Email marketing: insights from the inbox

Despite rapidly evolving digital media, when used properly, email remains a great way to reach consumers. Maeve Hosea talks to industry experts about their strategies to make sure email communications have the desired effects.

The Panel

Caroline Durowse, head of marketing, Flybe
Nick Dutch, multimedia manager, Domino’s Pizza
Jeremy Gidley, general manager CRM, TUI Travel
Martin Jobin, interactive marketing manager, Infiniti Europe
Alex Naylor, head of marketing communications planning and development, Barclaycard
Eliza Wells, PR, ecommerce and marketing, Rodial Skincare
James Simpson, general manager, eChannels UK and Ireland, 3M
Charlotte Wells, CRM manager, Kia UK

Email inbox

Marketing Week (MW): How have you used email marketing over the past year?

Alex Naylor (AN): We have developed MyBarclaycard – an entirely web-based service that allows customers to manage their credit card account online. The flexibility of the internet has enabled Barclaycard to target these customers via email, strengthening customer relations and providing an improved personalised service on mobile phones.

We also used email to introduce Quick Tap – a contactless payments service – by tailoring messaging and including media-rich content to educate and inform customers about the service.

Martin Jobin (MJ): We use email in our marketing to guide prospective customers through the purchasing ‘funnel’. We also use it as a way of keeping prospects and customers up to date with Infiniti’s involvement with Formula 1. We communicate with customers at a brand level via a quarterly newsletter, which is sent as an email that links to stories on a video microsite. Last year, running campaigns through our agency TMW, we broadcast around 40 different emails in eight languages.

Nick Dutch (ND): We know that joining up our aboveand below-the-line marketing activity helps to generate a greater response. So, for example, our recent any-size pizza promotion was supported with an email marketing campaign.

James Simpson (JS): Email marketing in the business-to-business environment is still significant. With 38 different 3M divisions operating in a wide variety of areas, it is one of the best ways of communicating with customers, whether they are our business partners or end users.

Jeremy Gidley (JG): A good example of our ongoing email strategy at TUI is our ‘holiday seeker’ programme. Thousands of people visit our websites every day. How frequently they visit the site and what they search for helps us to understand a lot about them. We use all this information to create a series of personalised emails. It helps to move them from being browsers to bookers.

Charlotte Wells (CW): Email marketing has enabled us to keep in touch with our whole Kia customer and prospect database more frequently and more effectively because messages can be tailored and broadcast to coincide with specific events.

Caroline Durowse (CD): At Flybe, we use it for flight promotions and flight confirmations. We use it for customer surveys from which we can glean information and then feed that back into our customer service strategy. It is a great tool and if you are using it effectively, you get an awful lot out of it.

There has been a steady increase in the number of emails viewed on mobile devices and in the amount of social sharing- Martin Jobin

Eliza Wells (EW): Last year, Rodial sent just shy of 5 million emails including general product promotions and special occasion emails, such as the royal wedding. We have an ongoing campaign based around product reminders, where depending on the recommended lifespan of a purchased product, an automatic email is sent to remind the customer to re-purchase.

MW: How does email work with your other digital channels?

ND: We are always looking into new ways to deliver innovative marketing including using email, which is smarter and more relevant. Domino’s is also continually testing and optimising the creative and messaging in our emails to develop them further. Timing has an impact on success too.

JS: In the B2B environment, email is still one of the best ways of communicating with customers. Our database helps us build initial engagement with our new social business channels. For example, our Scotch tape’s Facebook page, which we launched just before Christmas, now has more than 10,000 Likes with over 1,000 “talking about it”.

I see email as being more of a signpost to help drive other marketing activities than it has been in the past.

EW: We are constantly looking to improve the synchronisation between our emails and other online marketing campaigns. So we recently introduced automatically triggered ‘lost basket’ emails to increase our return on investment from our website customers, which has proven very effective. As well as this, we use emails to follow up on the various competitions and social campaigns we run to encourage our customers to share the campaigns with like-minded people.

MJ: Emails are used as part of a broader digital strategy to support online, print and television advertising, and drive traffic to the Infiniti website. All emails include social media sharing links.

AN: In recent years, we have strengthened our online delivery through location-based services, targeting customers through SMS marketing while they are on the move.

CW: We’re conscious of pushing the boundaries creatively within our email marketing to maintain recipients’ interest and therefore use other digital channels wherever we can. Examples of this are links inviting customers to ‘like’ our Facebook page and write a review of their car, or to view short video ‘walk-arounds’ of many of our models on our YouTube channel.

MW: How do you measure the contribution of email marketing to sales?

MJ: Infiniti has implemented two levels of measurement by which we examine the impact of specific communications and the impact of our strategy over a period of time. All activity is monitored on a weekly basis with deeper reporting throughout the year.

CD: We measure it much in the same way that we measure all of our other comms – primarily by revenue. We look at the click-throughs, the sales and the unsubscribe requests and those give us a balanced view of whether people like the promotion. If you look at our January sale campaign, email delivered 37% of overall revenue for that period of time.

We have strengthened our online delivery through location-based services, targeting customers via SMS while they are on the move- Alex Naylor

CW: We’re taking a strategic view that email marketing forms an integral part of us keeping in touch with our customers and prospects, plus it’s a remarkably easy way for them to find information about a Kia dealer.

JS: For our ecommerce channel 3M Select, we can connect every activity back to sales. However, on our corporate channel, which isn’t transactional, we attribute values to certain activities, thereby delivering a suggested ROI. So downloading a specific datasheet would be attributed a certain number of points, clicking through to a channel partner would attract considerably more, while a basic click-through to more information might only be attributed a minimal number of points. This helps us gain better insight into our activity.

MW: How are you using data effectively to manage and maximise email communications?

AN: In 2011, Barclaycard focused on email optimisation, strengthening our understanding of how customers access and share information online. We have used this behavioural data to develop and tailor email campaigns, using market insight to trigger communications for commercial advantage.

JS: With 38 different divisions and, therefore, 38 sources of data, managing data through one provider was initially challenging for us. However, working with our email provider, we have created a very simple but effective way of segmenting each campaign for each division. This enables us to track core metrics to ROI, product purchase and data downloads. We use our data to ensure our email marketing activity is correctly timed and relevant to our customers.

JG: Great email marketing is about providing the right content and offers at the right time to the right customers. We’ve seen our engagement levels (email open rates, click rates and so on) climb consistently over the past year. We put this down to our use of behavioural data to make our emails more relevant, in terms of both timing and content.

MJ: We ensure that the information delivered in email content relates to the automotive and purchase interests of the individual receiving it. While delivering this message, we offer each recipient the opportunity to update us if his or her situation or interests change.

This ensures we continue to deliver targeted communications. Also, ongoing consumer surveys allow us to maintain a level of intelligence about our customers’ reasons for purchase and give us the opportunity to focus content around the most engaging product features.

MW: What trends have you seen over the past year within email for your brand and the wider marketplace?

JS: With our focus on delivering a high-quality database, we have seen some good results with our average open rate at 38% and a click-through rate of 31%, which is a 4% increase on last year. This year, we’ll focus on delivery rate, and our social business programme will offer customers alternative ways of communicating with us.

ND: The increase in smartphone users has created new opportunities. For example, we have used emails as another means to promote our mobile ordering apps and encourage downloads. We have also had to give further thought to the email creative to ensure it is compatible with the latest devices.

With regard to brand reputation, some customers like to receive a lot of emails whereas others find that getting too many is offputting and unsubscribe- Eliza Wells

MJ: Our email click-through rates have remained good, but with an increase in the volume of emails that consumers receive from brands they trust, we are constantly fighting for their attention.

We have been working to improve our personalisation, and therefore, relevancy, to counteract this. There has also been a steady increase in the number of emails viewed on mobile devices and in the amount of social sharing, so we need to ensure that our email content is suitable for these.

AN: Barclaycard has been able to maximise on the growing use of social media to monitor and drive online conversations, source raw data and keep track of customer demand.
Such activity has enabled us to gather market insight for commercial advantage, engaging with customers throughout the launch of Quick Tap.

CD: Dynamic content [where content is personalised to a user’s interests] has been a rising trend, which allows us to be much more relevant with the information that we are sending people. It does come with its own problems, though, particularly in terms of internal expectations for the time and resources it requires.

CW: Promoting relevant content on our social media channels has had a huge impact on our email marketing results, increasing click-through rates and views of things like video footage.

MW: What challenges have you encountered with your email marketing?

MJ: As we translate copy for markets all over Europe, there is a constant challenge to ensure that our content is relevant and that the localised messaging is appropriate. We also try to adhere to best practice guidelines to help stop our mails being caught by spam filters.

EW: Initially, we found our emails sometimes going into junk folders. We then signed up with the Return Path Certification programme, which helps our emails go straight into our customers’ inboxes, and we saw our open rates shoot up.

With regard to brand reputation, some customers like to receive a lot of emails whereas others find that getting too many is off-putting and unsubscribe as a consequence. It’s all about finding the right balance because you can lose customers and sales if the email marketing is not done in the right way.

JS: Our biggest challenge has been growing our database organically through newsletters and webinar programmes. The focus for 2012 is to ensure our customers can engage with us through the channels they are most comfortable using.

JG: Looking forward, one of the key challenges in 2012 will be the enforcement of the EU’s Privacy and Communications Directive. This will require users’ consent before using online cookies, which provide details of their browsing behaviour. Brands that use this information to drive personalised content in their email marketing will need to find compelling reasons to encourage website visitors to opt in.

AN: Barclaycard, and other companies providing online services, have an ongoing struggle to meet the demands of today’s modern customer. Unfortunately, bad practice of spamming and mass communication has given the industry a bad name.

Working with our email provider, we have created a very simple but effective way of segmenting each campaign for each division- James Simpson

Consequently, we’ve seen an increase in customers having to open new email accounts to rid themselves of click-happy marketers. At Barclaycard, we promote data cleansing.
We send content based on genuine customers’ need for information. We have a team of specialists committed to providing up-to-date customer email information.

CD: The email function within marketing comes with its own problems in terms of the time and resources needed. The key challenge is that it is a programme that contributes significant revenue and carrying it out is a skill in itself. Therefore, it should have dedicated resource allocated to it, employing skilled specialists.

MW: How do you expect to develop your email communications over the coming year?

CD: It is about making sure that the communication is in the form of a promotion that has real benefit to customers. We also need to ensure that we can improve on our previous work by having better and more relevant content, completely tailored to the individual. Underpinning this is the goal to keep it looking fresh with new templates and promotions. That might sound easy, but when you are doing that week in, week out, that’s the tough end of the job.

JS: We are launching a social business strategy in the UK and Ireland and our customer engagement piece will then be split between our traditional email communications and social business. The success of our Facebook campaigns shows we can engage with our customers through channels other than email, and we will continue to understand our customers’ needs through these multiple channels.

ND: Over the coming months, we will continue to develop our email marketing to make it more multifaceted. We’re always looking for ways to amend our messaging and make emails more relevant. The aim is to continue focusing on promoting our brand and sharing news, while our franchisees will drive local messages for customers in the areas around their stores.

CW: We plan to introduce more of a rolling programme of email communications based on models of interest to customers and also include messages from across different areas of the Kia business. We are also planning to use video footage even more and to introduce additional metrics to help us measure things such as what proportion of people viewing our interactive brochures take a test drive and/or go on to purchase a car.

AN: As we move closer to our idealised view of becoming a ‘digital company’, email and other web-based platforms will continue to be at the forefront of our marketing strategy. If you see 2011 as the year of optimisation, with Barclaycard fully engaged in online services and being ‘paperless’, 2012 is expected to be a year of innovation.

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