How programmatic is transforming email marketing

As the latest figures from the Direct Marketing Association reveal email marketing is becoming more important than ever, the industry is turning to new technology such as programmatic to ensure that email is as personalised and relevant to consumers as the rest of the marketing mix.

The DMA’s 2015 marketer email tracker report found that email remains the “bedrock on which the majority of marketing campaigns operate”. Of those questioned, 93% deemed it as either ‘important’ or ‘very important’ in achieving brand goals, up from 89% in 2012.

The survey also found that on average email campaigns generate £29.64 for every £1 invested. And that very few brands are planning to cut the amount they spend on email marketing, with 98% saying they planning to either increase their budgets or keep them at the same levels over the next 12 months.

Rumyana Miteva, head of performance marketing at Housetrip, says email has proven hugely successful for the brand. Using automated tech by Criteo, she says email campaigns now account for 2% of total bookings in the UK and Spain and that the campaign reached 600,000 unique users.

In terms of conversions, 52% of people who received an email and clicked through went on to book within 24 hours.

Miteva puts that success down to the fact that email runs across online and mobile, helping to keep people engaged with the brand whatever device they are using.

She told Marketing Week: “People often search on mobile but that tops out at a certain point as people switch between devices. That user journey is very broken as people switch between one place and another. To keep users engaged email is a great medium. It reminds people of the brand and the properties they might have searched for, which is our strongest USP.”

The skills gap

Despite this rosy outlook, marketers are still struggling to ensure they have the full range of skills necessary to conduct effective email marketing. Since 2012, the proportion saying their competence is ‘advanced’ has dropped from 39% to 17% with the majority (74%) deeming their skills to be ‘good’ or ‘intermediate’.email DMAThe DMA suggests that the fact that 89% of email marketing is carried out in-house could mean brands are missing out on more sophisticated targeting and execution methods found at an agency. ‘Limited internal resource’ remains the single most significant challenge, again representing an opportunity for agencies.

“Are marketers aware of their limitations and competencies if the majority manage their messages in-house and aren’t exposed to expertise outside their organisation?” the DMA asks.

Miteva says testing has been key to the success of its email marketing campaigns but almost a quarter (22%) of those questioned by the DMA said they have ‘no competence’ in this area or ‘don’t test’.

“We have clickthrough rates three times higher than the standard because we are using real-time and relevant content. That increases clickthrough. Plus we do a lot of A/B testing to find the best combinations in terms of subject lines,” she explained.

How programmatic is transforming email

The DMA survey also found that uptake of email automation remains low despite the promise of “improved targeting, personalisation, reduced waste and improved ROI”. Miteva believes the adoption of automated email campaigns that use programmatic technology to personalise emails based on which properties websites visitors have looked at on the website has been key to its success.

“Email is a great way of reaching customers that might see our TV ad and visit the homepage but not go further down the purchase funnel.”

Rumyana Miteva, head of performance marketing, Housetrip

“We can re-engage with them and send relevant email content based on the properties they were looking at – it is really optimised,” she said.

“Using programmatic buying means we are using the same data for our display advertising as email and that makes the content more relevant. It also helps with consistent messaging and branding so the user gets a rounded experience that isn’t fragmented,” said Miteva.

In France, for example, Housetrip claims to have seen a 5.5% increase in bookings since adopting programmatic email. Criteo’s own data suggest personalised emails increase open rates as much as fourfold and click-through rates fivefold.

Nevertheless challenges still remain. The DMA report found that uptake is still low, as are returns, and suggests many brands lack the “competence and data” to run such campaigns and have difficulty calculating ROI, particularly given what can be a high initial investment.

“Marketers are struggling with email automation. Automation is often described as a panacea for email, but marketers still have to make the systems work,” says the report.

Join our essential Get with the Programmatic conference in London on 21 September to tackle 2016’s biggest programmatic topics – from mobile, native advertising and out-of-home to creativity, in-house and more. Visit the event website here.

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  • Ruben 16 Mar 2016 at 12:56 pm

    And I kept hearing that email is dead… This is great news, but yes, there’s the skill gap and so much to learn with so little time. Segmentation and testing is very important to achieve the goals that we set ourselves. What tools for non-coders would you recommend? Have you heard of GetResponse?

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