Overstock.com: how the "big O" beat the "big X" using Goodmail's CertifiedMail

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Overstock.com is an online closeout retailer offering brand-name merchandise for sale over the Internet at 40 percent to 80 percent discounts. A multi-vendor Internet outlet store, it offers customers a convenient opportunity to shop for bargains while providing suppliers an alternative inventory liquidation distribution channel.

Named the second fastest growing retailer in the United States by the National Retail Federation's Stores magazine and the only pure-play Internet retailer to make the top 10, Overstock.com is known as a sophisticated direct marketer with a capable e-mail marketing program.

Beating the Big Red X: Restoring e-mail links and images
However, like most volume commercial e-mail marketers, Overstock.com is challenged by the practice of Internet service providers blocking links and images in e-mail messages (ISPs routinely disable anything in e-mail that could possibly be a security risk to consumers).

Robust, attractive e-mails carefully designed with pictures and graphics featuring merchandise for sale often appear blank or with the familiar big "red x" warning message. Aside from brand dilution, the blocking of links and images severely hampers e-mail marketing effectiveness.

CertifiedEmail is Goodmail's service for restoring trust to e-mail communications among volume e-mail senders and their consumer recipients.

Accredited senders with the best e-mail practices can choose to send their marketing and transactional messages via CertifiedEmail, which imprints a cryptographically-secure token on outgoing e-mail messages.

This lets participating ISPs and mailbox providers like AOL and Yahoo assure delivery of those messages to the server-level inbox, with links and images intact, and presented with a unique trust icon indicating message authenticity.

Testing CertifiedEmail
Overstock e-mailed 600,000 AOL customers who had purchased something within the last six months, and members of its Club O, who are frequent purchasers that belong to a paid-for program that provides exclusive e-mail promotional offers.

These customers were divided into two groups, a CertifiedEmail test population, and a non-CertifiedEmail control group. Over the course of a month, six e-mail campaigns and 3.4 million e-mail messages were sent to the persistent test and control groups.

Results: Uplifted e-mail metrics
The aggregate response rates for the CertifiedEmail recipients as compared to the non-CertifiedEmail recipients showed the following increases:

Click through rate: 18.5 percent

Per customer revenue per e-mail: 18.4 percent

CertifiedEmail showed a statistically significant lift across all metrics. The only differences between the non-CertifiedEmail messages and the CertifiedEmail messages was that the CertifiedEmail messages were all delivered with links and images rendered intact and were presented with a unique trust icon indicating CertifiedEmail.

The automatic rendering of links and images and the trust icon caused the increase in metrics and positively affected Overstock.com's return on investment, making the test of Goodmail's service a success.

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