4 Ways Your Math May Be Steering Your Email Marketing Program Wrong

May 25, 2022 | 6 minute read
Clint Kaiser
Head of Analytic & Strategic Services, Oracle Digital Experience Agency
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As more marketers embark on their personal journeys to become data-driven marketers, most are finding the road to be a rocky one. The central problem they’re encountering is a surprising one: It’s that their data doesn’t always lead them to the best decision.

Why is that? Sometimes the wrong lesson is being taken from the data. Other times it’s the data that’s one level deeper in the data pool that they should be using. And sometimes the data is being used to power one action plan when it should be used to power several.

Ultimately, it’s because it’s not really data that we’re after in the first place—it’s insights. Here are four examples of how to be an insight-driven marketer:

1. The Preferences Expressed in A/B Tests

Marketers have an almost endless array of things they can A/B test. At the same time, they also have many ways to mess up that A/B test. But even if you avoid the pitfalls and your test shows conclusive results, you may still be missing out on significant gains from the test.

That’s because, when you do a split test, a significant number of subscribers will likely prefer the losing version. Within the bounds of an A/B test, that minority is ignored in favor of the majority. However, that minority is still expressing a preference or affinity that you could use in future personalization or segmented campaigns.

For example, every file is comprised of a mix of segments—that is, subscribers with varying levels of engagement, spend, and loyalty, and varying interests. Imagine a test designed to drive online conversions. The test succeeds in boosting conversions over the control, but looking deeper you discover that nearly all of the gains came from your best customers.

You can turn this data-driven A/B test into an insight-driven strategy by treating your multi-time buyers and one-time buyers differently. Use the learnings from the test to engage the former and then keep testing to find messaging that resonates with your long tail of customers who haven’t converted.

For A/B testing inspiration, get our checklist of 80+ Website Optimization Ideas via a free, no-form download. 

2. The Diminishing Returns of Sending More Email

Yes, at the low end of the spectrum, increasing frequency across the board tends to yield greater returns. But that’s not where most brands are with their email programs. They’re at the point where any universal increase in frequency tends to cause more unsubscribes, more spam complaints, and more fatigue. All of that list churn reduces the impact of future campaigns and likely adds to the cost of your list building efforts.

All of that is not to say that brands can’t increase email frequency. They can. However, most brands are at the maturity level where they have to do so thoughtfully by moving away from one-size-fits-all thinking.

For example, you’ll want to send your inactive subscribers significantly fewer campaigns. You’ll also probably want to suppress some of your campaigns to your disengaged or lapsed subscribers, who are in danger of becoming inactive.

At the same time, you’ll want to send your most engaged subscribers more emails. You can do that by:

  • Sending more segmented emails on narrow topics only to subscribers who have demonstrated a recent interest in that topic
  • Creating more automated campaigns (Check out our list of more than 110 Automated Campaign Ideas.)
  • Selecting highly engaged audience segments using predictive modeling, like the one we developed that predicts the likelihood of each subscriber to engage with an email in the next 7 days, allowing our clients to select subscribers who are likely in market and open to opportunities to engage with the program

As intent signals become less and less available—due to Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP), for example—this becomes a trickier road to navigate. A more fully encompassing view of each individuals’ interactions with your brand becomes more valuable to understanding their current mindset.

Did they recently subscribe to your text messages? Are they engaging with the app? Is their behavior shifting to be more in-store rather than online? Broader data points can backfill some of those more masked data points and help inform the messaging mix that’s best for that person. Having a customer data platform (CDP) like Oracle Unity can make it much easier to connect all of those cross-channel dots.

To get the latest digital marketing and communications advice from the trusted experts at Oracle Digital Experience Agency, subscribe to our award-winning twice-monthly newsletter.

3. How All Clicks Are Not Equally Valuable

As email opens have become devalued by MPP, email clicks have become more critical than ever. And while every click is valuable, especially when it comes to defining active mailable audiences, all clicks are not worth the same amount to your company. At the campaign level, it’s also true that looking at your overall click rate probably won’t give you the clearest picture of the success of an email.

That’s because, in any given email, many calls-to-action are competing for a subscriber’s attention, including links for…

  • The homepage in the logo in your header
  • Your navigation bar (at the top and/or bottom of your email)
  • Your primary CTA
  • Any secondary CTAs
  • Your social media pages
  • Social sharing of the email
  • Email or account administration, such as those to unsubscribe and visit the preference center

That list represents the order that a subscriber is likely to encounter those links in an email, but it’s almost assuredly not in order from highest value to lowest value. When scrutinizing the performance of an email, break down the distribution of clicks. Consider assigning weighted values to each of your CTAs, so you can get a clearer picture of performance.

Another idea is to take a look at your click-map over time and the mix of clicks relative to these categories. As a percentage of overall clicks, how is that mix of value shifting over time? And how is it shifting across your promotional, triggered, and transactional emails? 

​​This analysis will diagnose any issues that may not be readily evident in your overall click-through rate. If you determine there are issues, the resolution is highly dependent on the situation. For example, if you’re seeing more clicks through to your homepage, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but then understand what that audience is doing once they hit the site. Do they immediately bounce or do they search for a product category that wasn’t highlighted in the email? Maybe preferences have changed for individuals that have been on file for a long time and it’s an opportunity to encourage updating content preferences.

Follow these 4 steps to optimize your email marketing CTAs.

4. How All Subscribers Are Not Equally Valuable

If you lose 100 subscribers and then gain 100 new ones, did your list size change? No, but the value of your list might have if the 100 subscribers you lost were more valuable than the 100 you gained. How could you know this? 

For instance, you could assign value based on their RFM score and then compare how those churning off your list compare to your overall list audience. Are unsubscribers disproportionately from your high-value customers? Or are they mostly low-value subscribers, who are much less alarming to lose?

And in terms of subscribers gained, you can predict their likely value by analyzing the value of your subscribers by acquisition source. For example, a subscriber who opted in during checkout is likely to be far more valuable than one who subscribed as part of a sweepstakes entry or through one of your social media pages.

For ways to safely grow your email marketing list, get our checklist about Audience Acquisition Source Ideas via a free, no-form download.

People say the devil is in the details, but analysts are all about the insights in the data. To make sure that you’re making the right strategic decisions for your email marketing program, ensure that you’re capturing the insights that are hiding in your data. 

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Need help improving your email analytics? Oracle Digital Experience Agency has hundreds of marketing and communication experts ready to help Oracle customers create stronger connections with their customers and employees, even if they’re not using an Oracle platform as the foundation of that experience. Our award-winning specialists can handle everything from analytics and strategy to creative and content planning. For example, our full-service email marketing clients generate 24% higher open rates, 30% higher click rates, and 9% lower unsubscribe rates than Oracle Responsys customers who aren’t.

For help overcoming your challenges or seizing your opportunities, talk to your Oracle account manager, visit us online, or email us at OracleAgency_US@Oracle.com.

Want to better understand your email marketing risks and opportunities, take advantage of our free Email Marketing Assessment. Our experts will check your deliverability, review your email creative, audit your signup process, do a partial competitive analysis, and more. If interested in this free assessment, reach out to us at OracleAgency_US@Oracle.com.

Clint Kaiser

Head of Analytic & Strategic Services, Oracle Digital Experience Agency

Clint Kaiser is the Head of the Analytic & Strategic Services team at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. His background in the email marketing space includes 20 years of experience with ESPs and digital agencies. His analytical approach to driving change in digital marketing is reflected in his quantitative approach to improving clients' business outcomes.


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