E-mail marketing services firm Digital Impact this week is expected to announce a Web site designed to let its clients share the e-mail addresses of consumers who are interested in receiving promotions. The trick of the service? It's entirely opt-in.
The site, to be called Email Exchange, launches with about ten merchants, all of them companies for which Digital Impact has carried out digital marketing campaigns. E-mails the merchants send through Digital Impact will include a link to the site, found at www.emailexchange.net.
Once there, consumers will be able to choose specific brand names from across various product categories that they want to hear from electronically. Those brands — all businesses for which Digital Impact handles marketing campaigns — will then add those consumers to their own targeted mailing lists. Consumers won't be given the option of signing onto brands competitive to the merchant that steered them to the site.
“[Merchants are] giving their customers the opportunity to sign up for other reputable brands. It is a way for these brands to share their lists” in an opt-in way, said Ray Kaupp, vice president of marketing at Digital Impact, San Mateo, CA.
Digital Impact says the big value for a merchant like Virtual Vineyards, for example, is that through Email Exchange the cyber-vintner gains the e-mail addresses of consumers specifically interested in Virtual Vineyards rather than merely in wine.
“The real benefit is that the vendors get to grow their house files with highly qualified names,” said Dan Miller, product manager for Email Exchange. “This is what our partners have kind of been screaming out to us: 'You guys [already] help us with our e-mail, now help us grow our list.'”
He specifically pointed to competitors MyPoints.com Inc. and YesMail as firms that target prospects by the product categories that interest them rather than by specific brands they like. Such lists can lead to “lower-value names and almost a situation that's a kind of opt-in spam,” Miller said.
For its part, MyPoints said consumers can specify retailers that interest them, but a search through www.mypoints.com did not make it apparent where on the site that can happen, except when MyPoints consumers redeem incentive points they have accumulated.
YesMail Vice President of Marketing Tony Priore said that firm does not give vendors the names of consumers interested specifically in their companies, but breaks category preferences down to more than 1,000 types.
Digital Impact plans to take a commission every time a name is exchanged, but Kaupp would not specify the fee, only saying they would be structured on a debit and credit system between merchants that acquire and supply names.
In a pilot program begun in March with seven clients, Email Exchange received 5,500 visits from Netizens, resulting in more than 2,700 sign-ups to other lists. Miller said conversion rates were higher when the link to the site was placed higher in marketing e-mails.
The pilot program saw an overall click-through rate of about 25 percent. Some consumers signed up for more than one new merchant when they alighted at Email Exchange. Consumers also have the option of removing themselves from merchant lists.
Significantly, consumers who signed onto a vendor through Email Exchange subsequently responded to e-mail promotions from those merchants at a rate “anywhere from two to four times” better than the other names on merchants' lists, Kaupp said.
For Digital Impact, the big benefit of the program might have little to do with commissions and lots to do with sending out more e-mails. As it boosts the size of its clients' consumer lists by helping them share names, it increases the size of the e-mail campaigns it carries out for those clients.
In addition to Virtual Vineyards, companies participating in the pilot included garden.com, Omaha Steaks, Tower Records, iGo and FogDog Sports. Digital Impact currently is concentrating on increasing the number of clients in the program and will focus on boosting consumer traffic as the service picks up steam.
Typically, Digital Impact sees conversion rates of between 5 percent and 25 percent on the e-mail campaigns it carries out for its clients, depending on the price of the products being pitched and the narrowness of a client's targeting.
Kaupp would not specify Digital Impact's annual sales. He said first-quarter revenue exceeded that of MessageMedia Inc., Boulder, CO, the only publicly held company in the industry. MessageMedia had revenue of $750,000 in that quarter.