Defining metrics may optimize all e-mail campaigns

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For some time, the buzz in e-mail marketing has been all about relevance, and it can only help to measure the responses to e-mails that have already been sent and use this information to strategize. This may seem easy enough — but it gets complicated.

While it is certainly helpful to measure results and apply this to a new campaign, it turns out that most metrics in the industry are made up by the e-mail service provider or the marketer themselves, with no standard measurement techniques in place. A 99% delivery rate measured by one firm might be 75% at another, depending on the details that are being measured.

"It has been a very confusing marketplace, said Jeanniey Mullen, founder of the Email Experience Council (EEC).

For example, Mullen said, when firms such as Epsilon, eROI and Message Labs each release their benchmark reports, all of those metrics are often based on different things.

"It makes data quality seem unreliable and makes the e-mail industry as a whole look bad," she continued.

When a Responsys retail client looks at the results from an e-mail campaign, it often looks at the revenue per e-mail. If this number goes down, then the firm may look to see if the conversion rate per e-mail has gone down or if the average order value has gone down.

"If it is a conversion that is down, then you are going to look at the open and clicks for the e-mail," said Heather Blank, director of strategic services at Responsys. "If they are still consistent, then maybe the landing page needs to be reworked."

To combat continuing disparity in metrics, e-Dialog measures clients against themselves. "We look at where the program is today and set goals to increase that performance over time," said Millie Park, account director at e-Dialog.

While firms can certainly benefit from measuring their performance against their past performance, it also helps to understand where they fit into theindustry in general.

To combat these issues, David Daniels, an analyst at JupiterResearch, has established the Email MeasurementAccuracy Coalition (EMAC), to standardize how e-mail metrics are being defined. EMAC is set become a part of the EEC itself in the future.

The coalition began by releasing the definition of deliverability, which affects all other metrics, and is defined as total e-mail deployed (unique records) divided into the total amount successfully delivered. The amount successfully delivered is the total amount attempted minus all failures, including hard bounces.

"We need an industry-wide standard, because currently most all e-mail service providers measure successful delivery differently," said Daniels. "Without a consistent performance measure, there is no way to gauge the actual effectiveness and ROI of e-mail marketing."

Using a standardized definition of these basic metrics can be very helpful for marketers. By being able to compare themselves to other marketers, e-mailers can better set goals and benchmarks, and plan budgets, Daniels continued.

"With more accurate measures in place, marketers can begin to optimize their mailings," he said.

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