Q&A: Answers to Your Email Measurement & ROI Questions (Part 2)

In last week’s Q&A post, I answered some questions related to metrics and measurement; however, I also received some general email marketing questions that I wanted to address. Note that where questions have a largely common theme, I have grouped them together and responded to them under a single heading.

Recent stats show over half of emails are opened on mobile devices. Do you have stats on the ROI of mobile optimized vs. non-mobile optimized emails?
Click to open rates on mobile devices is 40% higher for brands that exclusively use responsive design compared to marketers who only use non-responsive emails. Additionally, revenue per mobile email click is more than double that of a desktop click. For a great additional source of mobile email stats, I thoroughly recommend reading Jordie van Rijn’s Ultimate Mobile Email Usage Statistics article. Also see Return Path’s Mobile: 5 Trends to Watch infographic for additional mobile facts by region and vertical.

Was the data about timing of email sends on mobile devices using the receiver’s time zone or the sender’s?
In our send time optimization example, the data is based on time received. There are known general spikes in mobile read rates earlier in the morning, and later in the evening. There are often more specific splits by device type. Smartphones may perform better in the morning—people check their emails when they wake up, while they are commuting to work etc. Tablets can perform better in the evening—recipients have had dinner, put kids to bed, and now they’re catching up on emails while watching TV!

There is often another spike in response rates in the middle of the night, typically between midnight and 2:00am. Email programs often deploy their bulk sends during this window, with the intention of having the emails delivered in time for morning readers. In fact, many people (nurses, shift workers, etc.) are awake at this time, and respond almost immediately.

Can you define “segmentation?”
This is the process of grouping your email list into smaller subgroups based on certain criteria. This could be based on stated needs or interests—for example, a travel sender might operate different segments for people who like beach holidays vs. city breaks. Recency/frequency/value metrics are also often used to create segments. The purpose is to serve each segment with tailored content/offers that align with the common needs/interests of each segment. Almost 60% of email revenue is currently generated from segmented campaigns.

I think I know what you mean by “triggered” emails, but would you clarify it with an example?
A very simple example would be a birthday email program. Each day an automated routine would scan your database for subscribers whose birthday date fall on the current date, and an email would be generated where this condition is true. This is an event-triggered email. They can also be activity triggered—an example would be subscribers who fail to complete a transaction, and then receive an email encouraging/incentivizing them to return and complete the transaction.

What are some examples of good email CTAs? We struggle with keeping this fresh. I’d be interested in knowing what CTAs have been successful for you.
This could be a webinar in its own right! First, you need a compelling subject line to ensure the email gets opened. Factors such as length, personalization, emotive keywords, tone of voice, and first person vs. second person all play a role. Avoid making bland generic statements (“Yay, it’s summer!”). Leverage pre-header text to function as a second subject line. Be confident testing words such as “Free” (they can be highly effective!). Most importantly, make sure that the contents of the email match the promise created by the subject line, or positive engagement quickly turns to negative. Read Return Path’s report on The Art and Science of Effective Subject Lines for more great ideas on this topic.

Inside the email, click-through opportunities need to be prominent and easy to use. Design for a largely mobile audience, using large buttons, plenty of color contrast, and lots of white space. Ensure at least one primary CTA is visible immediately, optimize the pre-header area, and make sure that anything a subscriber would expect to represent a click-through opportunity (images, logos, etc.) is hyperlinked. Test the effectiveness of different language (e.g., “Buy now” vs. “Make a purchase” vs. “Go shopping”). Read our excellent blog post for more ideas on this topic.

My big problem is inactive users, who don’t click through from our marketing emails. I think the problem could be price, or possibly that the subjects I use are not “formal” subjects. This works sometimes, but I’m wondering if this could actually be a real problem?
There are many reasons for inactive subscribers. This will start with your acquisition process, feed through into your deliverability rates, and will then become a function of factors such as offer, content, relevance, frequency, and what stage of their life cycle subscribers have reached.

The “tone of voice” that you use to speak to your subscribers is important. The way they perceive your brand will influence the way they expect to be addressed. In some cases, formality is required, while in others a more-light-hearted approach is acceptable. For example, I have an expectation that my bank will address me as “Mr. Hanson” while my favorite casual dining restaurant can get away with “Hi Guy!”

This is important, because if you get this wrong then your messaging will fail to resonate, and your email subscribers will disengage as a result. If you already have a strong sense of how your customers perceive your brand, then ensure the way you are speaking to them is aligned with this perception. If not, it may be worth commissioning some research, and then use the learnings to tweak the style of language you use.

How much of a factor is using a shared IP address vs. a dedicated one regarding ROI?
The short answer is “it depends!” If you are a frequent, higher-volume sender then the use of dedicated IP addresses means you control the sender reputation metrics that are associated with your email program. However, smaller or infrequent senders may benefit from being grouped together in a shared pool of IP addresses. The important thing is to be sure your program is not being affected by association with the bad practices of other senders in the pool—this will degrade reputation metrics, which impacts on deliverability and reduces program ROI. Monitor your reputation metrics at www.senderscore.org, and challenge your mailbox provider if they are not up to scratch.

What is the most important thing for professional services businesses to consider when building an email program?
Not all email programs have a direct financial objective. It may be that success will be measured as a function of donations made, blog posts read, whitepapers downloaded, RSVPs to events, or shares/comments generated. Forty percent of email programs have engagement, retention, and brand awareness as their primary objective.

Email fundamentals remain the same—whatever your KPI, you will always be seeking to maximize it. The challenge is that the currency of value becomes knowledge-based rather than financially-based. Your subscribers are expecting you to keep them informed with valuable information that helps them do their jobs, and they will remain engaged as long as you do so.

Bear in mind there may still be opportunities to prove indirect value. For example, whitepaper downloads create leads, some of which develop into new business. Value can therefore be attributed to the whitepapers based on their contribution.

What is the meaning of email fraud within the context of this presentation?
We are talking specifically about spoofing and phishing email activity, where fraudsters create the impression that their emails come from legitimate sender domains to fool recipients into opening them. Compromised recipients will typically allow malware to be installed on their devices, or end up yielding personally identifiable information to the fraudsters. Research by Return Path has shown that as much as 9% of messages attributed to large commercial senders between Q4 2014 and Q1 2015 did not come from their IP addresses, and should be considered suspicious. Program owners should implement DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) authentication to help quarantine/reject any email that is not appropriately authenticated.

Do you recommend getting your DMARC quarantine level to 100%?
Yes and no! The DMARC record’s “p=” parameter defines the policy the sending MTA advises the receiving MTA to follow, and can be set to one of several different values: “none;” “quarantine;” and “reject.” The “pct=” parameter defines the percentage of mail to which the DMARC policy applies. This allows mail senders to experiment with a small percentage of mail being subject to DMARC action, and problems can be progressively eliminated from the system before turning DMARC on for all mail.

While “quarantine” is a useful intermediate step, it’s ineffective when it comes to actually stopping fraud. The vast majority of a fraudulent campaign will go to the spam folder anyway—the phishers know this and design their emails to be effective despite this. It’s useful as a test phase if you are unsure whether or not your authentication is working correctly.

In general we would advise against using the “pct” tag, this is because the “pct=” parameter is not applied consistently by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which introduces a randomized element to the way DMARC processing is applied as a result. Our recommendation is for senders to use an initial monitoring phase to model the likely outcomes associated with implementing “p=reject”, and to then move directly to this setting if the predicted impact is acceptable.

Return Path customers can also leverage our mailbox provider relationships to apply policy at a “per ISP” level. In this way, instead of setting your “pct=” parameter to 25% (for example) we could tell one ISP (e.g. AOL) to apply policy as if “p=quarantine”, whilst the tag in the DMARC record actually stays at “p=none.” In this way senders can test the deployment on their AOL subscribers, and then move onto Yahoo!, Microsoft, etc if this test is successful.

Learn more about Return Path’s Email Fraud Protection solutions here.

For more insight on email optimization and security, join us on the Return Path World Tour.


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