Report from #2: Are You Brave Enough to Abandon Batch & Blast Email Marketing?

One of the key issues for retailers looking to move to a lifecycle-based approach to email marketing is gathering data from the disparate systems that allow us to send triggered messages based on subscriber behavior. Typically this means sending abandoned shopping cart messages or recommendations based on browsing or follow ups after purchase.

In a great panel discussion that I led at’s Annual event last week (see last blog posting here), Angela Caltagirone of Williams-Sonoma and Anne Ashbey of Harry & David both talked about the need to manage the data across many product SKUs in order to mail a significant number of subscribers each month. When each segment performs at 5x-30x higher than a generic promotional message, the ROI value is clear. But if you can only reach a small number, say 5,000 subscribers with each mailing, the revenue contribution is small. Automating these triggers is key – so that you can get enough scale and reach across your file to make it worthwhile. Even Rob Gallagher of Overstock, with a large file and detailed segmentation, has challenges with data integration.

Several retailers lamented the lack of ability to access website browsing data at all. And all the speakers acknowledge that even when you can access the data, you need to include multiple segments to make the numbers worthwhile. Consider that you start with a high number of site visits, then cut it based on visitor recognition (cookies) then cut it again based on a match to email address (and a third cut is against your suppression file). So you can have hundreds of thousands of browsers, but only tens of thousands of mailable subscribers.

One email service provider and Return Path partner Knotice that I met at has a unique solution to address part of this data access and automation challenge. Knotice can authenticate a customer based on a trackable open (the technology is cool and complicated, but it’s similar to the way that a one pixel invisible image lets us track opens today). So your email system can identify if the email subscriber is a known visitor. That can help you understand the behavior of your email subscribers (are they more or less frequent site visitors, for example), and customize the next visit to the website based on email behavior. If the subscriber opened, you can feature the products highlighted in the email. If the subscriber did not open, you might show something else (on the assumption that the subject line on that product did not engage). You can also easily see how much of your site browse behavior is from email subscribers – and keeps that data in the email sending database – which lets you then trigger appropriate browse and post purchase messages without a complex data integration.

Bottom line: get started with some manual segmentation of key buyer groups. Once you prove the value of targeted messages sent when the customer is in market, you can easily make the case for more resources to automate further. With a potential list of 5x-30x on your promotion messages, this is the best strategy for significant boosts in holiday revenue this coming season. Want more ideas on how to get started? Just contact us or download our Subscriber Experience Study.

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