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Feb 12, 2013
Case Study

Email Marketing: Wireless provider increases open rate by 537% and clickthrough by 92% with personalized daily newsletter

SUMMARY: Newsletters are an often neglected strategy with 46% of marketers reporting their email newsletter as staying the course and 11% having a floundering program, according to the MarketingSherpa 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report.

In this case study, read how C Spire Wireless drastically increased engagement by integrating personalization into its daily newsletter program, NEWSLINK.
by Courtney Eckerle, Reporter

CHALLENGE

C Spire Wireless launched an email service to deliver the best of the day's news to its subscribers. The marketing team wanted to supply its customers with a reason to interact with, and see, C Spire’s name on a daily basis.

Although the team received positive feedback with the selected varied news stories, they decided, "We wanted to enhance it in some way to draw people to engage with it more to add more value to it," said Justin Croft, Manager of Campaigns and Promotions, C Spire Wireless.

Open rates were around 8%, and although the team was happy with clickthrough rates, Croft said C Spire wanted to "drive overall engagement … and we want to do that through personalizing the content."

CAMPAIGN

Out of this desire to personalize its content, C Spire wanted to create an email product that "learns what individual customers like to read, and each morning, their email contains more articles of what they like to read and a list of what they have done," Croft said.

C Spire decided that to receive a greater level of engagement from its subscribers, personalization based on behavioral data would be brought into the emails.

Subscribers were encouraged to click on five articles, and from there, the articles shown to them would be specific to their own interests. For instance, someone who consistently chose political articles would see the selections sent to them reflect that preference.

The NEWSLINK section of the C Spire website also supports this personalization, with registered users seeing their selections on the website reflected in their email, and vice-versa. C Spire’s system uses an application programming interface, or API, so the two software components are able to communicate information gathered for personalization.

Step #1. Launch non-personalized version

In May 2012, C Spire launched the non-personalized version of the NEWSLINK email to its customer base, and it performed admirably.

In this version, the team had a news editor who, early each day, would select the top stories in each of C Spire's seven sections to send to every subscriber.

"Customers were pleasantly surprised," Croft said. "They liked it, all the feedback was positive, but our open rates and engagement levels weren’t really what we wanted it to be."

It was decided C Spire needed to build on that positive feedback.

"As part of providing personalized wireless service, we had other products that … really learn what customers liked, using predicted models and in statistical algorithms, and so we wanted to add that level of science," Croft said.

Step #2. Build a component of the website to support email

"We also created a website component to NEWSLINK, so that it’s not just email — it is also live on the Web," Croft said.

This allowed customers to view and receive stories on whichever platform they preferred.

Croft said the NEWSLINK component was "integrated into our standard wireless website … more as a content section, rather than as an e-commerce section."

Integrating this content system as a new portal into its website was "absolutely not the sort of thing that a typical wireless carrier does, but it’s part of what we like to do as part of our brand mission of providing personalized service," he added.

Step #3. Build personalization

Croft said the personalized incarnation of the newsletter was worked on for about three months to create a version of the daily email personalized for each subscriber, "so everybody’s news linking email is different."

The top of the email features the C Spire logo with "NEWSLINK" built in, and to the right side, a section encourages the reader to "Earn PERCS," which is C Spire's customer loyalty program.

A top story of interest is featured at the beginning of the email, chosen by the editor, and the personalized section is directly below.

"The email also has various sections, like a newspaper might," Croft said, adding politics, sports, life, business, faith, family and even a local section are all a part of the NEWSLINK email.

The "Your Personalized News" section tops the following seven sections with a sub-headline encouraging subscribers to "Click on articles to personalize your news more."

PERCS

Personalization was built into C Spire’s loyalty program, PERCS. Participating in NEWSLINK is one of the ways customers can earn PERC points, which add up for phone and accessory discounts, among other rewards.

By encouraging enrollment, it allows customers to create "one universal profile" for customers, Croft said.

This allows C Spire to integrate subscriber activity on the website with their email activity to further personalize the experience.

Non-customers are also able to participate in the PERCS program through supplying their ten-digit mobile number, their name and the email address through which they wish to receive NEWSLINK sends.

Personalized section

Croft said it was considered for the email to solely feature personalized stories, but his team decided they wanted subscribers to receive "a breadth of news."

"We have got a lot of thought about whether or not to have just personalized content or not. … We decided to go with a mix of both to make sure that if somebody is, maybe only interested in sports ... they don’t miss the major world news story," Croft said.

The personalized NEWSLINK section contains around five stories chosen just for the subscriber and was built up through the interactions the user has had with the email and the NEWSLINK webpage. Once a user engages, C Spire’s system recognizes the reader has heavily favored reading political stories, for example.

The next time C Spire sends that person an email, that section is more heavily favored toward their interests, as recognized by interactions with the email.

News story selection

Croft said C Spire has approximately 30 selected news providers from The Associated Press to local newspapers that they mine each morning for anywhere from 12 to 20 of the latest stories.

Each morning, the news editor selects what will be the top story in the NEWSLINK email, and picks the stories for each individual section that the personalization will pull from.



RESULTS

Croft said this personalization campaign has been "absolute proof that personalization drives engagement with our products and with our brand."

Croft added C Spire is looking to increase its personalized content to add fuel to what they have already accomplished with NEWSLINK.

"The quest for data news never stops. … There is always so much content. What we are focusing on right now is adding in more personalization," he said, giving geographic personalization around sports teams as an example.

"The more relevant we can make any message on any platform, but especially email … the more engagement it drives. The more eyeballs that we have, the more brand awareness," Croft concluded.

By adding personalization into its NEWSLINK emails, C Spire was able to increase its clickthrough rate by 92% and its open rate by 537%.

Non-personalized email

  • Clickthrough rate: 25%

  • Open rate: 8%

Personalized email

  • Clickthrough rate: 48%

  • Open rate: 51%

Creative Samples

  1. NEWSLINK website

  2. NEWSLINK personalized email

Sources

C Spire

Neolane — C Spire’s vendor

Idio Platform

Related Resources

E-commerce Email Relevance: 10% more revenue from 3 personalization tactics

Email Marketing: Helzberg Diamonds garners 288% sales lift with animated, personalized promo

Email Marketing: Groupon's segmentation strategies across 115 million subscribers

PURL Jam: 6 ways personalized URLS can help increase the virality of your campaigns

Comments about this Case Study

Feb 19, 2013 - Ryan Bollenbach of Boompah says:
Awesome solution. I think this works out nicely when you have access to a lot of data but, I'm not sure how easily I could prescribe this direction to a brand that doesn't have as much content on hand. Personalization is clear indication of a brand that values its user.


Mar 01, 2013 - Andrew Davies of idioplatform.com says:
Absolutely Ryan. It was great working with Neolane on this project. The content issue is solvable. We find its one of the initial hurdles to this type of project. But when you build a great content marketing process, using authored or licensed/curated content, you can then really drive customer value from the personalization. As for the data, the approach in this instance is one we call "you are what you read" - ie the interactions with content are the source of preference and behavioural data that we then use to drive effective personalization.



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