Citi’s Email Marketing Key to Customer Engagement

The following is an email Q&A with Devika Mathrani, managing director and head of U.S. Cards Marketing for Citi.

How would you broadly define what Citi’s email strategy is?
Citi engages and informs our customers through sending timely servicing communications, promoting awareness of product benefits, sharing special offers, and recommending additional card products that might fit their needs. Within our U.S. marketing function, we also oversee email marketing for co-brand credit card products within our partner’s channels.

What’s the purpose of the emails? Recruit new customers? Sell products? Keep existing customer informed? A mix of all of these things?
At present, we only contact existing customers to inform them about products and ensure they’re engaged with the Citi brand and our evolving offerings. Within Citi’s U.S. Branded Cards business, which services over 23 million customers, over two-thirds of all customer interactions take place digitally, so email marketing is of immense importance to ensure we’re meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

What is your normal frequency of communications?
There is not a day that goes by that we’re not deploying email communications. However, individual cardmembers are receiving an average of four marketing emails per month. Servicing emails are based on customer behaviors such as enrollments, payments received, or other alerts the customer has signed up for and deploy as triggers.

How you do get people to sign up? (e.g. an offer, a prompt at the website to learn more, or all of these things?)
In a world that is increasingly digital by default, customers overwhelmingly volunteer their email address at the time of acquisition. Today, more than 85% of new customers provide their email address as part of the application process, with the highest concentration deriving from digitally sourced applications.

Our early engagement marketing provides links to enrollment and where possible links directly to the webpage where the action can be taken, whether that is enrollment in Citi Online, Online Payment set up, Alerts registration, Mobile App downloads or  viewing and accessing card benefits. And, within our early engagement marketing efforts, we’ve seen that we’re connecting with customers in a highly relevant manner as click-to-open rates are approximately double the industry average.

Are you using marketing automation? What tools do you use overall for email marketing?
Email marketing is based on actual customer behaviors to ensure that we are communicating with customers how they want and when they want. We use MarketSwitch.

How many people work on email marketing at the company (you can specify and differentiate between core (more or less their full time job) and those who work part-time on it).
Within Citi’s U.S. Cards business, we have more than 60 employees who have direct accountability for email marketing with a dozen providing centralized core support. 

How would you describe the editorial operations? I.e. who decides what should be in the emails?
We prioritize content based on business goals. Once a message is prioritized, the actual content of the communication is managed by the marketing or servicing team that requested the communication be sent. They work within standardized templates that help reassure consumers that the message is indeed coming from Citi and meets our brand guidelines and best practices.

Early Engagement emails are prioritized based on customer lifecycle. For example, “Application Approved” and “Welcome to Citi” are the first two emails for every cardmember. From there, the eligibility is based on key variables like card activation, acquisition offer reinforcement, digital engagement, and learning about the card benefits.

What sort of ROI metrics do you look at to determine success?
When it comes to ROI metrics, it’s really campaign dependent. Overall, we are incredibly dedicated to ensuring that emails are relevant to our customers, and we closely analyze open rates and unsubscribe rates and address as appropriate.  In the past two years, we’ve seen our click-to-open rate start to exceed financial services industry benchmarks and our unsubscribe rate drop by more than two-thirds.

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