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Mar 22, 2011
How To

Email Marketing: FedEx increases deliverability and clickthrough rates with preference centers

SUMMARY: Email marketing often requires you to work with several areas of your company to keep everything synchronized. When you have more than one region or line of business, the list of variables can be staggering -- but not insurmountable.

Check out these key tactics that a FedEx marketer used to centralize the company's email programs. See which tactic he says is most responsible for improving deliverability and click-to-open rates.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

One of the challenges of effective email marketing is making everything work in unison. Calendars, priorities and goals need to be aligned across departments. This is true for any company and it's particularly true for companies with multiple business units, like FedEx.

The global logistical services provider is made up of many companies, such as FedEx Office and FedEx Express, that "operate independently and compete collectively," says Andrew Bailey, Marketing Specialist Advisor, FedEx.

Before Bailey joined, FedEx's companies had independent email programs separated into global regions. For the last several years, he has worked to centralize all of them under a single platform.

"The platform officially was global about six months ago with every region integrated into the one platform with one vendor serving as our email service provider. That was all under my leadership and guidance," Bailey says.

This task continues today with Bailey's team working to apply the lessons learned in some regions to improve performance in others. Metrics have improved as the platform has grown:

Deliverability:

o 91.96% - Global rate for FY09
o 95.28% - Global rate for first four months of FY11

Click-to-open:

o 6.64% - Global rate for FY09
o 10.53% - Global rate for first four months of FY11

FedEx did not flip a switch and centralize its email marketing, though. The multi-year effort was broken into phases, followed a strategy, and continues today. Below are some of the key tactics Bailey has used to pull the process together and improve overall results.

Tactic #1. Create customized preference centers

A key part of centralizing FedEx's email programs internally was to centralize them in the eyes of FedEx's customers. Bailey's team worked to create preference management pages where subscribers could view all of the FedEx email programs in their regions and pick which they wanted to receive.

Subscribers can visit FedEx website, select their country and see a list of available email programs from FedEx companies in their regions (see creative samples below).

In the US, there are four programs for each of FedEx's businesses:

o FedEx Express and FedEx Ground
o FedEx Freight
o FedEx Office
o FedEx Custom Critical

There are several types of emails within each program that subscribers can choose to receive. They include:

o Product service updates
o Offers and promotions
o Service disruption alerts
o Developer resource emails
o Partnership-related emails

Although there have been many changes to FedEx's email marketing over the last several years, allowing subscribers to update contact information and preferences has had the largest impact on global metrics such as deliverability and clickthrough rates, Bailey says.

"You are able to send customers what they want instead of trying to figure out what they want," Bailey says.

Tactic #2. Start with good templates

FedEx's email programs in the United States are high performers. According to Bailey, metrics improved dramatically after adding a preferences management center. Current average metrics for the team's U.S. email programs:

o 99% deliverability
o 14% click-to-open rate

Bailey says they used the U.S.'s preferences center as a starting point to work with his peers in other regions to build their subscription centers. This is an approach he has used to apply other tactics to improve regional programs as they've been brought into the global system.

"We take all the pieces and collectively work together to improve the overall FedEx email strategy for everybody, no matter which operating company or region you are in," Bailey says.

Tactic #3. Encourage visits to preference center

Subscribers need to use your preferences center for it to help your program. The team will send an email roughly twice per year asking subscribers to update their preferences. The request can take the form of a "thank you" letter or might touch on the most recent email the subscriber has received.

"One of the approaches that FedEx did when we first got the preference centers was that we tied it to a sweepstakes," Bailey says (see creative samples below).

Bailey has also been working to add links to the preference center to prominent pages on the various FedEx websites and in emails.

"We want to be proactive and put tags in place where we are driving them to their content area where they may want to receive additional information from FedEx."

Tactic #4. Don't let the metrics fool you

FedEx offers many services in dozens of countries to a variety of customers. This scope has given rise to a number of different email programs with a broad range of benchmarks, which can make cross-regional comparisons difficult.

As Bailey integrated FedEx's email programs across the globe, benchmarks for the overall program shifted lower as less-optimized programs entered the platform. Undaunted, his team worked with peers in other regions to apply what it had learned from its email programs in the U.S. and eventually pulled global deliverability above 95 percent.

- Applying best practices

One example of work the team did on newly incorporated email programs centered on the addresses that subscribers were allowed to submit.

Bailey's team designed the preferences management system to keep an eye on incoming email addresses. Subscribers who offer addresses for "role accounts," such as "admin@example.com" or "mail@example.com," are prompted to provide a personal email address (see creative samples below).

"Most ESPs don't allow those types of addresses in your platforms because multiple people can be associated with them," he says. "If you register with a role account and ten other people use it, obviously there are nine people who may not have opted-in."

Useful links related to this article

CREATIVE SAMPLES

1. Subscription / preferences center - select country
2. Subscription / preferences center - select subscriptions
3. Update preferences sweepstakes email
4. Request for personal email address

MarketingSherpa German Email Marketing Summit 2011

Subscribe to the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing newsletter

Members Library -- Chart: B2B ranking of email tactics by effectiveness and effort required

Members Library -- Webinar Replay: Increase the strategic value of your email marketing programs

Email Marketing: Maybe it really is an inbound tactic

FedEx



See Also:

Comments about this How To

Mar 22, 2011 - John Pinson of Message Systems says:
Would be interested to learn more about FedEx's sending/receiving volumes and what kind of infrastructure they have in place. Reading the final comment in the piece it appears they've taken all their marketing email in house..


Mar 22, 2011 - Adam T Sutton of MarketingSherpa says:
Hi John I wish I could comment further, but FedEx keeps fairly tight-lipped about its operations. Thank you for your comment.


Mar 23, 2011 - Bob Tellier of Martin Engineering says:
Does FedEX employ any subscriber qualification procedures to weed out competitors seeking intel from real customers?


Mar 23, 2011 - Adam T Sutton of MarketingSherpa says:
Hi Bob -- Unfortunately, I am unable to comment further. Thank you for your comment.



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