Monday, September 28, 2009

Shop.org - One more thing

You know, I've been thinking a lot about a session I attended at shop.org (I'll comment on the actual session later). While all the marketing sessions were full of tingly excitement and buzzwords, I wanted to get down in the weeds a little more. That's right, rather than talk about ideas and theories, I wanted to talk about the issues surrounding execution. I went to a session that was featuring...operations.

A lot of my marketing compatriots passed on this session. That's because a lot of my marketing compatriots are kinda dumb. They're so in love with ideas (especially their own), that they fail to realize (or simply just ignore) the fact that someone needs to implement their visions of glory.

It's a critical mistake that marketers and (especially) senior executives often make - they don't consider the complexities of operations when devising a plan. They figure "we'll think of something." Of course, that lays the foundation of a wonderful relationship between marketing and operations.

There is a clear road between a marketing idea and a successful marketing idea - that road is called operations. Not involving your operations team in planning is a great way to stick a giant pothole in the road.

It's not only important to tell them what your plan is, but to explain why you're approaching it the way your are. By opening yourself up to the people who are responsible for executing your grand vision, you lay the opportunity for everyone to pull in the same direction. Better yet, your operations team can come up with solutions to issues that may otherwise drag down and kill your project. Operations folks (and their IT brethren) love a detailed project plan. By having them involved in the process before finalizing the plan, you'll come up with a plan that not only contains (most of, at least) your vision.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Shop.org - Day 2

The show so far has been - to say the least - interesting. It's well attended and has had some great speakers. And yes, everyone is still afraid of Amazon.

Here's my take on what's hot and what's not-

HOT

Twitter/Facebook - This subject is red hot and has generated more buzz than just about anything else. Apparently, a research group (who shall remain nameless because I did not see it first-hand) declared that email was dead as a marketing vehicle and that everything is moving to social. Except for old people, who still read email. This is why research people need to be occasionally muzzled. It's true that tweens have limited acceptance of email, but when were they ever an important email constituent? Email goes to the parents, who fund the follies of the youngsters...

Personalization - It's a clear number two on the list. Personalized this and personalized that leads to ginormous increases in sales. While I like a well thought-out approach to personalized recommendations (I saw a GREAT presentation from Mybuys), personalization is sort of the holy grail of marketing...seems super, but good luck finding it.

Myopia - What's been somewhat surprising is the lack of research on the overall market, as opposed to knowledge gained in the line of business. People seem to really know what they know. If they don't know it, it must not exist.

NOT

Email - After all, it's dead...with the charge towards personalization, email looks like a relic of the batch and blast past. Personalization is great, but people look for the point of maximum efficiency rather than the point of diminishing returns. Focusing on the former makes you super-hip personalization guy/gal. Focusing on the latter doesn't make you cool...it just makes you money.

Optimization - People want to talk about personalization, but very little time is spent talking about optimization. It's great to have all these web tools, but where's the best place to place them on the page? Color/font/button/etc? Small tweaks can do more to raise sales than the hyper-aggressive (and somewhat creepy) use of personalization. It's stunning how business seems to still run on "I think" (the creatives win!) versus "I know" (the quants win .)

Mobile - Still seems like a nail in search of a hammer. Most web sites have awful mobile presentations, but nobody seems to care. One reseacher said that .1% of retail transactions were done via mobile phone. Which seems really low when juxtaposed with Nielsen's data that shows (on average) 14% of your web visitors come from mobile devices. I think that the measurement tools (like Omniture) need to do a much better job of measuring mobile activity. At the company I used to work for, we determined that about 15% of our email traffic was being rendered in a mobile device. But when we looked at Omniture, it told us that there was almost zero web/mobile traffic. Either my previous company set it up badly (possible) or Omniture has trouble reading mobile-generated data.

Saw a very interesting session about multi-channel operational integration. More on that in the next post.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shop.org - Opening Day (Update)

Here we are at shop.org, looking for the latest and greatest efforts at success. I'll post on topics that are covered in sessions as well as take a spin around the vendor floor to glean the latest and greatest. Of course, I won't be able to resist giving a little opinion now and then.

The buzz so far? Multichannel... I think this represents progress.

There's a lot of people here - both vendors and clients. The view on the trade show floor is one of cautious optimism. People are beginning to see an uptick in business after what has been a pretty brutal year so far. Everyone is looking forward to a stronger 4th quarter. Or - as one person put it - flat is the new up.

The biggest impediment to business is not smaller budgets, but indecision. Clients have been especially risk adverse. They're not saying no, but they're not saying yes. While indecision can lead to budget being taken away, there's still money to be spent. No one is predicting a gangbusters 4th quarter, but people are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Let's just hope it's not a train...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

DM Central goes to Shop.org

Headed to shop.org next week to look for the latest and greatest techniques for creating value in this crazy economic environment. Will be blogging at least twice, maybe more.

The fact that this conference is in Las Vegas in no way contributes to my desire to go. Really, it's true. Really.

More next week! If you're going to be there, be sure to say hello!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Metrics, Schmetrics

Every once in awhile I find myself embroiled in some sort of vicious discussion about how to effectively measure the impact of email marketing. Rather than comment on the type of people (myself included) who would care enough about the subject to raise discussion to the level of argument, I thought I would throw it open for discussion here and see what people are doing to measure the success of their email efforts.

Here's our problem...people's actions are hard to measure. Yet our business is built on "High ROI."So we have a lot of people (mostly vendors) who tell us that measurement is now scientific as well as a lot of executives who ask for what the vendors have told them is readily available.

There are three distinct audiences that we need to measure. They go from easy to hard in three simple steps.

Group 1 - The Straight Liners - These are the folks that get an email, open it, click on it, then purchase something directly mentioned in the afore-mentioned email. We love these people, because they behave exactly like we want them to. Actually, they behave exactly how our measurement systems want them to behave. More often than not, this is the focus of reports we send to senior management...

Group 2 - The Crooked Liners - These are folks that behave in a non-linear fashion. They might open the email, they might not. They tend to click, but the trip to the shopping basket is either long or non-existent. They might do nasty things like clear their cache on a regular basis. They'll shop, then come back later and buy something that may or may not be what they looked at before. They may look online, then head into the nearest retail shop to actually purchase something. In essence, they're selfish because they do what they want, not what we want them to do.

Group 3 - The Flat Liners - These people rarely, if ever, interact with your email. They don't open, they don't click, they don't buy from the prescribed path we've determined they should walk down. Therefore, they must be dead. Any smart marketer would of course delete these people from their list because hey - if we can't measure them they must not be important. Better to save the $.0007 it costs to send them an email.

Almost ALL of our efforts as an industry are focused on Group #1. Which is all well and good. Problem is that it SIGNIFICANTLY undervalues your email program, especially if you have alternative methods of gathering customers (like your web site...)

When I was at another company who shall remain nameless, the best we could come up with for Group 1 was about $70MM in sales. Which wasn't bad, but really small when compared with overall sales.

What we did was look historically at all of our sales and divided them into "email supported" and "non email supported" (than goodness for non-cooperative marketers.) When looking at the total pool, the amount of sales attributable to email (I'd have to consult with you to tell you how we did it) rose to about $216 MM in sales - over three times the "straight line" method.

But what was really interesting is when we went back and looked at people who were on the database but hadn't ever responded to an email -yet who have never opted out to receiving email. Turns out they purchased over $70MM worth of goods during the measurement period - the same as The Straight Liners. Not bad for a bunch of "dead" people. We couldn't map that all back to email, but we figured why take the risk? So we happily spent the $.0007 to keep sending emails to them. Epsilon published a stat that about 1/3 of your recipients never read your email, but instead head straight for your web site. Looks like that number's about right!

But here's the real insight - each of these groups (at least for the company who shall remain nameless) is roughly the SAME size. That's pretty mind-boggling stuff. It may not be true for your organization, but I'm guessing it's way more true than it is false.

So how have you all handled this issue? Any interesting tales to tell? If so, comment away!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What I would like to see from email vendors...

OK folks, it's dream time...time to lay out the wishes and see what happens...

The email industry is at in interesting crossroads. Current tools are - to be kind - rudimentary in their overall marketing utility to an organization. They tend to be built to keep the geeks (rather than the leaders) happy. While this isn't a bad thing, it's a HUGE limiting factor in the acceptance of email as an important channel for many organizations.

Email systems (both internal and external) are all trying to be good at one thing - getting out the mail. With advances in skill and technology, much of the worry about cranking through a list and sending it out is greatly reduced. With dedicated appliances like Netezza, the issue of query time is largely reduced to rubble. It's list processing, people.

So what can the email community do to increase the value of our precious tool? Here's a few ideas...

(1) Component reporting - There are many pieces to an email, including day, date, subject line and time (among others). Each of these "components" should be readily available via the reporting tool, so that more sophisticated analysis can be performed. You ever try and do a time of day analysis? It's really, really hard - especially if you mail across multiple time zones.

(2) "What's happening now" dashboards - How many emails did we send today? How many people clicked on an email today? in the last hour? What's the status on all of your email jobs (publishing, stuck in queue, etc)? Of the campaigns that are out there generating clicks, how many are from campaigns launched this week versus previous weeks? It might seem simple, but these are the sorts of metrics that make it look like you're in control of your program.

(3) Database metrics - How big is my database (yes, it matters)? Do different regions have different growth patters? Is my database growing or shrinking?

(4) Trending - One of the great weaknesses of email systems is that they ignore the impact of time. For example, how big is my database this month versus six months ago? A year ago? What is the decay curve of an email? How long is the message good for?

(5) Integrated MVT (with tracking) - Everyone talks about multi-variate testing, but it's pretty impossible to do with current email systems, generally because true MVT needs the ability to track an email that is uniquely generated at the blaster (after the campaign is launched). Otherwise, I have to cut up my campaign into a bunch of ugly test buckets...which is not pretty.

(6) Segmentation priority - Let's say I have a campaign that pulls 10 behaviors/products into a segmentation array. Of those 10, which has the most impact? What is the marginal impact of each of the additional variables? Most of our segmentation efforts suffer from the fact that we don't know the impact of adding more variables.

(7) Optimization - What's the right size for an email? What's the right number of emails to send to a person before they get exhausted? We all fight the batch and blast mentality, but our current systems do little to help us battle product marketers who are foaming at the mouth for "a bigger list".

(8) Integration with search and the shopping cart - Epsilon published a great statistic that 1/3 of your email recipients will visit your site directly rather than click on your email. That's a huge impact. We also know that when you launch an email campaign, search activity goes up. Some sort of measurement for both of these varaibles needs to be developed to unlock the true potential of email.

Wow...that's a long dream!

I realize that some of these things may be available. I also realize that it's hard to develop this stuff. But I also know that the people who develop these tools into an integrated package will be the ones who win in the end. There's a lot of email companies out there right now. There won't be as many in 5 years. Organizations have woken up to the fact that email works - the companies who deliver on the above expectations (as well as many more that I haven't listed here) will be the ones who win.