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How Publishers Clearing House Used Real-time Marketing to Increase Online Engagement by 46%

Michael Zane, Publishers Clearing House

Publishers Clearing House is winning the real-time marketing game. Their online brand,, has delivered a personalized message to every visitor while they're on the site, and each message has been customized to fit what the visitor is doing on the site. Since February 2013, this has helped Publishers Clearing House increase:
  • Time spent on its site by 43%

  • Overall engagement by 46%

  • Revenues per 1,000 visitors by 12%

Here's an overview of how the team achieved this:

Step #1. Identify two personas through simple audience segmentation

  • Engaged visitors — customers who had played one or more instant-win or sweepstakes games

  • Unengaged visitor — customers who had visited at least twice but had not yet played a game or entered a sweepstakes

Step #2. Determine what the team wanted visitors to do from real-time marketing

  • Engage the unengaged

  • Drive the somewhat-engaged visitors to go deeper into the site

Step #3. Test to learn what will drive engagement

  • Establish a testing baseline by gathering data for six weeks

  • Conduct an A/B test targeting their unengaged visitors. The control was the site without special messaging. The treatment featured a very simple one-line banner ad. As a result, they achieved a 36% lift in engaged users.

  • Test again. The team suspected they were on the right track and were eager to try a pop-up ad designed by their graphic artists. They saw a small drop in engagement and ended the test within four days. Based on this response, they believed that the pop-up was more intrusive than a banner ad and caused visitors to leave because the site became too noisy.

Hitting the home run

Ultimately, the team at Publishers Clearing House achieved a sustained 15% lift in unengaged visitor engagement with the banner messaging.

When they tried the banner messaging with engaged visitors, the team achieved a 40% lift. When they tried the pop-up ad, they saw an 18% lift. Most importantly, they now has two different marketing approaches they can use with their engaged customers to increase involvement on the site.

"We're big on testing, and to have something like this work was very validating," Michael Zane, Senior Director of Online Marketing, Publishers Clearing House, said. "We sell a lot of products … we have all these personas cued up and messages cued up, and to have lifts like this … that's just a home run for us."

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