Home » October 2017 Benchmark: Automated Email Campaigns Work

October 2017 Benchmark: Automated Email Campaigns Work

Alex Timlin
Alex Timlin

Each month, we like to provide you with some insights from our own customer data to help inform your marketing strategy.  

In this edition of the report, we’ll take a look at what separates top-performing Emarsys clients, and the data points available for us to make decisions around how to better engage with our customers and drive marketing ROI.

We’ll also compare ad hoc and automated campaigns to see how relevant and engaging batch-and-blasting is today – does it still have a place in the marketing mix?

What the Data Says

Looking at conversion rates (for our clients) across all industries for the month of August 2017, we see stark differences between the top quartile and the bottom quartile in almost all elements of customer lifecycle marketing:

  • conversion of new leads to first-time buyers, first-time buyers into repeat buyers, and repeat buyers into active customers
  • preventing churn among defecting customers
  • winning back inactive customers.

For each client, we generally set the same parameters, but we rely on artificial intelligence marketing (leveraging the Smart Insights product) and the machine learning (within Data Profiler) to determine the optimal number of purchases and days between purchases for each account.

This means that what makes an “active customer” may be unique for each client, but we’re able to talk about customer lifecycle marketing using aggregated data, and share what we learn to improve results.

We see many clients focusing on converting leads to first-time buyers, and asking for assistance in strategies to drive conversions at the top of the funnel.

Related Content: How to Convert First-Time Buyers into Active Customers [Infographic]

Within the top quartile – those doing this well – leads are converted into purchasing customers seven times higher than the bottom quartile (11.9% for the top as opposed to 1.7% for the bottom).

Data reveals how much more frequently active customers convert than other customer lifecycle stages.

The differences between quartiles here are significant. What are the top 25% doing that the rest are not?

Why Certain Brands Convert More Customers

Top performing clients all have higher overall engagement rates across their campaigns (opens, clicks, and impressions), a better mix of channels (more multi-channel campaigns), and more intelligent use of marketing automation and targeted segmentation.

Engagement

Email engagement data shows how interested recipients are with your message or content – and is a good indication for how effective your personalization approach is. Open rates indicate your subject lines are working, but click-through and conversion rates are the true measure of captivating content. 

Open rates indicate subject line effectiveness, but CTR is the true measure of captivating content, says @ARTimlin                            CLICK TO TWEET

Chart 2 below shows what’s at stake when you launch an engaging email campaign: the top quartile has 375% higher click-through rates and 487% higher conversion rates than the bottom quartile.

Data shows how clients performed across various email metrics.

Mix of channels

When looking at other channels, we also see the same divide holds for mobile push (see Chart 3) with the top quartile more than six times higher than the bottom quartile for push opens (a metric comparable to an email click-through rate).

The greater a company’s omnichannel presence, the greater their overall reach.

What separates the top from the bottom, here, is that the best performing clients are sending more trigger-based push messages rather than promotional batch-and-blast messages to larger audiences.

Recent data shows mobile push open rates (across all industries). Top-performing clients enjoy a 14% open rate – mostly leveraging trigger-based push notifications.

More accurate targeting with automated campaigns

We examine cross-channel data across email, mobile, ad networks, and websites for our clients. In January 2017’s benchmark report, we were evaluating around 2 billion contacts; for the data in this report, we’re now looking at 3 billion contacts.

In just eight months, our clients have added a billion contacts to their lists, expanding the number of potential customers and campaigns. However, despite these gains, we’re not seeing sending volumes growing accordingly.

This is because 40% of our clients send 70% of their campaigns via our Automation Center — they’re sending more and more campaigns that target segments based on mobile, website and in-store behaviors as well as customer lifecycle status (rather than just mass blasting marketing communications to their entire database).

As shown in Chart 4, automated campaigns perform significantly better than their older counterparts. Compared to batch-and-blast email campaigns, campaigns sent via the Automation Center earned a 74% increase in open rates and a 244% higher click-through rate.

 

Automated campaigns consistently get higher open and click-through rates than do ad hoc campaigns (this data shows January-August 2017)

Looking further into the email campaigns sent via the Automation Center, we see a clear correlation between the size of a dispatch and the engagement rates with that campaign — essentially the more people in a segment, the lower the overall engagement rates (opens and clicks). One-to-one campaigns – the true promise of marketing – are the highest performers overall, beating out batch-and-blast campaigns sent to tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of contacts as shown in Chart 5.

Campaigns with small segments had the highest email rates January-August 2017

So, Is Batch and Blast Dead?

Mass marketing used to be the only way to get your word out, but that was back when marketers were still the ones who decided how and where to interact with customers. Today, the customer determines where the marketer must meet them…but that doesn’t necessarily mean that ad hoc mailings are without merit.

Batch-and-blast campaigns actually have a couple time-tested advantages:

  • The labor involved is minimal. It only takes a couple hours to craft a mass email, and it doesn’t cost much per email to send out huge mailings.
  • Email is still the #1 digital channel for ROI. A decently thought-out, ad hoc email campaign has a better chance to deliver conversions than a mass marketing ploy on any other channel.

The key downside, of course, is that you have no way to personalize your message. However, keep in mind that very few clients are totally moving away from ad hoc campaigns to smaller segments. A 1.5% click-through rate for 10 million people is still worth more money than a 3% click-through rate for 1 million people.

Ultimately, personalization is the goal – but that doesn’t mean mass emails are necessarily ready for the grave quite yet.

The Message to the Marketers

As we explored in the September benchmark report, triggered campaigns perform particularly well. Abandoned cart campaigns that are sent to individual subscribers within hours of them leaving items in their shopping carts on websites and mobile apps perform quite well.

Related Content: September 2017 Benchmark Report: Preparing for Q4

Other “abandonment” campaigns that target incomplete bookings for hotels and flights or incomplete inquiries on job boards and property portals can really boost overall engagement rates. Most importantly, these are the types of top-of-the-funnel campaigns that are really helping the top quartile of our clients hit those 11.9% conversion rates for new leads coming in.

The moral this month is that automated campaigns are a part of the picture.

Today, successful marketers must have the right balance of automation and traditional batch-and-blast campaigns, which, in conjunction, remain an excellent way to deliver content like:

  • email newsletters
  • promotional SMS and mobile push campaigns
  • targeted, timely and relevant messages fuelled by customer behavior and lifecycle status

AI is driving the next wave in digital marketing, but it’s the clients who have already embraced marketing automation and are using AI to drive personalization that are enjoying the greatest level of success across the clients we’re able to measure.

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