May 11, 2009

E-Mail Marketing, Search, Matchback, Attribution

One of the mysteries of marketing in 2009 is the concept of attribution, a process where we matchback orders derived in one micro-channel to the advertising micro-channel that drove the order.

For whatever reason, the e-mail blogosphere and vendor community fails to capitalize on this opportunity.

My Mutichannel Forensics projects repeatedly indicate that e-mail marketing and search marketing play a unique micro-channel role. E-Mail marketing is a "love" channel, if you will. The 10% to 50% of your twelve-month buyer file that subscribes to e-mail marketing "loves you" more than the average customer. These customers have better "RFM" characteristics, not because of e-mail marketing necessarily, but because the customer is a good customer who wants to learn more.

And then we have search, which works in the opposite direction. The customer who "loves you" doesn't implicitly trust you. As a result, she wants to make sure that she's getting the best deal possible, the best combination of merchandise and value.

When you have customers who want to see your e-mail campaigns and then want to use search, you have a classic micro-channel combination that must be tabulated in your database, and analyzed going forward.

At minimum, we need to run matchback algorithms for e-mail marketing. Catalogers have been running matchbacks for the past fifteen years, taking credit for orders that were not necessarily driven by catalogs. E-Mail marketers, however, have been exceptionally slow to embrace attribution and matchback programs. I don't understand why.

It's a fairly simple process. Say you deliver an e-mail marketing campaign on a Tuesday. Take all customers who ordered on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and match them back to your e-mail campaign. And by the way, make sure you have a holdout group, a group who did not receive the e-mail campaign, and do the same process --- subtracting the difference between mailed and holdout group for true incremental value.

Now, any orders that are generated by search marketing are matched back and attributed to the e-mail marketing campaign. And here's where we need to make an adjustment ... we need to make a guess at all of the unconverted searches that were caused by e-mail marketing, and allocate the cost of those unconverted searches back to the e-mail marketing campaign. If the typical search conversion rate is, say, 3%, you have to multiply converted searches by 33, and then multiply that total by the cost-per-click, in order to get at the right advertising cost.

Two things usually happen, two things that are highly relevant to e-mail marketers.
  1. E-Mail marketing causes search activity, and that search activity results in orders that are normally credited to search and should be credited to e-mail. This can result in e-mail marketing being more productive that usually measured to be.
  2. E-Mail marketing causes the "search audience" to do a bunch of unproductive searches. As a result, the "search segment" is actually unprofitable --- causing the e-mail marketer to withhold e-mail marketing campaigns to customers who search all of the time.
The latter point is worth noting ... the e-mail marketer should be creating segments in the database of customers who utilize search on a frequent basis ... electing to develop a different contact strategy for the "E-Mail / Search" micro-channel combination.


  1. " have to multiply converted searches by 33..."? I'm not getting your math Kevin could you explain that again?

  2. All you know from a matchback is that "x" number of customers purchased via search. Therefore, you know the cost associated with those clicks ... say $0.50 each.

    Now, you have all of the uncoverted clicks as well. You know that your e-mail campaign drove customers online to search, those customers then visited your website, but did not purchase. You have to account for the cost of those clicks.

    Therefore, you have to take a guess at the conversion rate. Say it is 3%. This means that 1 / 0.03 = 33 is the factor that you apply to your conversions, to account for the cost of unconverted clicks.

    It is an approximation that you have to do to come up with a close-to-proper accounting of paid search cost caused by e-mail marketing.

  3. Thanks Kevin I appreciate the clarification I get it now.


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