Month: July 2017

Relationships Are Hot; Acquisition is Not

Acquisition (n.) the act of gaining possession; the purchase of one business enterprise by another

Acquisition is an odd choice of word for marketers to use in reference to new subscribers. Would you introduce someone you’ve started dating as a new acquisition, or someone you possess? (I hope not!) It’s more likely that you would say he or she is a “significant other” or “special friend,” indicating a mutual and reciprocal relationship. Therefore, if it’s a relationship we’re entering into with our new customers, why do we describe it as “acquisition”?

Introduction. Connection. Network. Friend. Ally. Associate. Partnership. There are many other terms that more accurately capture what marketers are striving to achieve — gathering a group of like-minded individuals with a similar interest for mutual benefit.

With this perspective, let’s re-evaluate the crucial first phase of the marketer-subscriber relationship. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to reinvigorate your approach.

Introduction: Clear as Mud?
Retailers have a bad habit of hiding the opt-in disclosure during the sign-up process. It’s hidden in the general terms and conditions, glossed over by a sales associate, or left out altogether during checkout. First impressions are lasting, so properly introducing yourself to a potential new partner is vital. Be bold, be transparent and be confident in putting your best foot forward.

  • At the point of sale in brick-and-mortar locations, provide sales associates with a brief script. Include an invitation along with a brief highlight of what they will get as an email subscriber, such as frequency and content types. (Tell them if other brands will be mailing, too.) Keep the language on-brand and positive to drive interest. Then, follow up the store interaction with a confirmation email that reiterates all those same points.
  • Forty-nine percent of sign-ups are coming from mobile devices, yet mobile-entered data is twice as likely to have errors. Take proactive measures to capture accurate information, such as real-time email validation, which flags users to correct errant data immediately within the form. This avoids a “he stood me up” experience, with a new subscriber waiting on email they will never receive.

Connection: Is There a Spark?
Keep the momentum going post-introduction by intentionally fostering interest. The subscriber’s experience during the first 30 days will determine whether they will engage in a long-term relationship. Be thoughtful about how you interact in those first few weeks, with the goal of building trust and a solid foundation.

  • Welcome messages are common, and one in four retailers include a coupon in the first email. However, this may not be the most relevant experience, especially for those who are opted in during the purchase process. Instead, recognize their sign-up method and send content that’s relevant to that interaction. Rather than a coupon, perhaps it’s styling advice via an exclusive video or bonus loyalty points. Demonstrate that you’re paying attention — because they are.

Partnership: Is There Mutual Benefit?
No one wants to be in a one-sided relationship. Examine your message stream for warning signs: Is it all about what you get? Or is there a balance of give and receive? Do you listen or just scream the same thing over and over again?

  • Be intentional about designing the best experience for your new subscribers. Hyperpersonalization is on the rise, but even the simplest approach can wow recipients. Identify what makes you special and embrace that wholeheartedly. Your wow factor may be a fun personality, helpful resources or old-fashioned good manners. (A nice thank you never goes out of style!) At this early stage, it’s truly the thought that counts as you begin to nurture your fledgling relationship.

In this evolving email landscape that hinges more and more on engagement with your customers and subscribers, the term “acquisition” suddenly feels antiquated — but your approach doesn’t have to be. In order to foster customer loyalty and grow your purchasers into advocates, you need to facilitate a solid start to each new subscriber relationship. After all, there can’t be a happily ever after without a storybook beginning!

This post originally appeared on Total Retail.

Digital Marketing Conference in the “Mile High” City

We have been very busy here at Return Path with all of our events this year across North America. But on June 27-28 we will be staying close to home and participating in the Denver Digital Summit which will be held at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in downtown Denver. I am personally looking forward to this event as I reside in the Denver area and work out of our Broomfield office.

We are very excited to support this great event as we participated in two digital summits last year and they were first-class events. The Digital Summit provides amazing content, brilliant speakers and really productive networking for all attendees.

This year, Return Path will be a gold level sponsor for the event. We will be hosting a breakout session Email Re-Imagined which will be led by our own Tom Sather, Sr. Director of Email Research. This session will take place on Wednesday, June 28 at noon. If you can’t make the session, there will also be an opportunity to meet the Return Path team at our booth. Stop by, say hi, collect an ever popular fidget spinner, enjoy some gummy bears, and talk to our team. We hope you will consider joining us at this event!

New Research: How Does Reputation Impact Deliverability?

Mailbox providers are very selective with what they let in the inbox. To judge whether or not to deliver messages to the inbox, each mailbox provider has created their own sender reputation calculation to evaluate an incoming sender and their mail.

At Return Path, we’ve created our own scoring system—Sender Score—that evaluates similar reputation criteria to give senders a benchmark for how they and their messages are perceived by mailbox providers.

In the 2017 Sender Score Benchmark, we take a look at the impact of reputation and Sender Score on email performance, including:

  • The average delivered rate
  • The impact of complaints, spam traps, and unknown users
  • The average inbox placement rate at Microsoft, AOL, Gmail, and Yahoo
  • The average Sender Score and inbox placement rate by industry
  • And more!

Look up your own Sender Score for free and then read the report to see how you are being perceived by mailbox providers and how that might be impacting your program.

Our Consumer Network Data: The Top 10 Things You Need to Know

In a previous post, we highlighted the Return Path data set as a whole. This week, I want to give you a deeper dive into our Consumer Network data. Since data is an incredibly vital piece of email marketing, we want to make sure you really get to know the facts and how it can help enhance your email program!

10. Context.IO, a Return Path company, helps developers of applications tap into the insights only email can provide. Context.IO provides a unique email API (application program interface) that makes it easy for application developers to retrieve email information and leverage it in applications such as CRM, document management, collaboration and productivity tools, and project management.

9. As people opt in to use these applications, they explicitly grant permission for Return Path to view and report on their mailbox behavioral data. Before Return Path uses any of the data in our solutions, we remove or obfuscate any personally identifiable information (PII) so that all data remains anonymous.

We take security and privacy seriously. Return Path ensures that all sensitive data is protected, secured, and anonymized in compliance with US and International standards. Access to sensitive data is highly controlled and restricted using systems that encrypt data within the Consumer Network.

8. Over 100 applications feed into our Consumer Network data spanning multiple application types. Having such a large set of applications feeding our data network diversifies the types of mailbox insights we receive and makes Return Path data applicable and actionable to all types of businesses.  

7. Our Consumer Network data is constantly growing and being refreshed through new application development and new subscriber opt ins. The data is never stagnant and new additions add volume, breadth, and depth to our data set. With nearly 2 million current subscribers in our Consumer Network and counting, it is larger than any other like data set in market which provides a more accurate picture of actual email behaviors.

6. The mailboxes within the Consumer Network span a diverse, worldwide audience from across the globe. The majority of the subscribers reside in North America; however, we have coverage in Latin America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, as well.

5. Our Consumer Network data accurately reflects your subscriber list. This data covers different types of email accounts, usually referred to as primary vs secondary accounts. Our data is made up of 76 percent secondary or unused email addresses, but I want to highlight why this is not a negative aspect of the data.

At Return Path, we’ve analyzed the distribution of opens from marketer’s email service providers (ESP) for different lists and looked at the distribution of reads from the Consumer Network. What we found out was that the distribution of “opens” from the ESP was almost exactly the same as the distribution of “reads” from the Consumer Network. This would indicate that the engagement of panel members that receive mail from a given domain is very similar to the engagement of the entire list.

4. The data we provide for your specific email campaigns is based on the crossover between your subscriber list and our Consumer Network list. This means we show you data for the subscribers that are both in our Consumer Network and on your subscriber list. Therefore, if the data is showing that actual subscribers use a secondary email address to sign up for your emails, then regardless of which account type joins your email list, they are all equally important when assessing placement and engagement data.

Recent DMA research showed that the most important driver for subscribers to share personal data is if they trust the brand they are sharing it with. They are far more likely to give a primary email address when joining an email program if they are confident it will be used in an appropriate manner. This research further drives home how important it is to have a thoughtful email program that puts the subscriber’s experience first.

3. The Consumer Network data is exclusive to Return Path. It powers our email deliverability and optimization solutions such as Inbox Monitor and Inbox Insight. No other companies can power their email marketing solutions with this data set, so Return Path’s customers get extensive data that other vendors simply can’t provide.

While you will get access to your own Consumer Network data through Inbox Monitor, Return Path’s Inbox Insight solution also provides a targeted look into the creative and engagement data of your competitors. This insight allows you to see what others are doing, what’s working and what’s not, and can help drive your email strategy and improve deliverability metrics.

2. In addition to seeing inbox placement metrics through our seed data, having Consumer Network data gives you a complete, well-rounded picture of your email program.

While seed data will help you determine where you may be having inbox placement issues, coupling it with Consumer Network data takes engagement analysis one step further. As reported in our Hidden Metrics of Email Deliverability report, the ability to see behavior metrics such as deleted without reading, replied to percent, forwarded percent, This Is Not Spam percent, and more provide a unique view of your email program (and that of your competitors). Major mailbox providers are on record as saying that these “hidden metrics” have a material influence on deliverability yet most email marketers have no insight into them. Our Consumer Network data makes those metrics hidden no more.

1. The number one most important aspect of the Consumer Network is that it allows data to propel your business by helping you make informed, data driven email marketing decisions. Email marketing can have a huge ROI for your company but being great at getting to the inbox is difficult. Knowing where your email program is having challenges and the steps to take to resolve them increases conversions and your subscriber lifetime value.

In addition to our email solutions, the experts on Return Path’s client services teams use our unique Consumer Network data to work with clients to amplify positive email marketing behaviors and mitigate the negative ones. This team acts as an extension of your email marketing team and our clients consistently see improvements in deliverability as a direct outcome of their expertise.

For more information, download our We Know Email Readers Infographic.

Maintaining Data Privacy in a Data Driven World

It’s no secret that as consumers, we all sometimes enter into blind bargains through our use of free products in the online marketplace. As we discussed before, we trade our personal information for free access to widgets, games, mobile apps, and more, without reading—or understanding—exactly what will be done with our data.  

Consumers are used to hearing that their data is being used in marketing. Sometimes say they don’t like it, some don’t care because they know that it’s a part of life now. Of course, this should be transparent to the consumer, but many of the apps available to us are collecting this information and consumers are putting convenience over privacy.

As a marketer, you need to ensure that the person on whom you’re collecting data knows you’re doing so. They should understand that by visiting your site and filling out a form, you will put a tracking mechanism on their computer or sending them an email or look at their inbox for online purchase receipts. You need to be hyper transparent to site visitors on how to remove or opt out of tracking, delete or change the data that you have one them, or unsubscribe from an email.

Knowing every letter of every law, however, is excessive for many. What marketers need to know are the guidelines common to most privacy laws. Here are five best practices:

Transparency. Telling people how you are collecting their data and what you’re going to do with it are two things that marketers should have been doing all along. Informing people how their data will be used to personalize content to their specific interests is a much more successful and sustainable policy than withholding information from prospects.

Consensual activity. Marketers must realize that if they are engaging in cross-border marketing, they now need approval from the recipient. The change isn’t drastic; it requires little more than a webpage field that asks, “Can I send you something, yes or no?” For marketers, this is actually good news because emails won’t be wasted on people who don’t have a genuine interest.

Relevancy. Contacting only the people who want to be contacted and sending only the information they want is the heart of relevancy. It’s also a major component of privacy. Avoiding the “I didn’t want this” spam button click reaction was once key to staying off blacklists; soon it may be part of staying out of the courtroom. The requirement for consent is a foundation for relevancy, but even after gaining a recipient’s consent, the burden lies on marketers to send relevant content.

Adaptability of privacy policies. Laws can go only so far in defining acceptable privacy policies. To truly serve and protect people, organizations should be able to address privacy concerns at any point in a marketing process. The concept known as Privacy by Design asserts that the future of privacy cannot be assured solely by compliance with regulatory frameworks; rather, privacy assurance must become an organization’s default mode of operation, ideally. Privacy by Design presents a set of “foundational principles” that can help companies innovate in ways that are consistent with Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs).

Clarity. Fine print and legalese should be a dead practice for marketers. The need for transparency, consent, and relevancy can be undermined by unclear terms, confusing jargon, or complicated clauses. People are much more apt to share data and continue receiving emails and other marketing messages when they understand what is going on. You can no longer assume that stating in your privacy policy what you are doing with a person’s information is sufficient. You need to be “hyper transparent” when you’re collecting, transferring, and processing Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Take as an example our Organizer product:

  • We ask you to put your own email address in the box, rather than pre-filling the field.
  • We state up front what we are doing with the data you give us permission to have.
  • We link to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy so you can read more than just the hyper transparent information.
  • We don’t pre-check the “I agree” box.
  • We require you to make the choice yourself by checking the box.

Instead of the 7,000-word privacy policies hidden behind links at the bottom of a page that we’re used to seeing, a registration page should offer a few simple bullet points that explain the policy with transparency up front. For example:

  • I am giving my email address because I want to receive marketing emails from you.
  • I understand you might share my address with “X Company” because they offer relevant information.
  • I understand that you will collect “X” data when I interact with you online, and these people will have access to that information.

These points are compelling, but what else do marketers have to gain by complying with privacy laws and best practices? Email marketing success, increased ROI, and ultimately, improved revenue from the email channel.

As fundamental as it sounds, keeping prospects and consumers happy should always be top of mind for marketers. Today, there is no reason not to comply with privacy rules and regulations. The laws and best practices are designed to satisfy and protect the people involved, while also affording organizations the potential to grow revenue and client base.

Think of it this way, a happy customer tells three friends. An unhappy customer tells Google. What this translates to is for every one email sent to a happy and well-informed recipient, there exists the possibility of additional word-of-mouth referrals. Or, in other words, it can literally pay to respect the privacy, consent, and intelligence of a client or prospect.

Compliance drives demand, leads, and revenue.

Is How You Send More Important Than What You Send?

Email marketers spend a lot of time, effort, and creative energy building new email programs and perfecting creative. Email marketing teams spend over half their time building, testing, and optimizing HTML emails. Are there other things to focus on?

After some research, I can confidently say that once the basic campaign types are covered, there is frequently more leverage in optimizing send practices than building new email programs. (In this context, “basic” campaigns include segmented pre-planned campaigns and some of the more common types of triggered messaging, like abandoned shopping cart and abandoned browse.)

What kind of sending practices am I talking about? There are three primary areas of focus:

Cadence: How frequently are you sending to each subscriber?
Time and order: When are you sending messages to each subscriber?
Suppression policies: How do you decide who is eligible to receive email?

Email marketers spend only a fraction of the time on these practices that they spend on producing email creative and building new email programs.

Here’s how to best leverage each of these sending practices:

Cadence: In our experience, optimizing cadence on an individual basis has driven a minimum of 5% incremental revenue over a 12-month period. In some cases, optimizing cadence has increased click rates per subscriber per month over 35%, with only a small uptick in unsubscribes.

When marketers experiment with cadence/frequency optimization, they tend to test by changing frequency for all subscribers, which drives suboptimal results. Cadence must be personalized based on the activity level of each subscriber. Crude activity buckets (“subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked in over X days”) tend to underperform. Instead, more subtle signals that can be captured by machine learning models tend to do a much better job at optimizing cadence.

Time: Personalizing the time when you send messages can (for some industries and message types) drive higher open and click rates. This makes intuitive sense: Most subscribers have a time when they are more likely to be active in their inbox. Sending at that time increases the probability of an open or click.

If you have deliverability problems at mailbox providers that heavily weight user engagement, the order with which you send to subscribers can also be important in getting more mail through. The basic theory is that by sending to more engaged customers first, the reputation of the content, sending domain, and sending IP will get a “bump” that helps other, less engaged subscribers get delivered.

The majority of marketers have not experimented with either of these levers. In our experience, personalizing send-time works in very specific cases (mostly “batch” campaigns) and in specific industries such as online retail.

Suppression policies: In our analysis, the biggest surprise has been the wide variety of suppression policies that email marketers use. These practices are frequently the result of only the briefest analysis and are typically based on rules of thumb that have been developed over the years.

Marketers tend to use broad “activity bands” when making these decisions, based on their own first-party data. Looking at the activity of suppressed addresses with other senders indicates that a lot of potentially good addresses are being suppressed.

In other words, there are many subscribers who may be active with other marketers but are not active with you. These are addresses that you don’t want to suppress. The sort of data that will allow you to see how active your subscribers are with other brands is frequently  available from online email activity cooperatives.

What about you? Do you spend enough time addressing how you send, as opposed to what you send?

This post originally appeared in Media Post.

4 Free Email Optimization Tools Every Marketer Should Be Using

Optimization is one of the most frequently used words in an email marketer’s lexicon. In order to get into the inbox, capture attention, triumph over the competition and drive ROI, marketers must continually search out ways to optimize their email programs.

While reading up on the latest trends, innovations and recommendations can provide direction, email optimization is most impactful when it’s rooted in data. Following are a few free resources that can provide email marketers with information and data that can help move the needle for their programs.

Blacklist Lookup Tools: There are over 300 publicly available blacklists and a number of private blacklists. Senders can find themselves blacklisted for a range of reasons, with the most common being spam trap hits and subscriber complaints. Mailbox providers can reference these lists as they make determinations on whether to put mail in the inbox, the spam folder or block that message completely.

Ending up on a widely referenced blacklist, like Spamhaus, is a surefire way to see campaign performance plummet. What can make the situation even more problematic is when senders aren’t aware that they’ve been blacklisted. This tool allows marketers to determine whether a blacklist is the root of recent ROI woes.

Gmail Postmaster Tools: Gmail has a reputation of being somewhat of a black box when it comes to how they filter and sort mail. What makes this most vexing for senders is that they have a dominating global presence.

With the launch of their postmaster tools in the summer of 2015, Gmail helped shed some light on how its filtering algorithm views commercial senders. I find it surprising how many email marketers still don’t know about or don’t use this incredibly valuable tool. Qualified high-volume senders can create an account that gives them helpful data and information including:

  • Spam rates
  • IP reputation
  • Domain reputation
  • Authentication
  • Encryption

Microsoft SNDS: Microsoft is a dominant player among mailbox providers with properties that include,, and more. Microsoft providers their own tool to give senders insight into their sender reputation and key factors impacting reputation including:

  • IP status
  • Filtering results
  • Complaint reports
  • Spam trap hits

Sample Size Calculator: The classic email guru mantra is “test, test, test.” A/B testing is one of the best ways to optimize various elements of the email program and drive increased performance. But testing isn’t meaningful if the sample sizes aren’t statistically relevant. Sample size calculators can help minimize risk while ensuring that results are trustworthy.

Customer Blog Takeover: Tackling List Hygiene in Retail

As email providers get savvier about what email recipients want in their inbox, marketers must stay on top of keeping their email list clean. The algorithms that determine your inbox placement have gotten smarter over the years – more variables than ever go into determining whether your email ends up in the coveted position at the top of a recipient’s inbox.

As a company that had been collecting email addresses for many years without addressing list hygiene in a systematic way, we knew that our list was dated, contained old and invalid addresses, and hampered our deliverability. This left us vulnerable to spam traps, increased complaints to our customer service center, and high bounce rates. As another complication, in addition to collecting emails with orders online, we collected email addresses at our call center and retail stores, where typos and invalid addresses were common. All this added up to an email list with diminished efficiency and lowered productivity.

Our first two goals were to clean up our existing list and make sure that going forward we were identifying invalid addresses before they reached our subscriber list. Once this was done, we needed a strategy to make sure we continued these efforts going forward. We knew this was an endeavor that would require both internal resources and some outside help.

We began by reaching out to Return Path about their partnership on email validation with BriteVerify. We took our entire email file, stretching back over a decade, to be run through the validation process. Unsurprisingly, many of the addresses came back as invalid and had to be wiped from the system! However, this gave us a starting point to reengage with some customers: when a customer who had previously had an invalid email on file came back to a store or placed a phone order, the associate or agent could use that opportunity to request a new address. In many cases, customers had a new email or the previous email had been mis-keyed – now we’re able to reach back out to that customer. Think about the points of entry for your list’s email addresses – are there specific places where mistyped addresses are likely, such as a retail associate entering a customer address on a condensed keyboard or point-of-sale? These are the areas that can cause breakdowns in email hygiene, so make sure to look at your email capture holistically.

Our next step was to ensure that we were getting good email addresses at the point of collection on the website. By adding the real-time email validation piece to our site, we catch problems with emails before the customer continues in checkout. This reduces contacts to our call center when customers key an invalid address, and it has allowed us to streamline our mobile checkout flow by removing the second “enter email address” field. Additionally, it has given us another tool against fraudulent orders.

After these steps were taken, the most important thing is to be vigilant going forward! Here are some tips on how to do so:

  • Address bounces (both hard and soft) quickly. 
  • Be efficient and quick about unsubscribing or opting-down customers who request it. 
  • Look for role-based or distribution accounts on your list (such as or and have a plan for how you want to address that – for larger marketers, you may want to suppress them. 
  • Continue to critically review these issues regularly – make a point of putting a time on your calendar to regularly address email hygiene. It’s something that is easily forgotten or put off, but is a simple and critical way to boost the success of your email marketing.

The benefits of a clean list are numerous. For marketers paying for emails on a CPM basis, it lowers your costs by taking bad addresses out of the equation. Your data from your email service provider becomes more accurate and actionable: without invalid addresses clogging up your list, your open and click rates become more reflective of your actual performance. 

While validating an email list doesn’t replace best practices on email permissions, it is a critical component of any marketer’s deliverability strategy. The more you can do to scrub your list and ensure that you are delivering the right message to the right person, the better your chances are at maintaining an active, engaged, and efficient email program.


The Law of Reciprocity (And Other Email Marketing Strategies)

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” “Do not do to others that which angers you.” “One should never do that to another which ones regards as injurious to one’s own self.” The “Golden Rule” rings true across countries, religions, the ages,….and email marketing.

So before you ask why I am quoting popular religious and philosophical text, just ponder for a moment. How are you interacting with and treating your subscribers and does it match how you interact with your personal email? I find with all of my clients there is a struggle to remove the “marketing brain” and replace it with the “subscriber brain.” By putting yourself in your subscribers’ shoes and thinking about how you would like to receive mail, you can change how you approach your marketing and in turn mitigate complaints and build a healthier, more successful relationship with your subscribers.

Frequency and engagement:
Think about the amount of marketing and promotional mail you receive in your personal inbox. How much of it do you look at, and how much of it do you ignore or delete without reading? Do you get annoyed when you constantly see a specific brand pop-up over and over again? Personally, I tend to delete a majority of marketing mail en masse. I am on so many lists that the sheer magnitude of messages I receive is overwhelming—and so many of these companies don’t seem to get the hint: I don’t want to hear from you every day!

Your subscribers are likely very busy people, juggling hectic work and personal schedules, and don’t have the time to read every single message either. Ponder your engagement with your personal mail and think about how often you enjoy hearing from brands–even the ones you love the most–and tailor your sending habits accordingly. By keeping this in mind and not overloading your subscribers, you can mitigate complaints as well as increase the good engagement (opens, clicks, forwards, replies) that mailbox providers are looking at so closely when making filtering decisions.

How many times do you disengage from a brand simply because they are sending you content you don’t care about or were not expecting to see? Do you find it annoying to get odd one-off campaigns on something completely irrelevant? If I sign up for a company’s marketing promotions, I can get a bit perturbed if they send me something completely off base. It’s important to tailor your marketing content to what you would hope and expect to see from your brand–and make it modern, interesting, and fun to read! Utilize dynamic content and send personalized emails. Everyone likes to see their own name and it creates a feeling of familiarity. The closer you are with your subscribers the less likely they are to complain and the more likely they will contribute to your bottom line.

Brand Recognition:
How often do you receive an email and think “umm…who are you?” Would you be weirded out if you received a marketing email from “DoNotReply” or “Jane Lawrence?”

I tend to err on the side of caution and won’t open it. Best case scenario I delete without reading (negative engagement), worst case scenario I complain (really negative engagement). Try to keep it brand specific and stay away from personal names. This will ensure your subscribers know who you are as well as decrease the chance they mark your email as spam.

Preference center and unsubscribe process:
Think about the last time you felt overwhelmed and bombarded by email or decided you just didn’t identify with a specific brand anymore. These things happen, regardless of how awesome your email program is–some people will want to opt out. So make it easy for them to do so. Impatience is a fairly common trait, and the longer it takes to figure out how to get off of a mailing list, the higher the likelihood of complaints. Utilize a list-unsubscribe (preferably mailto) as well as an unsubscribe link. Or, maybe your subscribers don’t want to unsubscribe altogether, they just want to change the type and frequency at which they are mailed. Make your preference center easy to access and adjust preferences, and then honor the choices your subscribers make. (It’s also important to remember both CAN-SPAM and CASL have very specific rules surrounding the timely processing of these requests)

Feedback Loops: You can’t please everyone, and that’s ok. You will get complaints–it’s unavoidable. The important thing is that you listen to those complaints. Think about how annoying it is when a brand just keeps emailing you, even after you have made it very clear you’re not interested. Don’t you just want them to get the hint? Apply that to your own email program. Sign up for any and all feedback loops and suppress subscribers that complain about your emails. You’re too good for your haters anyway.

To quote another timeless cliché, always remember “quality over quantity.” Don’t be afraid to have a smaller list filled with subscribers who love to hear from you and aren’t bringing down your reputation with mailbox providers. Think about your own interactions with email and try to create an experience you would enjoy. Identifying the root cause of why your subscribers are complaining will help unlock the potential to extend the life-cycle of your customers. As they say, “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes….”

Data-Driven Marketing: Are We There Yet?

Marketers now have access to more customer data than ever before.  So why are so many struggling to implement successful data-driven marketing strategies?

To find the answer, Return Path partnered with Ascend2 to conduct interviews with over 229 marketing influencers in the B2C space.  The research compiled in our Strategies and Tactics for Data-Driven Marketing report provides strategic and tactical insights to achieve data-driven marketing goals for personalization and customer acquisition.  Here are a few highlights to inform your data-driven marketing strategy:

Personalization is a priority
Personalizing the customer experience is a critical component of most data-driven marketing strategies. In fact, the vast majority of marketers surveyed (72 percent) chose the ability to personalize the customer experience over acquiring new customers (41 percent), and the ability to measure data-driven marketing ROI (37 percent), among other data-driven strategy goals.

Key Takeaway: As a growing number of marketers continue to look for opportunities to drive personalization in emails, subscribers’ expectations of a personalized email experience are also increasing.  As a result, email messages that aren’t tailored to accurately reflect individual subscriber interests, behaviors, or even anticipate needs will be more likely to be deemed as irrelevant, or worse, unwanted spam.

Data drives success
At the same time, marketers are driving email personalization efforts forward, they are often held back by the availability, quality, and integration of data across platforms. Almost half of marketerssurveyed (49 percent) reported enriching data quality and completeness as a significant barrier to data-driven marketing success while integrating data across platforms and measuring ROI were each significant barriers for 41 percent.

Key Takeaway: When developing a data-driven marketing plan, it’s critical to evaluate risk vs reward. Determine the key objectives for your strategy and factor in what role dependencies such as data integration; data integrity, and ROI measurement may play in a successful outcome.

Top goals offset barriers
Personalization is an important goal for twice as many marketers than those who view it as a barrier to success (72 percent vs 35 percent, respectively). In contrast, marketers report challenges with both data integration and quality are more significant than what they offer as important goals.

Key Takeaway: Availability of data typically isn’t a problem for most brands. Challenges arise from a lack of clear understanding about how to organize, categorize and utilize the information across platforms for relevant, ongoing targeting.  Brands with a solid approach to multi-platform data integration and data quality are best positioned to deliver a personalized, relevant customer experience. 

Tactical effectiveness varies
Targeted landing pages and personalized email messages are considered among the most effective data-driven marketing tactics and present the least difficulty for marketers.  Conversely, the least effective tactic – lead intelligence collection – is seen as 13 percent more difficult than it is effective.

Key Takeaway: Understanding which personalization tactics are most effective for your email program will help focus your efforts.  As you execute these tactics, continue to reevaluate their effectiveness as your customer needs, interests and expectations evolve.  Approach your data-driven marketing strategy as an evolution, not a revolution.

Read the full report for more insight on data-driven strategies. And to find out what role technology can play in your program’s success, read Technology is Changing, Is Your Marketing Strategy?