KPIs: Karl’s Performance Indicators – Halloween subject lines

This is the first in an on-going series of articles from Data Analyst Karl Bond in which he digs into some interesting email stats based on insights from Experian’s ESP platform.

As Halloween approaches I thought it would be a great opportunity to take a look at some of last year’s Halloween email activity. Hopefully some of these insights will help the marketers among you tinker with your last minute email campaigns to improve performance.

The week leading up to Halloween 2014 saw a total of 221.86 million emails being sent from our ESP platform. However only 10.03% of these had subject lines relevant to Halloween. Emails with Halloween relevancy were 4.9% more likely to be opened than those without them.

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Hold your horses though – the instant conclusion here is that Halloween emails are more likely to be opened – but it’s far more complicated than that. When we look closer we can see that there was significant variation within industries. Emails from retailers which contained Halloween related words in the subject line were actually 2.74% less likely to be opened. Comparatively, emails sent from the financial services sector were nearly three times more likely to be opened when they contained Halloween related words.

I think this shows that certain industries (giant red flag for retail) are over saturated by Halloween style email communications. What does this mean? It means competition is high and if you’re going to do it and you’re a retailer you need to do it well – because everyone’s doing it.

As we move to Unique Email Opens we can begin to see that timing is essential. Unique open rate peaked at nearly 25% on the 26th, five days before Halloween itself (October 31st), but stayed higher than the average open rate until the day itself when it was, as we’ve already noted, lower than non-Halloween related emails. Evidently marketers need to catch their subscribers when Halloween at the right time – not too early and not too late.

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Taking a look at the most frequently used keywords is interesting and shows some fascinating trends. A total of 79.88% of Halloween relevant emails had the word ‘Halloween’ in them (not surprising really) with a decent Unique Open Rate of 17.59%. However, when marketers got a bit creative and though slightly outside the box they were able to reap some greater rewards. The word ‘Zombie’ (a word which is pretty relevant to Halloween you have to admit) was only used in 2.92% of emails but received a Unique Open Rate of 25.67%. Clearly people are interested in zombies.

The insight to take from this analysis is quite simply ‘be creative’ as there are benefits to doing something a bit different. There are a lot of marketing being sent at this time of year and in order to be heard above the noise you need to do something a bit special and different.

Strangely enough (or would ‘spookily’ be a better word?) a fairly large number of brands used the phrase ‘no trick, just treats’ but performance was poor – showing that while it’s important to be creative there are dangers and while you may think you’re being original chances are someone may have had the same great idea.

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Finally, seven out of the top ten Halloween related subject lines included a reference to a discount or incentive which shows that adding value and incentivising remains incredibly important, regardless of how snazzy and creative you are.

I hope these insights prove useful. As with every campaign you plan – especially when it comes to seasonality – it’s important to take a look at what’s past activity to figure out what worked and what didn’t.

When it comes to communicating with your customers you need to base all your decisions on what you know about them and you need to know a lot to communicate accurately and consistently in a relevant manner. Is one customer type likely to prefer a discount, an incentive or something different? Where will your creative inputs have more impact – or with whom?

These are the questions you need to address as you build ever increasingly sophisticated marketing strategies.

Experian Marketing Services is the leading global provider of customer insights, data quality and cross-channel marketing. We help organisations intelligently interact with today’s empowered and hyper-connected consumers.

By helping marketers identify best customers, find more, and then coordinate seamless and intelligent interactions across the most appropriate channels, Experian Marketing Services can deepen customer loyalty, strengthen brand advocacy and maximise profits.