Posts tagged ‘communication channels’

Are emailers effective? A review of communication tactics, Part 2

As mentioned in my last post, with an aim to analyse the marketing emailers that I’ve received, I let promotional emails accumulate in my Gmail folders for over three months – from June to August this year. Presented in this post is an analysis of these emailers, an experiment I’m glad to share with the readers of this blog.

Background Notes:

I almost never notice ‘marketing / promotion / lead generation’ emails sent to me. That’s because Gmail, my primary email client for personal emails, detects and filters unwanted emails with an alarming accuracy level – less than 0.1% of email in the average Gmail inbox is spam. And the occasional, unsolicited ones that I do spot in my inbox are duly marked ‘spam’ which ensures that I don’t see more such in future.

As I downloaded the emails accumulated in my spam folder, I noticed that more than 90% of those emails were for Banking and Financial services (BFSI) products. It was a significant volume of emails from one sector, so I removed the small number of emails from other sectors and am just presenting the findings from the 469 emails from the BFSI sector.

Hence, a caveat, this is a biased analysis. The analysis is only of BFSI product emails sent to me specifically, based on how I have been profiled by a) email marketing service providers / databases (ESP), and b) BFSI products/brands that I purchased or interacted with; as well as c) a few ‘opt-out’ choices I made over the course of these 3 months from some of the email databases.

Deliverability insights:

Did you notice that I mentioned that these emails were pulled out from the spam folder? A probable reason for emails from these senders being classified spam is their domain / IP reputation, not to mention the ‘quality’ of their email lists.

The graph below shows the top email sending domains and the number of brands they’ve sent emails for.  For instance, I received 65 emails, on behalf of 15 different brands, from one of these senders, mailpost.in. These domains are pretty much in the business of ‘bulk’ mailing – repeatedly sending emails to the same consumer for various brands.

1 DomainsSendingEmails

Would a brand really want to be associated with such bulk senders?  As marketers, before picking or approving an ESP, some hard questions need to be asked. How was their database built? How good is their segmentation? What data protection systems and processes do they have? What is their spam rate? How do they measure deliverability? What tools do they use for email authentication? What is the domain and IP reputation? Digging deep into these even before an email is designed ensures tremendous campaign success later.

Time based insights:

As I opened these emails to glance at the contents, the quantum of such email kept increasing and this trend continued even after I stopped opening them and unsubscribed to some of these databases. From about 2.6 emails every day in June, they went up 3x to 8.2 emails per day by August. The one thing that ESPs are clearly good at is tracking open rates and ensuring their future mailing tactics maximise chances of meeting their objectives.

2 EmailsByMonth

The next variable I looked at was day of the week. BFSI brands prefer weekdays, with a slight peak in emails sent on Thursdays and Fridays, and a clear drop on Sundays. 

3 EmailsByWeekday

At an hourly level, the trend is clear too; email receiving peaks between 11AM to 1PM. I got 40% of all emails in that slot and this trend was fairly consistent across weekdays and across months. These trends are in-line with some send time learning on email marketing.

4 EmailsByHour

Product category insights:

Among the various sub-segments that comprise BFSI, Life insurance has the maximum share of voice (SOV) on mass media (TV, print and radio). It’s followed by Mutual Funds and Retail banking (thanks to all the new banking licenses), and I expected the same aggressiveness and SOV in digital/email marketing as well. But, more than a third of emails I received were for Credit cards followed by those for Personal loans. The former are being pushed aggressively by traditional banks while the later were being pushed by NBFCs.5 EmailsByProduct

Banks still send 44% of all emails.  But what is really interesting is that if you remove credit cards, both NBFCs and online aggregators/dotcoms are giving tough competition to traditional banks. Online aggregators have started to go beyond regular insurance products and are sending out a fair mix of emails on other financial products.

6 EmailsBySenderType

Messaging insights:

In terms of the actual emails themselves, to see how many different ‘creatives’ are being sent, I analysed the subject lines. I began by assuming that the email content / message is the same if a subject line is the same; many a time the email content was the same even with a changed subject line,  I ignored this scenario.  I noticed that both the quantum of duplicate emails as well as their proportion kept increasing as months went by. While this is a telling commentary on how an email marketing companies’ business model works; what is of greater concern is that brand marketers are opting to re-send the same set of creatives for months together.

7 DuplicateEmailsOverMonth

As mentioned in my earlier blog post, the email subject line has a critical role to play in email marketing. It has to provoke and interest a person enough to make him open and read the email body. And because email open rates are abysmally low, the subject line has an additional burden of delivering the brands’ benefit. The word cloud shown below visualises the words used in the subject lines in these 469 emails that I received over the 3 month period, with the brand and product category names removed. The more prominent the word, the more frequently it is used in the subject line.

8 WordCloudAllBFSI-redone-banks removed-horizontal

Once the brand name and product category is established, brands seem to be mostly communicating promotions – free, no fee, save, cash back, complementary, vouchers / tickets, offer etc. Very few talk about  other important benefits that drive brand image, such as a) service levels – expert, stress free etc., b) process – instant, e-approved, cashless etc., and c) network – large, convenience, etc. The basic selling of almost all products on discounts and rewards is quite telling, it probably indicates one of these – heavy competition in this space, current stage of category evolution and/or undifferentiated benefits.

Coming to the content of the emails, what I received was an overdose of image-based emails. Most email clients suppress images by default;   this not only leads to wrong measurement of ‘open rates’ but also a bad user experience as a consumer doesn’t seeing anything immediately  on opening an email. The other problem with image-based emails is that they leave little scope for personalization basis name or even basis segmentation and profiling of consumers.

Then there is content that seems to follows a standard template, what I call ‘the bullet point’ approach’. These mailers typically have 4-5 undifferentiated features listed, stone-cold, without a mention of the overarching final payoff in terms of what it gives the consumer (functional benefit) or how it makes them feel (emotional benefit). The functional benefit, even if attempted, is just a description of what the service does (e.g. quick financial assistance for all your needs), it does not ladder it up higher to how it improves the customer’s life (So what ? How does this matter to me? How will it make my life better?).

9 EmailContent

In many cases, the heading is another feature or a call to action and neither it nor the image add any value to the subject of the email. The reason why someone opened an email is because they are interested in knowing more about what is promised in the ‘subject’ line. When an email message doesn’t deliver or explain what the subject line promises, the click-through rates plummet.

10 EmailContent-MultipleCTA

Then there were some mailers that made the unpardonable mistake of having multiple call-to-action (CTA) or worse still not having a CTA. While the image itself is clickable, how is the consumer to know what action is required from him / her to get to what is being promised?

11 EmailContent-CTA-Missing

The typical CRM emails wishing customers on various occasions (festival, celebration etc.) fall into this category too. It’s critical to balance value and frequency and avoid over-sending emails.

Analysing the emails from the past few months, I get a sense that marketing teams often completely outsource email marketing to generalist agencies and ESPs, spending very little time and effort  monitoring and reviewing email marketing  strategy and campaigns.  This essentially means most email marketing programs fail to deliver on their objectives, or even if they do, they deliver them sub-optimally. Email marketing is by no means easy and it has many moving parts that the brand has to get right – strategy, technology, creative (design, copywriting) to robust analytics.  Here’s hoping to see a few email campaigns in the near future that are pathbreaking.

  • Ravindra Ramavath
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September 18, 2017 at 11:20 am Leave a comment

Are emailers effective ? – A review of communication tactics

I am a regular follower of marketing charts (note: slow to load) and every so often I notice a chart  which  shows that marketers still consider email to be a valuable marketing tool.  For instance, various polls among marketers showed that a) they considered email marketing to be the most effective and least difficult vehicle for lead generation, b) email marketing provided the best ROI of any digital channel, c) 89% have decided to either increase or keep the same spends on email marketing. And if millennials are the segment that you’re targeting, this Adobe survey showed that email is one of the best ways to reach millennials.

On paper, email is still one of the most cost-effective ways to reach consumers, both in terms of total cost as well as cost per contact. Ever wondered what actually happens to all such awareness/promotion/lead generation emails being sent out? How many are noticed by the recipients in the inbox of their email account? More importantly, what proportion of recipients open and read them? What impact do they have on the reputation of the company / brand? What metrics should be used to measure effectiveness?  As a marketer concerned with the effectiveness and ROI of any communication tactic or channel, these are the nature of questions that I’m always trying to answer.

Fin-serv - part 1 - image

As I see it, there are fundamentally 3 critical aspects to getting a lead generation email marketing campaign right: a) ensuring the email lands in the target’s inbox, at the right time, b) Ensuring the email is actually opened and c) ensuring the relevant message is delivered and call to action achieved. A strong understanding of technology, analytics and creative is required to deliver all three. A lack of understanding of any of these aspects results in inefficient spends and belies the claim of cost-effectiveness. The onus of closely monitoring and reviewing the execution of email marketing campaigns lies with marketers as not all digital marketing agencies and email service providers (ESPs) possess the right mix of people with technical, analytical and creative understanding.

The following sections explore each of the three points mentioned above in more detail.

Landing in the inbox, at the right time:

This is one of the most critical aspects to understand, but one that marketers often pay little attention to. The marketing departments at many companies depend on a generalist digital agency that in turn goes to the cheapest database provider and ESP – often a single entity – for generating leads.  Using such providers, buying or renting databases from them is pretty much the worst thing a brand can do.

Firstly, email addresses in such databases are probably obtained by dubious means. Secondly, the authenticity, profiling and segmenting of such databases tends to be of extremely poor quality. To make things worse, these databases are likely to have been milked dry for other brands. All these lead to a low IP reputation of these ESPs, making it easy to identify emails coming from them as spam. Plus, all it takes to train the machine learning spam filters are a few disgruntled recipients who mark the emails as spam. Spam filters work really, really well (99.9% accurate) leading to poor delivery of emails into inboxes.

Once this ‘deliverability’ problem is taken care of, it’s time to move on to the ‘when to deliver’ problem. Send the email on the wrong day and it is likely to remain unopened, or, once opened, be ineffective as the call to action has been rendered meaningless. Send the email at the wrong time and it is likely to be ignored.

To sum up, finding the right email agency is crucial. Email marketing is moving away from being a piecemeal activity to one that is cross-functionally integrated into marketing, sales and customer service. In such a scenario, two critical points – to have a specialised email agency on board which has the right ethics, technology, strategic thinking, analytics and creative capability, and for the marketer to periodically oversee and review the activity.

Ensuring emails are opened:

In our regular work, we’ve seen varying email open rates for some email campaigns on opt-in email lists generated by the brand. Open rates have been as low as 2% in the case of those sent out by a consumer goods firm, to 8% for an apparel e-commerce firm, and as high as 16% for an aspirational youth apparel brand. One reason for such huge variance and underperformance – at as basic a level as ‘open’ – of email campaigns is the time problem described in the earlier section. But a lot of it is due to a messaging problem too, as described in the next section.

The email subject line has a critical role to play in email marketing. It has to grab attention, provoke, interest and encourage further opening and reading of the email body. And because such email open rates are abysmally low, the subject lines have to lead to and sometimes even deliver the brands’ benefit. In short, between the ‘from’ and the ‘subject’ the intended recipient should get a crystal clear idea about the brand and the benefit. No wonder good email marketers are most interested in optimizing their subject lines for higher open rates.

Messaging and Action:

This brings us to the next piece on content of the email – the creatives.  I see this as one problematic area where there is a vast scope for improvement.

Some of the best innovations are happening in this space in terms of email interactivity. While some like embedding gifs are plain rookie, others like collapsible menus and shopping carts are really interesting. It’s time to use some of these innovations to improve campaign objective metrics.

Yet most awareness/promotion/lead generation emails that I’ve noticed over the past three months consisted entirely of images with little text. Going forward, a majority of emails are going to be opened on mobiles. Many such image-only emails are going to be resized by the mobile email apps making them difficult to read. If emails aren’t being optimised for or made responsive to mobile, chances are they aren’t getting the desired results.

Another huge problem is the email content itself. Senders are increasingly getting into ‘create once and send multiple times’ mode.  The same set of email creatives are sent multiple times with a different baiting subject line. While such tactics might help optimise ‘open rates’, they cause a deterioration in all other call-to-action parameters. Ensuring that the content is relevant and consistent with the brand, and that the subject line of the email matches what is actually in the content body is critical. And this is where regular tracking and reviewing all the other critical email marketing metrics – click-through rate, conversion rate, list grow rate, sharing rate etc., – is critical.

In order to have shareable data to illustrate the points mentioned, I decided to use the promotional mails that I received as examples. For the same, I let promotional emails accumulate in my Gmail folders for over 3 months with an aim to analyse and learn from them. Now that this post has established some fundamental principles, my next post will present a detailed analysis of those emails.

 

  • Ravindra Ramavath

 

September 14, 2017 at 8:35 am 1 comment

India – Internet Statistics

India-Internet

Since we’ve received some questions after the last two posts, we felt that it was time to share some more data on this topic. As this info-graphic is quite detailed, we may write a post or two on some of the implications of the numbers in this one , but you’ll have to wait a week or two to read those.

  • Ravindra Ramavath

 

September 9, 2014 at 5:52 am 1 comment

Jagriti, Boyie and PiggyMojo

I recently heard about an interesting example of an innovative communication vehicle used to convey social messages to an audience. The messages were of the sort that could be boring for the audience but were important for them, and needed not just to be understood, but to spur them on from understanding to action; hence the communication needed to generate a high degree of involvement and engagement with the audience.

The solution adopted by Phicus in their work with Grameen Financial Services – a South India based MFI, was the creation of a character that the audience of ladies from low income households could easily identify with – a woman called Jagriti. Jagriti is a member of an MFI and writes letters about her experiences which cover topics related to financial education such as opening a bank account, various government schemes and how they are useful to her etc., to social topics such as the evils of drinking or not allowing children to defecate in the open. These letters are read in the MFI members’ meetings and the women have come to associate themselves closely with this character. Phicus found out that this was a great way of teaching and the recall rate of the concepts by the member women was very high. This link connects to a video about this program and its results, watch from 3:00 minutes onwards if you only have time to see the snippets from the meetings.

In case you found this example interesting, you can read about another such example in this article, this example is from Kenya and describes a cartoon character called Boyie created in order to reach out to young adults. This article gives several examples of efforts towards financial education, one of which is a program called PiggyMojo. No, I’m not going to describe this one at all, I’m confident the name is enough to make you click on the link and read the article.

    • Zenobia Driver

 

June 11, 2012 at 7:09 am Leave a comment

Effectiveness of Product Placement

After two posts (read them here and here) about product placement being increasingly used as marketing communication tool, here’s a look at some of their results.  

In early 2005, media agency MindShare North America conducted a study of American TV viewers to gauge their views toward product placement; the outcome was a staggering 80% responded ‘positively’ toward placement in TV and movies and 1/3rd claimed to be responsive to placements by trying a product after seeing it on screen.

But does this claimed responsiveness actually correspond to results as shown by increased sales? Let’s look at a few examples:

  1. Reese’s Pieces in Steven Spielberg’s movie ‘ET’ – Originally, the alien creature was supposed to be lured out of hiding by following a trail of M&M chocolate candies. However, the company which produces M&Ms did not wish to have their product associated with an unproven and potentially unmarketable movie and Hershey’s, a rival company, agreed to provide a similar candy called Reese’s Pieces. The movie became a huge financial success, and the product placement boosted sales of Reese’s Pieces by 66%.
  2. Red Stripe in the Tom Cruise starrer ‘The Firm’  – Sales of Red Stripe, a Jamaican-brewed beer, increased by 50% in the months following the release of the film.
  3. MINI in ‘The Italian Job’ – Soon after the launch of the MINI in the US market, ‘The Italian Job’ was released. 32 MINIs had been donated to the production, and the outcome was a beautiful showcase of its features, dexterity and manoeuvrability, and as was expected, MINI saw a huge surge in popularity.
  4. BMW in James Bond film, ’Golden Eye’ – BMW made US$240 million in advance sales alone, purely due to the Golden eye.
  5. Ray Ban sunglasses in ‘Men in Black’- Ray Ban reported that sales of its Predator 2 sunglasses tripled to US$5 million after they were used in the film.
  6. Toys in animated film ‘Toy-Story’ – It lead to increasing Etch-a-Sketch sales by over 4000% and putting the Slinky maker back in business by achieving sales of US$27 million.

Some Bollywood examples of success include:

  1. Tanishq in ‘Paheli’ – The jewelry showcased in the film was so appreciated that it was sold out, earning Tanishq revenue of over Rs. 1.42 Crores and the high demand for additional pieces of the same jewelry made them add some of the designs into their regular repertoire. After the release of the film ‘Paheli’, a dipstick survey done by an independent agency amongst 300 respondents from SEC A and 25+ year olds revealed that there was a 13% increase in purchase intent and 10% increase in favourability for the brand.
  2. New Zealand in the movie ‘Kaho Na Pyar Hai’ – Previously, it was neither considered a potential shooting location amongst film makers, neither a common destination amongst tourists from India, but such was the impact of the film that it has become one of the most popular holiday destinations amongst Indians and several films are shot there now.

In an online survey done by Synovate in 2005, across five Asian countries, respondents were questioned on brand recall based on active and passive placements in a wide range of clips. The outcome was that viewers have a preference for active placements over passive. According to Garton (Global Head of Media Research, Synovate), “This is not surprising since what they are seeing is a reflection of reality — objects that they use in their real lives every day. They can relate to what they are seeing on the screen.”

Although very effective measurement tools are not in place yet, when the events happen in isolation, such results can be claimed. Multiple companies, in India and abroad, are in the process of creating additional metrics that can be used to measure the product placement effectiveness.

While there isn’t a lot of published research on product placement and its successes, leading researchers and marketers have said the following:  

“87% of advertisers believe branded entertainment is the key to TV advertising in the coming years”

 ANA and Forrester Research, “Marketers Losing Confidence in TV” February 2008

“Brands have realized that product placements alone do not give the returns that these companies are looking for. Integrated association with a movie with a strong banner of producers and actors, makes much more brand sense. It’s a relatively new trend [in India] and we will see many more of them happening in the near future”

Rajnish Sahay, CEO of Percept Talent Management, India (specializes in 360-degree marketing within India’s film, music, sports and entertainment sectors) 

By,

Roshni Jhaveri

June 13, 2011 at 7:15 am 12 comments

Internet & Social Media are BIG, but how big is BIG?

Here are some statistics about the growing use of internet in India. (Source IGF, IMRB-IAMAI internet study, iCube report, Google stats)

  1. 102 million unique internet users in India. This implies 8.8% penetration rate.
    • Of the 102 million, 84 million are desktop internet users, 40 million are mobile internet users  and 22 million are ‘dual’ users – i.e. use both desktop and mobile interne
    • According to industry experts, this number is expected to rise to 250-300 million by 2015. These consumers are far more likely to be meeting their digital needs through mobile phones than through personal computers.
  2. There has also been a rise in the time spent on internet as the number of hours spent has gone up from 9.3 hrs/week to 15.7 hrs/week between 2008 and 2009; a 70% increase.
    • This can be attributed to innovative content delivery, improved applications, downloading music or videos, socializing through social networking sites and micro-blogging

To put this in perspective, let’s compare this to other, more mainstream communication channels:

  1. 103 million cable & satellite TV users in India (This does not include Doordarshan which is another 34 million users)
  2. Average time spent viewing TV is 16 hours/ week
  3. Daily circulation of the top 25 national and regional newspapers in India ranges from 0.6 million to 4.2 million each.

Those were the facts about the medium – clearly Internet in India is no longer a channel that can be ignored by a business. Now let’s take a look at the vehicles: (Growth rates basis unique users in March’10 vs. March’11, Source: adplanner.google.com)

  1. Web portals like Yahoo!, Rediff, Indiatimes grew at ~35%
  2. Social networking websites like Facebook grew at a whopping 175%, YouTube grew at 60%, LinkedIn grew at 45%, while Twitter growth was slower in India at 20%. Orkut’s popularity has faded to 20%.Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Blogs, Youtube, etc.
  3. Blogs are not as popular anymore – Blogger didn’t show any growth in the past year and WordPress grew at 10%. That said, blogs are used as a source for information dissemination and not for entertainment or socializing. Therefore, they may still be useful for certain objectives and audience profiles.

The following table gives a snapshot of the viewership and usage of top 12 websites in India

Comparing websites

Not only do the social media sites have an increasing reach but they are also retaining visitors for a longer time.

Need we say more…

By,

Roshni Jhaveri

April 5, 2011 at 12:25 pm 8 comments


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