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060710 e-dialog-manifesto e-mail-marketers_consumers_demand_relevance


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  • 1. Manifesto for E-mail Marketers:Consumers Demand Relevance
  • 2. Executive Summary The e-Dialog Center for Digital Marketing Excellence provides interactive marketers with strategic guidance and best practices designed to increase customer engagement and improve results. Through independent surveys, proprietary research, and more than a decade of experience working with world-class brands, the Center for Digital Marketing Excellence is able to deliver the critical insight required to effectively market in today’s cross-channel environment. The goal of the Center is to translate industry and consumer data into action-oriented marketing strategies that can be applied in e-mail, social media, mobile marketing, e-commerce, and point of sale in order to achieve greater success. This report is based on Consumer Insight on E-mail Relevance, an independent commissioned survey by Forrester Consulting conducted on behalf of the Center for Digital Marketing Excellence. The survey endeavored to answer two key questions related to e-mail relevance. First, what does e-mail relevance mean to consumers? And second, how should marketers use this information to achieve greater relevance in their e-mail programs? The results of the survey have been captured in the following report, which examines the key findings and includes a series of recommendations from e-Dialog’s e-mail marketing experts. From the report you will have these key takeaways. E-mail use is high with 78 percent of consumers in the United States and United Kingdom using e-mail several times a day. Irrelevant and too frequent marketing e-mails will be dismissed by nearly 60 percent of consumers surveyed. Consumers demand marketers better understand and match messages to their preferences and half have indicated that those marketers will be rewarded with their engagement. And marketers must embrace preference capture and improve contact management through tactics that include robust site registration, preference tactics, and relevance empowering tactics including frequency metering, testing, and behavior analysis. Recommended Reading: The Relevance Trajectory: Creating a Standard for Relevance in E-mail, published by e-Dialog Inc., January 2009© 2010 e-Dialog, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Page 2
  • 3. E-mail Use Remains Strong, Mobile E-mail Usage Grows A survey of 2,083 adults in the United States and United Kingdom found that 78 percent of respondents use e-mail several times a day. The rise of social media communication via Twitter and Facebook has only helped to underscore the importance of e-mail as a communication channel and increased its volume. In fact, consumers’ e-mail addresses are akin to digital fingerprints, as an e-mail account is required to maintain a social media account, conduct banking online, and complete transactions. Additionally the following consumer e-mail traits underscore the notion that e-mail will remain the primary online communication and marketing tool: • Consumers have embraced e-mail marketing messages. The consumers’ appetite for marketing e-mail messages in their primary e-mail account remains high. 79 percent of US consumers surveyed stated that the marketing messages that they opt into are sent to their primary personal account. Overall just 12 percent of US consumers report to have a dedicated e-mail account for marketing messages as compared to 20 percent of UK consumers. • Mobile e-mail usage continues to grow. Further underscoring the critical importance of e-mail for consumers is the growing use of e-mail on their mobile devices. Just a few years ago market research indicated that mobile e-mail use had been adopted by about one in ten online consumers. This survey finds that 33 percent of consumers in the US and UK access e-mail on their mobile devices in addition to their computers. The continued use of e-mail by consumers as well as the increase in the volume of messages underscores the need for marketers to adopt tactics that will improve their relevance with their subscribers in order to cut through the inbox clutter. Retaining Subscribers Hinges on Relevance and Managing Message Frequency Consumers are opening and reading the promotional messages they opt into. Overall, 20 percent of consumers surveyed stated that they read all of the retail e-mail messages they receive and 38 percent indicated that they read half or more than half of these messages. While the retail vertical had the highest engagement across the eight verticals surveyed, the following data highlights consumers’ appetites for relevant messages and dislike of over-mailing: • High frequency alienates subscribers. When consumers were asked, “Of the messages you don’t regularly open and read, why don’t you do so?” an overwhelming 59 percent of them said these messages come too frequently. Over-mailing was the top reason consumers cited for lowering their engagement with the messages that they receive. • Lack of relevance drives engagement lower. E-mail engagement is further reduced when the messages do not match the consumer’s area of interest. 55 percent of consumers stated they do not open and read messages regularly because they don’t match their areas of interest. Moreover, 39 percent stated that they don’t want or need products or services from this company anymore. Lastly, 31 percent stated that they simply are not relevant, specifically citing “The products and services don’t meet my needs (e.g., baby products when I don’t have kids).” • Mobile e-mail users are more sensitive to frequency on the small screen. While consumers think about relevance the same way regardless if they are reading the message on their computers or their mobile devices, the feeling is not mutual for frequency of message. 45 percent of mobile users stated the best time for companies to send e-mail is only when it is necessary as compared to 39 percent of their non-mobile peers. Furthermore, even with transactional messages, mobile users are slightly less apt to open them (67 percent) than their non-mobile peers (73 percent). On the small screen, higher-frequency senders create more work for the multi- tasking subscriber.© 2010 e-Dialog, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Page 3
  • 4. Figure 1. Over E-mailing and Lack of Interest Indicate Areas for Relevance Improvement Source: Online survey of US and UK adults, a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of e-Dialog, December 2009 Consumers Demand Relevance When asked what consumers wanted included in the messages that they receive, it was not surprising that discounts (68 percent) and advance notice of sales (58 percent) topped their relevance wish list. However, beyond the love for discounts, consumers showed their desire for highly tailored and task-oriented e-mail marketing messages. Marketers can advance the relevance of their messages by equipping e-mails with the following types of content: • Product recommendations: Overall, 21 percent indicated an interest in getting product recommendations based on their past purchasing behavior. Such an approach by marketers can also ensure that they do not alienate the 31 percent of consumers that stated they ignore messages when the products and services do not meet their needs. • Service alert messages: Overall, 55 percent stated that they have an interest in getting alert messages that are specific to their relationship with the organization. Such service-oriented transactional messages offer marketers the opportunity to further embellish the service content with offers or ad inventory. • Follow-up messages: Overall, 43 percent expressed an interest in messages that follow up on a recent service experience. As more organizations put non-marketing functions such as customer service under the guidance of marketing, these messages will likely become more common, and thus expected by the end consumer. • Exclusive information: Overall, 43 percent stated that they desire exclusive information that can only be obtained via e-mail. Marketers that reward consumers with exclusive information are likely to see higher levels of engagement from their subscribers.© 2010 e-Dialog, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Page 4
  • 5. Figure 2. Consumer Interest in Highly Tailored E-mail is High Source: Online survey of US and UK adults, a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of e-Dialog, December 2009 Consumers Want Marketers to Demonstrate Knowledge of Their Interests Consumers are keen on marketers exhibiting intimate knowledge of their preferences, interests, and purchase history. For example, when asked, 64 percent of consumers overall stated they want the marketer to know what types of products or services they were interested in. A large number of consumers also wanted the marketer to know what types of offers they like, whether they are a new or returning customer, and their communication preferences and shopping habits. Even 51 percent of consumers that desired general non-targeted offers want marketers to demonstrate that they know their communication preferences. Consumers are clearly primed to have their preferences managed by marketers, and are likely to reward those marketers that leverage this information to improve message relevance. This data underscores that the one-to-many model of marketing is broken, and consumers desire to have more individual treatment.© 2010 e-Dialog, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Page 5
  • 6. Figure 3. Consumers Desire Marketers to Demonstrate Knowledge of Preferences Source: Online survey of US and UK adults, a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of e-Dialog, December 2009 The Most Effective Relevant Messages Emphasize Knowledge of the Consumer Consumers with interest in receiving more personalized messages are more likely to open and read these messages. Overall more than half of consumers’ e-mails across every industry vertical would be opened and read if the marketer demonstrated that they knew the consumer. Why? Because these messages are clearly more relevant to the subscribers, and consumers will reward marketers that employ personalized messages with engagement. The following data underscore how such intimate knowledge of the subscriber can drive message effectiveness: • Retail: 53 percent of consumers interested in receiving personalized elements in their e-mail messages stated that they would open and read the message if the marketer demonstrated that they knew them a lot. Another 45 percent of the same segment stated the same if the marketer demonstrated that they knew them a little. • Travel: Similar to retail messages, 52 percent of consumers interested in personalized messages stated that they would read messages in which the marketer showed that they knew them a lot. 40 percent said the same if the marketer demonstrated that they knew them a little. • Media: The lowest of all categories, but still the data underscores that personalized relevant messages can drive message effectiveness. 39 percent of consumers interested in personalization stated that they would read the messages if the marketer knew them a lot and 29 percent reported the same if the marketer knew them a little. This segment of consumers that seek for marketers to know them better is referred to as a preference seeker. These preference seekers are clearly more engaged and interested in receiving messages that are tailored to their preferences.© 2010 e-Dialog, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Page 6
  • 7. Figure 4. Personalized Messages Are More Likely To Be Read By Consumers Source: Online survey of US and UK adults, a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of e-Dialog, December 2009 Preference Seekers Can Be Mailed More Frequently and Subscribe To More E-mail While the aforementioned intolerance towards high e-mail frequency is widespread, there is some indication that consumers who provide detailed preference data are more tolerant of frequent mailing volumes. For example, when asked, “When is the best time for companies to send e-mail?” 65 percent of the consumers that are interested in more personalized preference-oriented e-mail stated “Whenever the company has something important to say.” Additionally, these consumers that seek personalization through the marketer’s improved understanding of their preferences also subscribe to more e-mail. For example, 74 percent of preference seekers subscribe to three or more retail e-mails as compared to 67 percent of the non-preference seekers. The need to deliver relevant messages to this preference seeker segment is even greater since their inboxes appear to be more cluttered than non-preference seekers.© 2010 e-Dialog, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Page 7
  • 8. Recommendations from e-Dialog Embrace preference capture and contact management to drive relevance. Marketers must drive consumers to site registration pages in order to capture subscriber preferences. Marketers must embrace contact management by gathering product, communication, and frequency preferences of subscribers. Marketers not embracing relevance-empowering tactics such as frequency caps, behavioral targeting, and testing are in the danger zone as consumers are poised to ignore old school batch and blast marketers. Marketers must capture and honor subscriber preferences. Improving relevance through monitoring explicit behavior as well as inferring interests through data aggregation and modeling has proven to drive message performance. To accelerate the insight that can be gleaned from this treasure trove of aggregated data, marketers must augment behavioral targeting through more robust management of the subscriber’s stated preferences. A blended approach is needed to make messages more relevant. Marketers failing to adopt practices that embody relevance are at risk of lower marketing performance as consumers have clearly indicated that they reward personalized preference-driven messages with their engagement. Drive consumers to site registration pages to facilitate contact management. Search engine optimization often drives site visitors away from the home page, landing them deep within the Web site on product detail pages. These optimized pages often bypass registration pages. Ensure that every Web page has a link back to a central subscriber preference center, as 87 percent of UK consumers and 85 percent of US consumers state that companies should ask about their e-mail preferences during the site registration process. The ability to capture additional preference information is highest during the site registration process. Consumers are becoming more familiar with preference centers as social sites such as Facebook are offering site visitors greater options for the manner in which the organization interacts with its subscribers. Figure 5. Consumers Desire To Set Their Preferences at Registration Source: Online survey of US and UK adults, a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of e-Dialog, December 2009© 2010 e-Dialog, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Page 8
  • 9. Recommendations Continued Gather product category, communication, and frequency preferences. Three in five consumers want marketers to know what products and offers that they like. 65 percent of US consumers want marketers to collect information about the types of products or services that they like. Similarly 61 percent of consumers in both countries want marketers to understand the offers that they like. Marketers must ask about product and service categories, as well as capture individual preferences for the frequency and channel of communication that a subscriber desires. This type of communication preference is desired by nearly half of consumers (see Figure 7.). Marketers can improve the ability to capture product and category preferences by placing a bookmark capture function, such as ‘Add this category to my preferences’ on product description pages. This tactic will allow marketers to begin building preference data for subscribers already on their mailing lists. Figure 7. Majority of Consumers Are Primed to Share Preferences Information Source: Online survey of US and UK adults, a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of e-Dialog, December 2009 Marketers must manage frequency by monitoring subscriber behavior. In addition to capturing preferences, marketers must monitor subscriber behavior and adjust their mailing tactics for those subscribers that are not engaged. ISPs and business receivers are increasingly using dormant e-mail accounts and turning them into spam traps in order to block marketers that are mailing to inactive accounts. To guard against these traps, marketers should pay close attention to the behavior of subscribers and identify inactive subscribers, investigate their previous behavior before becoming inactive, and set up a series of triggers when active subscribers begin to exhibit the same traits. Additionally marketers must: • Meter frequency based on lapsing subscriber behavior. For subscribers that exhibit declining response rates marketers should test sending less e-mail at a slower cadence in a metered fashion until response rates improve. Consumers have clearly indicated that high message frequency will drive them away and marketer’s trialing this “less is more” are likely to see a decline in unsubscribe rates.© 2010 e-Dialog, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Page 9
  • 10. Recommendations Continued • Enlist surveys to build effective win-back campaigns. Tailoring win-back campaigns and using surveys have proven to be an effective means to spur consumer behavior. In fact, preference seekers are far more likely to participate in surveys, as 45 percent state that they have a desire to take surveys or polls as compared to 34 percent of non-preference seekers. Set Frequency Caps and Use Triggered Alerts to Improve Contact Management. Marketers should survey subscribers continually about message frequency and ask them within the preference center how often they want to receive messages on a monthly basis. Data indicates that business to consumer marketers send on average four marketing messages a month; however, this frequency may not be appropriate for every marketer. Marketers should move to managing frequency by message type. For example, marketers could increase frequency when soliciting product review data, or alerting subscribers that a new review had been posted to the Web site. Such a lifecycle management approach can be applied to virtually every industry, ensuring that the messages will remain relevant to the subscriber as it underscores their preferences and behaviors. Marketers must combine knowledge of preferences with analytics and testing. While demographic segmentation will assist the marketer in matching some of these tactics with the aforementioned demographic data, marketers must leverage site behavior and blend it with preference center data. While this research details how messaging to subscribers based on their preferences can improve e-mail marketing effectiveness, measuring subscriber behavior will highlight any deviations from the subscriber’s preferences. Marketers must combine the knowledge of the subscribers’ preferences with the analysis of their behavior and optimize this through testing. Marketers should adopt the following to measure and optimize the effect that preference management can have on message performance. • Create a non-preferenced subscriber control group. It is necessary to have a control group of subscribers where you a) have not collected their preference data or b) have collected it but are not honoring it. This control group will allow the marketer an easy point of comparison to determined the effect that preference-driven personalization is having on mailing performance. • Focus on content on and test to determine what is most desirable to consumers. When asked about what elements consumers would like to have marketers include in their e-mail messages, there were stark differences between US and UK consumers. For example 62 percent of US consumers were interested in advance notice of sales, as compared to 53 percent of UK consumers. More remarkable is the difference when asked about personal alerts, which 62 percent of US consumers desired as compared to 49 percent of their UK peers. Marketers must test to determine which message elements are optimal for their subscribers as clear geographical differences among consumers. About e-Dialog With more than 10 years of e-mail marketing experience and many experts on our To learn more about e-Dialog’s leading staff, e-Dialog provides software-as-a-service and strategic services to world-class technology, services, and solutions, marketers in retail, entertainment, travel, media, business-to-business, and more. visit our Web site at We understand what it takes for our clients to be successful, which is why e-Dialog is one of the only e-mail service providers consistently recognized by top analyst North America International firms for both outstanding service and first-class technology. e-Dialog is a wholly 888-256-7687 +44 (0) 20 3219 6200 owned subsidiary of GSI Commerce, Inc. (Nasdaq: GSIC). eurosales@e-dialog.comThe Consumer Insight on E-mail Relevance survey was conducted as an online survey of 2,038 US and UK consumers. The survey was conducted on behalf of e-Dialog and the Center for Digital MarketingExcellence by Forrester Consulting in December, 2009.© 2010 e-Dialog, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Page 10