Practical Ecommerce

Applying Data to Improve your Email Communications

With so much information available about your customers and prospects, how do you apply that information to your email communications? In this article, I’ll address steps to apply the right data to improve your email-marketing program.

What Data Do You Have?

This question is not always easy to answer. Databases are typically built over many years from several different sources. They consist of prospects as well as customers. There is basic data, such as name, physical address, and email address. For customers, you likely have more information, such as order dates, average order sizes, first purchase, last purchase, and more. All of this can be used to better segment, and determine the frequency of your programs.

Databases are not stagnant. The information changes daily. The data you use for a segmentation strategy needs to be updated at least annually, if not every six months. For ecommerce sites that sell products to a certain lifestyle, this is crucial. If you sell specialty baby and early child products to moms, for example, the lifecycle of your customers will change quickly, as children grow and the needs for those products disappear.

Keeping data elements such as the age of a child or number of children accurate will help segment out those customers that no longer need your products. Otherwise, recipients are more likely to opt out or hit the “report as spam” button, which will damage your IP reputation and ability to get future emails delivered successfully.

What Data Do You Need?

The data that you need should reflect the email programs that define your site. Relevancy is the key to any successful email program. You need to communicate to your audience with product features, offers, and notifications that are applicable to them. Basic information to determine this could include:

  • Gender;
  • Marital status;
  • Homeowner;
  • Household income;
  • Lifestyle Interests.

The data elements for your site will differ based on the types of products you sell and customers you serve. You may already have some of this information, but you can easily add more by working with a data compiler to append these elements to your file. You only need the information that you plan to use to base your segmentation strategy.

In the example below from iVillage, the email is geared towards professional woman. Gender and profession are likely two elements in iVillage’s file to segment this communication. For content sites, send emails that will resonate with that recipient to encourage clicks and traffic.

This iVillage email targets professional women.

This iVillage email targets professional women.

How Do You Access this Data?

Developing subscriber forms that collect a large amount of information and converts a high number of subscribers is nearly impossible. The fewer fields a visitor fills out typically results in a conversion for that form, but at the cost of less information.

One solution to this would be to establish a real-time data append, so that when someone fills out a subscriber form with minimal information, additional data about that individual can be mapped and appended in real-time. Data providers, such as Acxiom, offer solutions to help ecommerce merchants with this.

Remember, customers and prospects change every day. It’s important to keep up with those changes so your messages resonate.

Building Data for the Future

A stagnant database with no growth typically loses roughly 20 percent of subscribers annually through email address changes and unsubscribes. Adding new subscribers — as well as keeping data current — is vital to the health of your email database.

Knowing the profile of your best customers will help prospect for new customers. Using list building and prospect strategies targeted at consumers who mirror your best customers is the most effective way to maintain and build a strong database for the future. This will help with the ongoing growth and success of your business.

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Carolyn Nye
Carolyn Nye
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