Maximizing email

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Avoiding common email marketing mistakes will ultimately drive better campaign ROI
Avoiding common email marketing mistakes will ultimately drive better campaign ROI

While email marketing employees may get incentives for building their lists, many times the representatives who are interacting with customers directly are not; therefore, brands lose out on the opportunity to capture email addresses on other channels.

Daniels expects this to continue until brands are willing to change their organizational structures and incentives for employees. “Email marketers are still given incentives based on list size and list growth,” he says. “Even if half of the people on the list haven't clicked, they don't tell anybody.”

Denise Poplawski Humphreys, director of partnership management at PGATour.com, says organizing across marketing teams is one of her biggest hurdles. “[Email] is a benefit to the Tour as well as a benefit to the fans,” she says. “We have to organize our calendars internally across the different teams [to ensure we don't send too many emails to fans].”

Experts agree that it's not always a marketer's fault that their organization's approach isn't ideal. Most marketers deal with limited budgets and have a lot of data to manage. “Part of the challenge [during] the dawn of email marketing was that we were all starved for data,” says Jim Davidson, manager of strategic services at Bronto, an email marketing services provider. “Now that we have website analytics, point-of-sale data, social data and so on, the challenge is knowing which data to use and how to integrate it all together.”

Budgets are also tricky for email marketers. “It used to be so simple,” says Alan Talanoa, director of Web operations at GolfDiscount.com. “One channel would lead to a sale and you could budget accordingly,” he says. “Now you have so many factors working together and you have to consider search, mobile, social and trying to figure out allocation of marketing dollars.”

Jason Scoggins, senior email marketing manager at Freshpair.com, says that one of his big challenges is getting the message with the most impact out in a way that fits within a budget. “There are a lot of things we'd love to do, but we have a budget,” he says. “We are always looking at ways to increase our ROI (return on investment). Retargeting is a great way to increase ROI.”

Freshpair.com customizes its onsite experience based on email click behavior. “A traditional customer who buys basic underwear is very different from someone who is very fashion forward. We look at their purchase history and provide the best experience when they arrive at our site,” Scoggins says.

Email marketers can also stand to make improvements integrating their messaging with search and display, experts say. Brands can take keywords that perform well in search and test them in email subject lines and calls-to-action to help optimize copy. Marketers can increase ROI by running retargeting campaigns based on consumers' online browsing behavior.

Online travel company Orbitz integrates email with display to match customers to a registration record. The tactic enables Orbitz to understand the interplay between email and display to ensure the company is taking the low-cost characteristics of email  arketing and marrying them appropriately with high-cost retargeted display advertising, says Ted Wham, VP of CRM at Orbitz. “We are finding lift through this approach that is yielding higher efficiency,” he adds.

Orbitz also uses previous search and purchase information to target email messages. “In 2012 this will extend to data-mining principles to both identify specific-itinerary travel opportunities with particularly good pricing to the consumer, plus techniques to marry that to specific micro-segments of our targetable mailing universe that would benefit from knowing of these fleeting pricing opportunities,” Wham adds.

Marketers can also help increase email ROI by setting up automated campaigns such as a welcome series, birthday emails and triggered campaigns that retarget a customer after they have added products to a shopping cart but have failed to transact.

According to an October whitepaper from email marketing services provider Listrak, nearly 85% of the top 1,000 etailers are doing nothing to recover lost sales due to shopping cart abandonment. Listrak estimates that $18 billion is lost each year by retailers who don't take advantage of shopping cart abandonment tools. This number will continue to grow if one considers that the average abandonment rate jumped from 71% to 75% during the first six months of 2011, according to the Listrak study. Brands as big as Gap and JCrew (both of which declined to be interviewed for this article) fail to send shopping cart abandonment emails.

Those brands that do implement triggered email messages see a return on their investment. After having success with cart abandonment emails, DirecTV is building out a number of triggered retargeting campaigns based on various behaviors that a customer makes on its website, such as cart abandonment and browsing behavior. “Our next steps are not as much building out dozens of new campaigns, but are instead focusing on improving the basic retargeting campaigns that everyone should be doing,” says Kirsch. “With more and better data, we can make better choices on what content to include in a given email as well as when to send it, or even if we should send it.”

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