June 17, 2007

Three Ways To Increase E-Mail Sales

Businesses with customers who purchase fewer than three times a year seldom benefit from trigger-based e-mail marketing campaigns (with the notable exception of shopping cart prompts, which often work well).

There are at least three key factors that can be managed, to grow e-mail sales.

Factor #1 = Incremental List Size, Managed By Contact Frequency

Factor #2 = Incremental Demand Per Contact, Managed By Contact Frequency

Factor #3 = Demand Per E-Mail, Managed By Number Of Targeted Versions

Incremental list size is ultimately determined by the number of e-mail campaigns sent per week. When a customer is contacted too often, too many customers unsubscribe, driving down the total size of the e-mail list. Strategically, management may choose to execute "x" campaigns per week. Mathematically, the number of e-mail contacts per week can be determined by the number that still cause a healthy increase in the number of valid names available to be e-mailed. In the table below, you'll see that two e-mails per week are optimal, as the e-mail list continues to grow.

Incremental demand per contact is also important. As you increase e-mail frequency, you will decrease the performance of any one e-mail contact. Increased frequency will probably cause cannibalization between e-mail campaigns. The table below shows that the combination of unsubs and performance dictate two e-mail campaigns per week.

Targeted versions of an e-mail are important as well. Few retailers have the ability to dynamically create unique e-mail campaigns for each customer. As a result, management creates "x" versions of an e-mail campaign, offering different merchandise in each version. The analytics team decide which version of an e-mail campaign the customer receives, on the basis of past purchase behavior, stated customer preferences, clickstream history, and other factors. From a staffing standpoint, it could be a challenge to produce numerous versions.

In the table below, I assume that a company managed one version of an e-mail, one time per week, to the entire e-mail file. This strategy yielded $20,700 of demand per week.

Going from one campaign a week to two campaigns per week kept the file size increasing, reduced volume per e-mail, but resulted in $30,030 of demand per week. Clearly, this is a better strategy than sending just one e-mail campaign per week.

Going from one version per campaign to nine versions per campaign drove $40,040 of demand per week. Assuming this strategy can be managed with existing staff at minimal cost, this strategy could work.

Notice that the combination of list size (dictated by frequency), demand per contact (dictated by frequency), and version contribution cause a doubling in e-mail volume, on a weekly basis.

Catalogers have long mastered this type of analysis, assigning profitability to each strategy. With e-mail, profitability is not as big an issue, so if one can avoid the fixed costs associated with incremental staffing, a move to moderate frequency with increased versions can yield a significant increase in e-mail sales.

Obviously, there are many ways to increase e-mail volume. These three basic strategies almost guarantee a positive return on investment.

No Targeting Strategy

Contacts List New Unsubs Net $ per Weekly Total
per Week Size Subs & Invalids Names E-Mail Demand Demand
1 100000 1000 650 100350 $0.20 $0.20 $20,070
2 100000 1000 900 100100 $0.15 $0.30 $30,030
3 100000 1000 1150 99850 $0.12 $0.36 $35,946

With Targeting Strategy: 2 Contacts Per Week

Targeted List New Unsubs Net $ per Weekly Total
Versions Size Subs & Invalids Names E-Mail Demand Demand
1 100000 1000 900 100100 $0.15 $0.30 $30,030
5 100000 1000 900 100100 $0.18 $0.36 $36,036
9 100000 1000 900 100100 $0.20 $0.40 $40,040