Data Is At The Heart Of All Good Email Programs

Data is at the heart of any good email marketing program, so it wasn’t a surprise to hear the topic on the minds of email marketing executives Thursday as they convened in Amelia Island, Florida at Media Post’s Email Insider Summit

For Amazon, a company who has arguably one of the most personalized shopping experiences online, data drives this personalized experience. Amazon looks at a customer’s past purchases and their browsing behavior to build a conversation with customers over email. But they are also always on the hunt for new data so that they can get to know their customers better. The company will often send an email with some products that data suggests a customer will want, but then throw in a wildcard to try and get to know how the customer responds to a new product category.

“What is important is that you have to listen to their response,” Donald Parsons, director of global email at Amazon. “If they don’t respond, don’t keep sending that message.”



InterContinental Hotels Group’s goal is to surprise and delight its customers and the company uses data to achieve this goal. Katherine Youngblood, senior manager of email marketing at InterContinental Hotels Group said that the idea is “to have them feel like we were reading their mind.” The company looks at the data to understand how their customers are engaging with them and then they create messaging inspired by what customers are already thinking about.

The Universal Music Group Distribution is working to turn social data into a tool to drive more effective email marketing programs. The company is tracking activity on Facebook and YouTube, as well as on its own social login pages and is using this data to create email campaigns. The company is looking to understand the difference between customers who are more likely to buy a $1.29 single and distinguish them from those customers who are more likely to buy a $9.99 album, for instance, and will use this information to inform emails.

“Email lists are nowhere near the size of social pages, but we still feel very strongly that email is where we own the consumer,” explained Angela Sanchez, VP, Direct Marketing, Universal Music Group Distribution.

LivingSocial uses data to identify and reward its top customers. Alan Clifford, VP of email marketing & merchandising at LivingSocial explained that they give special promotion codes to its top customers on a somewhat random basis in a move to reward social influencers. “It is about getting our customers out with their friends to drive long term engagement with their friends,” he said.

Phil Davis, CEO of email service provider Rapleaf, works with a major daily deal emailer. He said that the first impression is really important. They struggle with the challenge of having to target a specific deal to different segments. “A lot of ideas come from the data that we know about our customers,” he said.

The company looks at the segments to create messaging. For instance, a deal on a manicure/pedicure will have a different message if it is being sent to a single woman, a married woman, a married man or a family.  “You have to shift the content based on who you are talking to,” said Davis. This is more than just A/B testing, where everyone gets A because it is the top performer. “If you segment everyone can win,” he added.

“Actionable content is certainly king,” said Greg Martz, director, strategic business, at The Motley Fool, who added that he tries to focus on the personal motivations of customers to determine which content they receive. The company captures data like what articles a customer reads, the time of day, and whether or not they opened or clicked through an email. “That is the stuff that is really powerful and it is really the low hanging fruit of big data,” he said.

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