Email & the UK Election: Inbox Contents & Supporter Profiles

In the first two parts of my series on Email & the UK Election, we have considered the impact of email deliverability and subscriber engagement on the effectiveness of the political parties’ email programs.

In Part 3 we explore whether the emails subscribers receive can be used to create a top-level profile of their interests, needs, and beliefs – like an email version of Experian Mosaic, providing consumer classifications that understand the demographics, lifestyles, preferences and behaviors of a population.

Similarly, the subscriber overlap functionality in Return Path’s Inbox Insight competitor intelligence solution to identify other email programs supporters are signed-up to, allowing analysis of the differences between supporter profiles.

Here’s a subscriber overlap report for the Labour party:

Around 2/3 of Labour supporters receive emails from Facebook. When they aren’t checking in, they’re shopping on Amazon, watching Channel 4, and reading the Guardian! OK – that’s a sweeping generalization, but a more robust analysis shows there are clear differentiations between these different supporters.

Retail Therapy (With a Strong Social Flavor!)

This analysis considers the top-30 brands that supporters of the top-6 UK political parties are also receiving emails from. I’ve categorized them by industry sector, and indexed them so sum of senders equals 100.


Retailers dominate the typical political supporter’s inbox, closely followed by social media. Combined, this represents slightly over 50% of all email activity they receive.

After this we see some interesting variances. For example, Lib Dems, SNP, and Greens supporters appear significantly more likely to register with polling/petitioning/survey organisations such as 38degrees and Does this suggest a greater level of political engagement with these members?

Shopping – Online Trumps Offline

While retail representation is fairly consistent, there is greater variance when categorized by whether presence is predominantly online or offline:


Conservative and UKIP supporters are most likely to shop online, while Labour supporters tend to support traditional “bricks & mortar” brands. This is interesting, suggesting a split between the political equivalent of “digital natives” and “digital immigrants”. However, as we’ll see next, this isn’t necessarily the case.


Getting Connected – Where to Channel the Marketing Efforts?

Email activity also provides insight into preferred social media channels:


Facebook utilization is greatest with Conservative and Labour supporters. This may suggest why the Tories are spending £100K pm on building up likes. So far they have 458K likes – based on a 4 month election campaign, that’s around £1 per like, hardly the £38 to £1 ROI that email generates!

Greens and Lib Dems show highest levels of LinkedIn membership. I’ve often wondered if LinkedIn coverage is a proxy for skilled workers. Which made me wonder why the Conservatives and UKIP perform lowly in this regard – until I remembered around 1/3 of the vote for these parties comes from +65s, and they’re not working anymore!

This data also puts the “social will be the death of email” argument to bed for good – just look at the amount of email social generates!

Viewing Habits

We can also learn a lot about what political supporters are watching on TV:


Labour supporters are obviously big telly viewers, closely followed by the SNP. Does this identify the most effective channel to these audiences?

As an aside, the high across-the-board representation of Channel 4 is interesting. Viewership figures for Channel 4 are around ¼ of BBC One and 1/3 of ITV.  The fact their email program has much greater email representation provides an indication of the commitment this broadcaster has made to this channel.


We’ve looked at broad variances across major verticals, but each party also highlights some quirky outliers adding colour to their supporter palettes:

  • Should we be startled 20% of Green subscribers are also signed-up with Etsy – “the global community committed to using the power of business to create a better world”.
  • Or that 20% of Conservative supporters shop at Homebase – the most MOR DIY store in the known universe!
  • While all supporters are keen on finding a good deal, they find them in different places. 33% of Labour supporters search for a discount using Wowcher, while almost 1/5 of Conservative supporters head for Vouchercodes.
  • No surprise that 30% of Greens members are signed-up with Greenpeace, as are 20% of SNP supporters (get rid of the Trident nuclear submarines!). These overlaps point to potential allegiances, and we’ll consider this further in Part 4.
  • And finally, a word of warning for the smaller parties. Subscriber loyalty is not necessarily exclusive – 21% of Lib Dem supporters and 17% of UKIP supporters are also on the Conservative’s mailing list, while the Greens share 24% of their potential support with Labour. For these parties, stated intention may be substantially different to voting reality!

Summing Up

In this blog we have considered how subscriber overlap tells us more about needs and interests of party supporters – where they shop, how they consume their social media, where they travel, what they watch, and reading preferences when they don’t. Just like their political counterparts, marketing program owners can use this data to tailor their messaging to optimize their email performance, making it more relevant, and driving up return on investment.

In Part 4 of this series, we’ll pull this intelligence together – plus some stuff about the importance of primary vs secondary inboxes, and segmentation practices – to see if we can use Return Path’s email intelligence to call the outcome of the UK 2015 general election. Read it here!

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