3 studies that could vastly improve your email campaign

By Barry Eitel

Barry Eitel is a Bay Area-based journalist focused on tech innovation and the business of Silicon Valley.
 
Email has been around longer than many millennials, and there is a nearly incomprehensible amount of data surrounding it. Some algorithm somewhere tracks each email you open, delete, click-through or add to your mounting pile of thousands of unopened message if you are one of those unfortunate people. Luckily, data scientists at companies and universities have harnessed all this information into detailed studies that provide actionable insights.
 
At the Email Evolution Conference March 30 to April 1 in New Orleans, the power of email will be endlessly discussed and analyzed. At the session “The Science Behind Emails that Persuade” on the first day, experts from BNY Mellon Investment Management and the Wilde Agency will explore the proven principles of psychology that lead to a greater email response. In this fast-paced, example-jammed discussion, attendees will get an inside look at how select investment management firms inject both big data analytics and decision science into their digital communications to achieve better outcomes.
 
To kick-start your scientific understanding of email, here are three studies that show how you can improve your engagement.
 
Start a welcoming series
A 2014 study from the marketing analysts at Experian found that a series of emails sent when a user first interacts with a brand builds a sturdy foundation. “A welcome series provides a unique opportunity to acknowledge, educate and engage your subscribers,” Experian noted in its study

The usual standard promotional emails – “We’re having a big sale” – only have a 0.06 percent response rate and earn roughly $0.06 in revenue per each email. However, these “Thanks for joining us” emails fare much better. These welcoming series emails have 0.95 percent response rate and earn $1.29 in revenue each.
 
“Such programs begin with an email expressing a sincere ‘thank you’ for joining the program and often contain a special offer,” Experian continued. “The series continues with educational information, such as tips, best practices, links to how-to videos, as well as special offers that keep your brand top-of-mind and rewards subscribers for their continued interest.”
 
Transactional emails
Welcoming emails are part of a larger genus of emails called “transactional emails,” meaning emails that are sent after a user does a certain thing, like join a service, confirm a subscription, receipts and password reminders, for example. However, though they might sound boring, transactional emails are the most opened emails of any kind, with an open rate of 38 percent.
 
“Since transactional emails are proven to drive significantly higher response rates than regular commercial email campaigns, they should be paid equal, if not more attention, than regular campaigns,” according to a report from email marketing firm Litmus. “That being said, in order to optimize transactional emails, marketers should A/B test different versions of the emails and segment messages by different customer segments.”
 
Transactional emails offer a vast opportunity for savvy marketers. E-commerce sites, for instance, can take advantage of the high open rate by automatically pushing “there are items left in your cart” emails.
 
“All of the links in the emails should be tagged for reporting purposes,” Litmus contends. “If you test and report on the results from commercial emails, shouldn’t you be doing the same for transactional emails?”
 
Subject lines are critical
Subject lines are the most important part of an email – your choice of words will likely decide your open rate more than anything else in the email. Email service MailChimp conducted a comprehensive study in 2013 of some 24 billion emails to find out what subject lines worked and what didn’t.
 
“First and foremost, people love to be thanked,” MailChimp concluded. “It’s also apparent that campaigns about current events, like natural disasters and political issues, have higher open rates than normal. And finally, it seems as though recipients don’t like to be asked to sign up for anything — and they really don’t like being told they’re missing their last chance to get something they’ve already been emailed about.”
 
This article is brought to you by the DMA. Click here to register for Email Evolution Conference, March 30 – Apr. 1, 2016, in New Orleans.