thinking with coffee

Email marketing is a powerful tool when utilized correctly, and is a skill all business owners should prioritize. It is an interesting aspect of online marketing that, especially in the ecommerce/retail sector, can be handled creatively. If you want your store to take off, you have to commit to learning about and maximizing your email database potential.

Your Email Database

The first step is learning more about the persons in your email database. Often when businesses collect email addresses, they know little about how they are going to use them in the future, and so forgo collecting any additional information beyond the address itself. If you are marketing a small amount of products, or a very niche market, that usually is not a problem. The issue rises when you have a larger product selection, or an audience with wider interests.

Segmentation, Segmentation!

If you have an online bookstore, the people represented by your email database represent a huge potential audience, as well as hugely differing tastes. Blanket mass marketing to this audience is inefficient, and will only have a negative effect. For example, a fan of J.K. Rowling is unlikely to feel similarly to Ayn Rand, and vice-versa. In this case, and most others, segmentation is the solution.

Segmentation ensures the correct marketing push is aimed at the correct person, someone who has expressed interest in a certain product, sector, or notifications. Using segmentation greatly improves the efficiency and effectiveness of email marketing, as well as increasing sell-up and cross-sell results. It is easiest to collect supporting data when you collect the addresses, as otherwise you end up unable to effectively target your email list.

Data Enrichment

If you have an email database with minimal information, or one that is updated infrequently, there are several tactics you can use to try and enrich the data on hand:

Direct Enrichment

Ask the people on the list directly for additional information about themselves. You might send an email asking them to update their preferences. This update means they will only receive news they are interested in, and you are better targeting your marketing emails. Services such as MailChimp make it easy to add a link in your emails that will take people directly to a preference form they can update (and you can customize). As an added bonus, you can offer a “reward” for completing this action, such as free shipping for a limited time or a small discount.

The success rate for this tactic varies widely. It depends on a number of factors, including how many people on the list signed up via the form, how interested they are in your brand or products, how often your emails are sent, the type of audience you are targeting, and how enticing the value exchange is. Requesting customer’s time and information is a big ask, but the pay-off is equally large, and even the non-responders can tell you a lot about the health of your list. You might also find that once a responder receives several emails targeted to his or her interests, they are more open to additional communication.

If possible, integrate email preference updates directly into your sites’s customer account information pages. This works well if the people on your list are also registered customers, and gives them control while encouraging regular use. Always have an update preference link visible in the footer of your emails, as well.

Indirect Enrichment

This involves collecting information about your database without requiring their direct participation. You can use specialist data enrichment tools (such as Rapportive) to collect publicly accessible data for some of the email addresses in your list. This is best suited to long-term information that is unlikely to change – for example, gender, name, location, life-events, etc. These tools also access social media data, which can give more detailed information – like the subscriber’s job, company information, social media followers, influence measures, etc.

This is not a free option, but you only pay what you match, which is typically 20 – 60 percent depending on if it is b2b or b2c. This is useful for cleaning up a database, but not for long-term segmentation options. However, it can help in creating more personalized call-to-action emails for direct enrichment, which should increase list participation.

If you have an email marketing program and have already been sending out emails to this list, you have a deal of historical data to be mined. You can establish how active the list is, how many emails each account opened, and what they clicked. You can also see what previous items have been purchased, if your list is registered customers. Though you are not asking direct questions, you are drawing conclusions based on previous behavior. This is not nearly as accurate as direct enrichment, but again, can help develop more personalized emails.