The key to email marketing success: Interview with eCircle


By Chris Lee

Email continues to be the preferred method for permission-based marketing, according to recent research from ExactTarget, which found that 77 per cent of web users prefer to receive marketing messages via email. But how can marketers make sure that their messages resonate with their target audience, generate sales and avoid unsubscriptions and spam filters?

Philip Storey, an email marketing consultant at digital marketing agency eCircle, spoke recently at the company’s annual ConnectEurope conference. His main message was that when it comes to email marketing campaigns, to ensure you get the highest possible click-through rate, brands have to make sure they are saying the right thing at the right time and to the right people.

NMK caught up with Storey to gain more email marketing best practice insight.

Improving click-through rates

According to Storey, one of the most commonly asked questions from eCircle’s clients is how to improve click-through rates on news and offers.

“Our immediate response to this is clear,” Storey explained. “You need to have an understanding of your customers’ needs, behaviours and preferences and evaluate this against your needs as a business.”

So how do you achieve this? Brands have to look carefully at the information they are serving up every time they email an individual and ask what the customer is need versus the business need, according to Storey.

“There will be times at various stages of the customer lifecycle when those needs are very similar, but often you will find there are collisions,” Storey said. “If you don’t identify these, then you have no chance of pushing your customers through to the next stage of the process, which may be converting them to a sale or encouraging them to interact with you in some other way.”

Email in the wider marketing mix

Embedding your email marketing strategy into your wider digital CRM strategy is absolutely crucial too, according to Storey.

“When you map your customers’ journey, it can cross all the different touch points of a business. Just because you may operate your marketing activity in silos, it doesn’t mean you should treat your customers that way,” Storey told NMK. “They don’t think they’re a telesales customer, a website customer or a retail customer when you interact with them, so all your communications with them have to be integrated, and provide a consistent experience for customers and prospective customers across the board.”

Case study: Halfords

eCircle has seen some great results around segmenting customers into a specific category to further engagement and it’s very simple, Storey said.

“If your messages, whether they are daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly, are generic and somebody does something that implies they are interested in a specific category, be it buying a holiday in Tunisia or even purchasing a new bike, you have to listen and follow up with that person. You can’t just broadcast again,” he added. “It’s all about building the next part of the conversation. So send them a follow up email, a few days later about the specific area they are interested in.”

eCircle helped retailer Halfords move from a blanket email marketing strategy – sending generic emails to every contact in its database – to a highly targeted approach with personalised messages with greater relevancy to specific segments of customers and prospects. The central aim was drive footfall to Halfords’ online store with a specific focus on identifying and action upon “moments of truth” within the customer life cycle.

“Key to this was gaining an understanding of why customers were abandoning their basket at certain stages of the purchase process,” Storey explained. “Halfords where therefore keen to investigate whether a targeted email campaign could help to re-engage those ‘lost customers’, through relevant offers which would result in increased sales.”

Since Halfords upgraded its email strategy to include web analytics software open rates have increased to over 25 per cent, with click through rates jumping to 8.5 per cent, Storey said. Average open rates currently stand at over 60 per cent and in terms of sales and overall return on investment, weekly sales revenues typically vary from 80 per cent to 150 per cent of the cost of the initial deployment.

“This proves email is a great relationship building tool,” Storey concluded. “It’s not just a means to push out advertising. It provides us with a wealth of information about a customer’s preferences, from explicit preferences where people have said ‘I am interested in this category’ to their online behavioural data. However, just because you have the data available to you, doesn’t mean you should use it. It’s also not about pictures, you have to learn to love text and think about what will trigger a response from your audience and witness truly measurable results.”

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