to get their messages opened, read and clicked. Many marketers feel they have already maximized their emailing frequency. They know they need to increase the personalization and relevance of their messages in order to continue improving sales while providing a positive customer experience. But many don’t know how to get started.

With an eye toward online holiday marketing, a recent survey of online marketers conducted by Bronto Software and RSR Research revealed that this past year almost half of retailers have invested in automated/triggered messaging, more than a third in personalization, and just under a quarter in segmentation. While you may think that the lower level of investment in segmentation could sabotage campaign performance, these investments signal that marketers are indeed advancing their efforts.

If it feels too complex, it probably is
The path to increased relevance is as complex as you make it. Start simple with the data you already have, and then develop a plan that will help you evolve into your long-term objectives. Just getting started will help you learn more about who your subscribers are, where they are in the customer lifecycle or purchase funnel, and what data you could use to move the needle even further.

Some of the most common data points pack the most power! Just make sure you know how you will use them before you start collecting the information. They are:

Profile information: That includes the customer’s name, email address, birthday, gender or geographic location. You can request this data when the customer signs up for your email program or in a welcome email. It is a tremendous asset for personalization and segmentation.

Email behavior: By pairing this information with subscription date, you can design campaigns that individually target new, highly engaged subscribers, re-mail to those who have clicked but not purchased, or perhaps re-engage those who are not responding.

Website activity and purchase data: For example, last order date, purchase category, product or category browsed, or cart abandonment. Even basic integration of website data can be used to automate high revenue-generating campaigns, such as reminding customers of items left in their carts or thanking them for a recent purchase.

Data from other channels: You should understand how and where your customer initiates the shopping process and completes a purchase. This will help you to anticipate multichannel customer behavior and provide personalized information in future campaigns.

If you need some motivation for simply getting started, consider some examples. Lake Champlain Chocolates uses segmentation strategies to target subscribers by customer attributes and email activity such as openers and non-openers. Campaigns adjusted to these elements see across-the-board improvements in open rates, deliverability and response rates.

And, with just an email address and a subscription date, Gander Mountain’s automated welcome emails have evolved to represent 30% of all email marketing revenue for the company.

So if you’re faced with the challenge of balancing an increase in email frequency while not frustrating your customers, just a few fundamental data points are all you need to make a difference.

Jim Davidson is manager of marketing research for Bronto Software.