Smart email marketers realize that following the best practices outlined in regulations such as GDPR will ultimately help—not hinder—their email marketing ROI.
In a recent poll, Litmus Software found that 60 percent of brands that are complying with GDPR saw their email lists shrink by less than 10 percent. “That’s probably just healthy purging,” says Chad White, research director of Litmus. “GDPR is not the cataclysm everyone was expecting.”
Complying with GDPR definitely isn’t easy, White notes. It takes a lot of internal coordination between the email marketing team and other departments to make it happen. But once brands get their operations up to standard, there can be unexpected benefits.
“We did an ROI analysis of the marketing impact, and folks operating in the EU with tighter laws had slightly higher email marketing ROI,” he says.
The CAN-SPAM Act, passed back in 2003, set an arbitrarily low bar for email standards, White feels, and that has not served marketers well. “If you’re a U.S. marketer and all you did was comply with CAN-SPAM, you’d have a horrible email marketing program. You’d get blacklisted, you’d get blocked all over the place. You’d be in so much trouble.”
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But, he feels, the stricter environment created by GDPR will set up marketers to succeed. “In the US, it has been driven into our heads that regulation is bad. But GDPR—while not being an easy thing to comply with—is in line with consumer expectations about how businesses should behave and treat their behavior. In the end, its good medicine to do what consumers want you to do.”
Consumers today are much more knowledgeable about marketing practices than some businesses give them credit for, he adds. “Marketers have a nasty propensity to think that consumers are confused about how things work.”
For example, some email marketers get nervous when their messages end up in the Gmail promotions tab. But, says White, that’s not the worst thing in the world. The types of communications that wind up there at this point are pretty consistent, and recipients know to look there if they want to find something.
“We found in our research that a lot of consumers regularly check their spam folder,” he notes. “And consumers will not only check but rescue messages. If they don’t rescue it, they don’t want it.”
Smart brands will look at the data surrounding their email opens and clicks, and use it to optimize their campaigns. But that can be challenging in today’s world, where there are so many touchpoints beyond the inbox. And, the impact of email messages varies from industry to industry, says White, noting that a CPG firm has different goals from a financial services company or a retailer or a nonprofit.
For example, if you have the type of business that typically closes deals on the phone, an email campaign that drives call center traffic is good. But, if a message causes confusion that simply drives recipients to call customer service, that isn’t so great.
The softer impact of email can also be tricky to track, and sometimes, businesses only measure what can easily be tracked, particularly as a multitude of conversion points makes the process more scattered.
“We’re good at looking at who received email and who opened and who clicked and who converted and who visited the website,” says White. “But depending on the brand, that happens half the time. Then, there’s the other half [of recipients], who got your email, and maybe didn’t open the message, but seeing it got them to go to [a retail] store. Or, they opened your email, and they went to their web browser and typed in your URL. People are strange and they don’t follow the golden path we’ve laid out for them.”