New Email Append Best Practices

In the April 22nd issue of Clickz, Stephen Pollard urged marketers to follow established best practices and to reevaluate their ongoing strategy for addresses acquired via email append programs.

I agree with many of Pollard’s comments about eAppend. Inherently, eAppend carries more risk than organic email capture methods, such as at point of sale or via an email sign up form. Pollard also makes valid arguments about the deliverability risks that can occur from appending email to your customer file. In this tough economy when companies are closely evaluating their budgets, it is very important that they do not compromise quality for price when evaluating third party data providers. Regardless, eAppend can be a very effective means of growing a traditional offline customer file.

One thing that Pollard doesn’t address is the quality of the client data submitted for an eAppend match, or the frequency at which a client runs an eAppend program.

We have a few of our own best practices that are worth mentioning in addition to those mentioned in Pollard’s article.

  • Clients who do not trust the source and quality of their internal data cannot expect a third party eAppend provider to perform any better. Every company looking to increase the quality of eAppend match files should look at their overall email acquisition practices first. Clients increase the potential for deliverability issues exponentially if they are not validating email address upon input, managing bounces, unsubscribes and abuse rates, and running hygiene on their entire customer file per industry best practices.
  • It is just as important to track all email acquisition data sources in addition to tracking email append names. Furthermore, email has proven to drive traffic to offline sources such as store events, sales, and catalogs. Tracking of the appended records should be done across channels to ensure that the email subject line did not influence the customer behavior offline.
  • Many companies run eAppend jobs infrequently, and with good reason. Email append data has a higher potential to go stale, so marketers should be more cautious and exclude customers that have not purchased in the last two years. For those companies that have a large offline customer file and are looking to invest seriously in email acquisition, we recommend running frequent eAppend jobs on fresh data. Most eAppend providers will consider packages for monthly and quarterly commitments.
  • Email append providers experience higher levels of filtering, and it is possible that not all intended recipients will receive the original permission pass. We strongly recommend that any company doing an eAppend job send a second invitation email from their permission email account. This email should clearly indicate that the company attempted to contact the customer previously, restate the value proposition of the email program, and provide an opt-out link. A banner may suffice at the top of the next email instead of a dedicated message approach.
  • Lastly, I respectfully disagree with Pollard’s idea of a “sunset provision” where marketers would “discard appended addresses that show no open or click rates on the first six messages” sent. Companies send emails at different frequencies and experience seasonal behaviors with their customer file. Instead of choosing a hard number at which to discard an address, we would recommend running eAppend programs before your largest business ‘seasons’ and to build a longer term strategy. We are always hesitant to remove addresses from the file before testing varying frequencies and different messaging strategies (such as surveys) to improve inactive performance. Companies should only consider a more aggressive suppression of these names if the email addresses remain truly inactive, meaning across channels, after more than one business season.