Monthly Archives: Oct 2012

Analyzing the Impact of the Ecommerce Newsletter

“A lot of people will tell you that sending newsletters isn’t worth the effort. They’ll say it’s time consuming, expensive, and doesn’t provide enough of a return on investment. I disagree.”  – Opening lines from the Guide to Email Newsletters by Mark Hayes on the Shopify blog

The line above is a pretty accurate summary of the opinions on whether any business should put the time into sending a newsletter.  In a world where content and quality is very important, sending email newsletters isn’t free, but many of us have a sense that they are worth that effort.

Ending the debate

The problem is that both viewpoints make a lot of sense and each is probably right for some businesses. So what do you do?  At Klaviyo, we’ve been spending a lot of our time lately figuring out how businesses can understand the impact of their emails on the metrics that matter (look out for more on that soon from us). We’re convinced the answer is measuring the impact of newsletters on purchases (as well as opens, clicks, website visits, unsubscribes, etc though all of this is secondary).

Defining Success

A good first step is figuring out what your goal with your newsletter is.  If you’re going to send a newsletter no matter what anyways, measurement is a good way to compare which content does better than other content…but measurement is a lower priority because you can get the basics from opens and clicks.  That said, if you’re either strapped for time and debating the value or you’re store has been off the ground for awhile, there’s a good chance measurement can generate sizeable profits.

Based on what you decide, you should also get a sense for whether your goal is short term gain (meaning purchases alone are probably king) or long term customer engagement (in which case unsubscribes, opens, clicks and website visits gain in importance).  Track what you think is important.

Next steps

Most importantly, you need to stop debating, get emails out the door and then commit to listening to whatever analysis result you get back. You can always dismiss measurement based on methodology or specific circumstances – so if you don’t commit not to do this ahead of time, don’t waste lots of time doing analysis.

At the end of the day, you write newsletters for the customers.  Make them happy.


Try Klaviyo today to measure the impact of your newsletters and other customer outreach with our 2 week no commitment trial.


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An Email Manifesto (for rethinking emails sent to customers)

Say this is true:

Your customer/user success and happiness  = Your success and happiness

If so, it seems to follow that you (as a company) would only send me emails I wanted to get. Yes, one more email might get me to do something today, but in the longterm I will be more likely to ignore your emails or not enjoy interacting with you.

To that end, here are the emails I personally like getting from companies:

  • Emails that give me something I want – meaningful discounts, announce new products or features I care about (not just the ones you care about), etc.
  • Personalized emails telling me what to do to accomplish my goals – did I set something up wrong when I signed up for your service? Did I never get started?
  • Notifications about my money or other things like that. Is my credit card bill overdue?  Did my idiot friend just tag me in a terrible photo on Facebook? Do you need my approval to add me to a mailing list?
  • Emails that make me smile. If your email genuinely makes me smile, I’ll forgive pretty much any other flaw with it.

A few rules follow from this list about what I really don’t like:

  • Stop emailing me if I ignore you or show that I don’t care
  • Don’t send me emails that are irrelevant. Announcing a feature that I already use? Announcing a new line of dresses? (I’m male) Telling me about the offereSkip me unless you’re telling me something new.
  • Don’t send me emails that are blatantly in your interest and not mine. Enough said.

Done right, emails are great for you and your customers – it just takes thinking about things from the customer’s point of view.

Tell me more about what I missed in the comments.

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Winning the Holidays: How Ecommerce Companies can Leverage their Unique Customer Advantages

No matter how good your templates, your products or your content this holiday season, you’re competing with record numbers of other emails coming in the door.  According to WhatCounts, there were 343 million emails sent by publishers, retailers and Ecommerce firms between October 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011.  While you’ll find a ton of articles out there telling you how to optimize your email campaigns, you have a big key advantage that you can choose to leverage: your existing customers.

The Customer Advantage

Your customers understand what you offer better than anyone and are much more likely than anyone else to be willing to engage with you – but you have to make sure that your past relationship isn’t forgotten amidst the barrage of other companies trying to woo them over the holidays. To this end, sending a few targeted emails to your most loyal customers (outside of the typical holiday countdowns, Black Friday specials, and last minute deal days) to engage with them can go a long way.

3 Extra Ways to Win this Year

The goal isn’t to replace your other efforts or to figure out some big analysis – keep it simple and focus on getting something out the door.  Here are three ideas to consider:

  • Retarget customers who bought last holiday season. If a customer bought from you last year, you know that they consider you as an option.  Why not engage them early and simply to just let them know you’re still there and update them on what’s new?  By doing this early and in a more personalized manner than your typical newsletter, you have a much higher chance of having them commit to you later in the holiday season.
  • Send special offers to your VIP customers that they can send to their friends. You know that the customers who shop with you frequently are loyal supporters of your business – so why not engage them to help you market this holiday season?  The holidays are a natural time for people to share the products and brands they love, so it’s a great time for you to take advantage of it.  The key note here is just to make the sharing something that everyone will view positively – whether by discounts, beautiful content or longer term benefits.
  • Target gift buyers with follow-on content geared towards them. Once someone has bought, consider sending them content focused on both building a long-term relationship that extends beyond the holidays – don’t only continue to hit them with the plethora of great holiday campaigns you have planned.


The holidays are the most competitive time of the year to reach buyers, so make sure you take full advantage of the customer base you’ve worked so hard to build.  You can’t just do what everyone else does and try to do it better.  Try a personalized and targeted email to your customers and measure the impact – they’ll reward you for it.

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How to Measure the Impact of Customer Lifecycle Marketing in 5 Steps

You are almost certainly losing money based on the emails you don’t send to your current customers. For some businesses, you are losing a lot of money.

From what I’ve seen, companies tend to fall into one of three buckets regarding customer lifecycle marketing emails:

  1. They don’t send them because they think customers will find them annoying.
  2. They don’t send them because they don’t think the value of setting them up will outweigh the cost in terms of time.
  3. They send too many and those have limited impact on customers.

These aren’t acceptable buckets to fall in.  In each of these cases, they can know the answer by testing and then measuring what happens.


Here are 5 steps to help you get started:

Step 1: Implement something.

If you are reading this and haven’t put anything in place, stop immediately and go identify a set of customers and send them an email.  One starting point is everyone who used to be very active but hasn’t been recently.   If you’re worried about putting too much time into, focus on the simplest group possible and don’t worry about automating it.

Step 2: Pick a group as a baseline

In short, you want a group who lets you know what would happen if you didn’t implement the email you are planning on sending. For many of us, a great starting point is to just use what’s happened historically as this benchmark.

Over time, you probably want to consider holding out a set of customers as a control group who joined at the same time, from the same channels, etc. It’s not worth worrying about perfecting this at first.

Step 3: Measure Quantitatively

Once you’ve been sending emails, it’s time to see what’s happened. Two key things here:

  • Focus on multiple metrics – sales, profit, site visits, unsubscribes, purchase size, etc. Even if a customer doesn’t change their buying or usage patterns immediately, you want to see if there are related positive (or negative) effects.
  • Focus on impact over time, not just what’s immediate.  Because it’s easier to track, too many companies focus just on the impact they see from clickthroughs, but you really care about what happens over the next 7, 14 or even 30 days.

The simplest way to do each of these is to look at average performance of customers at different times frames – 24 hours after email, 3 days, 7 days, 14 days, 30 days – of both the customers who received the email and those who didn’t.  Over time, you’ll want to get more accurate and detailed about this, but this is a good starting point that will likely get you 80% of the right answer.

Step 4: Measure Qualitatively

It’s also worth identifying a random subset of customers and having quick conversations with them. The goal is to better understand the customer impact but also to generate new hypotheses about emails or approaches they might find helpful.  Something to keep in mind is that what people say doesn’t always match with what they do.  When Google initially tested many of their ads, they found that people reported not liking them when explicitly asked, but they also reported being happier on pages with ads than those without ads.

A final note – we have seen that offering a small token of appreciation (gift certificate, shirt, etc) helps engage people more quickly than otherwise.  Depends on your business, but if you’re struggling with low response rates, might be worth considering.

Step 5: Automate

If it worked, go ahead and implement it.  If you’re unsure, increase the size of the group or modify the email to try to create a test that you’ll be more certain about.


The main barrier is sending the first email. Measurement is a great way to figure out what’s working, but if you take it too far, it too can become a barrier to getting started. Good enough actually does tend to be a great place to start – once you know how your first efforts went, you can focus on optimization later.

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A Warning about Customer Lifetime Value

The deep dark secret of nearly all analysis or metrics is that 99% of people will tell you they are a good idea, about 10% of people are actually looking at them, and about 10% of those are actually using them to significantly change their decision-making. This doesn’t change the fact that they are a great idea, it just means you need to be really careful not to waste your time.

Customer Lifetime Value

Customer Lifetime Value is a concept taught in countless marketing classrooms and is simple to grasp – it’s fundamentally the total value that a customer will spend with a business over their full life as a customer. What makes Customer Lifetime Value powerful is the realization that customers have relationships with businesses – so when we acquire a new customer, we’re actually acquiring all the purchases they’ll make with us over time. And the same goes when we lose them.

That sounds great – what’s the problem?

If you accept that Customer Lifetime Value is inherently a good idea (and the right way to think about things), you run into two problems when you try to use it to make decisions:

  • It’s backward looking.  Because you’re trying to figure out not what a customer’s value is today, but to predict what it’ll be over the next several years, you usually end up trying to factor in multiple years of past performance, or you end up trying to predict it off of a cohort analysis or regression model.
  • It’s complicated. The reason we use metrics and analysis is to be able to evaluate decisions we are making – in basic form, you do X, you get Y.  For this to work well, you need to have a ton of faith in Y and you need to be able to see it quickly.  Because customer lifetime value is a prediction, we’re likely to spend more time trying to understand it, calculating it or debating it.  Think back to how often analysis doesn’t get translated into action.

An Alternative Approach

Now, while trying to predict Customer Lifetime Value will remain crucial for some decisions, there’s an alternative approach:

  1. Try ideas often
  2. Observe the impact on clear metrics
  3. Measure those customers over time to understand long-term impacts

Let’s take an example. Say you are debating whether to send lapsed customers a discount offer to entice them to come back. If you take a subset of those customers and try it out, you’ll quickly know the answer to questions you could only speculate about before:

  • How many customers come back? More than would have otherwise?
  • How much do they spend? On what?
  • Do they come back again over the coming months?

Customer Lifetime Value is an important reminder that we need to focus on the complete customer relationship over time – but as with all analytics, you need to make sure that your work gets translated into action.

Klaviyo lets you quickly implement and measure the impact of customer lifecycle marketing for your web app or ecommerce business.  Try it today.

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