From Blast Emails to a Scientific Segmented Strategy
Segmentation and personalization have a dramatic positive effect on email marketing ROI. In this Webinar, you will learn to rewire your complete email strategy in 8 steps, to achieve a scientifically measured segmented approach.
– [Yoav] Hi, everybody, and welcome to today’s webinar. We’re going to be speaking about how to go from blast email to a scientific segmented strategy. I’m Yoav Susz, I’m going to be your host for today’s webinar and I’m speaking on behalf of Optimove together with eTail. And to start off, I’m going to ask our panelists to introduce themselves, so, Kristy, over to you.
– [Kristy] Hello, everyone. Just a little background about myself, I’ve worked at Silver Star Brands, formerly Miles Kimball Company for many years. If anyone is unfamiliar, Silver Star Brands consists of six distinct brands, Miles Kimball, Walter Drake, Easy Comforts, As We Change, Native Remedies, and Exposures. And of my 15-plus years in marketing, the last seven have been spent primarily focused on growing and automating our email programs. And on top of that, recently my role has expanded to include developing a more strategic pricing and promotion strategy for our websites. Thank you.
– [Brad] That leaves me. My name is Brad Wilson, I’m currently working as a digital marketing manager here at Robbins Brothers. We are the engagement ring store, and that’s our specialty. We have 15 stores in about 4 states, and prior to that, come with about, you know, 10 to 11 years of experience kind of in the general digital space, building out campaigns with a customer-centric view with value-adds that enable businesses to have kind of a more holistic insight into the customer outlook.
– Once again, as I’ve mentioned, my name is Yoav Susz and I am the director of business development for Optimove. A few words about Optimove, so we were a company which was founded back in 2009, and we’re a science-first relationship marketing hub that drives measurable growth by autonomously generating insights that power engagement at scale. Essentially, we work with consumer-facing brands, primarily in retail, we work with companies like Stitch Fix, Glossier, Ador Me, 1-800-Flowers, Paul Stuart, and about 250 other customers, helping them all power their engagement strategy in a more scientific way, in a more emotionally intelligent way. Before we jump into the actual panel questions, if anybody’s new to ON24 where we’re having our webinar today, it should be pretty self-explanatory, but you’ve got some windows around, you have your Q&A window, you’ve got your Live View, you can minimize, maximize, and of course, submit any questions that you might have to the panel as we go forward.
How to Segment for Email Marketing
And from there, I think I’m going to jump into our first question of the day, and the first question starts around customer segmentation. So, how are you guys currently segmenting your customers for email marketing?
– I think for us in the engagement space, we’re fortunate to have a very distinct opportunity to look at customers from a life stage basis. We sell engagement rings as well as moving into wedding bands and then jewelry space in general, so it gives us very distinct life stages to kind of start to concentrate on. And starting with the engagement ring space, it gives us a definitive start point for us to begin our journey with the customer and follow them. And then from there, moving into the purpose for how you utilize those different life stage initial segmentations, looking at the campaign level and coming up with a big idea and what does that mean for each of those different segments. So for example, in April we had “Diamond Month” and you look at diamonds and you look at engagement rings, well, that’s a very definite space for where diamonds make sense, but what does it mean for the wedding band customer?
And then defining what that communication stream is going to be for that particular customer, then moving into… we call that our “After I do” customer or “Anytime” jewelry customer and what does that mean for them and defining what that communication stream is going to be there. And from there, we move into different sub-segmentations based more on opportunity status. We do have our brick-and-mortar stores as well as a digital space and we have the ability to kind of pass back and forth and build these customer relationships, so we try to work in terms of setting up where we are in a customer’s opportunity status, I guess, if you will, whether we’re opening up the opportunity, whether we’re working in a nurturing state, we’re getting towards a close nature or whether we need to transition them to the new life stage and those are all different sub-segmentations of our primary basis.
– Got it. And, Brad, if I understand correct, does that mean that kind of the entry point for the segmentation is on a product-basis where there might be, you know, diamond, where you call “Diamond Month,” or it might be a certain kind of time of year where you’re looking at a certain maybe type of product or type of category that you guys are engaging in and then you’re trying to find the right segments which are going to be the best fit for that type?
– Yeah, I mean, product interest is definitely a good kick-starter because we have, you know, engagement rings, you start to do a lot of research in the product, so we have a lot of indicators from a digital perspective to really kind of kick off that relationship. We’ve started campaigns recently where we’re trying to engage people during the relationship phase of their relationships so that we can kind of identify and follow and get to know them and get them introduced to the brand there. But we’re kind of in a nuanced space where we can’t really make people fall more in love and want to buy an engagement ring because we said so, so the best we can do is kind of work to engage and support the relationship phases, you know, with their partner. Especially, you know, the product category like you mentioned, that interest level is the kickoff for us to be able to start putting them into segments.
– I think maybe that’s an opportunity to collaborate with Tinder or something to make people fall in love, but maybe that’s the topic for another panel altogether. Kristy, do you have any thoughts on segmenting your customer through email marketing?
– I do and we segment slightly differently than Brad does. Ours is more focused on activities like on-site activities. For example, if you sign up for an email, we send you a welcome message, if you abandon a cart, we send you an abandoned cart email, after you place an order, we send you a post-purchase series, if you’re close to falling off of our list, we send a reactivation series with very enticing offers to get you to come back. We also segment at the product level or the category level. In total, we probably have 30-plus segments and we’re continuing to add on those all the time. As we see different behavior within our customers, we’re looking to add a different message to bring that out to…to get them to either open and click or get another order from them.
And then I just want to throw it, too, that we still do blast emails probably two to three per week per brand. But for us, they account for…our blast account for 95% of our circulation and only, like, half of our revenue, so we are way more focused on adding additional triggers than we are doing better, bigger blast emails. That’s about all I have, I mean, I could list off our triggers, but there’s too many.
– Kristy, I wanted to ask, so you mentioned that you kind of trigger things when people are about to fall off your list, so I wanted to ask, what does that usually look like for you? How are you guys defining somebody that might be about to fall off a list?
– So, in that series, we start…because if we’re not getting a click within three months of a purchase or a sign-up, typically that person is not engaged. So then, at that point, we start, and then for nine months, we have a series of messages with our best offer to try to get them back engaged and clicking and coming to our site and browsing because then that will then trigger other emails to get them back to our site as well.
The Evolution of Segmentation Strategies Over Time
– Got it. Got it. Great. If we move on to the next question here, can you describe… I think Kristy, let’s kick it off with you, can you describe a little bit how that’s evolved? So you mentioned that today you still do a significant portion of blast but you’re focusing more and more on trigger-based emails, so can you talk us through a little bit about that evolution and how that segmentation strategy has kind of come about over time, what were the key things that you learned and made you kind of maybe adjust direction a little bit?
– Definitely. So until about four years ago, the majority of our emails were blast campaigns and they accounted for 80-plus percent of our email revenue. At that time, we had also paid an agency to execute the setup of our messages and then at that point, due to rising costs, we decided to hire additional resources internally and manage the entire house on our own. I mean, we’re still using an ESP but it’s more cost-effective for us to have the employees here setting it up than to pay an agency. And then, at that time, because of the shift, we set a goal for ourselves to move to a more personalized experience for our customers and to shift 50% of our demands…all right, and to go from 80% on blast emails to 50% on blast emails and then have 50% of our demand coming from our triggers, because in our world, the trigger message…
Then I guess I should just say, our trigger message is a message resulting from some sort of action our customer made. And then we took this approach knowing that we would save time on execution as well because we had… I mean, now we have internal resource is doing it, they’re not unlimited, we have to make sure that we have someone to do it. And again, once triggers are set up, the list is generated automatically and they’re mailed on demand, so we don’t need people always working on those, as long as nothing breaks, of course, I should throw out there. And then, last year we went even further and partnered with a company to track on-site behavior and send very targeted, very timely site behavior-based trigger messages. And then, at this point, I’m elated to say that we accomplished our goal actually several years ago and it’s getting even better, but triggers account for more than 50% of our total email revenue, which is huge for us.
– Brad, how is your evolution look like?
– Yeah, I mean, our history’s actually been even more short-tailed than that, just less than a year ago we’ve been much more in the batch-and-blast kind of phase where everything has kind of been either ad hoc or campaign-focused based on what company response recalls for. So, you know, we have a sales event or promotions. But nothing really from a planned-out state and, you know, it was a very cautious kind of strategy in terms of how we engage with individuals. Everything was kind of taken to the extent of just worrying it more about the negative aspects of what can be accomplished through our campaign, trying to eliminate people from potentially opting out or those types of things, you know. And coming over here kind of revamping throughout this year, we’ve gotten much more on a predictive life stage base model, kind of as I was saying, with our, you know, with the segmentation strategy where we’re trying to make our promotional plans much more planned out ahead of time, but thinking about it through the life stage models.
In just that period of time, basically throughout the first half of this year, we’ve tripled the amount of emails that we sent out throughout just even a half a year of last year…or the whole year last year and we’ve had little negative recourse because people have just been…the communications have just been much more targeted in terms of the content that’s going to the customer. And where we’ve seen even more impact there is starting to move towards much more of a communication model where we’re much more close to the brand tenets that we have, getting into a more one-to-one space, being much more customer-centric and the kind of that reactive stage model where, you know, people who are interested in events or promotions, or a particular ring in our case, or they might need education, for example, we’re identifying those different life stages for each of the different segments and what they’re in.
And so, being able to identify that X customer needs to have more education on, “What it means to buy a diamond?” Versus another customer that maybe is more of a, you know, person who’s more interested in the dream aspects of a ring and figuring out, they just need to be served content that is more around finding styles that they like and serving up nurturing streams in that regard. And that jump has allowed us to increase our…our click-through rate has been the biggest impact, seeing two to five times higher than we’ve ever seen before, having a more engaged customer. And so, that’s led us now to a stage where we’re able to be in a much more engaging place where we can kind of be more reactive and customer-led with our customers and kind of actually play with them to a degree as well, even, and that’s increased our open rates by just being much more reactive in real-time contextual, to a stage where we’re getting 50% open rates and click-through rates have been just huge conversions in terms of the time on site and how they’re engaging with us.
– That’s very interesting. That’s also kind of consistent with what we’re seeing with a lot of departments that we work with that the…actually, the smaller the group which is receiving an email, the better the results that we’re seeing. So I think that, you know, a lot of people are very often sometimes concerned with moving away from batch-and-blast into these more segmented, they’re worried about, you know, the cost that it’s going to incur and the time that it’s going to take but what I think we’ve been able to see, and I think that’s what I’m hearing from you as well, is that if you are able to become kind of more and more targeted, more and more responsive, more and more granular in the way that you’re communicating with your customers, we actually tend to see that that provides much greater results, you know, on any metric that you are measuring.
– Exactly. And I think one of the things that’s made that possible is, we’ve put in a lot of groundwork to be able to listen to the customer in terms of what they’re doing, both, you know, what they’re doing and how they interact with emails, but in other channels as well, both from our online digital and our brick-and-mortar stores as well. So being able to be reactive in an omni-channel approach and always listening to the customer really gives us those opportunities.
– Awesome. Kristy, anything you want to add here before we move on?
– Nope, not at this point.
Email Campaign KPIs And Measuring the Effects of Segmentation
– Great, so I think that leads us to kind of the next question which is measurement. And, Brad, I think that you started touching upon this, you were measuring open…you were talking about open rates and click-through rates and I think I do really curious to hear from both of you, and, Kristy, maybe you can kick us off talking a little bit about what are the KPI, how are you guys looking at email campaigns, what are the things that you guys are monitoring and how you’re kind of implementing that and measuring that across campaigns and across time.
– Yeah, I think, I mean, everyone looks at this…oh, sorry, did you want to go?
– You can go ahead, I’ll let you go.
– Okay. Well, I think, I mean, everyone looks at the standard kind of KPI, open rates, click-through rates, one of the things that I kind of look as a bigger indicator is the click-to-open rate because this really kind of tells a story of exactly…the people who did engage with the email, what exactly are they doing? And so, that kind of gives you the insights that you need from an optimized standpoint to make sure that your campaigns are working for you and that people are doing what you want to do. You know, we look also from a kind of a going beyond just the standard KPIs and looking at the holistic approach, like I mentioned coming at it from an omni-channel standpoint, what does email mean to the impact of the overall digital engagement score as well as what their physical store is?
And so we start to score different categories of engagement, be able to give the insights that you need in terms of what the values are of that individual customer so that you can kind of then identify how you can bucket them into further segments, get further, deeper-defined and those start to lead into elements where you can start to get into lifetime value statements and, you know, also looking at the quality of site traffic, which customers are your most efficient customers, and starting to build out models for them that like models so that you can impact other elements of your business as well.
– Kristy, do you want to weigh in?
– Yes, so we measure all of those were very similar metrics as well and some of the other things that we take a look at, specifically with some of the more on-site stuff that we’ve done in the last year is kind of watching how as we’re tagging people coming to our sites, how much the cookie behavior, how much you know the repeat business from your customers is increasing year over year. Because last year when we were just starting out on some of these campaigns, I mean, we’re seeing 100-plus percent growth year over year and it’s watching the…what that does to your business just knowing that if someone’s been to your site and coming back and knowing all of the other different messages that they’re now going to receive that they wouldn’t have before because you didn’t have the tracking in place. So that’s just something that’s been really big for us.
Some of the other things that we think about, too, when we’re looking at these messages is the promotional cost savings because they’re automated for the most part. After they’re set up, there’s not a ton of time or money because, I mean, the cost to send an email is very cheap. And then we also look at our unsub rates because, as we get more personalized, our unsub rates naturally are going down which is something that, you know, we’re very leery of when we’re sending a ton of blast emails during the holiday season.
– And I wanted to ask you both, so I think that one of the best practices that we’ve seen has been also trying to go beyond those metrics and trying to understand revenue, trying to understand incremental revenue and uplift, trying to attribute to email campaigns and marketing campaigns in general whether they made a difference. So I wanted to know, have you guys been dabbling in that, have you been trying out using kind of statistical testing in any shape or form to understand uplift metrics for email?
– Yeah, I mean, from our standpoint of Robbins Brothers, it kind of goes into looking at that holistic approach and kind of just figuring out the piece in the whole through a more long-tailed journey for us, you know, buying an engagement ring is a three-to-five-month process potentially and, you know, being able to just attribute what email really means in terms of a larger picture of the customer’s journey. And so, being able to identify those value propositions and the role of it and then how it can feed into the different omni-channel options for, you know, communication and then just using those to be able to listen to the customer as well and set up campaigns that allow you to learn more about what those insights are so that you can be more agile with the rest of your communications.
– Brad, can you share a little bit about how you guys are listening? You talked about kind of listening to your customer over email, so is there anything that you can share that you guys have done which has proved to be kind of effective when it comes to picking up on a certain signal from customers and how that’s altered the way you engage with them?
– Yeah, I think, you know, just looking at where people go through the different particular…we look at the different categories that we set up in communications, right? And we have, you know, lifestyle, products, news, inspirational-type of communications. And purposely setting up emails so that you are going to be learning something very contextual about each individual customer every time they click on something or they interact with an email, and then understanding what they’re going to be doing throughout the rest of their journey.
And so, we use our insights programs here to be able to identify, you know, any action that can be tracked digitally, and it all gets scored into an overall scoring model. And so, email feeds into particular categories that are also getting set into by other actions both digitally and physically. And by being able to look at the overall score, you’re following the actual customer behavior and looking at what their actual journey is and not just concentrating on a single channel but looking at it holistically. And so we feed into the…we listen based on, you know, basically human behavior or insights and think of that first and how each of these channels can kind of feed into that. And so when we respond, we can learn what each of these channels means to the customer and how they use them and continue to kind of change those from those formats. Hopefully, that kind of answers…
– It does, it does. And, Kristy, have you guys seen something similar? Are you kind of looking at comparisons and uplift? You mentioned lift earlier, but kind of understanding how things are working, are you employing kind of any sort of statistical analysis on your emails right now? Have you found it to be effective at all? What are kind of the tricks of your trade which have helped you guys as you’ve gone to this more and more personalized strategy?
– That’s a tough question to answer. So, as much as I’d love to say we’re doing that, I think, from our perspective as a cataloger, we’re seeing traffic from the catalog decreasing to the site but we’re seeing email stable. So for us, it looks like because we are capturing more of the activity of the customers, we’re able to get them to come back to the site, whereas if they were just getting a catalog, they wouldn’t because we’ve had them at our site before we’re kind of recouping some of what we wouldn’t have, because the book isn’t getting them to come to the website as much, if that makes sense.
– Yeah, it does, absolutely. And I think when you kind of think about your segmentation strategy, can you maybe talk a little bit about what the effects have been? I mean, even if you can give us some high- level metrics of going from the more blast strategy to these more and more targeted emails, how has that actually made an impact and kind of really proven itself in your case?
– For us, I mean, just the time savings alone, we went from…oh my goodness. The majority of our time was on setting up just blast campaigns to mail and now we’re actually doing more analysis and we’re being more thoughtful about our campaigns and just everything…when we think about things, we think about targeted. We don’t think about, you know, what promotion we’re going to send to everybody, it’s, “Okay, what does this group of customers want?” Or, “How do we make sure that our unsub rate isn’t increasing because, you know, we’re sending the same message over and over?” Because sometimes, I don’t know about everyone else, but it’s hard to come up with new things, and that’s the nice part about having triggers is, you don’t necessarily have to come up with all these new ideas for blast campaigns all the time, which has been a huge help for us.
– So was that kind of a lot of paradigm shift entirely and literally in the way that you guys were thinking about email?
– Correct, yep.
How to Optimize your KPIs
– Great. Anything else that you guys want to add on to measurement before we move on to our next topic? Great. So how do you optimize your campaign KPIs? I think that that’s a question which a lot of people are thinking about. Kristy, can you kick us off here?
– Yes. So we optimize by… I’d say some of the typical things, we update the messages, the creative elements, the offers, any call-outs, the frequency. And sometimes if we see a message that’s doing really well, we will add touches. For example, our abandoned carts, it’s two and now we’re in the process of saying, “If your cart size is under $20, you’re going to get this promotion. If it’s $24, it’s this. If it’s over $100, you’re going to get this promotion,” just getting as specific as possible and trying to get actually the most profitability out of a customer as well because if someone’s willing to spend, you know, $100, I mean, they deserve more than someone who’s going to spend $20.
– How did you pick those numbers? Just out of interest. So you mentioned kind of $20 and $24, what was the process and timing that you guys decided on, what are the kind of offers that somebody should get based on the size of their cart, how did you think about that?
– Yes, it goes to the cost to package and shipping order, so we need to recoup the cost more on a $20 order than we do on a $100 order. So at what point…at what cost you need to recoup at each order size and that’s how we determined it.
– Got it. Brad, can you share a little bit about your campaign KPIs and how you’ve been optimizing them?
– Yeah, I think, you know, the biggest use for the KPI for us has been to influence the content both from a planned and reactionary standpoint. I think we kind of take an approach where we try to, like, to think of it as if we’re a news agency, right? And you have a certain amount of news stories that you have planned and in the can to be able to do but then you have to also have to be reactionary and that involves back to that listening statement that I was kind of touching on earlier, and we need to be able to respond to what your customers are doing or acting.
And so, for us that’s, you know…some of it might be triggers in terms of, you know, converting into the store for an appointment so that they can go buy their ring but also just listening to them and trying to feed into their wants and dreams when it comes to the inspirational type of messages. But for us, finding all the KPIs to figure out what that content is going to be and you’re kind of touching back to the idea of looking at segments and letting them decide what that content is going to be as opposed to coming up with big, huge promotional plans ahead of time. In our life stage-based business, you know, you get engaged once, in theory, and you go through that life stage and then you go through the next stage of your life, so we can kind of have a refresh of segments coming through that don’t necessarily repeat the same process. And so, it makes it easy for us to kind of use these insights to better build our model continually moving forward. And also allows us to be flexible and testing, be agile with what we’re doing so that we can go ahead and try a few new things so that the next batch that comes through that has a new influence with our company or a new interaction with our company, they can be, you know, they can take advantage of the learning from the previous set.
Also looking at from a business insight perspective beyond email, using email as a testing ground really in the segmentations to each one of these groups and identifying what their goals and objectives are, help to identify different opportunities throughout the business that might help improve things like operations or, you know, our general web activity or even product influence and what type of product we need to stock into our stores. And just kind of looking at it from that perspective and what insights we can gain…well, to optimize the impact of what email can have beyond from a consumer perspective. – And when you look at your kind of email KPIs, I think one of the things that we have seen which is very effective is now obviously measuring different KPIs for different campaigns and especially for a business like yours where, you know, the buying cycle, as you mentioned, is three to five months before somebody picks an engagement ring, so I think it’s probably useful for you guys, or what we’ve seen that’s been useful for other brands which work in your industries or other high-consideration goods, has been trying to optimize different KPIs because obviously, you know, you can’t be measuring direct revenue necessarily from email for you, but you want to understand content and you want to understand how content is feeding into other KPI.
So I think that are you guys taking an approach…both Kristy and you, Brad, are you guys taking the approach which is measuring different KPIs for different campaign, are you consciously thinking that, you know, “For this campaign, maybe I’m not as interested in understanding how this has influenced revenue directly, but rather, I want to be looking at, you know, how it influenced the consumption of content or how this has influenced the time on site,” for example, or anything of that sort?
– Yeah, absolutely. I think we’re starting to get a much more of an entertainment space, too, and not just always trying to sell, particularly for that reason because we’re measuring the value of engagement and what that means, you know, and kind of…if you want to call it “putting a dollar value” to any click or whatnot and what that actually means. That’s a continually evolving process, but essentially, you know, putting a value to what each measurement or each touch point means within a customer’s journey with you and how that leads into the lifetime value plus awareness plus referral business opportunities and what those opportunities would mean for, you know, trying to develop new campaigns that may not even be existing as well.
– Interesting. I mean, Kristy, your business is obviously much more on a recurring basis. People, you know, buy your goods more often, but are you guys kind of seeing something similar? Are you thinking about kind of how, you know, different email campaigns are playing into different KPIs and how they influence kind of that bigger picture side of things?
– We definitely are. One of the things that we’ve actually changed more recently than not because of this is, we had our customer service emails mailing out of our ERP, and with that, we didn’t have visibility of who was opening and clicking in the ad space on that so we… I mean, it took us a little bit of a push but we were able to move those to our ESP just because we could record the opens and clicks on those customers and then…I mean, we knew they were going to click, but they weren’t going to place another order from them, but we knew that that would keep them active because those are the most open-and-click emails, it would just keep them on our active list longer. So we are definitely trying to make sure with everything we’re doing is that we’re thinking about how we just keep these people active on our list.
– Got it. And how effective has it been for you guys and are you guys doing this kind of looking at the results and trying to decipher whether you can learn something from the actual result, saying, “Maybe there’s a subgroup of people here which are reacting differently?” You know? For example, what we saw with one of our customers in the fashion space is that they were able to identify that, you know, a certain email that they had been sending out to a cart abandoner with, you know, over action that cart was particularly relevant to a subgroup of people. You know, it’s particularly relevant to people which usually buy from a certain category. Are you guys looking at those kind of things today when you think about how to keep growing your triggered email base and your segmented email campaigns?
– From our perspective, we are definitely constantly looking at those types of things and adding and tweaking campaigns based on that. Anytime we see a win, because, I mean, when you…those things show up very clearly and we’re very reactive to that.
– Got it. Got it.
– Yeah, I think, you know, from our perspective, we have certain emails that are kind of… I wouldn’t call them…well, they’re basically meant to go out and trigger just some sort of action or engagement just for the sake of giving us some insights to other programs that we’re needing, that may go as simple as just reactivating a non-active user within our database all the way to just trying to incite some sort of action and triggers that will help our sales associates in store to know once that person does come from the digital environment to the in-store, that they have some sort of insight on what that customer needs or wants, and so that they can be more effective and personalized when they come into store.
When Things Get Complicated – Segmentation Overlap and Various Customer Journeys
– Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So I think the next question here, kind of right now we’ve been talking a lot about the smooth sailing and optimizing and doing all of those kind of nice things. And I think what we want to touch on now is about what happens when things get complicated, and I think that one of the things that we’re constantly hearing from our partners is a pain point, you know, and one that they’re trying to get around has been how to deal with segment overlap. So how to deal with the fact that you guys might have, you know, numerous different drip campaigns running or triggered campaigns running and how do you guys manage all of the segment overlap, how do you deal with kind of customers which might be eligible for a few different campaigns at a given point? How do you prioritize and understand what’s the right thing to send to each customer? Brad, do you want to kick us off?
– Sure. In a sense of what we kind of built out is our kind of digital ecosystem in terms of communications where we take into account all the promotional, more push-oriented messages that we have and then the one-to-one communications that are much more pull or trigger-based, and those are the ones that take priority, is the one-to-one. But when you look at the idea of suppression, we want to make sure that we can control, you know, what we want to push out from a company perspective in any campaigns that we have going on, but we want to prioritize anything that’s customer-centric. And so those are the ones that take priority when we look at, you know, frequencies, you know, to make sure that we’re not over-communicating.
But as I kind of mentioned before, you know, I think we haven’t seen any negative connotations with sending out more communications to individuals in our own individual perspective, and I think it’s just because we try to remain contextual to the life stage needs of each individual customer. Even still, setting up that model so we’re not overdoing it, I guess, if you will, and we’re not communicating different messages as well, trying to promote those nurturing messages that are most relevant, the ones that we’ve identified to being most relevant to the cycle that leads to an actual conversion to sale and looking at those as the optimized ones, those that are most likely to build into the clothes of our opportunities, if you will, and then adding on to those extra would be, you know, promotional email. So looking at from that stages is the best way we’ve gone to ensure that, you know, consumers aren’t getting too many communications, not getting overburdened.
– And is that mostly done kind of by manual prioritization by you guys? Do you have some sort of automated process to decide kind of what’s going to be, let’s say, in the triggered world and the more personalized kind of arena, what’s going to supersede what, what’s going to suppress the other, is that something that you guys are doing manually? Is that something which is automated on your end?
– Yeah, I mean, manually, from a planning standpoint, but it’s automated beyond that. And so, you know, we look at the different types of communications that we send and we have all those kind of categorized and each one of them gets assigned basically a value in terms of their priority level. And so, like I said, the promotional emails are the nice ones to have that are push communications from the brand, but the one-to-one communications that are most relevant to the life stage nurturing programs that are going to close a sale, and then there’s, like, the triggered ones in-between those, you know, the sign-up for an email, just like the abandoned cart type of communications, those kind of fit in- between that kind of need to happen either way. But, yeah, so we assign a priority level based off the categorization of the programs that we’re sending out.
– Got it. Kristy, how are you kind of dealing with all of this question of overlaps and all of these journeys and how to make sure that everybody’s getting the right message for them at the right time?
– To be honest, right now everyone’s getting everything that they qualify for. Not best practice but we are actually in the process of determining the priority, we recently…we have the ability in our system to do it which we didn’t have before. It wasn’t the easiest thing, so we just defaulted to letting everyone have everything because at one point we tested that and sales dropped a lot. So, we couldn’t afford it. So now we will be literally in the next month figuring this out, but I think we’re going to take an approach similar to what Brad’s doing because that’s what feels like the best thing for the customer from our perspective as well, is, “You know what, if they made an action, they should get that before anything else.” But yeah, there are other things that might…during the holiday season if we have a really great blast campaign, that will probably take precedence over anything at that point. But, you know, other than that, if they signed up, they should get the welcome email before any other thing, which…or let’s get them back to the site. But yeah, I mean, that’s what we’re doing right now and honestly, I can’t wait till we get away from sending everyone everything because, I mean, I get it’s not the best experience, but it’ll be really telling to see how much better our customer experience is after we stop doing what we’re doing with that.
– I think that, you know, one of the best practices that we’ve experienced here with many of our partners is really being doing that, you know, slowly but surely. So I think, in many cases, it’s not a question of overnight going from a blast campaign mentality or “Everybody qualifies for everything” mentality to highly segmented because, as you mentioned, you want to be very, very careful and sometimes if you take the wrong step and that influences sales too directly, that can be obviously very detrimental to the business. And one of the, you know, good practices that we’ve had has been looking at the larger campaigns and starting to split off groups slowly but surely from there, starting to take people out of the larger groups while keeping that kind of blast campaign running but keeping to segment smaller and smaller groups, splintering them off, focusing kind of the iterations. And I think that with a lot of our partners, we’ve seen them go from, you know, having maybe 3, 4, 5 different campaigns which are being sent out on a weekly or a monthly basis, going up to 30, 40, and 50 but that always has to be done in a gradual way, so there’s no kind of overnight silver bullet solution. And I think that, you know, using that, we’ve seen a lot of people really be able to increase their key KPIs. So I think that leads us into…
– I personally really agree with that.
– Slowly but with agility?
– Yeah, I mean, just always be agile, be testing and just keep in mind that, you know, we’re just a bit and a piece of, you know, the customer’s daily life. We’re not the end-all be-all. And so, an extra email here and there isn’t going to destroy someone, you know, it singularly isn’t likely going to destroy, you know, the relationship with the brand. And so, just being willing to go out there and test and gradually grow and learn from that, so I agree with you.
– I mean, that’s a really good point that I want to maybe just take a few more minutes on. How many tests do you guys run? I mean, are you guys testing often, are you testing for everything, are you using kind of every email or are you kind of looking for a solution, seeing that something’s working then doubling down on it, or are you continuing to test as time goes on?
– Yeah, I mean, I don’t send any email out that doesn’t have some sort of aspect that I’m testing, whether they’re moving the button here versus there or a subject line this personalization matter, all the way up to creating a campaign just for the sheer sake of testing something, literally just for the sake of learning for the, you know, always looking at kind of the endgame and trying to optimize for the long run. So continuing, like I said, an agile learning environment to the extent we don’t want to compromise the, you know, customer’s experience, but if we’re not learning in every single aspect that we’re doing something, then I feel like we’re missing out on an opportunity to continually grow.
– I think that that also goes back to this kind of question of exploration versus exploitation, right? I mean, you test something and if you see that it’s working then you want to keep doing it and you might know what…you might want to stop testing, right? You might want to say, “This is working. If it’s working, let’s not break it,” right? Let’s not try and do anything which might cause any sort of damage. But on the other hand, you know, maybe there’s an opportunity to get even better, to find more value, to find something which is going to resonate more with the customer. So I feel that it’s also always kind of a very delicate balance to be able to walk between those two, between this exploration and exploitation, finding that right mixture is often kind of a really big driver to success in email marketing.
– So I think that now I want to kind of ask you guys how you see email and all of the other channels that work with it. And, Kristy, I’m going to ask for your thoughts here, what are the other channels that you’re complementing your email strategy with, how is it working for you guys internally? Are you thinking about multi-channel campaigns? Are you tending to treat each channel as their own kind of separate marketing plan? Are you looking at integrating them?
– We are. And actually, with my new role working on pricing and promotion optimization, I will be studying a lot…with a team, I will be studying the promotions and basically what each team’s going to focus on throughout the month, so that is definitely something that we are looking forward to doing. We had been up until now pretty siloed, each team would manage their…at points, we would have messages that would go across channel, but for the most part, you know, each channel leader kind of knows what works for them so we would just let them go ahead with that, but now we are going from more offer-based promotions to product-based promotions which means that we all kind of need to be on the same page if we’re pushing a group of products versus saying, “The entire site is on sale.” So we’re working through that at this point.
– Got it. Brad?
– Yeah, I think you’ve talked about cross-channel, you know, some of the biggest opportunities that we have is the integration of brick-and-mortar versus digital environments, and so email is a very significant trigger point for both and it offers personalization as well as contextual campaign opportunities and be able to pass that back and forth. And so we have our internal CRM programs here that allow us to do that. And so we can send a sales associate who owns an opportunity per se, an email that says…or a trigger, if you will, that tasks them to say, “Give someone a call because they were just hanging out on our finance page.” And so, they’ve had an opportunity that’s been open for a certain period of time and it looks like they’re going to be interested in financing their ring as opposed to, you know, paying for it outright, so maybe you want to talk to them as an opportunity to close the sale and tell them about the recent finance options that we have.
Similarly, we use the same insights to kind of help continue conversations and drive engagement through social as well using the insights, you know, that we’re connecting both from kind of a macro level that we’re looking at what’s working in email and what our customer engagement, talking going back to that scoring model, what types of value statements are there that within particular segments, but also just from a campaign perspective and also how we engage with customers. And then also passing over information to our customer service and using all these different life stage bases to help them deal with customers from that perspective, that kind of goes in line similar to what we were kind of talking about with our brick-and-mortar complement to our communication stream. And as we continue to grow in a space from an e-commerce perspective of trying to be agile in terms of the personalized offers that we can offer from that perspective and how the web also interacts with individuals based on their previous activity with us, where we see them in their life stage, maybe they’re at the beginning and they need to be more educated to, say, buy a diamond versus at the end, being able to prioritize what the site serves up to them as well, being reactive from there.
So it just kind of all feeds to this omni-channel approach where everything’s kind of feeding into this scoring model, if you will, to help customize the personalization available at every step of the way.
– Yeah, absolutely, and I think that we’ve seen, with the research that we’ve done with our, you know, 250 other brands that we work with, the multi-channel campaigns or being able to meet the customer in the channel that they’re most, you know, likely to respond on or the one that they prefer and making sure they’re able to reinforce messages by having the same group of people targeted with an email, and then for them seeing that same kind of campaign on Facebook, or Instagram, or Snapchat, or Twitter, or whatever medium, you know, that they prefer most has really shown some really fantastic results and kind of feeds into that larger narrative. And I think that that brings us to…that’s a great segue into the future. So, Kristy, how do you envision the future of email marketing? Where is everything going?
The Future of Email Marketing
– From my perspective, I just see it continuing to become more and more targeted and personalized. From our perspective, our projects every year are primarily dedicated to data and how we automate and optimize and I don’t really see that changing because the more we hear of additional tools that are available, the more we want to integrate with things, so that’s kind of where I see it continuing to go.
– So, you’re not a believer that email is dying, email is still going to be king five years from now?
– I don’t know about king, but I think it’ll still be around. I hope.
– I think that, you know, we’ve seen that over the past years, every couple of months that comes up that somebody says that, you know, “Email is going away and something else is coming up,” but at the end of the day, pretty consistently across all of the brands that we work with, email is still the primary communication channel and the one which is providing the best results. And, Brad, do you kind of see similar things on your end?
– Yeah, I mean, I don’t see it going anywhere, perhaps with maybe just the role being fine, but it’s one of the best opportunities to be able to speak to someone almost on a one-to-one basis outside of just them coming into, say, a brick-and-mortar store. I see, as we move forward, content, the way it’s used, kind of evolving, almost more to a reactive rising state where things are more real-time, contextual, more conversational even and dynamic and interactive with the world around them and, you know, both in terms of the design of the email as well as the content in the email.
But even more so…and it’s probably what, you know, enables us to power that is, you know, kind of the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence and looking at data first plans to help strategize, you know, from a campaign level. Kristy was kind of touching on it earlier, looking at what is a particular segment’s goal or what’s their reason for being as opposed to campaigns and having the insights that can drive to those all be machine-learned through artificial intelligence. The game is going to get level playing field real quick and everyone’s going to have tons of insights, and so to be more strategic with what you’re doing with those insights is really going to be your defining advantage moving forward. You have to have a holistic view of the customer, to have cross-channel data and really recognize that email is going to be part in a whole, you know, through that whole ecosystem. And if you can identify that to help just push the customer’s experience through forward and in a cross-channel, omni-channel atmosphere, that’s kind of where I see the role going.
– Yeah, absolutely, and I think, you know, as a company that comes from the world of machine learning and artificial intelligence, I think the way that we look at it is, how do we make that the most accessible and actionable? Because at the end of the day, you know, machine learning and artificial intelligence are means to an end. Having artificial intelligence or having machine learning if it’s not relevant, if it’s not useable, if it’s not accessible is something which doesn’t provide that much value and I think that one of the ways that we look at this is, how can we use, you know, all of these sophisticated algorithms and all of this kind of machine learning to make it really useful, to actually make it useful for marketers so that they could take action, so that it can help them get that more holistic understanding of their customers, so that they can understand what they’re going to most, you know, respond to best or how can they create self-optimizing campaigns which can match each customer with the best action out of the ones that a company might have to offer at a given point in time and how can we kind of continuously learn about customers and listen to them, to your point earlier, Brad, listen to what they’re telling us both implicitly and explicitly and factor that back into all of the conversations that we’re having with the customer?
I think that the big change that we’re seeing is that email is moving away from being a monolog from brands to customers and becoming much more of a dialog both in terms of customers telling us what they want but also brands understanding what the customers expect from us and really, you know, moving at their speed and becoming more and more customer-centric as time goes on.
So, I think that that kind of brings us to the end of our questions or the questions that we pre-prepared, and I’m now going to take some questions that we have from our audience. So to kick us off, I’m going to take a question which is, “What was your process for transitioning from email blasts to trigger-based?” Kristy, can you kick us off?
Transitioning From Email Blasts To Trigger-Based
– Yes, we actually worked with our ESP and they helped us come up with a plan of just the different paths that we could go and then we worked with them to set it up systematically and then we turned them on. And as we turned them on, we tweaked things that we didn’t think were working and things that were working well we tried to add into them to see if we can make them work even better. But I mean, this was a couple of years ago so it was more…it was newer so we used their expertise to give us insight into what they thought we should do based on what they’d seen other clients do. And that’s how we approached it at that time. And even now, honestly, internally we kind of look what everyone else is doing and we’re like, “Okay, can we get to that data? Let’s set up that trigger,” and that’s kind of how we’re going forward since more and more people are doing them.
– Yeah, absolutely. Brad?
– Yeah, I think, you know, for us, it’s much more set up on a needs basis and trying…it begins with kind of predicting what a standard process would be for, say, buying an engagement ring, you go through, you know, big buyer and there you have an individual who’s buy the ring versus one who wants to find, you know, the ring of their dreams and predicting out what those models are and then trying to identify what particular triggers we can think of that would help move someone throughout those process and based on their needs, their emotional needs, their logical need forward. So then, you know, just kind of…it’s not as clear-cut, you know, as a standard e-com model, but more so kind of a combined model of, you know, traditional marketing model and then just trying to identify what digital triggers we can find throughout that process, did they click on the education page a ton of times? Okay, we know that they’re in the beginning portion of the process. Or did they click on the store page a whole bunch? Okay, they’re ready to make an appointment, let’s trigger, you know, a call to our store so that they can give this individual a call and invite them to come in for their special event or promotion that we’re having.
The Right Blend of Targeted, Triggered and Mass Blasts
– I think we have another question here which is kind of along the same vein, which is, “Can you speak more about what the right blend of targeted triggered and mass blasts should be?” And I think…you know, to weigh in there for a moment, I think that one of the things that we mentioned earlier is that nobody I think would know that not sending any blast emails is the right strategy, and I think that one of the things that we found, again, with most of our partners is that, you know, the weekend newsletter or the daily newsletter certainly has a place but I think that the objective is to find where can you start picking people off or where can you pick off small groups of people which are probably going to respond better to targeted or respond better to triggered. And I think that the concern with the question that’s been brought forward is that, you know, people understand the value of the targeted or the triggered campaigns but when it comes to moving the ROI needle when you have a bigger group, obviously, that’s going to create a bigger movement when it comes to moving the needle.
But I think that what we’ve learned, and I’d be curious to hear from you guys, Kristy and Brad, is that often it’s about accumulating a lot of small wins. So it’s how can you become more personalized, and if you could do that in an easy way, there’s still space for those blast emails, but having a lot of personalized emails, if it’s easy to do, it’s often going to bring together a lot of kind of small wins into one very large win. Have you guys experienced something similar? Kristy?
– No, I can’t agree with you more. I think, from our perspective, anything that’s based on site behavior is to me like a no-brainer, like, if they browsed your site and you’re not sending a message with the item that they browsed or if they saw something and then it’s went out of stock and it’s back in stock and you’re not sending them a message or, you know, if you’re almost running out of inventory, you send them a message, maybe it’ll trigger them to make that purchase sooner than they would have before. So I think, from my perspective, just the site-based ones, I don’t feel like…because we still do two to three blast emails per brand per week but all of these other ones are just enhancements of that because if they’re coming to the site through a blast email and they’re not closing the deal, these ones are turning on because they’ve come to the site and it’s those that are closing them that wouldn’t have necessarily closed them if we just did the blast emails.
The Most Innovative Or Unique Type of Trigger
– So we have an interesting one here and I’m going to let Brad answer this one first, but, “Do you have an example of the most innovative or unique type of trigger you’re using and how it helped and connected your customers?”
– Oh gosh. Yeah, I mean, for us, the more relevant it can get in a real-time status and so, for example, like, we haven’t done it yet, you know, for this particular go- around but we just had, you know, The Bachelorette just finished its series last night, right? And she got a wonderful ring, it’s probably cost more than what I make in a year but that’s inspirational to individuals. And setting up a campaign, we’ve done this in the past with great success, it’s very contextual and real-time to send out that, you know, something inspirational to people who are close to the funnel or, you know, wanting intrigue, both of it could be in a blast level, too, but basically using a real-time level event to help trigger some contextual relevance and bring real life into your brand, I guess, so to speak.
And so, it’s just kind of a unique way of combining what context is going on or content is going on outside of the world and bringing it home to what you’re doing and then also doing it in relevant and personalized way. We also do a ton of reactive event-type communications as well. So someone comes to a ring event that we have, emailing them during the event based off of insights that we see and how they’re interacting with our sales associates as well as follow-up straightening a letter from the store associate that they talked to while they were at the event. So, just closing the loop in those types of communications.
– Okay. Kristy, anything unique or any trigger which has been particularly kind of special and useful for you guys? Kristy?
– Sorry, was on mute. I don’t think that there’s anything that’s, like, special. We’re doing a lot of what…I would call it…would be a “traditional trigger message,” but I think, from our perspective just, again, the on-site stuff, the revenue that we’re picking up that we wouldn’t have probably picked up if we didn’t have those messages has been huge and the increase we’ve seen in the last year just moving to another company who’s tracking behavior on the web differently has been a tremendous help to our program.
– Got it. Okay, I think that we’ve kind of reached near the end of our time. So A, thank you, both Kristy and Brad, thanks so much for being here today, I thought this was particularly interesting. And I want to encourage everybody who’s attending if you’re planning to be out at eTail in Boston next week, you should come visit us at the Optimove booth 111, I promise to be there and I’m happy to continue the conversation about all of the stuff we’ve talked about today and maybe even more. And we’re also going to be hosting a reception on Tuesday at 8:30 at the House of Blues, and if anybody is interested, please feel free to drop an email to Tal, whose email you can see here on the screen, and you’ll be getting this deck afterwards as well. We’d love to see you there as well. So, Kristy, Brad, all the guys at eTail, thank you so much for your time today and thank you everybody for listening.