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Epsilon Unveils Email Co-op Database

9/4/12

By Ken Magill

Marketing services provider Epsilon today announced it has developed what it claims is a first-of-its-kind email co-op database that will help clients more effectively identify and reactivate lapsed or soon-to-lapse customers, and optimize the timing of individual messages.

Dubbed the Email Response Network, Epsilon claims its email co-op database gives its clients the ability to identify how their customers are interacting with email in and out of their house files, including the device they use to open emails and the time of day they are most receptive and responsive to marketing messages.

Among the Email Response Networks tools is a so-called Reactivation Engine that Epsilon claims allows its clients to identify consumers at various states of disengagement and launch a “tiered” win-back strategy, or a series of increasingly compelling offers sent at predetermined intervals depending on how long the customer has been dormant—say three, six and 12 months.

“Companies love to talk win-back and then they get out there and blast their emails. Companies want to do it, but they don’t have the resources,” said Quinn Jalli, senior vice president, strategic initiatives group at Epsilon. “A tiered win-back that reaches them at various states is much more likely to lead to a favorable win-back result than just hitting them at 12 months and praying it works.”

So where does the co-op come in? According to Jalli, Epsilon can match a company’s 12-month inactive file to the co-op and see which addresses have been active with other merchants and which are dormant across the board and should be removed from the file altogether.

“If we can identify consumers who are opening other clients’ email, what we are in essence doing is distilling down consumers who are most likely to respond to your emails,” he said. “What we have proven with testing is when we deploy to that audience who has shown activity on another client’s list, that segment opens at a 20 to 21 percent rate consistently.”

One of the trends that drove the development of the Email Response Network is ISPs’ reported increasing focus on how engaged recipients are with email from specific senders to decide whether or not the sender’s email is spam, said Jalli.

“It really does change the way you have to look at [email] marketing,” he said. “You can’t go back four years [into the house file]. You can’t even go back two years. Fundamentally, the marketable universe has gotten somewhat smaller.”

Along with the increased focus on engagement, Jalli said, the wide-scale adoption of smart phones has also had a profound effect on the factors an email marketer must consider.

“In four years we have seen fundamental shift in the way email marketing is done,” he said. “Because people are interacting with their email on mobile, there is a question of timing that wasn’t there before.”

As a result, the Email Response Network offers a Scheduling Intelligence tool, a feature that monitors six months of an individual consumer’s email interaction to determine the best time to send email to that individual.

Epsilon is not the first company to automate the timing of email sends on an individual basis. Email service provider Silverpop launched a Send Time Optimization tool in 2009.

In any case, Epsilon’s tests have shown timing the sending of emails on an individual basis results in a significant lift in clicks and opens, according to Jalli.

“In the worst case, open-rate lift was 3.9 percent. In the best, open-rate lift was 8 percent,” said Jalli. “But what’s most impressive was the click-rate lift. In the worst-case scenario, we had a 9 percent click-rate lift and in the best we had a 17.5.

The service also allows clients to determine who opens their messages on a mobile device and doesn’t convert so they can retarget those customers when Epsilon has determined they’re most likely to be on a desktop machine, Jalli said.

Likewise, the service allows clients to target customers with mobile apps when they’re most likely to be on their mobile devices, according to Jalli.

Another of the driving forces behind the creation of the Email Response Network was recent research across Epsilon’s customer base showing that marketers have a very short period of time to turn new email subscribers into customers, said Jalli.

“We’ve come to the stark realization that basically by day 15 after registration, 65 percent of the people who will ever engage with you have already done so,” he said. “So you have a very small window—something we’ve known all along, but I don’t think we realized how quickly that window dissipated.”

As a result, he said: “You need to know something about a consumer before you market to them. We realized we needed to create an email collective. … We’re talking about tailoring deployment to the individual consumer.”

Co-op databases are neither new to the direct marketing industry, nor Epsilon.

In fact, Epsilon owns the world’s first co-op database: Abacus, an initiative that revolutionized direct marketing.

Abacus founder Tony White convinced a wide spectrum of catalogers to collectively feed their customers’ transactional records, encompassing 90 million households, into a central repository for marketing-profiling purposes.

Using the collective data, Abacus would profile a cataloger’s best customers and match the profile to consumers in other participating catalogers’ customer files, allowing the cataloger to reach its best possible prospects in the known catalog-customer universe.

White’s idea turned out to be a stroke of genius.

Today, according to Epsilon, Abacus is the world's largest cooperative database with more than 8.6 billion consumer transactions and 4.8 billion business transactions. It also offers retention services.

The widespread rejection of spam as an acceptable marketing practice prevents Epsilon’s Email Response Network from being used for similar prospecting purposes to those of Abacus.

Privacy issues have resulted in some other significant differences between the Email Response Network and Abacus.

One is that marketers taking advantage of the Email Response Network don’t take possession of the information, according to Jalli.

“We are not building an append service,” said Jalli. “We’re not giving this data to customers. We are using it to target their campaigns.”

What is more, he said: “For you to learn anything about a consumer, you have to have that consumer on your list.”

Moreover, Epsilon is requiring participating marketers to disclose their participation to customers, he said.

Also, clients don’t necessarily have to contribute their customer information to take advantage of the service, Jalli said. “Obviously there are some conditions around that,” he added.

The Email Response Network is fully automatic, according to according to Jalli. He declined to discuss pricing.

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