What’s Your Client’s Database Doing for You?

Many of us in online media work primarily with client’s Web site-based advertisements, leaving the realm of email to “subject matter experts.” As online media professionals, we usually have quite a leaning toward direct marketing — the discipline behind most email strategy and execution. So why can’t we also advise our clients on email? Sometimes we can (and should), and sometimes we can’t (and shouldn’t).

E-mail is so completely woven into the fabric of online society we must acknowledge its role within the overall communication process and recognize its influence on the purchase/decision-making process. Eighty-eight percent of online users list email as their most popular online activity, according to the 2003 UCLA Internet Report. DoubleClick says 78 percent of online consumers have purchased as a result of clicking on an email link.

More important is the latent and cross-channel impact of email. The same DoubleClick study reports 44 percent of online shoppers purchased either online at a later time or offline after responding to an email. However, a response, though desirable, isn’t even necessary. Nearly 60 percent of respondents purchased in a retail location after simply receiving an email from that merchant.

Am I suggesting we load up the email deployment system and start tap-dancing on the send button? No. But think about those statistics. The last one illustrates the premise all offline advertising is built upon: Exposure to a branded message will elicit a desired action, such as a sale. But how many clients (or agencies for that matter) view email through that lens? Within our client base, there is a huge tendency to look at email in isolation and gauge success on whether a series of deployments resulted in a certain number of conversions (as a result of direct responses). Meanwhile, clients are comfortable attributing both direct response and latent response conversions to online media.

This is a holdover from the direct marketing discipline that needs to go away. In traditional direct response, you have to look at it that way because there is no way to quantify a conversion other than looking at how many times the toll-free number (or whatever the feedback loop) was used. The oft-forgotten reality is the simple exposure is a meaningful influencer. McDonald’s would likely argue an exposure to a crumpled Big Mac carton in a parking lot could influence a future purchase.

With email, we have considerably more robust tracking and attribution abilities. We can understand the overall effect receiving direct email has on customers. In fact, if you are employing a system that allows you to integrate email and media performance metrics, you can identify when a converting user was exposed to both email and online media.

With that in mind, you could dust off something like DoubleClick’s Boomerang. Boomerang allows you to seek out a specific group of cookies that were set on your site. You can then serve ads when your tags encounter those cookies across a set of sites/networks you’ve purchased. (Atlas DMT has a similar offering as a standard feature of its Atlas Suite 4.0 with a 13-month look-back.)

In simpler terms, you could have your ad server place a cookie on the browser of each member of your client’s email database, then actively serve those database members specific ads when your ad tags recognize those cookies. Simultaneously, you can deploy email against those same database members. The net effect of this “digital surround sound” tactic is likely to be a higher return. The integrated tracking system will quantify that for you, as well as allow you to begin to identify the optimal frequency levels against the different bases in your database.

All of the above may occur without an actual response ever taking place. If you can quantify the effect, a client is more likely to look beyond individual email deployment metrics and begin to look at the larger digital picture. Though being able to quantify the digital side is still only a slice of the overall pie, it is a step in the right direction.

House Update

I have succeeded in increasing overall traffic; however, my conversion rates are horrid at an even zero percent. Definitely time to optimize this campaign. Stay tuned.

Join us at the Jupiter ClickZ Advertising Forum in New York City on July 30 and 31.

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