E-mail Evolution: Online behavior cues up campaigns

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Miami Beach, Fla.—Behavioral targeting and triggers can produce powerful results for e-mail campaigns, despite the possibility of creating unease among e-mail recipients, according to presenters earlier this week at the Direct Marketing Association's E-mail Evolution Conference.

"It's OK to be a little creepy, but not too much," said Adrian X. Olivera, manager-global CRM and business development at computer manufacturer Dell Inc. "People are beginning to see the value in behavioral targeting, but don't want trigger programs that are too promotional or ones not built on relationship content."

Olivera cited a recent Dell campaign targeting small-business owners. Using Web analytics solutions from SiteCatalyst, the company identified registered small-business subscribers searching for particular Dell products. Triggered e-mails were sent within one to two days, highlighting a number of Dell products, rather than the specific product searched for, and with no particular offer.

Open rates were twice that of untriggered messages, click-through rates were six times higher and both revenue and margins were twice those of standard e-mails.

"Be responsible and transparent with your messages," Olivera said. "Challenge your e-mail service provider and other partners, and leverage your Web analytics team to integrate directly with the ESP."

Online travel company Travelocity uses a dual-trigger campaign to convert active searchers. Presenter Jennifer Mueller, Travelocity global CRM technology manager, said the company tracks subscribers who search for certain city pairs, then sends a discount offer within 30 days or within seven days of indicated travel plans.

The campaign, titled, "It's a Good Day to Buy," produced two to three times better open and click rates, Mueller said.

The power of nonpromotional e-mail was underscored by Micah Heiselt, associate art director at online gift site Heiselt devised a "blind" e-mail campaign featuring engaging creative content but no offer or featured product. Its sole purpose was to intrigue and drive people to the website.

As a result, the company enjoyed click rates 89% higher than a year earlier, with sales up 60% year over year.

"What we found in previous e-mails is, no matter how good the product or promotion, at least half of our revenue comes from nonrelated products on the website," Heiselt said. "We knew that if we could get people to the site, they'd pull their own weight."

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