In part 1 of our series, we evaluated the email programs of the UK’s main political parties to see which ones are dealing most effectively with the challenge of deliverability. The Greens and Liberal Democrats came out top. However on average, one in every eight emails sent is ending up in the junk folder. This failure to reach the inbox will have an impact on volunteering, donations, and getting people out to vote.
But getting emails delivered is only the start. If they don’t get opened, and fail to generate responses to their calls to action, then they have failed. In this post, we will evaluate subscriber engagement and how to generate it.
Here is the past 30-day read rate performance for the major political parties:
Again, the smaller programs are leading the way, with the SNP, Greens, and Liberal Democrats achieving above average read rates. We’ll now look at some of the reasons for this.
1. Friendly (or unfriendly) from
Many emails use the name of a politician associated with the party as the friendly from. In the chart below, we categorized that technique by “Leader” (e.g. Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn), and compared it against other friendly froms using “Other” (e.g. not a party leader), or “Party” (e.g. The Liberal Democrats, Green Party, etc.).
Emails using “Leader” as their friendly from achieving better read rates than those using “Other” (less known) personalities. “Party” friendly froms achieve comparable read rates, but complaint rates and deleted unread rates are much higher, suggesting lower engagement with the less personal approach.
2. Segmentation and targeting
We categorized broadcasts by size relative to each sender’s total subscribers. “Highly Targeted” is less than 25 percent of total mailable addresses, “Partially Targeted” is less than 50 percent, and “Not Targeted” are sent to half or more of all subscribers.
read rates are significantly greater for “Highly Targeted” broadcasts, while complaint rates and spam placement rates both increase sharply as targeting decreases
Most email programs collect name data as part of the sign-up, and all use this data for salutations. However, only three parties personalize subject lines (Conservatives, Greens, and Liberal Democrats) and we tested this for effectiveness.
Personalized subject lines generate slightly higher read rates. However, the key takeaway is complaint rates are twice as high for non-personalised emails. Subscribers are much less likely to respond negatively when personal real estate (their name) is involved.
Two other quick personalisation learnings:
4. Emotional Impact
In addition to obvious engagement drivers such as content, offer, and call to action there are also some subtle levers. Here are a few examples:
5. Mailbox Provider Engagement Metrics
Mailbox providers have their own interpretation of engagement, also measuring a range of “hidden” metrics–based on subscribers’ behavior. These play a role in determining whether email programs are seen as good or bad senders. For example:
Subscriber engagement is a two-sided coin, and is not just about maximising positive behaviours–it’s also about minimising negative behaviours too. In our next (and final) instalment we’ll pull it all together and showcase some specific examples to answer questions like:
I’ll also put my head on the block and use email intelligence to make a bold prediction about who will win the election – don’t miss it!
Guy is a passionate advocate for intelligent use of customer data to drive responsive email programs. With a knowledge base that now spans nearly 15 years, he is a global e-mail expert and thought leader. Leading Return Path’s International Professional Services consulting team, Guy has worked with a broad range of clients across 5 continents to improve their email delivery, subscriber engagement and revenue generated. Outside of work, Guy is the Chairman of the DMA Email Council. In this role, he works with industry peers including brands, agencies, and service providers to promote the best interests of the email industry to a broader audience. He is also a regular contributor to the industry press.
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