Monday, 4 April 2016

Planned, deduplicated, sent!

Email marketing is the best performing digital channel, both in terms of acquiring new customers as well as in engaging with existing customers and retaining their loyalty. Its death has already been announced on numerous occasions, but to paraphrase The New York Times, email is “the cockroach of the internet”: it clings on and comes back whenever it faces the threat of extermination. Since it was created 40 years ago, its technology has stood the test of time and continues to adapt to the changing digital world.

Unfortunately, email marketing suffers from years of abusive mailouts that emphasised quantity over quality. Our inboxes gleefully overflowed with many and varied messages. It was difficult for us to find our way around, sort through our personal and business messages, newsletters we had subscribed to, emails from advertisers whose offers and products interested us and junk mail (spam, phishing and other barbaric—and occasionally malicious—practices).

Furthermore, even a tempting offer might end up in the “trash can” if the user receives it 5 ​​times in a row. Marketing pressure exerted too heavily is irritating to consumers, thereby reducing our chances of success and decreasing a campaign’s performance…
…not to mention a welcome offer reserved for new customers sent out to a loyal customer! In other words, it is essential to distinguish between the acquisition campaign audience and the loyalty audience, as well as to target your communications.

What are the consequences of these abusive practices?
To improve the user experience, email service providers are implementing increasingly stringent anti-spam policies. Deliverability of messages may decrease if good practices are not followed. Moreover, users themselves can take direct action to deal with email overload: making spam complaints and unsubscribing from your communication mailing list (opt-out).
Without good control of media planning and capping for each message, consumers exposed to a high number of emails are likely to turn away from your brand. The entire advertising chain will suffer as a result: advertisers may lose responsiveness and engagement of prospects or even customers. This can lead to a sharp drop in publishers’ database performance. Mailouts that are too frequent, or exposure to a non-relevant message, usually mean that money is wasted on both sides, regardless of the campaign’s economic model.

What is deduplication?
However, there are solutions to allow better control of marketing pressure. Segmentation of email address databases for targeting purposes, together with a deduplication strategy, help accomplish the well-known goal of direct marketing: send the right message to the right person, at the right time.
We will focus here on the deduplication of emailingdatabases. Two or more databases are combined in order to identify duplicate email addresses.
Here we make the distinction between two kinds of deduplication in the acquisition of new customers and qualified prospects:

– Deduplication of the publisher mailout database with the advertiser database (including opt-in, opt-out, CRM databases). Therefore, we do not invite users already engaging with a brand to subscribe to special offers reserved for new customers. This will also avoid contact being made with consumers who no longer wish to receive ads from the advertiser (opt-out)
– Cross database or multi-database deduplication, i.e. various publishers’ email addresses are combined, and shared addresses are detected. This practice aims to reduce the number of times the same message is sent. If the address of a user is included in five different databases with which the advertiser or its agency is working, the user is likely to receive exactly the same message five times. The results can be disastrous, as described above.
Both types of deduplication are complementary and may form two phases of an overall strategy. We advise that they be used simultaneously, even if in practice this is tricky to achieve. Indeed, it is often difficult to perform deduplication between different publishers and marketplaces. We should, nevertheless, turn increasingly to the purchasing of audiences, following the model that matures in display or video advertising.

Deduplication of email databases by Powerspace
Some of you may know Powerspace for its expertise in the field of acquisition email marketing. Powerspace advises advertisers on exclusive offers to set up, designing and developing mobile ready (responsive design) email messages for them, and implementing dedicated transformation tunnels. The technologies developed by the company allow qualified leads to be collected, which, thanks to API, can be directly integrated into advertisers’ PRM/CRM tools. Our customers and partners are also fond of our rich text campaign reports with a captive audience profile and a source of leads (desktop/mobile, OS etc.). All this data can be both converted into customer intelligence and be used to better optimise future campaigns.
To go one step further in optimising the effectiveness of advertising, Powerspace offers deduplication services. The choice of development tools based on big data technologies means they are fast and robust, able to withstand a substantial amount of data, with almost instant deduplication. From a security point of view, advertiser and publisher databases are protected by email address encryption in MD5 format (a unique sequence of 32 characters). Therefore, it is now possible to extract from publisher databases those users who are already customers or unsubscribed from the advertiser, thereby controlling the marketing pressure exerted on each contact.

Application of deduplication
Let’s take a closer look at the figures from a test campaign distributed on behalf of a large retailer.
The promotional offer was sent by 8 publishers selected by Powerspace to audience segments with an affinity with the target brand. The segments were of different sizes, from 70 k to over 900 k addresses. The sum of non-deduplicated addresses reached over 3 million contacts. The advertiser provided Powerspace with its “anonymised” (MD5-encoded) opt-in and opt-out databases, with almost 2 M contacts to be excluded from the system. 350 k of these addresses (i.e. 11% of the initial volume) were found in the 8 mailout databases and discarded from the campaign. The number of prospects was thus established at 2.75 M single contacts following this first step of deduplication. The campaign was sent to these users.

Powerspace also simulated multi-database deduplication. Those addresses located in two or more databases made up 18% of the overall volume. This means that 550,000 individuals were potentially exposed more than once to the same offer, via different senders (publishers).

What is the future for duplicates?
It is out of the question to completely remove the 550,000 addresses from the campaign audience. Corresponding to the targeting criteria, these contacts are potentially interested in the offer promoted by the message. To minimise the risk of excess pressure on this audience, it would be wise to select—for each duplicate email—a single database via which advertisement will be sent. We will select the most performant and qualitative database, which is supposed to achieve the best response from users.

Towards a more sustainable use of databases
Some publishers may be reluctant to allow deduplication to be carried out between theirs and their competitors’ databases. The most often cited reason is a loss of income due “lost” contacts, requested by another publisher that is expected to perform better.
Such reasoning, however, is unfounded, as it results in “media hype” (message received several times by the same user). Let us not forget that sending emails to contacts who may not respond may also end up being costly to the publisher (routing and churn). Moreover, these same addresses, not relevant for campaign X, can be much more responsive for campaign Y.

Deduplication is beneficial to the entire advertising chain – from advertiser, by publisher to the consumer – and its practice should no longer be marginal. Aiming to reduce marketing pressure, it will enable better use of publisher databases: a user who is exposed to fewer ads will be more attentive and responsive to them. As for the advertisers and publishers who send the actual messages, their brand image will be preserved. In practice, the opt-out rate should decrease. And email marketing can only benefit in the long term…
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