How email marketing and data go hand-in-hand

Personalisation is key to creating an active and engaged email subscriber base, but in order to reap the benefits of personlisation you first need a good grip on data. Andrew Fragias outlines common issues that impact data quality when it comes to email marketing.

Good marketers know all too well that successful campaigns aren’t determined by luck or chance. Instead, they are the result of careful planning based on the best available information – namely customer data. While the word data may elicit a yawn or eye roll from some, it shouldn’t be considered a dirty word, and it’s certainly not something marketers can afford to ignore. 

In a recent webinar by Validity Inc., we look at how a number of businesses allocate budget for maintaining the quality of customer data. Our survey found that 51 percent of businesses identified that their data quality budget comes out of their marketing budget, accounting for between 15.7 percent and 22.9 percent of the total. Meanwhile, only 32 percent of respondents said they had a separate budget dedicated to data quality. 

Having a dedicated budget for maintaining data quality is without a doubt the ideal scenario because while most marketers understand that it takes time and resources to successfully manage data, it’s easy for this task to fall by the wayside when there are arguably more exciting activities for marketers to focus on, such as activations, clever ads and fun creative. It’s important to remember though that these activities could perform very poorly if the data informing their creation is out of date, or worse, non-existent. 

Let’s look at email marketing as an example.  

Email has long been one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s arsenal, but with all of us receiving significantly more marketing emails in recent times, we’re becoming more selective about which we open. You may have mastered the compelling subject line, but if your email’s content doesn’t speak to your subscribers, they’re unlikely to take your desired action.

Enter personalisation. We’ve all received personalised emails – the greeting line uses our first name and includes images and links to products that we’ve recently shown interest in. Experian reports that content personalisation provides a 29 percent higher unique open rate, and 41 percent higher unique clicks compared to generic content, while a study by Marketing Land found brands gain eight times better click-through rates when they included a personalised video in their email marketing versus a static outbound email campaign. 

Furthermore, Statista found that the open rate for emails with personalised content was 18.8 percent compared to 13.1 percent without personalisation. So, what does a 5.7 percent difference mean? Well, if you run a campaign for 1 million subscribers, personalised content can mean an additional 57,000 subscribers opening your email.

Personalisation also goes a long way in keeping subscribers engaged. If you aren’t engaging your subscribers, they are more likely to delete your email, mark it as spam or even unsubscribe, all of which will negatively affect your future deliverability.

With that said, most subscribers check their spam folder at least once a day, and the likelihood of an email being recovered from spam is higher when the subject line is personalised – because it stands out! Strong engagement also contributes to higher retention of customers, a critical contributor to revenue. The more active and engaged an email subscriber is, the more likely they are to convert to a sale.

Where does data fit into this?

We don’t tend to feel so special when we receive multiple emails carrying the same content from a business or if we you consistently receive products and offers that aren’t of interest to us, or if our name is spelt wrong! In fact, we’re more likely to disengage or unsubscribe. If you want to reap the benefits of personalisation, you first need to get your data in order. 

The strongest performers when it comes to data management typically us a CRM system to store their customer data, which allows the team to capture, store and manage data efficiently. In fact, CRM users are 1.1 times more likely to monitor data quality, and 1.5 times more likely to have data quality KPIs across the organisation than businesses that don’t use a CRM.

By having information about subscribers at your fingertips, you can effectively personalise emails for customers based on their preferences, needs and behaviors. However, just like a car – a CRM system can only work well if you put the right fuel into it. In this case, the petrol is good quality data. 

Common issues that impact data quality include duplicate data, incorrect data, invalid data, incomplete or inconsistent data, or poorly defined data (which means that data is sectioned in the wrong category) – and these are all too common, and things like incorrect or poorly defined data can really impact personalisation.

For instance, I have never met a company that can confidently say they have zero duplicate records in their CRM. Even if they implement a one-off deduplication project, once the project is complete, more duplicates will appear in the system. Fortunately, third-party software can make addressing these issues a simple, automatic process for your team. For example, Demand Tools by Validity is a program that manages the automation of both the standardisation and deduplication of the data in your CRM.

Standardising data in your CRM will not only save your team significant time when preparing for campaign deployment, it will also improve subscriber engagement. For example, “Hi Andrew” vs “Hi ANDrew” as an email greeting — the second example screams unsuccessful data merge and may result in increased unsubscribe rates and decreased engagement rates, rendering your content personalisation efforts a lot less effective than they could have been. 

While there is a common misconception in some circles that good data management is too costly and time consuming to prioritise, in reality poor data management is costing you much more. Just think of how much money gets wasted on campaigns that simply ‘miss the mark’. I know we can all think of plenty of examples. By leveraging good quality data, marketers can target and communicate effectively with customers in a personalised and relevant way that encourages engagement, action and loyalty. 

Andrew Fragias is the customer success manager, APAC, at Validity.

Image by Tú Anh from Pixabay.