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  • February 12, 2009

Takeaways from the Email Evolution Conference 2009

The eec’s Email Evolution Conference was this week in Scottsdale, Ariz. Here are just a few of the great insights and learnings from the event:

Triggered Emails:
>>Bank of America’s event-based trigger emails are 3.5x more effective than their broadcast promotional emails, says Matt Burton of Bank of America.
>>Dell has created a post-purchase triggered campaign that last 90 days from the time of purchase. During that time, all normal promotional emails are suppressed. They send a “Did You Forget” email 7 days post-purchase that pitches accessories to the computer product. It took 3 months to develop and generates opens that are 3x and clicks rates that are 3x better than their broadcast promotional emails, according to Sarah Finley of Dell. They send a “Rate & Review” email 21 days post-purchase that generates opens that are 3x and clicks that are 6x better than their broadcast promotional emails.
>>Dell also sends a system anniversary email on the 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-year anniversaries of their customer’s computer purchase. Those emails generate opens that are 6x and clicks that are 4x better than their broadcast promotional emails.
>>Five proven trigger emails: (1) welcome, (2) abandoned shopping cart, (3) reactivation of non-responders, (4) first-time buyer, (5) birthday or anniversary
>>Tips for creating a lifecycle trigger email program: (1) create a lifecycle map, (2) confirm that the data is available to drive the program, (3) define the business rules for sending emails, (4) establish a production process for the emails, (5) test and define key performance indicators, and (6) deploy as much automation as possible to run the program
>>Consider sending an annual triggered email that reminds subscribers why they signed up and discusses what’s coming up in the year ahead, says Jeff Rohrs of ExactTarget.
>>Have a different onboarding process for subscribers depending on the source of their sign-up, says Rohrs.
>>Alaska Airlines mapped out their triggered emails across five areas: acquisition, conversion, growth, retention and reactivation. Doing so allowed them to see where they had gaps and redundant programs.

The Value of an Email Address:
>>The average value of an email address for a retail client of e-Dialog is $20.
>>Alaska Airlines determined that the value of an email address to them was $160, according to Navin Mithel of Alaska Airlines. Their email group used that piece of information to lobby for more real estate on the Alaska Airline homepage for email address capture.

Testing:
>>Testing tips: (1) start small, (2) have a control group to compare your test group to, (3) test significant changes, (4) coordinate the timing of sends to test and control groups so that you eliminate time as a variable, (5) archive the test results, (6) operationalize the test results, (7) embrace failure, (8) don’t get discouraged, (9) prioritize your testing so that you’re going after the low-hanging fruit first
>>Marriott did some subject line testing for their eBreaks email, which sells distressed inventory, and found that adding urgency, personalizing it with the subscriber’s name, and being colloquial each improved the performance of their subject lines.
>>“Subject line testing is definitely the easiest way to increase your opens, clicks and conversions,” says Meg Reynolds of REI. They’ve seen subject line A/B test winners outperform by up to 124%.
>>Subject line tips: (1) keep them simple and relevant, (2) shorter is better generally, (3) using brand names can help, (4) personalization works (but results decline over time), and (5) you never know what will work so test, test, test.

Email Frequency:
>>REI performed a cadence test where they suppressed emails to non-clickers for 4 weeks after which they sent them their anniversary sale promotional email. Despite the control group receiving several more emails over that 4-week period, the suppressed group outperformed the control group by 4%. “I know that it’s possible to send fewer emails and make more money,” says Reynolds. “It’s nirvana.”
>>We think the data should drive email frequency, but if we can’t figure it out in a reasonable amount of time then we’ll probably just update our preference center and let subscribers choose the optimal frequency, says Reynolds.

Email Design:
>>The “Golden Rectangle”—the part of an email that appears in the preview pane—is approximately 500 by 250 pixels, says Matt Caldwell of Yesmail.
>>If you use a siderail in your email designs, it should be on the right-hand side, says Aaron Smith of Smith-Harmon.
>>The Golden Rule of email design: Nobody reads commercial email (they scan it), says Caldwell, who adds that bulleted copy is very effective and that email copy doesn’t have to be in complete sentences. He advised against creating Dreaded Walls-o-Text, which are six or more lines of text in a row.
>>Write headlines and calls-to-action at the same time because they should work together.
>>Smith-Harmon redesigned Alaska Airlines promotional emails and they saw a 41% lift in revenue.
>>Here are the slides from the Email Creative Fight Night presentation, which saw eROI, Responsys and Mighty Interactive going head-to-head on redesigning emails from esurance, Children International and At-A-Glance (tip of the hat to Dylan Boyd of eROI for the slides):


You can also watch the blow-by-blow here (Rounds 1, 2 and 3 are listed under Related Videos).

Threats to Email:
>>“We have a responsibility to fight off the barbarians at our gate that would do harm to our medium,” says Rohrs.
>>It’s shameful that email—marketing’s most profitable channel—gets so little respect, says Stan Rapp, the founder of Rapp and the current CEO of Engauge. “Email is the tightest link ever forged between buyer and seller.”

Permission Practices:
>>“In a crappy economy, a lot of [bad practices] start to feel right,” says Peter Horan of Goodmail Systems.
>>Internationally, pre-checked boxes may be illegal in some countries, says Kara Trivunovic of the Email Advisor.
>>Double opt-in confirmation email should include clear branding and a simple call-to-action, says Bill McCloskey of Email Data Source.
>>A double opt-in lead is significantly more valuable than a single opt-in lead, says Horan.
>>When considering whether to use single or double opt-in, first consider whether you’re going to use pre-checked or unchecked boxes, says Lisa Harmon of Smith-Harmon. Retail Email Takeaway: I highly recommend getting an affirmative opt in, which means using a pre-checked box with double opt-in or an unchecked box with single opt-in. If they check an unchecked box, then there’s no reason to require a double opt-in confirmation.

Social Networking:
>>Consider overlaying social buzz monitoring with email marketing, says David Baker of Razorfish.
>>Share with your network (SWYN) is creating a new kind of customer—one that may not buy but is valuable because of their social network, says Loren McDonald of Silverpop.

Metrics:
>>“The worst thing that ever happened to our industry is the open rate,” say McDonald. We should be focused on conversions. “No one is going to get a raise by increasing opens. The goal is revenue.”
>>We’ve done a poor job of explaining what the open rate is good for, says Morgan Stewart of ExactTarget.

Email Platform Consolidation:
>>Alaska Airlines had been sending bulk email from five different platforms. They are now consolidating on single, in-house appliance, says Melissa Shaw of Shaw Strategic.
>>Bank of America had 60 senders of bulk email sending from 30 different email platforms. They’re in the process of consolidating a lot of that sending, says Burton of Bank of America.

Funniest Moments:
>>David Daniels of Forrester Research was roasted in celebration of his 40th birthday. The loving jokes were too profane to repeat here, but video clips have been promised so keep an eye out.
>>Alex Williams of eROI joined the band and sang Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” during the Southwest cookout on Monday night.
>>Stan Rapp danced mockingly to Sobe’s Super Bowl ad, counting off the 6 million dollars wasted on the ad.

For more insights, impressions and happenings from the conference, check out my Twitter stream or see what all Twitterers were saying.
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