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Improve E-Mail Campaigns With Behavioral Data

  |  October 11, 2004   |  Comments

The open rate has become a near-useless metric. Move beyond it.

Marketing technology has matured over the last several years, yet many marketers still live in the past. They're mired in simplistic segmentation.

To improve campaign effectiveness, marketers must move beyond simple metrics such as open rate to incorporate Web site clickstream analysis in campaign planning. Open rate is rapidly becoming a useless metric. Preview features and image blocking in the most common email clients skew results. Open rate misleads marketers about the level of customer interest, and it can't provide the insight necessary to itemize specific interests, such as pages or products viewed.

Clickstream-based response data provide marketers with improved understanding of campaign performance. More important, it can be used to segment customers based on behavior, thus defining criteria for future campaigns. Adoption of these techniques is slow. A JupiterResearch Executive Survey found just 22 percent of companies incorporate clickstream data into their email segmentation targeting tactics.

Without understanding the on-site behavior email campaigns trigger, marketers rely instead on offer-level click-through data when compiling email lists. Over time, this decreases the relevance of mailings and contributes to list fatigue. CTR doesn't indicate specific pages viewed. This higher-value data can be ascertained with clickstream analysis.

Below, some examples of behavioral targeting proven to be effective:

  • Clickstream data. An online sports apparel retailer used clickstream data in a campaign promoting NFL jerseys, timed to coincide with the NFL draft. The company based its list selection on the following:

    • Recency, frequency, monetary value (RFM) data, specifically customers who had purchased apparel

    • Geographic data focused on customers living in close proximity to NFL teams

    • Clickstream data was laid over the RFM and geographic data to determine which clients were thoroughly engaged. The clickstream data zeroed in on customers who surfed for apparel online at least 10 times in the past year, thus broadening the audience beyond those who actually made apparel transactions

    The retailer's response rate for this campaign was 62 percent. The company derived an incremental lift of approximately $1 million over a similar campaign conducted the previous year that didn't include clickstream data. The company maximized the relevancy of its campaign on three different attributes, all of which ensured a high degree of customer interest.

  • Service behavior. Some financial services providers use customer service contact data to remove specific customers (e.g., people upset with the lender's services or those who are behind on payments) from certain marketing campaigns. Using customer service data in this fashion not only lowers campaign expenses, it also results in a segment of potentially disgruntled customers who can be targeted with relevant win-back offers.

Using behavior and, specifically, clickstream data as a core segmentation attribute was long a pipe dream. It was hindered by long, expensive integration of site analytics packages and CRM systems. Today, there are many cost-effective, standalone alternatives from email service providers and site analytics vendors partnered with email service providers. Widespread adoption of page tagging (single-pixel GIFs) makes data easier to collect and maintain than earlier alternatives did, which were based on labyrinths of log files.

As with any new email marketing approach, the key to success is testing multiple campaign permutations and strategies. Behavioral targeting is no different in this respect. Give behavioral targeting a try. You may find the results are impressive.


David Daniels

For more than 20 years, David has been an industry proponent. Direct Magazine said David is "one of the most influential experts in email marketing, if not the most influential." Co-author of "Email Marketing An Hour A Day," David has held senior level positions at Forrester and JupiterResearch, Apple, Anthropologie, MacWarehouse, Proteam, and retailers that dotted the early days of CompuServe. David advises many industry organizations including the OTA, DMA, eec, and has been a contributor to the Weekend Today Show on NBC. Learn more about connected marketing and download free research with registration here. Follow David on Twitter @emaildaniels and learn more at www.relevancygroup.com.

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