Earlier this year I wrote about open rate and click-through rate by type of message. The Q4 2011 Email Trends and Benchmarks report presented by Epsilon and the Email Experience Council (EEC) was released earlier this month and the open and click-through rates on service, also known as transactional, messages continued their upward trends.
So now seemed like a good time for a case study based on work I did for a client. By strategically including marketing copy in its welcome message to new email subscribers we were able to generate nearly $1 for every welcome email; the conversion rate was 1.5 percent.
There was an immediate incentive for signing up for email - a benefit-oriented tip related to the products the retailer sells. The original welcome message (see the wireframe below) had marketing copy about the value of the tip with two links to view the tip on the website.
Original Welcome Message
The original message was plain text, so we had no open rate data. In addition, link tracking had not been enabled, so we had no click-through data.
The dedicated landing page (people only got there from this email), where the tip resided, had not been tagged with Google Analytics code, so we didn't have any information on how many people landed there. The landing page did have a link to a tagged product page (the product was related to the tip), but without Google Analytics on the first page we had no idea how many people went from the tip page to learn more about the product.
But we did know one thing - during the months this welcome message had been in place, no one had purchased the product. Not from this email, not from a visit to the website driven by another channel, not at all.
Quantitative email metrics and website analytics are one of the true benefits of online marketing. They allow you insight into how people are interacting with your organization online. If you aren't tracking, you aren't as successful as you could be.
But even though I had little to work with, I was able to boost performance.
Revised Welcome Email
We began with some basic strategy - always lead with your strength.
The original product tied to the original tip wasn't a top seller, obviously. It was no seller. We began by changing the product - we decided to feature the top seller on the site instead. This product was more expensive than the original one, but it obviously resonated better with the audience.
This also meant that we had to change the tip to be relevant to the new product.
Could making this change alone improve performance? Maybe. But the welcome email itself had other things that needed to be fixed.
We created the revised email in both HTML and text formats and sent it as multi-part MIME (multi-purpose Internet mail extensions), so that the richest format the recipient's email client could read would be presented.
Instead of asking the reader to click through to get the free tip, we included it right in the email. This immediate payoff better delivers on the incentive promised and creates goodwill toward the retailer. We also included an image that helped illustrate the tip and added visual interest.
We included marketing copy about the product immediately following the tip and in the right column. To support the copy we included both a product image and customer testimonials. You'll see that there are five links to the product page, two at the bottom of the email (text links in copy) and three in the right column (one of them was the product image).
Five's not a magic number - there is no "perfect" number of calls to action for any email message. You want to include links where it makes sense, at places where people will be itching to click through and learn more.
One more note about the marketing copy - we didn't include the price of the product. We focused on the features, benefits, and advantages the product offered. People that were interested would have to click through to find out how much it cost. This was partially because of the product point (this isn't a cheap product - it costs less than $100 but more than $50) and partially because we really did want to focus the reader on the free tip (which the reader would get even more value out of if they bought the product).
As a secondary call to action we included links to the online store's home page and the home pages of key product sections of the website. You'll see these at the bottom of the email.
We also beefed up the branding in the email, using images as well as rich text copy.
A quick word about the from and subject lines, as we revised both of these as well.
The website is branded with the founder's name as well as the website's domain ("<Name's><Website domain>"). In the original message, the email appeared to come from the founder ("Name"), but omitted the website domain. In the revised version, we keep the founder's name but added the website domain ("Name, Website Domain").
This is important because the founder isn't someone that's widely known; his name may or may not be recognized. But the website domain is very descriptive of the products they carry, so that serves to engage readers and entice them to open the email.
The subject line did reference the tip, but it omitted a very powerful word: free. The company had avoided using this word entirely in its email marketing; they were under the mistaken impression that it would divert them from the inbox to the junk mail folder. This is a myth. We modified the subject line slightly to reference the new tip and included the word "free."
The results were significant.
The revised welcome message had an open rate more than twice that of the Epsilon benchmark for service messages - more than eight out of 10 people who received the welcome message opened it.
Note: This campaign was launched in Q1 2012, so the Q3 2011 benchmark report was the most recent available. No benchmark specific to service messages in the "Retail Specialty" industry was available, hence my use of the "All Industries" metric.
The click-through rate (CTR) was also impressive - we saw a lift over the Epsilon benchmark of more than 70 percent. More than one out of every 10 people that received the message clicked on a link.
The click-to-open rate (CTOR) was slightly below the industry benchmark (nearly two of every 10 people that opened the message went on to click), but that's because the open rate was so high. Don't put too much emphasis on the CTOR metric; if you use that alone to gauge the success or failure of your campaign you'll be limiting your opportunities to increase revenue.
By doing further testing to boost CTR it should be easy to match or beat the CTOR industry benchmark.
But the real success is shown by what really matters - the conversion and revenue per email sent (RPE) metrics.
The conversion rate on the revised message was 1.5 percent - more than one person out of every 100 people that received the email purchased the product. Nearly one out of every 10 people that clicked through to learn more about the product went on to buy it. It doesn't sound like much, but it's a far cry from no one buying.
Even better, the retailer generated nearly a dollar in revenue for every welcome message sent. Note that I'm using the RPE - revenue per email sent - metric here, not the RPME - revenue per thousand emails sent.
How many welcome messages does your organization send on a monthly basis? What kind of increase in revenue would you see if you earned a dollar for each of them? For most organizations, it would be significant.
So the ball's in your court. Set aside some time in May to evaluate your current welcome message and develop a test to see if you can boost the revenue it's generating. Then let me know how it goes.
Until next time,
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Jeanne Jennings is a leading authority and independent consultant with over 15 years of experience in the e-mail and online realm. She specializes in all aspects of e-mail marketing and publishing, from strategy through design and metrics analysis. Jeanne works with medium- to enterprise-sized organizations and is expert at helping her clients become more effective and more profitable online. She is the author of "The Email Marketing Kit: The Ultimate Email Marketer’s Bible" (SitePoint, 2007) and publisher of "The Jennings Report," a free e-mail newsletter for online marketing professionals. Visit her online at JeanneJennings.com.
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