Digital marketing strategies such as email are vital to e-Tailers striving to increase traffic and overall purchase rates. With the obstacles of spam filters and low delivery rates, many online merchants are challenged to boost brand awareness. For example, eCampus.com, a retailer of new and used textbooks, struggled to promote its “Rent and Return” program in 2009. After teaming with Bronto Software and implementing the company’s Deliverability Monitoring solution, the e-Tailer increased email-driven revenue by 280% year over year.
Prior to deploying the Bronto solution, eCampus.com’s email campaigns were receiving low delivery rates on a consistent basis; approximately 5-8% of all email messages were not received. With low inbox delivery, high spam filtering and excessive bounce rates, the e-Tailer suffered from lost revenue and a siloed customer service strategy.
“Before partnering with Bronto, we used a basic email marketing system that allowed us to send plain text transactional emails, but not HTML marketing messages,” Austin Caldwell, Interactive Marketing Manager for eCampus.com, told Retail TouchPoints. “In order to stay competitive, we needed to step up our game. When looking for potential email marketing platforms, our team wanted to create really snazzy interactive messages. Since we were starting from scratch, we needed to track our progress every step of the way. Bronto allowed us to monitor engagement metrics along with revenue metrics.”
The two companies connected in April 2011 in an effort to improve eCampus.com’s shopper engagement and drive revenue. With teamwork and Bronto’s solution, the e-Tailer could analyze current processes, data and the technical infrastructure. eCampus.com also improved segmentation processes and optimized timing, messaging and deliverability.
Since the implementation, eCampus.com has increased deliverability from approximately 92% to 99-100%. Two years into its partnership with Bronto, eCampus.com has increased revenue from email marketing by 280% year over year. The merchant also improved open and click through rates by nearly 6%.
“When partnering with Bronto Software, we wanted to create a great customer experience through improved transactional messages and dynamic marketing emails,” Caldwell explained. “Although increasing revenue was important, we required a solution that was easy to implement and simple to use on a daily basis.”
Now, email messages are sent from a private IP, allowing eCampus.com’s marketing team to monitor delivery performance more closely. The retailer also made significant alterations to email content development and design. Previously, email creative consisted of a large image with limited or no text. This unbalanced image-to-text ratio led to frequent spam triggers. Some consumers had images turned off, leading emails to be completely ignored.
Leveraging Email Content And Design Best Practices For Improved Deliverability
eCampus.com worked with Bronto’s Professional Services team to incorporate best practices into its email template, including image and text balances, as well pre-header text and more efficient subject lines.
“Bronto’s Deliverability Monitoring team sat down with me once a month to discuss the success and failure of specific strategies,” Caldwell said. “We tested our marketing strategies against 96 different email clients for inbox deliverability issues. Since we wanted to improve both open rate and click rates, we also tested the subject line as well as different variations of email content. With Bronto’s A/B testing procedures, we measured fluctuations systematically in a customer’s perceived value of different content or offers. We also analyzed components of our product’s entire lifecycle to improve engagement every step of the way.”
With thorough testing and content analysis, eCampus.com discovered that customers preferred static, dollar-off coupons versus percent-off coupons at the beginning of college semesters. However, when students were selling textbooks at the end of the semester, percent-off coupons were the preferred form of offers.
To date, eCampus.com has followed a consistent schedule of test deployments that are sent to approximately 100 different ISP clients and browser combinations in up to five mailings per month. Bronto provides eCampus.com with thorough reports on an email campaign’s overall sender rating, email volume, spam or ISP complaints and hard bounces.
eCampus.com plans to continue its focus on sending engaging messages to subscribers by developing a more advanced segmentation strategy. For example, to expand awareness on its mobile and social strategies, the e-Tailer hopes to employ geo-targeted segmentation to merchandise apparel for specific colleges.
According to Jim Davidson, Manager of Marketing Research for Bronto Software, it is vital that retailers utilize data collection tactics across channels to optimize engagement efforts, especially if they’re in the early stages of building an email strategy. “Behavioral data will provide insights as well as segmentation opportunities,” he said. “Details on profile information and customer preferences will help to evolve an email program into a cross-channel program that translate into mobile and social.”
As shoppers continue to gravitate to mobile and social media to gather information, retailers must keep pace by connecting the dots across communication touch points, according to Davidson.
“Consumer adoption and acceptance of receiving marketing messages in mobile and social channels is growing and can’t be ignored,” Davidson said. “Not only do marketers need to make sure they are active within each of the channels, they need to coordinate promotions and communication across them — and email remains the backbone to accomplishing a strong cross-channel marketing strategy.”