Brands integrate Web analytics to create messages that resonate with consumers

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Travelocity and Pandora use analytics to boost ROI and personalize emails
Travelocity and Pandora use analytics to boost ROI and personalize emails

For years, "relevancy" has been a buzzword of email marketing. Brands are more aggressively and effectively using analytics to make sure their messages resonate with consumers, though with that opportunity comes challenges.


Prepaid cell phone provider Cricket Communications is overhauling its email program to better incorporate data and create more personalized messages, signing on with ExactTarget this past September. The company is in the process of integrating ExactTarget's email deliverability and Web analytics programs.


"The end goal is to make messaging one-to-one, and we are transitioning to a system that allows us to do that," says Aaron Howell, online marketing manager at Cricket Communications. "We will be putting feeds in place that pull front-end and back-end data into a single source." 


Howell says it will take about 16 weeks for the program to be up and running and optimized. He expects the investment to pay off in increased business. "When you have a million-plus email addresses that you are pushing out to like we do, there is a large sales potential," he explains.


As email volumes go up, email marketers are competing more for the attention of consumers. Like Cricket, other brands are investing in analytics programs to make their communications more targeted, more personalized and better optimized. In its "U.S. Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2011 to 2016," Forrester Research predicts that over the next five years marketers will invest more in email analytics overall, focusing more on CRM and customer intelligence.


"Consumers are being hit by so much messaging nowadays, not just in email inboxes but across channels," says Ari Osur, principal analyst at Forrester Research. "We are seeing an increase in spending on email analytics so that marketers have a better understanding of the types of customers they have."


Travelocity is an example of a marketer looking to analytics to boost its return on investment (ROI). A recent campaign by the travel site targeted consumers who had been loyal customers in the past but hadn't made a purchase in the previous 12 months. 


Travelocity works with email service provider StrongMail, which helped the brand integrate its email marketing analytics with its Web analytics database to identify the behaviors of lapsed customers. Travelocity used A/B testing to try out different subject lines: one with a generic offer and a sense of urgency, and the other with the term "valued customer." It then tested different offers. The "valued customer" line won out, as did an offer for a 15% discount (as opposed to a 10% discount). The 
optimized email led to a 12.3% increase in conversions.


For the Internet radio site Pandora, personalization is central, as it uses analytics to serve up individualized songs and email messages. "We use email to give listeners information about their own stations and about their favorite artists," says Matt Nichols, Pandora's director of marketing. "We measure our email communications strategy quantitatively and qualitatively."


Despite an increasing number of partnerships across service providers, overlaying email marketing platforms with Web analytics and email marketing tools remains a challenge, requiring time and increased financial investment. Kara Trivunovic, senior director of strategic services at StrongMail, says it can take a couple of years before a company is able to take full advantage of its analytics, depending on how much data a company has and how many places the data are housed. Still, she argues, it is worth the effort. 


"Across our customer base, revenue per email that is being targeted and highly segmented from multiple databases can see a performance increase of 30% and up," she says. "There is a time and dollars investment to get these systems in place, but they do end up paying for themselves because the ROI is usually very good."

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