Big data for email marketers – just how big do you need to be?

Think of Big data and who do you think of? Tesco Clubcard?  Nectar?  Amazon?

Could it be that there’s a misconception that Big Data is relevant only to big, big organizations?

I think there may be, so I’m going to attempt to quash this preconception here, by exploring how Big Data can be really useful for small to medium sized businesses – especially for their email marketing.

What’s it all about?

Let’s start by defining what Big Data actually is.

IBM says it’s ‘broadly defined as the capture, management, and analysis of data that goes beyond typical structured data, which can be queried by relational database management systems’.

Kind of a wordy definition, and very tech based. Is big data really defined by the ability of traditional database management systems to query it?

I find a definition far more meaningful to marketers comes from David McJannet, VP of marketing for Hortonworks who says it’s about an organization analyzing types of data that weren’t previously being tracked, to better serve customers and drive a better competitive advantage.

Here we we are talking for a greater part about the swathes of data generated by your customers’ online behavior, including:

  • Social media behavior and consumer sentiment
  • Website visitor behavior and profiles
  • Email response behavior
  • Mobile device usage
  • Card based transactions

So you see, despite the size of the universe, this kind of customer information – behavior-driven data – is available to all marketers who sell online, to varying degrees and in differing volumes, and so Big Data can indeed be relevant to most marketers.

Why email marketers should eat data…

Seth Godin in his book Permission Marketing, said that email marketing is ‘the most personal advertising medium in history’.

That was 14 years ago and the data available today equates to more than tenfold what it was back then. Now we email marketers have the potential to get really personal!

Big data helps email marketers become smarter marketers and helps them to deliver more meaningful and relevant content and campaigns.

Smaller means more agile

Here’s another thing. Although smaller companies have less resource (no big data mining departments, no big budgets for server-hungry, on-premise data crunching systems) they can potentially be far more flexible in responding to trends, patterns and propensities that their Big Data can reveal.

And there are increasingly affordable apps, integrations and tech solutions to help us all do just that.

Abandoned baskets

Abandoned basket analysis and email marketing automation, (such as Triggered Messaging) allow marketers to identify people that are abandoning their browsing sessions and online shopping carts, and automatically send them highly personalized emails to recover that lost revenue, in real time.

This is incredibly powerful, especially given that Econsultancy recently reported that 73% of shopping carts are ‘left to become idle’. That’s potentially a whole lot of lost revenue.

These personalized messages can include product images, incentives to return to the purchase funnel and complete, and related product recommendations.

How does it work? Triggered Messaging ‘feeds rich transactional and behavioral data directly into your ESP in a way that makes the data usable for segmentation and personalization with your ESPs standard features’.  They say that without any big data heavy listing, ‘your ESP immediately becomes able to work off rich data as if you had a real-time single customer view’.

Ecommerce and email platform integration

An effective integration between your ecommerce platform and your Email Service Provider enables highly targeted email marketing automation based on ‘individual customer behavior data’.  Marketers can segment customers by key RFM data, by behavior, by purchase history and/or by engagement in order to launch ‘hyper personalized email campaigns’.

Big data gets even bigger, with social media

Consider all of the data that your recipients willingly divulge within their various social networks every day online.

Social CRM involves mining social networking data as a new channel within your existing CRM processes. Salesforce say that ‘the goal is to deepen relationships with customers, improving and strengthening them through more meaningful interactions’.

There are social CRM providers now who can track and append your organizations’ social follower data by tracking social profiles linked to an email address, enabling automation platform to trigger emails and score leads.

Social triggers that can drive email marketing

Despite the possibilities that exist, Vernon Niven of Needtagger says that most companies today do not mine social data in a systemic way to generate sales, leads and customer satisfaction.

Vernon says that social data tends to be ‘recirculated within social media marketing silos’. He says that ordinarily marketers see an opportunity on Twitter, and respond on Twitter. This means that very little social data is actually being ‘leveraged to drive actions in the channels that we know work best – be that email marketing, direct mail or a telephone call’.

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