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Email Marketing & Its Critical Role in The Evolution Towards Real-Time Marketing

SAP and Unica both held their annual user conferences last week in the same city – Orlando. Both events highlighted a fundamental shift that’s underway in the world of B2C marketing. Corporations are moving from near-time to real-time marketing communications, where they can immediately serve up personalized experiences to consumers interacting with their brand across multiple channels. This might sound next to impossible, but for companies that use multichannel campaign management (MCCM) solutions like those offered by SAP and Unica, there is a real opportunity to reap the benefits of real-time marketing – and email marketing is one of the most effective channels for executing on that strategy.

MCCM solutions make it possible for companies to capture customer information across multiple touch points and then make that data readily available to drive campaigns. The advent of social media has forced companies to start looking at customer experience holistically, rather than continuing to operate in disparate marketing silos. Loyal customers expect a brand to know who they are and what they like, regardless of what channel they choose to interact with the brand through. Real-time marketing enables companies to achieve a new level of relevancy that meets customer expectations and drive significantly higher response rates and revenue per customer. Companies that chose to embark on such a significant undertaking will have a critical competitive differentiator in the coming years.

Email marketing is fast emerging as the common thread that links all of these customer interactions together. It is the hub of all digital marketing conversations and the unique identifier in many customer databases. A cutting-edge example of real-time marketing comes from Unica marketing excellence award honoree Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG). When someone books a room online at one of IHG's 4,400 global properties, they automatically receive a confirmation email that is tailored to the individual based on their loyalty status, the hotel location, their purchase history and specified preferences. No two confirmation emails are alike. At the time of booking, IHG's online reservation system communicates with StrongView and Unica Interact to deliver a unique, targeted email to that individual in less than 2 seconds. Soon this real-time personalization will be extended to the web, providing a seamless customer experience between channels.

Brands are quickly realizing that the days of batch and blast are over. Not only are they becoming increasingly ineffective, they are also alienating customers who expect companies to send messages that reflect their relationship with the brand. Campaign management systems like Unica and SAP CRM are making real-time marketing possible, and tight integrations with email marketing, web, mobile and social media channels are necessary for delivering these unique experiences to the consumer.

Smart marketers know that one-to-one marketing is the best way to generate revenue and customer satisfaction, and StrongView works with leading campaign management vendors to put true one-to-one marketing within your reach. For more information on using email marketing and CRM together to deliver targeted, personalized messages, you can view our on-demand webinar "Email Marketing with SAP CRM: Achieving Relevance, Deliverability and Scale."

Posted by: Kristin Hersant at 2:41 PM
Categories: email marketing, integration, intercontinental hotels group, mccm, multi-channel campaign management, real-time marketing, sap crm, unica

The Case for Segmentation and Targeting: How IHG Generated a Single View of its Customer

According to Forrester Research's 2009 ROI of Relevance report, highly segmented email marketing programs generate 2 - 5X the performance of non-segmented programs. This may seem like a natural email marketing strategy for large enterprises with reams of customer data available to them; however, centralizing all of that data and making it actionable from a marketing perspective is no easy task. InterContinental Hotels Group recently co-presented a case study with StrongView on how they are tackling this challenge at OMMA Global in San Francisco earlier this month. Here are some highlights from that presentation.

Only 50% of big companies currently segment their customer data for use in email marketing campaigns. This is because consolidating data is hard…many companies have disparate databases and some executives don't want to give marketing control over channels like customer service that are a critical part of the customer lifecycle. IHG was fortunate to have a management team that saw the benefits of creating a customer-centric organization and set about making it a reality.

IHG has 180 million guests per year and 40 million priority club members. To initiate the email customer lifecycle, IHG captures 70% - 80% of their email opt-ins on-property in their hotels. Prior to each stay, IHG sends a pre-stay email to initiate the guest experience, which are transactionally driven by data to sell upgrades, car rentals and other relevant offers prior to each trip. Then IHG follows each trip up with a post-stay email encouraging the customer to set their email preferences.

This is all pretty standard fare for the travel and hospitality industry, but what's unique about IHG is how they measure success. IHG measures email effectiveness by engagement. What matters most is how engaging the email content was – not how much revenue a specific email marketing campaign generated. Instead, they measure revenue by customer and let each channel optimize towards maximum performance. This holistic approach prevents IHG's various marketing channels from competing against each other for revenue and enables email to be the backbone of the customer lifecycle and experience.

Using this framework as a backbone, IHG employs a mix of specified preferences and behavioral targeting to generate dynamic content for custom promotional emails that are based on the types of offers that the recipient has said he or she would like to receive. To prevent cross-channel conflict, IHG dedicates content slots in every transactional or event-triggered email to their local hotels, enabling both corporate and the property to leverage a single customer touch point to promote their respective offers. Most importantly, IHG's email marketing team carves out time in their busy schedule to focus on segmentation strategies so that they can constantly improve on their already successful programs.

So is all of this work worth it? If you judge by action, most marketers don't appear to think so. Less than 30% of marketers take the time to personalize email marketing campaigns because email's return on investment remains sky-high without a targeting strategy. However, if you decide to put in the time, the payoff can be significant. According to Forrester Research, monthly email revenue can lift from $159K (no targeting) to $540K (web analytics) to $664K (segment/target) to $840K (social targeting).

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That's some food for thought. If you're thinking about implementing a targeting strategy, we offer this piece of advice: don't try and boil the ocean. Start with the explicit information that you have in your database and then begin to layer in behavioral data after you've mastered phase one. The evidence is clear. No matter how basic the targeting, the rewards will be worth the investment.

Posted by: Kristin Hersant at 9:08 AM
Categories: IHG, InterContinental Hotels Group, StrongView, centralization, dyanmic content, email marketing, relevance, segmentation, targeting