Email remarketing – opportunities and barriers

Remarketing or trigger based email marketing is nothing new

Automated email marketing, event-triggered email, behavioural email, abandoned shopping cart email and now retargeting emails. Call the technique what you will, it’s been possible to do this for over 10 years now! The use of relevant messaging, content and timing in the customer buying or engagement cycle has proven successful, yet it appears that many marketers still do not have these techniques in their communications mix.

Why isn’t email re-marketing more commonplace?

Research from Econsultancy shows that even in 2011, after this technique has been available for 10+ years, it’s still surprisingly uncommon with only just over a third of companies using it.

It is likely that a combination of issues such as IT resources or strategy, data feeds, changes to processes and the cultural move away from planned batch (push) campaigns to ongoing flexible and automated pull campaigns are barriers to the development of this capability.

It could also be that brands have older email platforms or fail to engage with email agencies or experts to push their email capabilities. Or could they just be lazy? Costs of email are so low and ROI looks good, why do they need to bother with the hassle of changing?

That could be a bit shortsighted if ISPs continue to put stricter criteria on deliverability and more and more people stop engaging with email due to poor targeting and relevance.

The latest buzzword – email retargeting

The success of retargeted ads based on web browsing behaviour has probably led to the development of this concept and term. There is increasing talk about the use of retargeted ads based on email behaviour. So much so that a recent blog by Tommy Walker (5 Jul 2013 – Conversion XL) caught my eye with some interesting figures from some research by Custora.

According to their survey of over 72 million customers shopping on 86 retail sites, in the last four years, email has quadrupled its customer acquisition rate, reaching nearly 7% of total acquisition. The study also tracked customer click sources (email, social, search, etc.) as well as what and how much they bought over the course of two years. Turns out, email customers are 12% more valuable than an average customer.

What is email retargeting?

Email retargeting shows ads across various display networks, based on the emails that a brand’s subscriber opens. The technique allows a brand to create contextually relevant display advertising across the web. Ultimately, this can lead to reducing their overall send frequency while maximizing the effectiveness across multiple channels.

Email retargeting is often used as part of a cross-channel strategy and is typically combined with more traditional emails and triggered emails. Some case studies talk of large (>300%) ROI statistics. Like browser based retargeted ads this is driven by the nature of the activities targeted within the sales funnel/buying process i.e. they are closer to conversion and way past awareness and consideration stages.

How does email retargeting work?

Rather like web retargeting, when a subscriber opens an email, a cookie is dropped into his or her browser. When that subscriber visits other websites with retargeting ads enabled, a brand’s ad will be displayed (provided it’s the highest bidder) and that brand stays top of mind. The key differentiator is that the ad will contain relevant content from the original email.

A word of warning about email retargeting

Retargeting networks like or the Facebook Exchange program allow brands to upload entire email lists to their servers, allowing them to serve those users with retargeting ads. While it can be extremely effective for reactivating dormant email leads, it’s important that the brand or data controller checks and updates (if required) their privacy policies to reflect how a customer’s data is being used.

Overall this offers brands greater opportunities to exploit behavioural data within emails to deliver timely and relevant messages.

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