Rather than increasing, there’s been a surprising drop in the proportion of companies citing list and data quality as an area of focus for 2018 (19%, down from 24% in 2017), according to Email Marketing Industry Census 2018 from Adestra/Econsultancy.

Data cleanliness is an unmistakably important hygiene factor in the year of GDPR coming into force, and as digital marketers pursue improvement initiatives that rely heavily on the quality of the customer information they hold. If email is to continue to grow and thrive as a channel, then marketers must be ready and able to succeed in building long-term relationships with customers that are based on transparency and trust – the foundation of which is accurate data. Don’t forget, third-party data has never provided the capacity to grow lists reliably and safely, so now is the opportunity to move away from it – or at least source more responsibly – once and for all.

Figure 1: Which three areas of email marketing do you really need to focus on in



In addition, ‘measurement & analytics’ has seen a similar drop in 12 months (20%, down from 24% last year). This is a worrying trend with major implications for the entire chart – how can marketers focus on any of these areas if they are not being measured?

Living with List Churn
It’s something that most marketers have to take on the chin – around 25% or more of your list are unsubscribing or disengaging annually, according to this – so you can’t be too pessimistic when worrying about list churn. As if that’s enough, your list volume has likely been slashed since GDPR went live in May. For many brands, moving from a ‘volume’ to a ‘value’ approach may be a challenging transition. It can be eased by going back to basics and spending sufficient time and resources on the strategy and planning side of email marketing. With this in mind, here are four tips to grow back your list:

1. Audit your acquisition touchpoints- A great starting point for bumping up your list growth is an acquisition audit. Identify every touchpoint you have with customers – for example, on your website, in- store, phone calls, transactional emails, blog posts, apps and social channels. Consider even printed collateral, packaging, events, sister brands and ATL advertising. Are you taking every opportunity to capture customer data and positive opt-in? Is the current process as prominent, simple and effective as it can be?

2. Set targets – What’s your current sign-up rate for website visitors? By how much could you improve it? What’s a realistic target for each of the touchpoints you plan to exploit? What is each new sign-up worth to your business? Having something to aim for will focus your efforts and help you to secure resource.

3. Consider the value exchange – To boost your sign-up rate, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. They’re trusting you with their personal data, so what are you offering in return? Effective tactics include a discount on their first purchase (tried and tested by online retailers, it’s now almost an expectation). You might offer entry into a competition, or something valuable to your customers such as a free trial, whitepaper or eGuide. However, of course, to be GDPR compliant, ensure the opt-in is not conditional to receive the ‘gift’.

4. Trigger a welcome email straight away – Acknowledge your new sign-ups as quickly as possible (ideally in real-time) and build on their newbie enthusiasm by entering them into a welcome journey. For extra engagement, personalise their experience according to their point of entry.

Data security and an eye on the future

It’s very encouraging to see the sharp rise of companies who will focus on data security this year (a jump from 3% to 12%). Perhaps led by GDPR changes and numerous recent high-profile cases of database breaches, a renewed attention on data should serve to improve the effectiveness of email marketing campaigns and help enhance the reputation of the industry. Best practice in data handling and management, especially when in transit and between tech partners, is becoming more important (and certainly something marketers need to understand, not just the IT team) as the value of data continues to grow.

Looking ahead five years, marketers were asked what they think will be the single biggest change to email marketing? “Data” and “GDPR” feature in the top three answers, with AI heading the list. A clean set of data to work from, that is personalised and permission-based, will be the key to success and long term loyalty – as well as enabling the development of more sophisticated techniques such as effective automation and AI in the future.


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