Three pillars of successful deliverability

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1 Three pillars of successful deliverability Ensuring safe arrival and optimum placement in the inbox An Experian Marketing Services white paper

2 Contents Introduction...1 Data integrity...2 Relevance...3 Reputation...5 Building a firm foundation...7 Top tips...7

3 Introduction This paper examines ways in which marketers can work with Internet service providers (ISPs) and customers to ensure that s: Safely negotiate filters Are relevant to and appreciated by consumers Are placed in inboxes in the formats and at the times that are most likely to drive engagement, transactions and healthy returns on marketing investment With only 76.5 percent of s reaching inboxes 1, deliverability is assuming increasing importance. Marketers are fiercely vying for consumers attention, while Internet service providers (ISPs) and customers are becoming more empowered to take control of inboxes and discard or block all but the most relevant messages. To stay ahead of the curve, marketers need to understand deliverability best practices to proactively ensure their messages hit the top of the inbox and avoid the junk folders. While there are many elements marketers must take into account in delivering effective marketing campaigns, this paper focuses on the three core pillars of successful deliverability: 1. Data integrity 2. Relevance 3. Reputation Each of these pillars requires brands to measure, segment and respond appropriately to their customers. In doing so, marketers can ensure that their s arrive at the top of customers inboxes, every time. 1 Return Path, The Global Deliverability Benchmark Report, 2H 2011 An Experian Marketing Services white paper Page 1

4 Data integrity Validity, accuracy and permission Your campaign will be only as effective as the data it s built on. The old adage garbage in, garbage out has particular relevance here. More than 92 percent of businesses feel their contact data is inaccurate in some way 2. When applying these figures to an database, any campaign will have lost significant potential returns before a campaign ever begins. These contact data inaccuracies could include customers who want to purchase your products, yet never will be given the opportunity because they never received your . Take the time to audit and validate your data, ensure that you re capturing the right information to drive campaigns, cleanse it to remove duplicates, and consider enhancing it with your additional data sources that can give you greater crosschannel insight into your customers. Also, consider engaging third-party management tools and services, such as Experian s QAS, to validate customer data. Utilizing Experian QAS validation will increase data accuracy and reduce bounce rates. Beyond this, even if the address information is accurate, an is doomed for failure if the recipient hasn t first given permission for the contact. Unsolicited s have the potential to turn customers off your brand, squander hard-earned trust and condemn all future communications to the junk folder. Know where each address originated, and make sure that the subscriber provided clear consent to receive from you. Proactive database management also delivers a resource that s far more than a repository of address information. Maintain good database health by recording and analyzing the activity level of your subscribers across the life cycle. It allows you to take in the bigger picture: Are your customers responding to your offers? Have they stopped clicking on links? Are they interested in different products? Are you reaching them with the right offers at the right times? You can refine and target engagement with this kind of information at your fingertips, not to mention engaged subscribers are far more likely to buy your products. 66 percent of marketers who have customer loyalty programs believe their programs were negatively affected in the last year due to inaccurate data 3. 2, 3 Experian Marketing Services The 2012 Digital Marketer: Benchmark and Trend Report 3 Experian Marketing Services The 2012 Digital Marketer: Benchmark and Trend Report Page 2 Three pillars of successful deliverability: Ensuring safe arrival and optimum placement in the inbox

5 Relevance Analysis and understanding for real engagement In the digital world, customers have grown accustomed to getting the information they want, at times that are most convenient to them and from a variety of sources. Attention is becoming a precious commodity, and discerning customers are making smarter decisions about marketing messages. They want information in a format that they can scan for relevance before investing time in exploring the detail. They demand meaningful communications and to be treated as individuals, not as simply another subscriber to a bulk list. Start a dialogue In such a fast-moving, information-driven environment, brands rarely get a second chance with their customers. As a marketer, you need to deliver relevant content the first time, and every time. The digital revolution provides many new ways for effective dialogue. Brands must tap into creating a dialogue that both delivers their messages as well as hears and sees their customers needs. In better understanding them, marketers then can identify what their customers want to see as they scan their inbox and construct s that connect with their customers and deliver results. Remember that can help foster relationships, but all good relationships are about listening. Treat all response data and any data your customer gives you as a valuable commodity. By capturing, analyzing and learning from customers, your s can be delivered at the right frequency, can be optimized for the right device (desktop or mobile devices, for example) and can provide the most attractive offers to encourage click-throughs and transactions. Customer obsession is critical here, because it s all about closing the loop constantly checking that your brand is engaging with your customers and spotting the warning signs of disconnection early enough to give time to refine content. Doing so will bring you closer to a deeper customer understanding that allows you to engage with your customers in the most meaningful and effective ways. An Experian Marketing Services white paper Page 3

6 Enhance content One of the best ways of ensuring that your content will be well-received by your customers is through a welcome program. Once customers have subscribed, welcome s can clearly articulate the benefits of subscription and also encourage sharing of more information, with questions on the type of content desired, frequency and the preferred channel. Experian Marketing Services research shows that this initial phase of engagement is a critical time to set the tone for all future contacts, with welcome s generating four times the total open rates and five times the click rates compared to other bulk promotions 4. The format of your message is very important, with a good balance between text and pictures. s containing only pictures are put through more stringent filters because with no words, there s no ability to analyze content, which can be seen by ISPs as an attempt to circumvent the system. Welcomes enjoy high open and click rates 60% 57.8% 50% 40% 30% 20% 14.6% 14.4% 10% 0% Total opens Total clicks 2.7% All welcomes Other promotional mailings 4 Experian Marketing Services The welcome report: Benchmark data and analysis for engaging new subscribers through marketing Page 4 Three pillars of successful deliverability: Ensuring safe arrival and optimum placement in the inbox

7 Reputation Transparency, understanding and trust It s important to note that ISPs determine inbox placement based on the reputation of the sender. Reputation here can depend on a variety of factors, such as complaint rates, unknown user rates and spam trap hits. Unfortunately, it s all too easy for even the most well-intentioned of brands to fall into these reputation pitfalls, so understanding how reputation works and following best practices is imperative. ISPs are constantly changing the way they filter to protect their customers from spammers and phishing attempts. Marketers can protect their reputation and ensure deliverability by staying abreast of these changes by, for example, deploying all methods of authentication, signing up to feedback loops and enlisting in certification programs. Additionally, as more ISPs are looking at engagement metrics that go beyond opens, clicks and conversions, marketers must move toward developing a richer customer understanding. It s a trend that highlights the need for data integrity and the importance of engagement with ISPs. Simply put, brands need to send s that recipients are most likely to be interested in. It s critical that marketers join in a dialogue, both with their customers and with ISPs. If you are part of a feedback loop with an ISP, you can quantify the number of s that are being complained about, begin to understand why and modify your communications so that subscribers are less likely to hit the dreaded spam button. By working together, ISPs and marketers can help to create an environment that s transparent to both parties. This means that threats such as spammers can be effectively countered and marketers can protect their own reputations and improve deliverability. An Experian Marketing Services white paper Page 5

8 Opt-out and opt-down with ease It is important that the opt-out process is made as easy and transparent as possible. This might sound counter-intuitive, but ease of opt-out can be critical in protecting your reputation. Customers receive a growing number of s that they ve subscribed to but are no longer particularly interested in. While clients are working to filter these, there is the very real danger that consumers can simply hit the spam button to permanently remove them. Given that spam reports are fundamental to your reputation with ISPs as a trusted provider, this can have disastrous consequences on the deliverability of all future campaigns. marketers need to make it easier for customers to manage their subscriptions, even if this means that they ultimately decide to unsubscribe. Ensure that every is clear about where subscribers have to click to opt-out. If the process isn t instantaneous, manage expectations and let them know that they may receive some additional s over a specified and short period of time. To lessen the risk of complete disengagement, marketers can offer customers the opportunity to opt down rather than opt-out by allowing customers to quickly and easily: Reduce the frequency of s, Opt-out of some communications but also opt in to new ones, or Further refine preferences so they get what they want. In either scenario, you can use the process to gain more valuable data from customers, asking them to share their reasons for leaving and provide suggestions on how to improve your communications. In making opt-out and opt-down more customer-centric, you can protect your reputation both with ISPs and with customers. Page 6 Three pillars of successful deliverability: Ensuring safe arrival and optimum placement in the inbox

9 Building a firm foundation long has been an established channel in the digital marketing mix, but it s always evolving. The age of Big Data is honing into a precision instrument that can target customers in ways that maximize returns on your marketing investment. It s a huge opportunity, but as opportunity becomes more broad and complex, so, too, does the business of successful delivery. Getting your messages to customers in ways that deliver meaningful results demands rich customer and ISP understanding, in-depth analysis and highly targeted content. Top tips: Capture the data that drives your marketing goals and ensure that it s constantly validated and always up-to-date Use your contact databases to store more than just addresses, e.g., incorporate information on permissions, propensities and preferences Start a real dialogue with customers to learn from them at every opportunity, building trust and reducing the likelihood of disengagement Move with your customers, with communications that are always targeted at their changing needs and that meet their expectations in terms of frequency, timing and channel Create content that encourages dialogue in the short, medium and long term Keep abreast of technology changes that may affect your ability to deliver s Work closely with ISPs to ensure that you are a responsible marketer and your s don t end up in the spam filter For more information on how deliverability strategies can help increase the effectiveness of your marketing programs, please visit our Website at experian.com/marketingservices, us or call us at An Experian Marketing Services white paper Page 7

10 Experian Marketing Services 29 Broadway, 6th Floor New York, NY Experian Information Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved Experian and the Experian marks used herein are service marks or registered trademarks of Experian Information Solutions, Inc. Other product and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners. Experian is a nonexclusive full-service provider licensee of the United States Postal Service. The following trademark is owned by the United States Postal Service : ZIP. The price for Experian s services is not established, controlled or approved by the United States Postal Service. 09/2012

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