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July 15, 2015
Case Study

Email Marketing: Edmunds.com integrates video into email sends for a 34% increase in clickthrough rate

SUMMARY: Automotive shopping website Edmunds.com was looking for a way to keep customers engaged throughout the car buying process and began using email to do so. By integrating video and optimizing across multiple devices, the team was able to increase clickthrough rates and provide more relevant content to customers.
by Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content

THE CUSTOMER

As a car shopping website, Edmunds.com exists to help customers discover, price and buy their next vehicle.

"We serve as a platform between consumers and dealers in order to do these activities. We recently hit 19 million visitors — 19 million unique visitors for the month on a monthly basis. And we work with over 10,000 dealer franchises across the U.S. specifically," John Ken, Director of Customer Retention Marketing, Edmunds.com, said.

Edmunds.com offers dealer inventory and pricing, vehicle reviews, shopping tips, photos and videos as well as content on its website. The website is across not only traditional desktop and mobile, but featured in an app as well.

The Edmunds.com customer, according to Ken, is a very informed shopper.

"They're extremely educated ... These are the shoppers who are spending hours — multiple hours longer than the average shopper — on the site, researching everything there is about a vehicle. They take pride in being empowered when they step on to the dealership lot," he said.

CHALLENGE

Ken's team focuses "100% on retaining our customers," he said.

With roughly 19 million unique visitors per month, his team's role is to keep those users coming back to the site and keep them engaged while they are on the site.

"My department runs email as well as our retargeting channel … I would say probably retargeting is part of a larger umbrella and email under it. So, we leverage channels like email marketing, social media, text messaging and display targeting to reach our customers," he said.

The main challenge is keeping customers engaged and coming back to the website, which has many areas for customers to navigate, according to Ken, who listed everything from information on specific types of vehicles to written and video content.

"People come to the site and they come at various stages of this car shopping journey," he said, adding that his team wanted to "cater content to specific journeys for those customers. Every person is in a different place."

CAMPAIGN

"We're going to get even more intelligent around our messages to consumers," Ken said.

Edmunds sends between one million and 1.5 million messages a month. To make those messages more relevant, his team decided to integrate video content and optimize across devices.

Since the lead time is long with customers looking to purchase a car, continued relevance at every touch point that keeps them engaged is vital.

Step #1. Strategically integrate video into sends

Ken and his team recently launched a life cycle email that triggers two days after someone has provided Edmunds with their email address.

"As a part of that process … we've collected some behavioral information around that user, some vehicle information and some of their interests around what they're shopping for," Ken said.

From there, he added, the team thinks about what would be relevant for the individual and, because it is a few days after the person has provided the email address, there are "certain pieces of content that cater to the beginning stages of when you're shopping for a car. In addition, we can provide some of our top deals of the month based on a variety of different cars. So, there's some very generalized information but some very personal as well based on their shopping journey."

Once the team has considered that aspect of the customer journey, they work with the creative department to build mock-ups to ensure that email real estate is being used properly.

One of the ways the team can use that real estate is to integrate video content into the email in order to capture subscriber interest in some of Edmunds' most popular vehicles from the site from the email itself, Ken explained.

He described what happens when you contact a dealership on the site: "Let's just say you're shopping for a Honda Accord and you contact a dealer and inquired about the Honda Accord. Two days later, what we would do is we would send you an email with a link with our most popular live help video at the top and that will actually autoplay," he said.

View the Creative Sample


Click here to see the full version of this creative sample



Video was also implemented into the general newsletter, as well as more specific emails like the life cycle email.

"We don't do video in every single newsletter. We're a publisher as well. When we have something relevant to a video piece, we'll include it in our newsletter," he said.

For example, Ken said, Edmunds has sent out videos on industry events such as the New York International Auto Show.

"People love auto shows. Whenever we include that within a newsletter, it always gets a good amount of clicks and attention. So, we may do like a quick 10-, 15-second reel of an auto show … and then we'll have the full five minutes posted and ready for YouTube. We'll break out a piece for our email," he said.

For each email, Ken works with the Edmunds' editorial team to decide whether the video should click through to the landing page or to the video posted on YouTube.

"It depends … sometimes we like to generate more traffic for the site or gain the subscriber. So, if it was enthusiast content, usually what we end up doing is sending the enthusiasts over to YouTube to subscribe to our channel," he said.

Step #2. Test video elements

While integrating video into their current sends, "as a part of our pilot we first started … we did an A/B test, a 50/50 split between our static emails and then with this new test of dynamic content," Ken said.

Running that for several months, the team saw a 34% clickthrough rate increase in aggregate across all emails. Also, the platform the company had enlisted to help with this effort paid for itself over eight times, according to Ken.

"It was pretty remarkable. It was pretty easy to set up and then increased the relevance of our campaigns. We didn't go into it necessarily with, 'We have to hit ROI,'" he said, but the team did identify some small metrics for success they wanted to hit — for instance, testing email engagement and app downloads.

View the Creative Sample


Click here to see the full version of this creative sample



Another metric they wanted to test and look at was the carousel slider in Edmund's email, which scrolls through up to eight top vehicle deals. Compared to the control of a static viewing of the cars, the team saw a 20% lift in clickthrough rate.

Step #3. Implement video in B2B emails

Edmunds has also integrated video on the B2B side, with email sends and interactions with dealerships.

"On the dealership side, we have two sets of customers, really. On the B2B side, if someone were to register with Edmunds as a new dealer, we actually have live webinar trainings and a part of the email that gets sent is a quick intro from our trainer," Ken said.

The video in that email autoplays for the individual and features the Edmunds B2B trainer giving an introduction, explaining why they should watch the next webinar training.

Edmunds does have a full in-house A/V team, but the trainer keeps this initial video simple and records it himself.

"We're really scrappy here … We have a full in-house video team. They do more of our production-worthy content. So, our test drives and vehicle reviews and what not. This individual, he's working on his own and trying to get our dealers on-board as well as possible. So he gets creative with how he develops content," he said.

Step #4. Optimize for a multi-device experience

Customers spend a lot of time with Edmunds researching before finally making a decision about a vehicle purchase, and that time will be spent across a myriad of devices as the customer moves throughout their day.

Edmunds has a "very robust data warehouse, [and] we have a great analytics team," Ken said.

The goal is to use that to become more personalized with messaging, whether that is on email or in text, he added. More than 50% of Edmunds' newsletters are now opened on a mobile device, according to Ken, and in acknowledgement of that, the team even sends an email encouraging customers to text a dealer.

View the Creative Sample


Click here to see the full version of this creative sample



"This plays a large role. People are no longer just on desktop email. They're on the phones. They're at home. They're at the office. They're on the app," he said.

One example of how Edmunds is creating a cohesive experience is by keeping links within the Edmunds app. So instead of being directed to the mobile site from a link in an email, customers who have the app downloaded will see it open in the app.

"It will put the user right into … the right experience for them," he said.

People triage on their mobile devices, Ken added, and carrying the experience across devices helps this, as well as keeping Edmunds easily top of mind.

"It helps eliminate the amnesia if you can carry an experience across device and location, especially around buying a car, [which] is such a long, drawn out process," he said.

Edmunds' shoppers are "really well-informed, educated and empowered," he said, and breaking that cohesive process isn't really an option.

"It's almost an expectation. You have other great ecommerce companies being able to maintain the consistent experience across devices, across locations. Consumers are getting trained for that. So, this is Edmunds' attempt to reach that state, which is be relevant and deliver a consistent experience for our users," he said.

RESULTS

"Edmunds in the past — our personalization was fairly rudimentary. We'd be able to personalize the message based on, 'Hey, you submitted a lead or you contacted the dealer about this.' Well then, so what? We knew your first name and last name," Ken said.

The video component has been an added touch point for his team, he added — another way to gently and helpfully remind the customer about Edmunds.

"It's visually appealing. It can be attention-grabbing. It's optimized by device. So, in terms of video, it increases the engagement for Edmunds," he said.

The results the team has been able to see from this effort are:
  • A 34% lift in clickthrough rate in newsletters with video versus static

  • A 20% lift in clickthrough rate with a carousel slider versus static

"Revenue has been higher by double-digit percentages since we began," Ken said, adding that, as a whole, the way this effort will continue is to have email marketing become increasingly personalized, especially through video.

"Right person, right time, right message and, in this case, right device," he concluded.

Creative Samples

  1. General newsletter

  2. Carousel slider

  3. Text email

Sources

Edmunds.com

PowerInbox — Edmund's email vendor

Related Resources

Offer Relevance: How Edmunds.com achieved an 18% increase in price quote requests through personalized targeted marketing

Content Marketing: Videos attract 300% more traffic and nurture leads

Content Marketing: 5 steps for using content to influence decisions and convert customers




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