Brands are increasingly recognizing metrics like email opens, web traffic, and social media likes for what they are—surface metrics that churn wildly and are directionally noisy. While it’s still important to track those high-level metrics, optimizing for them often doesn’t translate into deeper engagement. Indeed, sometimes maximizing those metrics leads marketers to adopt clickbaity headlines and other tactics that erode customer trust and lead to fatigue, audience loss, and poor performance.
To get better aligned with both their customers and long-term business goals, more marketers are adopting a range of advanced analytics and performance metrics. Let’s talk about some of the ones that our experts at Oracle Digital Experience Agency most frequently use with our clients.
This is a measurement of whether an individual’s engagement with your email, SMS, loyalty, or social media channel is accelerating or decelerating, indicating that they’re probably in-market or disengaging, respectively. This will naturally ebb and flow over time depending on where the customer is in their lifecycle, but being aware of this metric can allow you to respond effectively to these changes.
The trick is to determine which ebbs are okay and which ones are warning signs of something else going on, says Clint Kaiser, Head of Analytic & Strategic Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency.
“For example, right after a promotional signup, you’d expect some acceleration—unless the signup occurred during checkout,” he says. “And after a purchase, it can decelerate or accelerate depending on the product purchased and the related product mix available to complement it.”
Marketers can use velocity to power segmented campaigns and in selecting their active emailing audience, allowing them to get more campaigns in front of those with accelerating velocity and fewer in front of those with decelerating velocity.
Average Weekly Frequency
Brands generally have a good sense of how many campaigns they’re sending their audience on average. However, when you track average weekly frequency at the individual level, you can see the effects of sending segmented campaigns and setting up action-triggered campaigns.
“In particular, take a look at how many campaigns your most active customers are receiving,” says Peter Briggs, Director of Analytic & Strategic Services, Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “Chances are you’ll be surprised by how many communications they’re getting.”
While your most engaged audience members should be getting more touches, it shouldn’t get out of control because more isn’t necessarily better. Consider reexamining your message hierarchy to make sure that your most valuable campaigns aren’t being diluted by less valuable ones.
For example, if someone browses a product page and then leaves, but soon returns and puts that product in their cart and then leaves, that person should only receive a cart abandonment email and not a browse abandonment email. You should examine the behaviors of your abandoners to determine how long is reasonable to wait after an abandonment to send these emails. In both cases, subscribers shouldn’t receive them immediately (except for perhaps on high-stakes days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday).
You might also consider suppressing subscribers who receive a cart abandonment from your promotional mailings so those lower-value campaigns aren’t potentially distracting those subscribers from that higher-value abandonment campaign.
This is the percentage of your audience that has clicked at least one of your campaigns during a period of time. Brands often track this over multiple time windows, such as their click reach over the past 1, 6, and 12 months.
“I’ve been working with a number of clients lately on click reach, which they sometimes refer to as engaged per contacted,” says Briggs. “This metric cuts through a lot of the campaign-level metric noise and lets you see the engagement health of your list. Recently, it has really showcased the massive drop in unique customer channel engagements following the launch of Mail Privacy Protection by Apple.”
Revenue per Subscriber
This is the amount of revenue that your email, SMS, loyalty, or social media channel generates per subscriber. This metric controls for increases or decreases in your audience size and allows you to see audience productivity in terms of per subscriber contributions that might otherwise be hidden by topline program revenue numbers.
Revenue per subscriber could also be measured longitudinally like click reach, says Kaiser. “For instance, if you look at revenue/subscriber for month 1, year 1, year 2, and so on,” he says, “you can measure that trend pattern to understand the effectiveness of your program during different periods of time on the list and how it’s changing. Then you can use the changes in those data points diagnostically. For example, if revenue/subscriber starts falling during the first-month period, that would be a signal to investigate and reassess your onboarding and other program elements that would impact early engagement.”
Lifetime Value (LTV)
This is the total average profitability of an individual subscriber. In the age of customer-centricity, lifetime value is an increasingly important metric because it puts the focus on maximizing the value of your customers rather than maximizing the value of your campaigns. Just like maximizing opens doesn’t always maximize clicks and other down-funnel behaviors, maximizing campaign value doesn’t always maximize lifetime value.
If you’re growing lifetime value, you’re either getting customers to increase their rate of spending or keeping them engaged longer, or both. If it’s falling, then customers are investing less money or time in your brand—a trend that you’ll want to reverse.
Also pay extra attention to your high–lifetime value segments, says Kaiser. “Are they growing or declining? If the latter, investigate why and then change your messaging, personalization, segmentation, and other strategies to reverse the trend.” He adds, “You can also use this segment as an input for look-alikes in customer acquisition efforts.”
Acquisition Cost per Subscriber
This measures the average expense associated with gaining one new email, SMS, loyalty, or social media subscriber. Those might include the cost of:
Comparing your cost per subscriber to your revenue per subscriber allows you to see your net revenue per subscriber. Clearly, you want that number to be positive. And ideally, you’d also like for it to be expanding by either reducing your acquisition cost per subscriber or increasing your revenue per subscriber, if not both.
By comparing your cost per subscriber to your lifetime value, you can see your net profit per subscriber. Beyond that top-level calculation, this calculation becomes particularly insightful when you use it to examine individual audience acquisition sources.
“Doing that work allows you to identify which acquisition sources are driving the highest net value subscribers and which are not—or may be costing you money, or perhaps causing most of your hard bounces or spam complaints,” says Kaiti Gary, Senior Director of Analytic & Strategic Services, Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “Strategically, that’s golden information. It tells you which productive sources you should invest in optimizing further and which ones you should deemphasize or potentially even abandon.”
For ways to safely grow your audience, get our checklist of 18 Audience Acquisition Source Ideas via a free, no-form download.
Return on Investment
This is a measure of how profitable your email, SMS, loyalty, or social media marketing program has been over a period of time. ROI is also commonly used to measure the profitability of a project or initiative, such as a new automated campaign or a preference center update.
“An ideal ROI calculation at the campaign level would factor in all costs associated with creating and sending the campaign,” says Briggs. “This would include (1) platform costs, (2) average production costs (i.e., headcount, hours, etc.), and (3) the financial impact of opt-outs generated by the campaign, which would ideally come from universal control group learnings. Incorporating these three costs often tells a much different story about a campaign than just looking at revenue per email.”
If you’re trying to calculate the ROI of all of your channel efforts, you’ll want to mirror those calculations, but on a program-wide scale. Knowing the return you’re getting on your marketing investments across channels allows your company to make better decisions about where to invest next. It can also allow channel owners to make stronger arguments for larger budgets.
Marketers tend to overemphasize the metrics that are easy to measure. Typically that undermines their business goal by depriving them of the deep, impactful data they need to make wise strategic decisions. Get the audience insights you need by investing the resources needed to be able to measure some of these advanced metrics.
Need help improving your analytics? Oracle Digital Experience Agency has hundreds of marketing and communication experts ready to help Oracle customers create stronger connections with their customers, partners, and employees, even if they’re not using an Oracle platform as the foundation of that experience. Handling everything from creative and strategy to content planning and project management, we consistently exceed our clients’ expectations, earning a customer satisfaction rate of 96%.
Chad S. White is the Head of Research at Oracle Digital Experience Agency and the author of four editions of Email Marketing Rules and nearly 4,000 posts about digital and email marketing. A former journalist, he’s been featured in more than 100 publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Advertising Age. Chad was named the ANA's 2018 Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year. Follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Mastodon.