Big Data

How a production company and a creative agency increased email open rates with personalized video

Sales and marketing email open rates are notoriously low. Here's how a joint effort between two companies makes use of data to create personalized content that appeals to customers.

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Image: iStock/roshi11

In most industries, less than one quarter of sales and marketing emails are opened and under 5% are clicked through, according to Mailchimp's February 2017 email marketing benchmarks. "I would say that a 1 to 5% email response rate is good," said Jonathan Brick, vice president of product at LiveHive, which provides sales automation tools for email marketers.

"All marketers are competing for attention," said Vern Oakley, CEO of video production company Tribe. The company partnered with Hiker, a creative agency, to offer a personalized video service to create emails that customers want to open. "It's the rarest of commodities. So when you come up with something that's fresh, novel and personal, it really makes an impact. We're always thinking about how to make a human connection. It seems paradoxical that we're using technology to get more human, but that is actually the case."

Tribe's technology takes big data artifacts like videos and personalizes them to each viewer, and then sends thousands or even millions of videos out—each customized for an audience of one.

"We've found that combining video and personalization increases [email] results exponentially," said Oakley. "Personalized video has an average 87% increased click-through rate vs. traditional email. And viewing rates are over 73% vs. generic video, with the majority of viewers watching the video until the end. We're helping faceless companies become more human to their audience, which helps to pull their audience in and build longer term brand loyalty."

In one campaign, patrons of the Apollo Theater received personalized messages of thanks for their support. In each video, the patron's name appeared on the marquee and they were ushered, virtually, onto the stage at the theater where the announcer introduced them.

Another series of videos, created for BBVA Compass bank, targets a customer after they visited a local bank branch. The video addresses the customer by name and specifies the branch they visited, and then offers advice on using online banking services.

"We partner with our clients to figure out how to use the relevant data they already have and match it to the story we're telling to make a human connection," said Oakley. "The data could be as simple as your name or job title, or more sophisticated data that the company has can be used to create one-to-one offers (specific items your value) or acknowledgements (anniversaries or rewards) or insights (ways you can increase energy savings, for example). "

Most videos begin simply, with a name up front, in text or audio, because that makes people sit up and pay attention. It immediately pulls them in. The video can be live action or graphical. The data can also be used to determine more subtle content differences that are rendered at branch points within the video.

Analytics also play an important role in the personalization process. The analytics pick out each individual's name, anniversary date, buying preferences, or whatever is deemed as the most relevant content for each individual.

Is the combination of analytics and big data with standard email marketing/outreach making a difference?

"Companies are seeing the results," said Oakley, "Because it makes a difference to a customer or a patron when he or she sees his/her name or other personal data. Audiences are immediately pulled in. Content is 100% relevant to the viewer."

SEE: Big data in 2017: AI, machine learning, cloud, IoT, and more (TechRepublic)

In short, companies have another big data tool to use to improve their email marketing results.

Here are some next steps for using this approach:

  • First, make sure that you are "on task" with both your video content and your data for each viewer. It doesn't do much good to send a video about a course that teaches you how to pass a bar exam to a sitting judge.
  • Second, be sensitive to consumer privacy concerns. Not every consumer is going to welcome a personalized video. Some will feel that you are using information about them that they don't want you to have. One approach would be to have consumers opt in for these videos before you start sending them.
  • Third, although you want to personalize your videos, you can get more mileage out of them if you can repurpose the content by doing your personalizing without redoing videos. This can be done by inserting a person's name, anniversary, date, etc., and keeping the video the same.

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About Mary Shacklett

Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...

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