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Email has come a long way in the last couple of years with automation, optimisation and big data all being appended to the humble ole email. But where does this leave email marketers?

What should we be automating and why? Are campaign emails dead? Is it just easier to batch and blast?

In this piece I will look at two major objectives for marketing email and discuss what is automated and what is not.

Oh and don’t worry, I’ll mention big data too!  

Broadly, there are two focused strategies that email excels at, value development and conversion funnel optimisation. Value development is all about developing the value of the email recipient over the lifetime of the customer.

Value development arguably is a more strategic use of email which requires customer insight and customer lifecycle segmentation to remain relevant.

It combines the use of both automated and demand generation emails. Conversion funnel optimisation emails are tactical and can only be achieved by automation, made most effective by personalisation.

Ideally the two should work together as shown in the diagram below, to produce an overall customer email strategy.

value development for email

Below I'll outline how each of the two parts (value development and conversion funnel optimisation) can be used to target users at different levels of the customer lifecycle.

1. Value development

Automated activation 

These customers are interested enough to give you their email address. It’s now time to make the most value from the customer, using the email channel.

Several key points of the customer journey can be automated on the value development process. Right from the moment the email address is obtained, key actions can be used to determine the objective of each communication and its timing.

The objective and the content could be driven by the source of the email address; did it come via search of perhaps via an in-store sign up?

Automated activation emails (based on triggers, events, behaviours) are designed to use passed activity to target specific communications.

The timing could be based on something predetermined (e.g. anniversary, previous purchase, time since last visit). The power of these emails is the timing and the relevance of the communication.

  • Are they a new customer?
  • Have they purchased before?
  • What have they purchased?
  • What cross sell products or services are most relevant?
  • If they have registered and not purchased, how can we build the value of the product or service to encourage them to buy?
  • Or, if they haven’t responded in some time, how can we reactivate the customer, before they are lost forever?

The list of automated activation programmes is dependent on the business model, but here are some examples of the types of automated programmes that can be deployed.

To ensure you get maximum coverage of the segment you are sending the email too, it is best to have a multi email programme to get the message across and increase impact.

  • Welcome programmes.
  • Nursery programmes.
  • Anniversary emails.
  • Cross sell programmes.
  • Reactivation programmes.

Demand generation

Once outside of any automated programme, the objectives of email are simple; maintain engagement and generate demand.

Most of the marketing emails sent have only one objective. Their objective is to drive revenue. Email is one of the most powerful online media for generating website traffic on demand.

That’s not to say that indiscriminate blasting of the email list is the right thing to do, in fact, the reverse is the case.

These are the emails that are sent to promote engagement and encourage interest, when the data is not available or automated, emails are neither cost effective, nor practical.  

This is where e-RFM segmentation comes into play. Using a person’s engagement with the brand/website and email behaviour, allows you to concentrate these demand generation emails, on the people who are the most likely to buy.

The reason for needing segmentation with demand generation emails, is that it is easy to cause disengagement in some recipients, simply by over mailing. The flip side of the coin is even worse.

Setting the ideal frequency of your campaigns, based on average customer behaviour, will lead to average results. The best way to maintain the engagement of your email list, is to identify those who prefer fewer emails and send them less.

Then, the best way to make the most money from your email list, is to find those who want a greater number of emails and send them more

The demand generation emails follow the money. These emails communicate to the most engaged and valuable recipients on your list, and can contain the following content:

  • Special offers.
  • Brand/customer information.
  • Customer value content.
  • Social updates.

2. Conversion funnel optimisation (automated)

These emails come into play if you already have a visitor’s email address, or if they are not already part of a welcome or nursery programme. They can also be used to supplement a value development programme, when the result of the programme is a revisit to the website or purchase attempt.

The trigger for a conversion funnel email is that the recipient has reacted to a value development email, or been engaged enough with your brand to visit via search or social.

This is where email plays a vital part in conversion funnel optimisation. It’s the most effective media at reaching out to a prospective purchaser, keeping the brand front of mind and providing an easy route back to the purchase process.

Many brands now have embraced the principle of basket/cart abandonment emails, but the process goes much deeper than that.

From the moment a recipient lands on your website, the opportunity to communicate in an automated manner presents itself.

These emails can be sent to those people who engage with any stage of the conversion funnel, from browse abandonment through to cart abandonment. Coupling this with dynamic content drawn from data on the website and a message based on the visitor’s stage in the funnel, makes these emails vital.

In some cases, up to 50% of all email attributed revenue can come from emails of this type.

Again, like all of the different types of campaign and automated emails, content and message, can be driven from data on browsing behaviour, products or services purchased and lifecycle stage. These are the typical types of automated conversion funnel emails that can be deployed to make the most from any visit opportunity.

  • Browse abandonment.
  • Quote abandonment. 
  • Quote follow up.
  • Brochure abandonment.
  • Brochure follow up.
  • Cart abandonment.
  • Sale abandonment.

Conclusion

The opportunities that email marketing offers today are vast. Almost everybody who uses it makes money from it, but to make the most money from email, you need to be investigating all the potential opportunities available.

Mapping out your customer journey, from first visit, through to first purchase, through repurchase, will give you a good idea where the potential email touch points exist.

Your ESP may be able to help you with this and suggest the best way to use all the data available to optimise email for value development and conversion funnel optimisation.

Marketing email is the best way to remotely talk to your customer and you need to be better at this than your competition.   

Tim Roe

Published 13 June, 2014 by Tim Roe

Tim Roe is Director of Data and Deliverability at Redeye International and a contributor to Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via LinkedIn

22 more posts from this author

Comments (1)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

Good article.

For anyone still not convinced that "Conversion funnel optimisation" (what others might call "abandonment recovery") works well, here are the charts for our clients doing cart/form + browse abandonment:

The data shows an average increase of 10%-12% of total online sales.
http://www.triggeredmessaging.com/blog/real-time-marketing-report-for-may-2014

about 2 years ago

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