Introduction / Challenge
Since 1999, eCampus.com (#225 on the Internet Retailer 500 list) has been the source for new and used textbooks. In 2009, eCampus.com introduced the "Rent and Return" program as an alternative to purchasing expensive college textbooks. On average, the cost of renting books is up to 60% less than buying new textbooks. In addition to supplying thousands of textbooks and eTextbooks for sale or for rental, customers can also purchase best-selling books and college clothing. eCampus.com also maintains a blog giving students tips on college life.
eCampus.com's email campaigns were consistently receiving low delivery rates. Email deployments regularly reported 5-8% of messages were not delivered. eCampus.com was experiencing the unpleasant combination of low inbox delivery, high spam filtering, and an excessive hard bounce rate.
This unfortunate blend resulted in lost revenue, a disjointed customer experience, and brand confusion by its users who were not receiving the email notifications they had requested. This trend continued for nearly 12 months.
The eCampus.com team knew that improvements needed to be made in order to drive sales and better engage their customer base.
eCampus.com began leveraging Deliverability Monitoring, one of Bronto's professional services, in April 2011. Bronto's Deliverability Monitoring team first analyzed the current processes, data and technical infrastructure, and the past year’s data to determine problem areas and then suggested a number of improvements.
The Deliverability Monitoring team focused on the following key areas:
Data & Technical Infrastructure
Removing subscribers who had consistently not opened multiple emails over an extended period of time was one of the first steps taken toward improving delivery rates. Improving list quality by scrubbing this stale data helps to lower the number of hard bounces.
Email messages from eCampus.com are sent from a private IP. This allows closer monitoring of delivery performance, better troubleshooting if issues do arise, and ensures that eCampus.com can build a strong reputation with the ISPs by adhering to data best practices.
Email creative primarily consisted of one large image and no text. An unbalanced image-to-text ratio can impact delivery in multiple ways. Many spam filters will measure the image-to-text ratio and may consider the message spam if there are too many images. An email containing a large amount of copy will increase the chances of a word or combination of words triggering a spam filter. If a recipient has images turned off, they may not be able determine if the email is legitimate and could flag it as spam. Bronto's Professional Services team worked with eCampus.com to incorporate best practices into the email template to better balance images and text.
Pre-header text was added to the above-the-fold section of the email. This not only helps with the image-to-text ratio but can also result in a stronger open rate since the recipient will be able to read this copy in their inbox before opening the message.
Subject line strategy was adjusted to minimize words and phrases that could result in a message being considered spam. eCampus.com often promotes sweepstakes and contests to win iPads, scholarships, and vacations and featuring certain words related to these promotions could increase the risk of deliverability issues. The Professional Services team worked with eCampus.com to build a subject line strategy that would minimize these risks.
Testing & Ongoing Analysis
eCampus.com now sends test deployments to a seed list representing nearly 100 different ISP clients and browser combinations for up to 5 mailings per month.
Bronto provides a monthly Deliverability Monitoring report to eCampus.com covering their Sender Rating, email volume, spam or ISP complaints, and hard bounces. In addition, each individual test to the seed list is reported, showing whether or not the message reached the inbox and providing details should a test trigger a major spam filter.
Results / Outcome
Delivery rates significantly increased, from around 92% to 99-100%. Year-over-Year email driven revenue increased 275% with improved deliverability being a major contributor. As a result of improved deliverability, better content, and more A/B testing, open rates have improved 5-6% year over year.
Austin Caldwell, Interactive Marketing Manager at eCampus.com says, "Being able to send tests to the seed list before a big send is crucial. We test 96 different email clients, 4-5 emails per month. With the help of Bronto's Professional Services team, we have been able to proactively react to changes made by various ISPs."
With delivery rates stabilized, eCampus.com plans to continue their focus on sending engaging messages to subscribers by developing a more advanced segmentation strategy. They have recently expanded their product mix to include NCAA college clothing; where they hope to employ geo-targeted segmentation to merchandise apparel for specific colleges.
Bronto Software provides the leading marketing platform for retailers and other commerce-focused companies to drive revenue through email, mobile and social campaigns. Over 1000 organizations including Party City, Armani Exchange, Timex, Samsonite and Trek Bikes rely on Bronto to increase revenue through interactive marketing. The company won the Stevie Award for Best Customer Service in 2009 and 2010, was named a CODiE Award Finalist for Best Marketing Solution in 2011 and is one of Inc Magazine’s top fastest growing software companies. For more information, visit bronto.com or call 888-BRONTO-1.