New research today reveals that UK companies are collecting personal and demographic data on their email subscribers but fail to use it.
The report, Creating Subscriber Experiences That Maximise Returns for UK Email Marketers, from Return Path, the world’s leading email deliverability services company, also shows that UK organisations are failing to follow email marketing best practice and risk generating spam complaints – even from subscribers who have specifically requested to receive messages. This can lead to ISPs blocking all messages from that organisation, significantly damaging the effectiveness of their email marketing strategies.
The report shows that 85 per cent of companies that collect personal data on subscribers fail to use this valuable information to make their marketing messages and offers more relevant to individuals.
Chair of the Benchmarking Hub of The Direct Marketing Association’s Email Marketing Council, and Return Path’s Channel Relationship Manager Richard Gibson said, ‘The Information Commissioner says that email marketers should only gather personal data if they’re going to use it. Information gathered should be “adequate, relevant and not excessive”.
‘In fact, personal data can be used to customise or even individualise message content. By fulfilling their obligation to use the personal information they’ve garnered, email marketers can send targeted messages and special offers to individual customers that will be more welcome and more likely to get a response.
‘Using data in this way engenders greater customer engagement, reduces unsubscriptions and generates more sales. Crucially, it also improves email deliverability by preserving a sender’s email reputation – the more personalised the message, the less likely it is to be marked as spam, and the greater the chance that subsequent messages get opened.’
Shunning Potential Customers
Furthermore, the report uncovers either a remarkable culture of complacency within the UK email marketing industry or a worrying level of deliverability failures of emails to subscribers. Return Path’s researchers failed to receive a single email from 39 per cent of the organisations they registered with during the five week study period.
In the real world, customers who are ignored or invisible to staff on the shop floor will either lose interest or take their business elsewhere. It’s no different online. It’s crucial to capitalise on consumer interest immediately.
Of those organisations that did send a marketing-related email within the timeframe of the study, only 14 per cent personalised the message in any way.
Return Path’s Senior Director of Response Consulting, Margaret Farmakis, said, ‘Email is one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing and, when it is personalised towards individual consumers, it’s also one of the most effective.
‘Marketers should send a welcome message to arrive within 24 hours of sign-up to provide short-term reinforcement of the subscription, inspire customers to start browsing their site and reduce the chance that the subscriber will hit the spam button when the first regular email shows up. But if they neglect to ensure that their email is delivered and opened, all that effort and resource will have been in vain.
‘When an initial welcome message is personalised and delivered to a customer, it immediately establishes a relationship between the company and the subscriber, and enhances the sender’s reputation, thus ensuring that subsequent messages are not only delivered, but opened and acted on.
Sending a welcome message is also a simple and effective way of validating subscribers’ email addresses and ensuring they are correct, right at the beginning of the relationship. In times of recession, no marketer can afford to have emails go missing.’
Failure to Adopt Best Practice
The report also found that almost two out of every five companies made it difficult for customers to subscribe to their email marketing programme, requiring them to fill out lengthy online forms or to create their own subscriber account with user name and password. Many placed the subscription area “below the fold”, meaning that it is hidden from view and most users have to scroll down to see it.
And, in another departure from best practice, the 45 per cent of companies that managed to get their welcome messages delivered to the inbox uniformly overlooked the opportunity to show their subscribers their appreciation by including a special offer – which also helps to drive conversions.
Return Path’s Vice President, Sales and Client Services, Guy Shelton, said, ‘Giving subscribers a great email experience isn’t just “nice to do”; it’s an essential marketing best practice.
‘Following best practice is crucial for establishing and maintaining a good “sender reputation”, which ensures that emails from an organisation consistently make it to the inbox and, once delivered successfully, are opened and read.
‘The steps that organisations need to improve their sender reputation are quick and simple to take. Yet our researchers found that many companies are failing to adhere to email best practice that would help them build strong subscriber relationships, experience better deliverability, increase conversions and improve return on investment (ROI).’
Return Path’s Creating Subscriber Experiences That Maximise Returns for UK Email Marketers report monitored the email practices of 69 UK-based email marketers across five industries. Researchers subscribed to individual firms’ email marketing programmes and provided all necessary personal and demographic data as part of the registration process.
Founded in 1999, Return Path helps commercial email senders get more email delivered to the inbox. Our tools and services give senders the insight and resources to diagnose and prevent email deliverability and rendering failures by improving and maintaining their email sending reputations. Our Professional Services division then helps our client improve ROI and response by creating consistent and compelling subscriber experiences across the email customer lifecycle. Return Path runs the internet’s most widely used third-party whitelist, the Return Path Certification Program. Return Path also invented the Sender Score, an email reputation measure based on data contributed by ISPs and other receivers of large volume email into the Return Path Reputation Network. We offer free access to our Sender Score to any sender, receiver or consumer of email at our reputation portal: www.senderscore.org. Information about Return Path can be found at returnpath.com.