Objective: Increase conversions and maximize inbox rates by pushing targeted emails that engage consumers and help grow sales
The Problem: More isn’t always better, an adage never truer than in the world of email list management.
Take SkinCareRx.com. When the skincare product website acquired another related online company several years ago, it also obtained that company’s email list of roughly 6,000 names. It seemed like a boon at first, but instead that’s when the trouble began.
“What we’d done is dump their email list into ours, and what we found after a year of bad delivery rates was that the list had actually been purchased and there were a lot of spam traps, inactive users, and deleted accounts in there,” says Mike Nelson, online marketing director of IntelaDerm LLC, the parent company that owns and operates SkinCareRx.com.
In addition to systemic email deliverability issues, SkinCareRx was in the dark as to the reasons why customers were abandoning their shopping carts. Although Nelson and his team were using analytics to track abandonment behaviors, they hadn’t yet found the right tool to optimize the website’s shopping cart experience.
“We knew the number of shopping carts being abandoned—we saw that people were adding stuff to their carts and not purchasing—but there was still the question of what was going on here,” Nelson says. “We tried optimizing the page, adding different security things, different layouts, but none of that was working based on the tests we ran.”
The Strategy: With the knowledge that clean data is the only data worth having, SkinCareRx contacted email marketing solution provider Listrak to whip its list into shape and boost shopping cart conversions.
After giving SkinCareRx’s email list a good scrub, Listrak analyzed the website’s inbox rate and recommended that SkinCareRx use tools from email intelligence firm Return Path. SkinCareRx now uses Return Path to monitor on a daily basis which emails are hitting inboxes and which emails are bouncing to help identify problem areas and keep its messages out of customers’ spam folders.
“SkinCareRx wanted the best deliverability possible—and you can’t go wrong adding an extra layer of assurance into your email program,” says Listrak CEO Ross Kramer regarding Return Path.
With its list clean and its Return Path certification in place, SkinCareRx was able to turn its attention to revitalizing its email program with more direct, relevant messages that it would now be sure would hit the mark—and convert at a higher rate.
To make that happen, Listrak helped SkinCareRx better utilize its clickstream data—in other words, the virtual trail left by users as they surf their way around the Internet—to reach customers lower in the funnel.
“Historically in direct response and direct marketing, recency and frequency are used as the drivers to send more targeted messages,” Kramer says. “What’s good about the Web is being able to add clickstream as a third dimension retailers can use to segment.”
The Implementation: Listrak launched a modal pop-up; basically, a simple contact form to welcome visitors to the website and capture email addresses that were then used as part of a series of three welcome emails.
SkinCareRx also executed a holiday season-themed “12 Days of Giveaways” in 2012, during which entrants, who provided an email address, were entered to win free products.
Their contact information was subsequently used in a follow-up campaign in the lead-up to Christmas.
To help nurture SkinCareRx’s growing list—and increase the pool of reachable potential cart abandoners—Listrak also dropped cookies on all the modal campaigns.
Next on the list was to tackle one of SkinCareRx’s particular bugbears: shopping cart abandonment.
“On average, about 75% of consumers who come to a site and add something to their cart will bail, and there are lots of possible reasons for that—some people use their cart as a wish list or get remorse at checkout, others run out of time before completing the transaction,” says Listrak’s Kramer, noting that only 19% of the top online retailers included in the Internet Retailer (IR) 500 have an active cart abandonment program, despite the potential for significant revenue.
Following abandonment, SkinCareRx sends a series of three emails, the first of which comes roughly three hours—three hours is what Kramer calls the “sweet spot”—after a visitor left the website without completing a transaction. That first email doesn’t contain any offers, simply a reminder that the email recipient had left an item or items in his or her cart. The second email follows two days after the first with a 5% offer, and then five days after that—about one week after the initial abandonment—a third email rounds out the series with a 10% off deal and/or the offer of free shipping.
While there is merchandising in the emails, limiting it to the items that were actually abandoned results in a higher degree of demand and response, Kramer says. Recipients are also directed back to the cart itself, as opposed to the homepage.
“It’s the guided navigation approach,” Kramer says. “From a direct response perspective it’s good to limit the choices consumers have when they’re interacting with a campaign.”
Sending the emails as a series also has its benefits: 40% of campaign revenue comes from the second and third abandonment emails. It’s literally a case of “money left on the table,” Kramer says, noting that only about 21.5% of the IR 500 send three emails.
The Results: SkinCareRx’s abandonment campaign converted at an average of 18% over five months—as compared to the usual 2% conversion rates e-tailers generally see on their abandonment emails.
The welcome series brought in a 7% conversion rate. From 2011 to 2012, year-over-year holiday sales in November increased by 12%.
The Takeaway: Email marketing at its best is targeted—but more important, it’s streamlined.
“[SkinCareRx] was able to increase its revenue by sending less email,” Kramer says. “That’s the key thing to remember here.”
Nelson says email has become an “awesome channel” for the brand since engaging Listrak, and the website has several email-related plans in its pipeline, including integrating suggested products into emails and soliciting online reviews.
“We don’t have to pay affiliates to drive traffic for us anymore and we don’t have to rely on Google Ads,” Nelson says. “Plus we did almost a quarter of our revenue from email last year.”