At DMA's Email Evolution: Debates on metrics, list-building get lively

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Miami Beach, Fla.—Spirited debate highlighted the Direct Marketing Association's Email Evolution Conference here, in particular defining useful metrics of email engagement and ways of developing contact lists. “Because things have gotten more complex with segmentation, we don't think classic email metrics—such as delivers, opens and clicks—are worth anything,” said Tim Watson, founder of email marketing consultancy Zettasphere, in a session titled “What Is Engagement Anyway?” on Thursday. “With these, you can't tell how many customers engage or how many you didn't engage with because you didn't have the chance,” he said. Watson urged marketers to focus on “open reach,” a measure of the proportion of an email database that has opened at least one message over a period of time and which provides a better indication of recipient behavior than traditional campaign metrics. Panelist Dela Quist, CEO of email marketing company AlchemyWorx, agreed, and added, “We also should embrace unsubscribes.” Quist said accounting for recipients who unsubscribe makes databases more efficient and provides a key test of campaign effectiveness. However, Kath Pay, a panelist and principal at email consultancy Plan to Engage, urged a broader view of email measurement. “We need to look at multiple metrics,” Pay said. “Some may be campaign-based, such as what kinds of content are clicked on and downloaded, or those who are opening, clicking and taking you up on offers.” In the session titled “Segmentation Strategies Across Channels,” email list-building inspired a discussion around Facebook Connect, which enables users to log onto third-party websites from their Facebook identities. “With its single sign-in capability using existing credentials, Facebook Connect saves time and is easily accessible to users,” said Jai Williams, senior marketing strategist at StrongMail Systems. “And it creates an avenue for increased user interactivity, yielding actionable rich data.” But panelist Dave Hendricks, COO at digital display ad company LiveIntent Inc., countered that these benefits don't outweigh traditional means of assembling opted-in subscriber lists and in fact present drawbacks to the marketer. “Acquiring email users isn't simple, and you work hard to create and position registration forms,” Hendricks said. “But Facebook users are not subscribers, and they're also subject to Facebook's terms of service, which can change at any time.” Hendricks cautioned marketers that “low friction” in building contact lists means “low investment and low ownership by you.” “If you decide to quit Facebook Connect, you can't take anything but the most basic data with you,” he said. “But if you get registration sign-ups, you own them and can keep them.”
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