Lyris ListManager Lifts Upper Deck’s E-Mail Efforts

As the e-mail database of sports memorabilia and collectibles company Upper Deck grew, the firm decided it needed more from its in-house list management system and went to an outside vendor to better market its wares and serve its users.

Upper Deck started in 1988 as a sports trading card company and moved into other types of sports-related merchandise and collectibles in subsequent years. The company has licenses with all of the major sports organizations and teams including the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, NASCAR and major athletes.

The company first began using e-mail marketing around 2000 with a system it created, according to Toby Alfaro, director of technology at Upper Deck, Carlsbad, CA. Alfaro is responsible for getting different marketing messages to the right people, setting the frequency of e-mails and tracking campaign effectiveness.

“We built our database through people opting in at our Web site and at trade shows as well as through surveys and sweepstakes,” Alfaro said. “As our database grew, it got to a point where our homegrown system wasn’t meeting our needs for a few reasons. One was the format. Another was an easy way to segment the database into different markets or demographics and better target market to our customers.”

By 2002 Upper Deck had amassed tens of thousands of e-mail addresses in its database and needed to find a better way to manage the volume, he said.

“We reviewed various e-mail software and database hosting packages and Lyris ListManager seemed to be the best,” Alfaro said. “After I reviewed about 20 different packages, I decided that it would provide us with everything we needed and more.”

In July 2003 Upper Deck acquired a Lyris ListManager software license and began using it. By that time, Upper Deck had 12 mailing lists based on customer interests.

“Once we load the information into Lyris, we were able to segment it by interests and preferences,” Alfaro said. “We can segment based on what sports users are interested in, which is immensely important for us because often people are fans of a particular sport and not another.”

With the company’s homegrown system, all of its e-mail marketing went to its entire database to the detriment of its marketing efforts.

“We saw a number of people opt out of our communications because they only wanted to hear about a sport that they were interested in,” Alfaro said. “Spam was growing during that same time period so we had to become more focused in our marketing communications and only provide them with the information that they were really interested in.”

The Lyris system allowed Upper Deck to achieve that goal and more, he added.

Since the switch to Lyris, Upper Deck has grown its list to hundreds of thousand of members though Alfaro would not provide specifics.

The firm has also experienced increased positive response to its marketing e-mails since using Lyris. On average, its e-mail open rates are around 15 percent and, of those opened, the click-through rate averages 7 percent, according to Alfaro.

“We definitely see a significant lift in sales for the three days following an e-mail, then tapering off,” he said. Alfaro declined to give response rates for purchases.

A recent e-mail campaign for NFL collectibles was sent to 100,000 Upper Deck users on April 23. As of late May it had generated a 10 percent open rate and a 2 percent click-through and continued to generate sales, Alfaro said.

Alfaro sees more advanced uses for the Lyris ListManager system.

“We are just starting to use dynamic content within an e-mail campaign, so if we have a general message, we can incorporate sales into it based on the interest of the recipient,” Alfaro said. “If I’m interested in football I will see a football offer. If I’m interested in baseball I will get the same general e-mail with a baseball item.”

In the next few months the firm will test new products using e-mail campaigns. It may also test sending coupons to e-mail offer recipients who clicked through on an offer but did not make a purchase.

The extensive reports offered by the system to track response allow for much more sophisticated offers and tests, Alfaro said.

Kristen Bremner covers list news, insert media, privacy and fundraising for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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