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Email marketing -
why relevance is
key to response
Permission may be the fuel of emau marketing, Permission to email by gender
but it is relevance that sparks it alight. And what
any marketer can learn in a hurry using this • Given permission for email to company bought from before
channel is that, unless you convert that precious • Given permission for email to company NOT bought from before
consent into an interesting message, it can
rapidly be withdrawn.
Yet, despite the requirement to put an Overall
'unsubscribe' link at the end of every message,
consumers are not necessarily switching off this
channel, even if the messages they get are not
particularly weU targeted or personalised. In a Male
contradiction of other recent research, a new
study among 2,000 consumers carried out by
integrated marketing specialist GI Insight has
found that nearly three-quarters (73%) have given Female
permission to be emailed by companies they have
previously bought from. Even more strikingly, half
(51%) have also given permission to companies
they have no previous relationship v\nth. 50 60 70 80
Permission rates differ only slightly across both
male and female consumers for companies they
know, as the first chart (right) shows. Women are Permission to email by age
slightly more cautious about opting in to
unknown third parties than men, although by a Given permission for email to company bought from before
relatively limited proportion. Having half the
population wiUing to get cold emaU should be a
considerable comfort to marketers who have Overall
increasingly been switching to this channel.
Unreceptive audiences
Less comfort wiU be gained from the survey 25-34
about how weU email marketing is actuaUy
carried out. Just over half (53%) of consumers 35-44
say that almost aU of the email they receive is
irrelevant (see chart, page 44). Here there is a 45-54
slightly bigger difference between how men and
women view their inbox, with female consumers 55-64
more cautious.
This indicates email marketing is performing no
better than random. If you view relevance as % 60 65 70 75 80
being binary - a message either is or is not
relevant - then there is a 50/50 chance of getting Source: GI Insight
it right. Using the data recorded when a consumer
opts in ought to significantly improve that hit rate.
That consumers say it is not is worrying. a bad figure, although it would be great if it was level of opting-in to email from companies they
According to a source working in financial higher," says the source. She points out that know. At that age, preferences are far from
services marketing, however, much depends on industry reference points for email best practice, settled (and there are lots of other distractions).
what is meant by the term 'relevance'. She says: such as Amazon, also send email that does not As adult life takes off and income starts to
"If you are offering accidental death insurance to get opened, but which consumers are unhkely to rise, so do permission rates, as seen with the
somebody who doesn't want it at the moment, consider irrelevant. rise among 25- to 34-year-olds. Family life then
that message would be considered irrelevant Regulated industries, such as financial services, knocks back opt-in levels, before they return
because they are not in the market. " have an obligation to use aU they know about a strongly in middle age - 45- to 54-year-olds are
That does not mean the product itself is consumer when targeting their marketing under the most likely to want to get email. Permission
irrelevant, since insurance is something any the Treating Customers Fairly legislation. "We stays above average right up to retirement.
consumer might need, but also one that is have to be very careful and only offer people "That was a surprise," admits Andy Wood,
optional. Using information about changes in products we think they wUl want. The regulation managing director of GI Insight. "It is probably
lifestyle - getting married, having a baby, is very clear about that," she says. about trust. People aged 45 to 64 know who they
moving house - should help to boost the chances This may be reflected in the different levels of buy from and if they are interested in their
of aiming such a product at a relevant target. permission identified in the research across products. They are less broad in their repertoire
Various industry benchmarks suggest that various age groups (see second chart, above). and are starting to firm-up on who they want
email generaUy has a 30% open rate. "That is not The youngest consumers have a below-average to keep buying from over a longer period. " • February 2011 Data Strategy 43

Permission to email by income

• Given permission for email to company bought from before

number of people
who let brands
they have never
used email them
60 80 100

While this same age group are slightly more

likely to say the email they receive is all Almost all email received is irrelevant by gender
irrelevant, they are also likely to be exposed to
more messages than other groups. Higher I Almost all the emails I receive are irrelevant
income levels at this age, combined with higher
opt-in rates and established preferences mean
these consumers are seeing more email and will
therefore rejert more. Equally, younger
consumers are more open to approaches because
they have not established their product
repertoire, so wiU consider more messages to
be relevant.
Another interesting discovery in the research
is that nine out of 10 consumers in the highest- % 47 56
income bracket had given their permission to be
emailed (top chart, right). This group are often
said to be hard to contact - this evidence
suggests that an established relationship can
Almost all email received is irrelevant by age
be maintained and fostered, provided it is done Almost all the emails I receive are irrelevant
with respect.

Recognising preferences Overall

The real surprise in the survey is the extent to
which this is actually happening - in the upper 18-24
income bracket, only one in five consumers
(22%) say all of the email they receive is 25-34
irrelevant (bottom chart, right). At less than half
the average, it suggests the high rate of 3544
permission from this group is being handled
with care to avoid unsubscribe responses. 45-54
"Are they getting less email per se and
therefore see less that is irrelevant?" wonders 55-64
Wood. "I would expect top-end brands such as
Harrods or Liberty, who run loyalty programmes
specifically aimed at high rollers, or concierge % 0 10 20 30 40 50 60
services, to do more targeted email. What we
are seeing is best practice at the top end - we
have to hope it filters down."
Pressure on marketing budgets has driven a
Almost all email received is irrelevant by income
high level of switching to the channel from • Almost aU the emails I receive are irrelevant
other, more expensive media. Industry sources
report that there is a problem with an ongoing
attitude of "it's so cheap, why bother
targeting?" For now, permission rates do not
appear to be collapsing under the weight of
high levels of activity and low levels of targeting
and personalisation.
But that tolerance cannot be taken for
granted forever. Already, email is only seen as
relevant half the time and some groups of
consumers are growing annoyed. Marketers
should be placing a higher value on the
permissions they gain and doing everything
possible to avoid triggering an unsubscribe 40 50 60
response. Failing to use available data in email
just leaves marketing to chance. 9 Source: GI Insight

44 Data Strategy February 2011

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