Evaluation of email communication

1. Definition
Email (electronic mail) is computer-mediated electronic exchange of text messages and/or multimedia data packages (image, audio, video files) between a sender and one or more receivers via computer networks (especially the internet). As a corporate communication/PR tool, email is a rapid, direct, up to date, and comparative low-cost communication solution (email marketing). Email is the most commonly used internet service.

2. Applications
Email communication is primarily used for direct, target group specific communication with customers and users (customer relationship marketing). Similarly to a customer newsletter subscription, email communication can be used to nurture customer loyalty, obtain new customers and influence purchasing decisions. Information reaches customers and business partners directly.

When evaluating email communication, it is of interest to investigate measurable contact with the respective target group (range). You can investigate how many of the recipients entered in the distribution list actually received the email (bounce handling) and how many recipients actually opened the email (opening rate). Here, you can determine when and how many times a recipient opened an email. You can also count the clicks on the links inserted in the email (click rate) and trace them (link tracking/click through rate). Finally, subscriptions and un-subscriptions for the email distribution list are of interest (subscription and un-subscription rate).

Suitable investigations alongside range analysis are database administration surveys and those aimed at improving the quality of future mailings. Evaluation of the user behavior of subscribers on the basis of the outcome measures investigated gives information on trends in terms of acceptance, response and interest in the issues and news provided. These results can serve as a basis for target group segmentation and setting up specific interest profiles.

Advantages of email communications versus snail mailings are the reduction in cost and time due to digital dispatch. Widely varying content (multimedia and interactive) can be sent selectively, simply and swiftly to a large number of recipients. As outlined, the measurement and statistical evaluation of defined outcome measures is comparatively complex. The use of email as a channel of communication produces high levels of response: interaction and contact between subscriber and supplier is very rapid, direct, and with no change in the media involved.

Email communication is unsuitable for cold-calling heterogenous populations. It may be treated as spam and binned unread. This may result in a loss of image, and potential legal consequences must be considered.

3. Conduct
Criteria for effective measurable and evaluable email communication are:

  • A database with the contact details of customers/interested parties who have voluntarily signed up for the free email service.
  • Suitable software which codes the emails specially to allow post-dispatch observation and statistical evaluation (email marketing system) of the opening and clicking behavior of customers/interested parties.
  • The email design: information is sent not in whole texts but in teasers with links to specially set up landing pages or the supplier's own website/home page. Order buttons, print / download features or recommendation buttons additionally animate users to make the desired click and hence facilitate differentiated evaluation of user behavior.

Emailings are primarily used in real life for infomailings, newsletters and/or multistage email campaigns with a wide range of content and information on products and organizations, announcement of upcoming events etc. and can be dispatched on an action-triggered or date-triggered basis, as desired. Autoresponders are used in many cases.

A professional email marketing system matches each access on and in the email unambiguously to a time and to a person or email address, enabling the generation and evaluation of a number of outcome measures.

Taking into account all the conceivable steps involved in the professional production of a newsletter/info mailing (subject line, text, design, formatting/layout, images/graphics, reply options, programming the landing pages etc.) a periodic mailing involves a number of hours of work per month. Effective timesaving versus print mailings is achieved only during dispatch and statistical evaluation of the measurements generated.

The cost of the necessary software ranges from several hundred to several thousand euros, depending on whether rented or purchased. However, free email clients such as Pegasus Mail can be used to administer mailing lists and carry out statistical analysis of mailing campaigns with the aid of extensive filter options. Some providers also offer a full-service individually tailored communication solution, providing a smaller or larger-scale investigation depending on what the client wishes to find out and the outcome of briefing sessions.

Evaluation of email communication is limited subject to data protection provisions. The German Teleservice Data Protection Act (TDSG) prohibits a direct link between generated data and personal address data. Only anonymous evaluation for statistical purposes is legitimate, unless the email recipient's specific agreement has been obtained.

Certain outcome measures (e.g. link tracking) can be generated only using emails in HTML format. Problem: Many email recipients block this format in their email program settings for security reasons, or the mail client cannot show HTML mails. As a result, the results need to be interpreted with care. Some customer/interested party configurations cannot be investigated, including cases where emails are read offline.

4. Indicators

  • Opening rate
  • Click rate
  • Click probability
  • Bounce handling/ bounce management (hard/soft bounces)
  • (Link) tracking/impression tracking/reporting
  • Subscriptions/unsubscriptions

5. Service providers in Germany
OPTIVO - optivo Enterprise EmailMarketing
Emailmarketing Campaign - world wide web communications
Koop Direktmarketing - Adressanbieter im B2B-Bereich
D+S EUROPE - Marktführer im Kundenmanagement unabhängig vom Kommunikationskanal
Terra Mail - Email-Management
Absolit - Email-Marketing Dr. Schwarz

6. Links
Autoresponder - Get Response by implix.

eMarketer (studies and reports on online marketing)

Mailinglisten-Manager (Majordomo, Freeware)

7. Further reading
8. Case studies

Please send us short texts from your projects on this topic in the same structure as the existing case studies, and more information (pdf or links) on the methods employed in as much detail as possible.
Contact: redaktioncommunicationcontrolling.de

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