Email Marketing

Email Conversion Guide, Part 1: Database Cleanup

Email marketing is crucial for most ecommerce companies. Critical email performance metrics include percentages for opens, clicks, and unsubscribes. But the ultimate metric is conversions: How many recipients purchased products?

This post is the first in a 3-part series on improving conversions from an email marketing program. Parts 2 and 3 will address templates and retargeting, respectively.

In this part 1 installment, I’ll review the importance of a clean subscriber database, including tips for ongoing maintenance.

Email Database Cleanup

Verify current data. Email data degrades every day. But timely subscriber info is essential. Emailing infrequently to your list — in 30-day intervals or longer — is risky as it likely includes inactive email addresses that bounce, which would harm your sending reputation.

To protect your sender score and deliverability, routinely purge bad data. This can be done with quick email verifications. Providers include BriteVerify and Fresh Address, among others. Verification options include batch (for your entire list or a segment) and real-time (via API) for ongoing monitoring.

Verifying email addresses before deployment will ensure a solid sending reputation.

Process address changes. Subscribers change jobs and delete and create email accounts and then sometimes forget to inform publishers and other providers. A deleted email address will bounce, but that doesn’t mean the subscriber is uninterested. It means he failed to report his new address.

Periodically collect your bounced email addresses and process a lookup for change of address or reactivation with, again, providers such as BriteVerify or FreshAddress. This process will check for an alternate email address or confirm the current one is now active. The match rates on a change-of-address pass are typically low — 10 to 15 percent. Still, it can provide immense value to reengage with customers.

Screenshot of a bounced email lookup process from FreshAddress

Periodically collect your bounced email addresses and process a lookup for change of address or reactivation. Shown here is the process for FreshAddress.

Review subscription sources. The source of new subscribers often determines data accuracy. Potential sources include:

  • Affiliate partners,
  • Content offers,
  • Customers,
  • Organic search traffic to your website,
  • Pop-up subscription forms on your site.

Subscriber data should be consistent for all sources. And confirming that the email address is valid at the point of collection is an easy way to check typos or data entry errors. This is doable with (i) a double opt-in subscription, (ii) requiring new subscribers to enter their address twice, or (iii) by an automated backend process.

Check demographic, behavioral info. Beyond email address accuracy, info on subscribers’ demographics and behavior can enable segmentation, which greatly improves conversions.

People evolve from one life stage to another. Their interests and needs for products and services change. The more you know about a subscriber, the better you can deliver relevant offers.

Say you track subscribers who are dog owners. Sending dog-related offers to the group would generate a much higher conversion than a non-segmented list. But failure to keep the data up to date could backfire if a pet is deceased or no longer living with the subscriber.

Screenshot of a dog-owner-related email from Merrell

Knowing if a subscriber is a dog owner can facilitate high-performing segments, such as this example from Merrell, the footwear company.

Maintain date stamps on children and pets, as examples. As they age, the content of your emails should evolve accordingly.

A subscriber’s purchase data is among the best sources of segmentation and personalization. From purchase history, a merchant can know or infer subscribers’ gender, interests, location, budget, and much more.

Remove unengaged subscribers. Finally, it’s important to purge unresponsive email addresses. Internet service providers often look at email engagement behaviors at the point of delivery in determining sender score. Cutting unresponsive addresses will increase overall open and click rates — i.e., engagement.

When determining which addresses to cut, consider:

  • Opt-in date,
  • Last purchase date,
  • Last open and click dates.

It’s safe to cut a subscriber who has never opened or clicked an email. Lapsed subscribers with a purchase history are more complicated. For those, evaluate the types of purchases. Some products don’t require frequent replacing. If a subscriber is still opening and clicking your emails, I’d be hesitant to delete her, even if she hasn’t purchased in a year or more.

See “Part 2: Creating the Template.” 

Carolyn Nye
Carolyn Nye
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