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Feb 10, 2005
How To

Special: Email Marketing in the UK - - Tips & Data

SUMMARY: For everyone who's ever complained we are too US- centric, here's the first in an upcoming series of special issues about emailing around the globe. Includes lots of stats:
- UK average open and click rates
- Best time of day to mail
- Deliverability factoids.
Yes, we did discover one fairly significant difference between British consumers' use of email and their American counterparts. Click here to find out what it is and how it might affect your campaigns.
Unlike postal (snail) mail, email campaigns are remarkably easy and inexpensive to run across national boundaries as long as you stick to the local law.

Plus, given the nature of the Internet, chances are you already have international names on your list. According to NetCreations President Michael Mayor, roughly 10%-20% of average US marketers' opt-ins are fron outside the US and 30%-40% of these are Europeans.

So, over the course of the next few months, we'll send you a series of email marketing snapshots for various countries and regions around the globe. You'll find the first below: Emailing in the UK.

(By the way, yes there are some very real differences from US.)

Quick email statistics

74% of the total 59.6 million UK consumers have one or more email accounts.

In 2004, according to London-based email marketing firm IPT, 92% of UK-based marketers included email in their marketing budgets, with 51% intending to increase their spend in 2005.

In fact, 15% planned to increase their 2005 email spending by over 40%. However, 80% of marketers reported that they spend less than 20% of their overall online-offline budget on email marketing. According to the DMA Email Marketing Council's first National UK Benchmarking Report, which is based on a survey of ESPs, email marketing in the UK is most often used for retention of existing customers. Just 15% of total email sent by marketers is sent to acquisition lists (i.e., mailings to consumers who are not on the marketer's list currently as a customer or opt-in).

Although acquisition mailings are a tiny portion of overall mail, the marketers using email for acquisition tend to be very aggressive, with 68% scheduling new campaigns each week.

On the other hand, although 73% of UK promo email sent is for retention (newsletters and promo alerts sent to house lists), 50% of these marketers only mail on a monthly basis. That's fairly nonaggressive by US standards.

Why? We suspect it's less an issue of British reserve and more to do with cost. Some British email service providers we've run across charge a hefty minimum fee to send a campaign to a marketer's own house list.

However, pricing for list rentals isn't cheap either. Pricing averages for business-to-business lists equal $400-$600 CPM. That's about double US average.

The marketers mailing the most email campaigns overall are B-to-C travel and leisure (26%) and B-to-C retail (14.8%).

Overall response rates are not significantly higher than US averages. (The UK is not an easy home run for US marketers thinking to expand outside their borders.) Benchmarking Report data:

o Average unique open rates of around 30%
o Open rates of 29% for B-to-C acquisition
o Open rates of 32% for B-to-C retention
o Open rates of 32% for B-to-B acquisition
o Open rates of 37% for B-to-B retention

o Average unique click rates are 10%
o Click rate averages 8% for B-to-C acquisition
o Click rate averages 9% for B-to-C retention
o Click rate averages 8% for B-to-B acquisition
o Click rate averages 11% for B-to-B retention

UK email creative

"They are a little more aggressive than US marketers, in terms of the content they deliver," says Eric Stablow of US-based email service provider Silverpop, who just opened a London office this week.

"They have some additional latitude, and can be a little more risque or up front. I don't think Janet Jackson's revelation would have made much of a stir there." Stablow adds that UK marketers tend to rely on third-party agencies for email creative development. "As marketers become more sophisticated, it does become easier to bring that functionality in-house."

According to the UK Benchmarking Survey, British marketers use the following design and creative tactics:

HTML 96% Personalization 73% Data segmentation 62% Dynamic content 26% Event triggered messaging 25% Sequence messaging 14% Flash and streaming media 7%

Best campaign frequency and timing

B-to-B best practices in email timing vary by season and by industry, but when it comes to B-to-C in the UK, evening emails to the home are preferred.

That's completely different from the US.

"We've done some research on this that came out last October, which identified that people preferred to receive their emails at home, and first of all we asked about email as a communication channel, and it was rated just second to television. People tend to prefer to receive their B-to-C emails at home in the evening. They're going home and switching on their PCs, rather than just turning on their television," says CJ Brouth, IPT spokesperson.

In fact, IPT notes, 80% of UK consumers prefer to receive B-to-C marketing emails at home, rather than at work.

This corresponds to another IPT finding, that consumers are more likely to respond to marketing emails in the evening (45%) than in the morning (27%) or afternoon (19%).

Email deliverability in the UK: Filters etc.

Last December researchers at security company Sophos discovered only 1.13% of what they termed "the world's spam" came from the UK. (That's compared to 42.11% coming from the US.) That said, Brits receive plenty of spam from all over the world, even if they don't send much of it. Which means email filters are big business.

"The average UK marketer spends ages poring over their creative, and making sure it looks perfect and beautiful and that it supports branding, and that the text is just right, and then they send it out and it won't get delivered," says CJ Brouth, Spokesperson for the IPT.

According to email filtering company MessageLabs, 75% of the email sent around the world in 2004 was spam, compared with 40% in 2003. ISPs in the UK and Ireland have responded aggressively to this threat. Compared to the rest of the EU, which has seen improved deliverability over the course of 2004, the UK's deliverability diminished.

Brouth notes, "The filters are becoming much more ruthless. The legitimate marketer has to be white as snow. Yes, of course they have to have opt-in lists, but they also have to make sure their creative doesn't look like spam. They have to be as clever as the spammers in avoiding certain words and phrases that spammers use. Even saying 'best wishes' at the end of a newsletter could trigger filters, because spammers use the word 'best' to describe their products."

According to Doubleclick's December 2004 study, email delivery rates fell in the third quarter from 85.2% to 84.9%.

Which is why, as the UK Benchmarking Survey reports, 70% of UK email service providers have established direct contact with ISPs in order to facilitate delivery of their clients' emails. (Mailing via one of the remaining 30% may be a fool's bargain. They're generally cheaper, but will the mail get through?)

Dave Lewis, deliverability expert at US-based StrongMail Systems, suggests a hands-on approach in Europe.

"If you're mailing B-to-C, Yahoo is a significant player in Europe, as is AOL. So it partly depends on the nature of your list," he says. "If it's B-to-B, you will also see some of the major US ISPs present on those lists, accounting for about 10%. And then you're dealing with a big chunk of smaller ISPs. There are over 4,000 individual European ISPs."

"What we've found to be most effective in the UK, as well as the rest of Europe, is to work it from both sides," Lewis adds.

"If you're having a problem mailing B-to-B, have your ESP contact the MailOpps group at the ISP. Try to determine why you are being blacklisted. And then have your client company, one from your client list who wants your email, go in through the management of that company. The dual approach seems to work best for us, when you are emailing from the US to Europe, or internationally anywhere, really."

British bounce rates tend to mirror America's with an average 4% soft bounce (address can't get email at the moment) plus 6% hard bounce (address gone completely bad) rates. Business-to-business rental lists have the highest bounces, 8% soft and 10% hard, indicating these files are not cleaned frequently enough.

BSkyB: A Data Protection Success Story

British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSkyB) customers are more than 17 million satellite TV viewers in the UK and Ireland.

In addition to TV, BSkyB also offers services allowing customers to send emails, shop on-screen, play games and select their own camera angles, vote, place bets and manage finances -- all via TV. BSkyB's own channels, such as Sky News and Sky Sports, are available in a further 5.4 million cable and digital homes in the UK and Ireland.

The company was sending millions of emails per month, mostly to the UK and Ireland, but also to a few thousand opt-in members in the rest of Europe.

The problem? Different divisions weren't coordinating email management. Sometimes a subscriber would opt out of a sports newsletter, but that opt-out wouldn't be communicated with third-party promoters. Consumer privacy laws, enacted in 2003, forced the issue.

Three steps BSkyB took for compliance:

#1. Basic list hygiene and integration (harder than it sounds).

#2. Written companywide email policy on use of names and rental policies.

#3. Selected a new email service provider and certified to Britain's FTC that the provider met Safe Harbor data protection and privacy regulations.

Results? After consolidating more than 10 separate email databases accounting for more than one million email addresses, the company's email complaint count dropped from a few a day to a few over a six-month period. Plus, clickthrough rates now regularly exceed 35%.

Useful links related to this article

Two General UK stat sources:

IPT Email Marketing Survey 2004:

The UK DMA's Email Marketing Council Benchmarking Survey:


MarketingSherpa article: Spam Laws Affecting US Marketers Emailing Canadians, Europeans, Brits, & Aussies + 21 Useful Links:

See Also:

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