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Is Your Email Program Big Enough for Big Data?

  |  November 5, 2013   |  Comments

Email is a big data business; we collect, store, append, score and segment a lot of information. Has email marketing been left behind in the big data Gold Rush, or has we been doing it all along?

While the rest of the technical world is busily embracing the nebulous concept that is 'Big Data,' the jury is still out as far as how it works within the world of email marketing.

Let's look at the distinct kinds of data that are used in the email marketing process:

  1. Customer List of Email Addresses or Hashes. You cannot run an email marketing program without either an email address or a hash of an email address.
  2. Open Rates and Times. Knowing that an email address has opened or not opened an email sent to it is one of the most important details in any program. Openers are valuable, whereas non-openers are less valuable. Less, but still somewhat valuable, since they could open in the future. When do customers open?
  3. Click Rates. Knowing that an opener clicked is pretty important. A much higher value than mere opens.
  4. Purchase Data. Did the address open, click and purchase? Did the address open an email, click but abandon the cart? Did they come back later?
  5. Demographic Data. What do we know about the address? Often this is not provided by the subscriber, but appended via an external third party.
  6. Interest Information. Which of your newsletters does this address subscribe to? What categories have they browsed?

Even if email marketers only needed to concern themselves with these six categories, it would be challenging enough to decide what to send. However, there are whole other categories of data that need to be considered when designing a campaign, or a single newsletter:

  1. Subject Line. How many versions do you need to test?
  2. Send Timing. Stagger the mailing? Send based on user geographic information?
  3. Content. Oh yeah. What to put in the newsletter. Does everyone get the same thing? Are you personalizing using mail merge techniques? Or inserting content based on more sophisticated methods.
  4. Domain. Do you need to do something different for this campaign to have it stand out in Gmail or Yahoo? Are you excluding corporate or certain domains?
  5. Offers. What offers worked best? For whom? When?
  6. Device. What devices were used to open the message and how did they perform?

Does all of this constitute 'Big Data?' It's hard to say. You be the judge.

I've always been of the mind that email is a big data business. We collect a lot of information. We store a lot of information. We append it. We score it. We segment it. That sounds like a pretty big deal to me. What about you?

Title image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dave Hendricks

As president of LiveIntent, Dave Hendricks has overall responsibility for revenue, finance, legal, and operations. Prior to joining LiveIntent before its 2009 Series A, Dave was EVP of operations at PulsePoint (then known as Datran Media), where he worked with LiveIntent founder and CEO Matt Keiser and ran Datran's ESP StormPost. Before all that, Dave held senior roles at data management companies InfoUSA and Experian. A member of the founding executive team at ExperianCheetahMail, Dave began his email adventure at Pioneering ESP MessageMedia after running global partnerships for Oracle Corp. Dave was named one of Silicon Alley Insiders Top 100 technologists in 2011 and is active in several IAB Committees including Mobile and Email. Follow him on Twitter @davehendricks.

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