Why Timely Data Trumps Big Data In Email & Mobile Marketing
Many email service providers provide robust analytics, but few provide real-time access to data. What insights are you missing out on?
By their very nature, email and mobile marketing campaigns produce large amounts of data. This information can be a gold mine for knowing what’s working and what’s not working with your messaging programs, especially when it comes to figuring out how many eyeballs actually see your content and how recipients are acting on your messages.
The machine-to-machine data generated through email and text messaging campaigns was long seen as relevant primarily to systems administrators and IT professionals responsible for maintaining sending infrastructure and remediating bounces and blocks post-campaign.
But, as the number of messages accessed and read on mobile devices has exploded, disposition data is becoming more important to shaping and executing campaigns as they happen, rather than just useful for after-the-fact analysis.
For instance, the ability to deliver messages in a given timeframe is critical with SMS/MMS campaigns because so often the messages involve time-sensitive offers.
Increasingly, this is the case with email, as well. Consider the timing challenges faced by daily deal marketers, for example. Insight into message disposition data came make a big difference in ensuring that time-sensitive offers are getting to recipients within the correct time frame.
Timely Data To The Rescue
Marketers are turning to advanced analytics and big data tools to monitor message disposition and clickstream data in near real-time to inform techniques such as retargeting and A/B testing, and to develop a more complete picture of the overall customer journey as it transitions from message channel to website or other customer touchpoints.
Recent announcements from CRM giant Salesforce and marketing automation provider ExactTarget show how industry leaders are approaching the above trends.
The challenge many marketers face, however, isn’t just collecting data and analyzing it, but rather, accessing data in a timely manner.
The message queuing architecture of most MTA-type legacy email servers and commodity commercial platforms can’t always deliver messages reliably, meaning it’s not uncommon to experience blocks and delays lasting several hours or more, with attendant delays in collection of return data.
Brands that outsource their messaging operations to the cloud often find that while many email service providers offer strong analytics, many can’t always provide real-time access to data. Delays of two to three days are commonplace, which can prevent brands from tweaking and improving campaigns in progress.
Growing awareness around these issues is pushing more marketers toward systems and service providers that can provide immediate insight into messaging data.
Types Of Data To Access & Analyze
So, what can marketers do to accelerate their access to important messaging data? First, it would make sense to define the specific types of data we’re talking about.
Email Data: Bounce Codes
Bounce codes are machine-generated by the receiving email server at an ISP when a message can’t be delivered due to mistaken address or other errors. Each receiving domain implements differing policies for bouncing messages, and the bounce code and reason for the bounce can differ between ISP receivers, as well.
Each bounce has a unique meaning and needs to be treated differently based on its associated SMTP code, so with the ability to compile, categorize and analyze bounces based on their codes, marketers can better understand why emails aren’t getting through and work to make the necessary fixes.
Email Data: Feedback Loops
Feedback loops (FBLs) are records of recipient responses to email. For instance, if you receive a suspicious email and mark it as junk, that action is captured by your ISP, and then sent back to the sender, usually within a standard Abuse Reporting Format (ARF) report.
Campaigns can sometimes encounter higher-than-normal spam rates due to subject lines or content that recipients find objectionable. Having immediate insight into FBL data in that circumstance can enable marketers to tweak content on the fly, protect their sending reputation and improve engagement rates.
Email Data: Opens/Clicks
Email open rates and click-to-open rates can provide a lot of insight into email campaigns; but, what this data tells you depends a lot on the goals of your campaign. (Read email expert Cara Olson’s excellent overview on the subject in a previous Marketing Land column.)
Of course, all email marketers are looking to have recipients read and engage with their messages, but retailers have very different success metrics than newsletter publishers. As with bounce and feedback data, when marketers can collect click data and compare it with benchmarks, actionable insights follow.
So, by studying opens and clicks, email marketers can do the same type of things web marketers have been doing for years, such as recommending new products based on consumer interest, or even driving that data back into a data warehouse to be combined with web clickstream data to further their knowledge of customer interest.
When marketers conduct mobile campaigns using SMS text, they get a delivery report (DLR) or acceptance status code report back from the mobile carrier or services provider. This data contains invaluable information on whether the SMS was successfully delivered and received, if it failed, or if it was requeued for delivery later.
The complication is that carriers and aggregators have inconsistent standards for providing this data back to senders, making it challenging for marketers to immediately gauge the outcome of a campaign when it takes time to consolidate all the results.
By understanding the types of data associated with email and mobile marketing, the benefits of knowing how and why messages are and aren’t being delivered become clear, and the ability to act on that information to improve performance increases. However, many marketers aren’t even aware that delays in access to these data pose a problem.
In other words, delays in access to date are an unidentified unknown, or a simple case of “well, this is how things have always worked.” The industry isn’t sitting still on this challenge, and advanced marketers are already using real-time or near real-time analytics to optimize campaigns.
When evaluating whether your analytics capabilities are up to snuff, consider the following:
- Is your reporting operating as quickly as your data is coming in, so that you can mitigate deliverability issues and modify campaigns on the fly?
- If issues are spotted while looking at trends or summary views, can you easily filter and drill-down to the relevant elements for easy root cause analysis and corrective action?
- As your business grows, can your system maintain high-performance and scale to handle increasing volumes of messages across multiple channels?
- Can you drill down to specific messages to quickly solve customer problems at the individual level?
For marketers to effectively drive customer experience and engagement for their organizations, they need all relevant data from all messaging channels — all in a timely manner.
We’re at a point where marketers have taken ownership of managing website analytics internally, and quickly heading to a time where it just makes more sense to take over email and mobile marketing processes, as well. Considering how fast you need to move to truly take advantage of that data, it might just be the best move you can make.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.