Towards LGPD and Beyond – You’ve Gotta Have a Plan!

As the GDPR deadline of May 25th, 2018 approached, one of the biggest mistakes many European senders made was to leave everything to the last moment. By that stage, many email subscribers were completely overwhelmed by inbox overload, and their simplest response was “ignore everything!” As a result, lists were decimated – research from Yieldify showed one-third of marketers lost over 30 percent of their email lists, with Travel (37 percent), IT/Telecoms (32 percent) and Finance (28 percent) being the most impacted. We also saw individual programs that lost over 90 percent of their lists!

In the first two posts of this series we considered the legal bases for email marketing, and the importance of having robust deliverability to ensure your subscribers receive their LGPD emails. In this post, we’ll talk about strategies for making sure those messages get a response!

1. Start Early

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) introduced its new sign-up form a full year before the GDPR deadline. Note how their approach is explicit, granular, and requires positive action to opt-in.

By the time GDPR became law, a large part of RSPB’s list was already organically compliant, meaning far less last-minute re-permissioning. They also saw much higher engagement levels from new subscribers, with open rates increasing by 1.15X and click rates by 1.9X!

2. Spread the Load

We’ve already explained the importance of avoiding sudden changes in volume. Mailbox Providers (MBPs) don’t like this behavior, because it indicates potential spam activity, or even that a program may have been compromised. In the UK one sender who tried to mail their entire base 1 day before the May 25th deadline saw over 80 percent of their emails sent to junk folders as a result.

Tesco understood this importance and took a more pragmatic approach, mailing approximately three percent of its database each day across a four-week period. In this way, volume impact was blended into Tesco’s daily activity. It also meant more conservative connection and throughput settings could be applied, which is good practice when mailing to less engaged audiences.

3. Don’t Rely on Just One Shot!

Successful re-engagement/win-back programs take a multi-email approach. If you only fire a single shot, you’re more likely to miss, as our previous research shows! Waitrose recognized this, and they ran a structured program of communications over the weeks leading up to GDPR, maximizing their opportunity to secure re-permission.

The first two emails focused on creating awareness of the new legislation, then explaining the benefits of remaining a member of the program (offers and discounts, recipe ideas, events, and tastings, etc.)

As the May 25th deadline grew closer, Waitrose increased the urgency of the language that used to persuade subscribers to continue with their program membership:

4. Maximize Your Marketing Real Estate

You don’t want to send LGPD messages to your email audience every day (although some UK and European senders did just this, generating serious program fatigue in the process!). But there are other ways of reinforcing the message while remaining reasonably subtle!

Clarks made use of the emails’ pre-header text, which read “We’ve updated our privacy policy and need to confirm you want to keep hearing from us.” This was a smart approach because most email clients now show 70-80 characters of pre-header text, meaning a good chance of the message being seen even without opening the emails.

Selfridges took a more visual approach, and for a 30-day period included the grey “Don’t lose touch” box in the top third of every marketing email they sent. As a result, they achieved exceptional subscriber retention rates, although engagement rates suffered because less promotional content was immediately visible to openers during this time.

5. Think Multichannel

Remember email doesn’t operate in a vacuum! It is part of a complex multi-channel ecosystem and your retention efforts should recognize this. Make sure you provide LGPD reminders when your customers login to their accounts. Also make them part of your postal, social and push messaging strategies if you use these channels.

If your marketing program operates above the line, also consider broader approaches to your LGPD messaging. We saw this memorable example from Manchester United football club, with re-permissioning messages shown on the digital advertising boards at Old Trafford stadium!

Another important element is Point of Sale (POS). Direct Marketing Association (DMA) research shows around 40 percent of new program sign-ups now take place in-store (almost 60 percent in the 18-34 segment). The Yieldify research also showed the single most effective tactic for post-GDPR list rebuilding was encouraging account registration and opt-in at checkout.

Senders with a physical presence should therefore think carefully about how they provide in-store LGPD education, providing advertising in the POS area, and equipping checkout staff with scripts and training to assist with these conversations.

Also, be aware LGPD will probably have impact on the way e-receipts are issued. In the UK, guidance was clear that: 1) e-receipts can not contain any marketing content (the consent to receive the e-receipt is not consent to receive marketing); and 2) customers must be provided with an opt-out from receiving email marketing at POS (meaning POS staff must be trained to ensure this happens. Read my DMA blog for more on this topic.

In summary, key points from this post are: start your LGPD preparations as soon as possible; spread out your broadcast schedule; don’t rely on a “one shot only” approach; and cover as many of your multi-channel bases as possible to communicate your LGPD messaging to your customers.

In the next—and final—installment of this series, we’ll provide guidance around effective use of language and creative to maximize the impact of your emails during the inbox overload period we are expecting as next August approaches.


GDPR: One Year Later & Email is in Good Shape!

A year ago, and email in Europe was in turmoil. The May 25th deadline for the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) had finally arrived, and many email programs were frantically trying to get out their privacy policy updates, or their re-permissioning emails (or both!) in time. Overwhelmed by volume, many consumers simply chose to do nothing, secure in the knowledge it would soon end. It was the email apocalypse, which I later wrote about in a DMA blog post.

However, some forward thinkers were already considering GDPR in a more optimistic light. An article from Information Age predicted, “GDPR is the perfect opportunity for businesses to rethink their approach to data and the enhanced customer relationships and experiences it allows”. Marketo identified the “two tribes of marketing” (legal-first vs marketing-first) and predicted the latter would benefit more as stronger consent, better data quality, and greater transparency combined to deliver stronger and more trusting relationships.

They were both correct, and it makes absolute sense. GDPR wrote into law a number of best practices that we have talked about for years, so improved performance was to be expected. In this article, we’ll examine the resulting uplifts through a few different lenses:

Better deliverability
Email deliverability has shown a significant YoY uplift. Comparing Return Path’s 2017 and 2018 Deliverability Benchmark reports produces the following inbox placement summary:

Email deliverability is informed by a broad set of signals that includes data quality (low unknown user rates, no spam traps) and positive subscriber engagement (good read rates, low complaint rates). GDPR has clearly moved the needle for these factors, and senders are benefitting as a result.

Reduced list churn
We have also been seeing signs that some of GDPR’s benefits will be longer-term in nature. At a 2018 data protection conference, Homeserve reported ”people are more receptive to and interested in what we are selling . . . plus we are receiving fewer complaints and unsubscribe requests.”

Return Path’s own data provides validation. As part of our GDPR thought leadership, we monitored a “basket” of 250 major senders. Average complaint rates for these senders have reduced by slightly more than half.

This will have a big positive commercial impact for email program owners. The US DMA’s 2018 Response Rate report shows email cost per acquisition at $22.50 (£17.65), while Bluecore’s Cost of an Unsubscribe report values each lost address at $17.92 (£14.05).

According to IBM Watson’s 2018 Marketing Benchmark report average list churn (bounces, unsubscribes, and complaints) for UK and Europe is 0.8 percent. Halving this metric will protect around £60K ($75K) of customer lifetime value (CLV) per million emails sent!

Enhanced performance
Program performance metrics have also shown big improvements. We plotted the YoY change in email read rates for the same basket of 250 senders, and identified the following:

Updating the privacy policy was generally the “legal-first” approach while marketing-first programs generally went the re-permissioning route, illustrating the greater benefit of the latter approach (note many programs took a blended approach, updating their privacy policy for existing customers, and re-permissioning their prospects).

Recent research from the DMA corroborates these findings, with respondents to the 2019 Marketing Email Tracker report identifying clear GDPR-influenced improvements in open rates, click rates, and conversion rates: 

Increased ROI
As a direct result of the improvements outlined above, email programs have become more profitable. In the DMA’s 2019 edition of its Marketer Email Tracker report, email return on investment (ROI) has increased YoY from £32.28 in 2017 to £42.24 in 2018, a 30 percent uplift.

Litmus provides a nice visualization of the comparative ROI between Europe and the US, and we can see that the European programs are currently >20 percent more ROI-effective than their US counterparts.

For the same period, subscriber lifetime value has also increased, rising from £28.56 in 2017 to £37.32, again an increase of 30 percent. Lifetime value is the most important metric email marketers are focused on in 2019. Programs that want to move the CLV needle can start by embracing GDPR’s core principles, even if they don’t fall within its jurisdiction.

The rest of the world is watching with great interest. India has already released its Personal Data Protection Bill, while Brazil’s General Data Protection Law (LGPD – blog post here) will become effective in early 2020. In the US, California’s new The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is expected by many to be the forerunner of similar federal legislation (see our great recent blog series on CCPA).

The key learning for email marketers is to embrace these changes as a force for good. While they are hard work to implement, the payoff is greater trust between senders and receivers, which in turn boosts program performance and ultimately generates greater returns.

As Michael O’ Leary, the irascible CEO of Ryanair once remarked: “If I had known being nice to people was so profitable I would have done it long ago!”

Who Does Email Really Well . . . in France?

This is the third installment of my series on who does email really well through the eyes of consumers. We’ve already looked at the UK and Australia as I’ve analyzed these email markets in preparation for my Return Path World Tour keynotes, and now we’re going to look at France.

Again, there are many more best-in-class senders than we can do justice to in a short article. However, the top-10 French senders we identified have a lot in common with other markets. They send smart, relevant offers using high levels of segmentation and personalization. We also saw some great examples of clever subject line treatments, clear/balanced emails, and clever articulation of value – which I’ll showcase in this blog.

Here are some of the headline stories:

It starts with great deliverability
Average inbox placement rates (IPRs) for France are 84 percent. However, best-in-class senders do far better:

  1. Return Path 2018 Deliverability Benchmark report
  2. Return Path 2019 Hidden Metrics of Email Deliverability report

On average, these programs are able to get an additional 120K emails delivered for every 1M they send. They also generate read rates more than 1/8 above the global average, and complaint rates less than ½ the global average.

This has real commercial value. Cheetah Digital calculates the average value of an email open at ± 0.36 €, while Bluecore shows the opportunity cost of suppressing an email is ± 16 €. Using these numbers, a best-in-class premium can be calculated at ± 75K € for every 1M emails sent (compared with benchmark-level senders).

Not just subject lines
Most email marketers remain highly-focussed on subject line optimization: short vs long; generic vs personalized; most effective keywords; etc. They are right to do so – DMA research asked subscribers what drove them to open an email, and a quarter (26 percent) responded that subject line has a strong impact on their decision, second only to brand recognition (46 percent).

Subject lines play a vital role in grabbing attention, and convincing recipients that its worth their while to open the email, and subject line truncation means there is limited opportunity to get this right. Best-in-class senders are very intentional about using both subject-line and pre-header text. This is smart because the native iPhone email app displays 30-40 characters of a subject line, and twice as many characters of preview text. (It also means recipients aren’t presented with a great subject line followed by “View web version here” !!!)

Subject Line: Le joli cadeau glissé avec votre box de mai 🌿
Pre-header: Offert pour tout nouvel abonnement ! Birchbox s’abonner le shop offir

In this example, Birchbox uses the pre-header to complement the subject line by providing additional detail around the offer. A 3-month analysis of their email campaigns shows this is a consistent practice, with both average subject line and pre-header lengths running very close to the iPhone guidelines.

Clear & concise
Subscribers want emails to be clear and concise. Litmus research reports average read time for an email at 11 seconds. If a large part of that valuable time is trying to identify the most important content, email effectiveness diminishes drastically.

Until now, measurement against these attributes has been largely subjective. Recently, we have been using a smart AI-driven tool that provides accurate scoring for clarity/conciseness, based on factors including: attention heat-mapping; scan paths between elements; use of color; and overall balance of content.

Best-in-class senders know the importance of these design principles, and generate consistently high scores against these measurements, as we can see from this excellent Carrefour example.

Value statements
According to Litmus, subscriber lifetime value is the single most important metric email marketers plan to start tracking in 2019. However, value flows both ways – DMA research shows most subscribers are “data pragmatists” – providing personal data (including email addresses) on a “case-by-case basis as to whether the service or enhancement of service offered is worth the information requested.” The average subscriber lifetime value has been calculated at £37 (€41.50) so it makes sense that pragmatists will expect to receive a similar amount of value in return.

Value takes many different forms: financial (discounts, free delivery); convenience (e-receipts, advance notice of new products); or information (recipes, how to get the most from your membership).

Best-in-class senders understand the benefit of re-stating/reminding the value their customers receive. In this clever example, Boursorama Banque’s, existing customers are incentivized to provide recommendations, but the email doubles up as a value statement, reminding them that across 10 years “some things do not change,” and they are still the least expensive bank. This implicitly reinforces its value and helps explain why Boursorama has such a high-performing email program (average IPRs 99 percent).

In this article, we have identified another three factors (plus great deliverability, of course!) that are really important to email subscribers: descriptive subject lines and pre-headers; clear/concise designs, and the importance or perceived value. Watch out for the final installment in this series, when I’ll review email in Brazil, with a specific focus on innovation and humor in this market!