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Email ROI: Looking After the Little Guy!

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This article is written by Guy Hanson who is part of the Email Council and the Research Hub.

In the excellent ’Investigating Email: Getting Returns On Email’ article, Tim Bond and the DMA’s Insight team reviews the ‘Marketer Email Tracker 2020’ report to identify factors driving higher email return on investment (ROI). The main learning appears obvious in hindsight: bigger companies, with larger email teams, deliver higher email ROI.

Much comes down to strategy – high return businesses are more likely to position email as part of a broader multi-channel approach. They also deliver a broad range of message types, not just offers and promotions. By contrast, smaller businesses have it much harder. In addition to smaller teams and budgets, the analysis also shows lack of training and development is a big constraint.

So – are there any quick wins to help smaller senders move the ROI needle? Here are a few ideas:

1) Deliverability:

The ’Journey into the Inbox’ report (sponsored by Validity) showed 1 in 4 small business respondents aren’t aware of deliverability! Even where there is awareness, they are twice as likely to rate their deliverability knowledge as “Poor” compared with overall respondents (34% vs 17%).

This has a big impact on email performance. Validity’s ’2019 Sender Score Benchmark’ report shows top senders, with reputation scores between 91 to 100, enjoy average delivery rates of 91%. Programs scoring 81 to 90 only achieve 71%, while below 80 sees more than half of messages blocked. This impacts program returns – in “Journey into the Inbox” over 90% of respondents said poor deliverability financially impacts their businesses.

Focusing on important deliverability drivers like data quality, authentication, and complaints reduction will quickly deliver improved reputation and deliverability metrics. Delivering an additional 20% to subscribers’ inboxes, for little additional cost, will automatically improve program ROI.

They should also apply for Certification. Steve Henderson, Deputy Chair of the DMA’s Email Council, analysed 20 Certified senders and identified average open rate uplifts of 27%, while click rates improved by 35%. Email customer lifetime value in the UK is ± £35 per address, meaning around 7.5p average revenue per email. A 1/3 uplift means an additional ± £265 per thousand emails sent!

2) Automation:

Triggered emails are “evergreen” – they take more once-off effort to set up, but then incur little/no incremental cost. Most sending platforms can automate email sends, and the gains in efficiency and effectiveness are massive!

They generate much higher response rates too. Epsilon’s ’Email Trends & Benchmarks’ report shows open rates for triggered emails are 2/3 higher than for business as usual (BAU) emails, while average click-through rates are more than double those for BAU. This positively impacts deliverability too!

Revenue benefits are also proven. In Bluecore’s ’Retail Email Benchmark’ report the average revenue from basket abandonment emails is a phenomenal £1.58 per message. 10 other popular triggered messages average ± 32p – compared with 11p for one-time sends. Programs with 5% triggered volume generate 50% of their revenue from these messages.

3) Knowledge:

Email is a fast-moving world and keeping up with the constant stream of new developments can be intimidating. Fortunately, it’s an extremely supportive community, and there are many sources of help and guidance.

For DMA members, a first port of call is the email council – the home of email intelligence in the UK. Members can contribute to discussions here or use email@dma.org.uk to learn more about the council and its work.

There are also excellent online communities where members are willing to share experience. Emailgeeks, Only Influencers, and Women of Email are all great places for email marketers looking for professional networks to join.

For more formal training, the DMA also have a host of learning opportunities available through the Institute of Data and Marketing (IDM). The IDM offers fantastic short courses on email from strategy and tactics, to copywriting and design. For marketers seeking a formal qualification the Award in Email Marketing provides comprehensive tutoring from industry experts on planning, creating and evaluating highly effective, ROI-driven email campaigns.


In conclusion, email consistently proves its credentials as the most effective marketing channel, and the coronavirus pandemic means (more than ever) that every business should make it central to their marketing strategy. While it’s certainly harder for small businesses to generate high ROI, the DMA’s most recent analysis also shows there are indeed quick wins to deliver big brand performance from a smaller base.

To find out more about the ROI analysis, read the full ‘Investigating Email: Getting Returns On Email’ article.

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