Relevance Influences Response and Deliverability

Margaret Farmakis
By Margaret Farmakis
Senior Director, Response Consulting

A recent research study we conducted shows that markets are still struggling with how to make their emails relevant to subscribers. The majority of marketers we studied (in this case, online retailers) were not using the buyer’s data they collected as part of the purchase process to inform their future promotional messaging to these buyers. Download the study and the recorded webcast now.

The importance of relevancy is consistently talked about amongst email marketers and in the industry today. Most marketers know that sending the same message to everyone on their file will lead to stagnant or decreased response rates. Targeting and segmentation are proven methods for injecting relevancy into an email program.

When it comes to sending email to subscribers who have already made a purchase from you, the good news is that marketers have a variety of data to work with to do just that. This data includes the buyer’s name, location (city, state, zip code), the kind of item that they bought (category, size, style, color), and the price of the item they purchased. Using these data points to inform future messaging can significantly increase the subscriber’s level of engagement and prime them to make additional purchases.

Of course many marketers know this already. Why don’t they do it? The reasons are ones we all know well … lack of time, not enough resources, data sources that aren’t synchronized, etc. Given that reality, here are a few ideas for injecting some relevance even when your system isn’t perfect:

  • If you don’t have a system that supports automatic segmentation or customization, aim to send a personalized/targeted email at least twice a month. This way even though you can’t be relevant to everyone all of the time with every message, you can aim for some of the time to keep engagement up.
  • Do some manual segmentation. Divide your list into segments using a variety of factors: how long the subscriber has been on the file; if they’ve made a purchase, when they’ve made a purchase; their demographic information (gender, zip, name, age, etc.); their level of activity (or inactivity) with your emails. Send a customized message to the segments that have the highest value.
  • Another idea is to customize the subject line, so if you’re going to send the same creative to everyone, at least use some customized information in the subject line.
  • If you can’t customize often, customize early. First impressions count, so if you have limited resources then focus your customization efforts in the early part of the relationship to build engagement. Consider a welcome series (instead of a single message) that is customized by location or by product category. The risk is that once the subscriber is combined into the regular stream of messages they will tune out, but combining early customization with occasional customizing throughout the lifecycle may help you build enough credibility to sustain engagement longer.
  • Consider building a preference center as part of your web functionality so that if you don’t collect a lot of data at the point of sign up, you can ask for additional data and interest categories in the preference center. Of course the point of doing this is to actually use that data to inform the program.

Most marketers know that relevancy and response are closely interlinked. Increasing one without the other is a difficult, if not impossible, task. But what about deliverability? Can irrelevant email impact a marketer’s chances of getting into the inbox as well as getting a response? The answer is overwhelmingly YES.

When a subscriber finds an email message interesting and informative, they are more likely to open, click and engage. They are also less likely to click the “this is spam” button and complain to the ISP. Complaints are a primary factor affecting your sender reputation, which is in turn a primary factor determining whether or not you reach the inbox. In other words, irrelevant email can not only increase subscriber fatigue and dampen your overall performance, but it can also lead to lower inbox deliverability, which also affects response (emails can’t be acted on if they haven’t been received).

As an example, consider a retailer that has one million email addresses in its database, sends out three email messages per week and whose deliverability rate is limited to 80% due to sender reputation problems. An approximate 200,000 messages per campaign will not reach the inbox, and thus will not get any response at all.

By improving sender reputation through better email practices, the company could increase deliverability from 80% to 99% (a reasonable goal based on Return Path experience). Given an average click-through rate of 4.5%, an average purchase rate of 2% and an average (hypothetical) sale value of fifty dollars, that company could increase sales by $1.3 million in a year.

You can calculate what your company might achieve with improved emailing practices to buyers by using your own figures in a similar calculation. Want to find out your Sender Score? Visit Want help increasing the relevancy of your email program? Learn more about how our Professional Services team can assist you.

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