A One-Two Punch Approach to Email Analytics

July 17th, 2014 by

You might think that video, animated gifs, or infographics are email marketing’s best friends. Let’s face it, email campaigns with all that rich content are bound to get you heaps and heaps of…results.

Okay, let’s stop there for a second.

The thing is, email is caught between two really important areas of marketing—technology and audience. On one hand, technology allows marketers to increase the functionality of an email, bringing it to life with animation and beautiful, cutting-edge designs. On the other, email is the marketing medium most susceptible to spam (and has the most universal consumer protection laws associated with it).

Email analytics is most useful when it's integrated and customized.

Email analytics can help you sort through “data clutter.”

Today, many marketers are stuck with what is arguably a necessary marketing tool and the challenge of proving its effectiveness. I’m here to tell you that the amount of opens a campaign receives or the number of people who click through are no longer enough. These are metrics that you cannot directly tie to sales, goal achievement, or anything else that matters to you.
By the end of this post, though, you’ll have a much better idea of what to look for in the way of email analytics. For the purposes of this post, we’ll define analytics as the strategic use of data and measurement to make a certain marketing channel better. Consider what follows a checklist of the most important considerations when proving your email marketing’s worth.

Integration

As far as email marketing platforms go, you’ll be conducting your search among a sea of proprietary platforms. This definitely isn’t a bad thing, as custom solutions give you access to great support and consistent improvements and enhancements over time. The minor downside is these solutions’ inability to “play nice” with other platforms. In order to unlock the true potential of analytics, you’ll need to start by tying your sources of data together. Here’s an example:

Let’s say a mail-order, vegan pastry company decides to begin running email marketing campaigns to support their digital marketing, which predominantly takes place on social media. This company has a website which offers the ability for customers to place orders and process payments. In this case, we have separate sets of data in play:

  • Analytics data from website sessions (pageviews, bounce rate, etc.)
  • eCommerce data from the order system (transaction information, popular products, etc.)
  • Social media data (follower interactions, engagement, etc.)
  • Email campaign data (opens, bounces, click throughs, etc.)

As far as these platforms go, integrations are the only way to connect them to one another. Integrations most often take place natively or at the API level. With integrations between platforms, the vegan bakery in our example can differentiate email traffic to its website from social media traffic, understand how well a promotion targeted to its social media following performs in comparison to an email blast, or cater offers to past customers via subscription options during the checkout process. And that’s just with a few basic integrations.

With various platforms “playing nice” with one another, data will be more comprehensive, insights will be much more granular, and a clearer picture of your target audience will begin to develop. Once the data begins filtering in, you’ll need to be sure it’s leading you toward better decisions. That’s why the second step is…

Customization

Having readily-available, integrated data is one thing, but actually making it understandable is another entirely. Whether you’re showing progress to your internal team, your manager, or your client, raw numbers will get you nowhere fast. The task of turning numbers and graphs into insights and action can be an imposing one, but here are some quick tips to make the process easier:

  • Add context to your reporting
  • With your reports (in PDF format or otherwise), add text that ties the information back to a goal or objective.

  • Filter and segment data
  • Grab information that’s specific to a campaign or a particular audience segment. Be as granular as your solutions allow.

  • Strive for automation
  • Rather than repeat the same reporting process month after month, look to automate the process. Some solutions provide scheduled reports, shared assets, widget-based analytics, or some other way to access information in a streamlined way.

  • When in doubt, test and compare

This goes for subject-lines, template designs, and messaging. Once you find what works, do that consistently.

As you consider the email analytics options available to you, there are a few big factors to keep in mind. The first is limitation. No matter your final platform choice, regulations will always dictate the types of information that are accessible to you. But this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to gather actionable insights into the return of email marketing as an investment.

Another item to keep in mind is that successful email marketing is about more than the platform you choose. You could pay hundreds per month, but without a strategy or an ongoing optimization process, it’s likely that you won’t be able to justify the cost. Understanding the “big picture” is vitally important with any digital marketing channel, particularly one as ubiquitous as email. You’d be doing your organization a great injustice if you didn’t decide to take advantage of the latest advancements in marketing tech. You just need the right data to back it up.

What’s your solution to the email ROI puzzle? Shout it out in the comments below!

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