Doing a Sound Check

Ever wondered what a successful email marketing campaign sounds like?

This is the story of a company that wanted to test out audio email. What the company discovered was that including audio in its email messages increased campaign results dramatically. It also discovered, apparently, that it’s tough to make it in the online world; the company has since gone out of business. But I think the lessons learned in this campaign are good ones and worth sharing with you all.

Shared Greetings was an online greeting card provider. It offered free e-cards for holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions. For every card sent, the sender and the recipient were automatically entered into a drawing to win prizes.

In the spring, Shared Greetings was ready to launch its April Fool’s Day campaign. The company and its partners wanted to send out email that would encourage recipients to click through to the Shared Greetings site, send a card, and perhaps sign up for a personal reminder service.

As it made its plans, the company decided to see if spicing up its email technology would increase interest on the part of its customer base. It worked with Inbox Interactive to design a sharp HTML message. It teamed up with iballs, now known as Avenue A/NYC, to deliver the email and track results. And it worked with BYOBroadcast to create the part I’ll talk about today.

BYOBroadcast offers what it calls “simple audio solutions” for e-businesses. In this case, the email included a voice message that played immediately when the message was opened. BYOBroadcast worked to write a script for a voice recording, and a professional voice actor recorded a message. The company produced a short bit of code — about five lines — that it sent to the agency producing the message, and the code was inserted into the HTML message. The audio then streamed into the recipients’ mailboxes and played when the mail was opened.

You can get a sense of what the message was like by clicking here. (The file has been posted to this Web site.)

Now comes the test part. Shared Greetings split its opt-in database into two nearly equal groups. Those in Group A, with 55,508 messages delivered, received a message without audio. Those in Group B, with 48,735 messages delivered, received a message with audio. Group A’s raw conversion numbers (those who visited the site and sent a card) were 3,910, or about 7 percent. Group B’s raw conversion numbers were 10,892, or about 22 percent — an impressive increase, indeed.

Another interesting note regarding these results is that the click-through rate (CTR) for those who heard the audio was about 150 percent greater than for those who did not — a 3:2 ratio. Now, you might expect that since the landing page is the same for both groups, the conversion ratio would also be about 3:2, but it was actually three times higher for the audio group. In other words, when we compare CTRs and conversions, it shows that the audio had a lasting effect, beyond encouraging the user to click through to the site. Those who heard the audio and went to the site were far more likely to take action than site visitors who didn’t hear the audio.

Some additional notes about the campaign:

  • Not all recipients who received the audio message could hear the audio. In this mailing, some HTML mail clients (for instance, Hotmail and earlier versions of AOL) delete or otherwise do not recognize the code. If we were to take those recipients out of Group B, I suspect that the numbers would have been even higher. (BYOBroadcast does have the technology, in most cases, to detect which clients cannot handle the applet and work around this, but that was not implemented in this case.)
  • The size of the “rendered” file was about 30K. This one-time download is put in the user’s cache.
  • One of my personal favorites — the email contained a “single play” feature. In other words, the message will play automatically only one time in a 30-minute period. Users who forward or otherwise reopen the message within a short time do not have the message replayed. From personal experience, I know how annoying it is to be scrolling through email and have audio, graphics, and other enhancements pop up repeatedly.

That’s it for this week. Happy Halloween!

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