Optimizing Your Email Customer Lifecycle: Questions & Answers Part 2

In our previous post, we answered questions from our webinar attendees around the impact of acquisition on email customer lifecycle marketing. We highlighted the importance of good data quality, establishing strong levels of trust between senders and subscribers, and establishing a compelling value proposition for joining the email program

In this post, we’ll review questions about lifecycle optimization opportunities further into the email customer journey. Along with my colleague Guy Hanson, we’ll put our heads together to provide another set of expert answers for you:

1. How do we do a better job of creating value for our subscribers?

[GH] We will be preparing a blog post specifically on this topic, but the top-level answer revolves around better understanding your subscribers’ expectations. In many cases, they are looking for explicit benefits – discounts, samples, free delivery, etc. But value can also be delivered in softer forms – this is why non-promotional emails like newsletters and surveys perform well, and a healthier mix of these message types will help to establish greater value.

[SK] Great learnings for increasing subscriber value can also be obtained from customer surveys.. Many senders also fail to tag and score their email links. By doing so they will learn what offers/products/content matter most to their subscribers, providing ongoing, dynamic and indirect feedback as emails are read/ clicked.

2. Curious to get your view on best practice for including content within email. Is it best to provide headlines and images to get the customer to click and exit the email, or is there a benefit to having some content live within the email with CTAs directing out of the email?

[GH] Probably an element of both. Most email programs measure success by conversions and/or ROI so generating traffic is paramount. However, we have seen with kinetic emails (where microsites are effectively replicated within the emails) that subscribers are more primed to convert, and click-through rates increase by around 1/5 as a result.

[SK] It is also important to understand that subscribers have different preferences when it comes to which elements they click. It could be the headline or an image, but others may just click the call-to-action button or an inline text link. The question shouldn’t be “What elements work best?” – the question should really be “Are all included elements clickable?” If the answer is “no” consider updating your templates to make more elements clickable.

3. In your presentation how do you define “engagement” (37 percent) vs “read rate” (26 percent)?

[GH] Read rate is what we would more commonly refer to as open rate. We only differentiate because the way our data is reported is based on the physical act of opening the email, rather than relying on the firing of a tracking pixel.

Engagement is a compound metric where we consider how both positive (read rate) and negative (complaint rate) behaviour changes over the 12-month period, benchmarked against the initial 30-day period, to gauge overall subscriber sentiment with the program.

4. Gmail is extremely severe. Open rate with this MBP decreases significantly compared to other MBPs. Any quick fixes/recommendations?

[SK] It is well-known that Gmail operates a very short-term definition of recency. This has been seen with the introduction of inbox functionality asking subscribers if they want to unsubscribe from senders where they haven’t opened within the past 30 days. See our excellent guide to learn more about what is important to Gmail (and Microsoft and Yahoo! too).

[GH] However, we also know that Gmail has a very positive view of behaviors such as reply, forward, and not spam—we call these hidden metrics. Marketers need to consider techniques to amplify these behaviors, and we have seen real performance uplifts at Gmail where senders have got this right!.

5. Should we be implementing win-back at a far earlier stage?

[GH] In one word—definitely! Many email programs only deploy win-back strategies after six months or more of inactivity. Our research shows this is far too late, because these subscribers are already terminally disengaged. Email programs should think about attempting to re-engage subscribers after as little as 30 days, aligning with the expectations of mailbox providers like Gmail (above), and for “first message” non-responders even sooner.

[SK] It is also important to understand that “win-back” doesn’t just have to happen at one point. The customer lifecycle strategy should be developed to have recurring elements to win back subscribers at the many different points they may become inactive. This should also include dedicated email series, well known as re-engagement or win back campaigns, covering both early disengagement as well as long-term inactives. Win-back should never be just a one-time action; it should be an automated process that fully integrates into the customer lifecycle. Learn more about these topics by reading our win-back report.

We hope we’ve done a good job answering your questions around email lifecycle optimization opportunities. If you have further questions, or want to hear more, reach out to us through LinkedIn or Twitter, or start a discussion at the bottom of this post.

If you haven’t already seen the webinar, watch a recording here, and also make sure you’ve read our great Lifecycle Metrics Benchmark report. And if you want to learn more about how we can help you optimize your lifecycle right now, contact your Return Path account manager or submit an enquiry without delay!

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