By John Fleming, Marketing Director EMEA & APAC, Webtrends

As a consumer, subscribing to a company’s mailing list can be a double-edged sword. While a brand can provide fantastic discounts, product news and important announcements by email, consumers don’t want to be bombarded with irrelevant emails drowning out the messages that matter to them.

As a marketer, subscriber retention is key. It is easy to send out a one-size-fits-all message to the masses, but there is a high chance that this will turn off subscribers and reduce the likelihood they will open future emails. We recently identified that there are more than 14 billion emails sitting unopened in British inboxes – and more than half of them are from brands.

With 58 per cent of Britons not concerned about the amount of data they share with brands, in this day and age it’s never been more important to use existing intelligence held about customers to create the right content for the right person.

The emergence of user-friendly applications to manage email subscriptions, such as Unroll.me, have proved popular with consumers looking to clean up their inbox. Users simply have to input their email address details and they are presented with a list of companies to which they are subscribed. They can then select which brands they are happy to hear from and have them rolled into one daily email – or sever ties with a brand with one simple click.

Introducing contextual personalisation

These applications and more demonstrate to retailers how important it is to deliver personalised messages to their consumers. Traditionally companies have looked at one or two of the three key dimensions to engaging with online customers:

• Who the customer is – demographic, gender, region, credit rating, existing or new customer
• What they’ve done in the past (historical) - browsing history, previous in-session actions, previous purchases
• What their current situation is (real-time) – e.g. device being used, location, time of day, place in the customer journey

Contextual personalisation allows brands to look at all three of these simultaneously by bringing together deep analysis of customer behaviour and real-time data to deliver relevant, hyper-contextual experiences based on specific customer needs.

Using these rich insights, a brand can respond accordingly to give the consumer exactly what they want at exactly the right time. This could be in-the-moment email remarketing, online precision targeting or – increasingly - real-time multichannel digital experiences.

Examples in email include:

• Business users booking travel often return to the same sites for personal use. When looking for personal purposes, they’ll want a very different experience. By looking at real-time and historical data, Webtrends’ contextual personalisation can work out what ‘persona’ they are using (i.e. work or home) and predict what they’ll do next – allowing brands to serve up suitable offers.
• An insurance provider trying to increase the number of payments made by Direct Debit and reduce those made by credit card. An example customer of Webtrends has seen that adoption of Direct Debit differs significantly between males and females, with males favouring payments by credit card. By obtaining simple data such as gender, which can be defined by asking for a Mr, Mrs or Miss title on a capture form. The insurer can use this information to achieve its goals by tailoring its marketing messaging (both online and via email campaigns), to encourage males specifically to change their payment method, whilst providing an alternative experience to a female audience that are likely to have already switched.

Some key things to remember to avoid a “batch-and-blast” email marketing campaign and implement an intelligent campaign with relevant marketing messages:

Be aware of multi-device accessibility - With 48% of emails being opened on mobile devices, it is imperative to have mobile-optimised email campaigns or companies may risk losing the consumer and may see a decline in click-through rates.
Timing is everything - Companies need to be aware of when they send out promotional messages to stand out from competitors. The time of day is key and brands should identify peak mobile-usage times to ensure they are optimising their content for mobile reading during this time. A recent survey from Experian also found that late nights and weekends are key times for email marketing as there is less competition so open rates are higher.
Every message needs a purpose - Companies should bear in mind that every message distributed should have a purpose, whether this is to engage, inform or a call-to-action.
Get the all-important feedback - If a consumer no longer wishes to hear from a brand, a simple exit-survey can give important insight into why the user is unsubscribing. Companies can use the feedback to improve their marketing efforts, benefitting the existing recipients as well as further informing their business strategies going forward.