Presented by WineGlass Marketing
A clean, transactional website that conveys a story, a consistent and authentic social media presence, and thoughtful targeted emails are the digital super group in your marketing arsenal. Although it seems every year someone comes out and predicts the death of email, it is still the best direct marketing tactic available to you. In the U.S., email usage has grown every single year since 2012 and 91% of American internet users use email (statista.com).
But, that thoughtful and targeted part ain’t easy. After you find your audience and convince them to subscribe, which is a challenge in itself, you then have to keep their attention. (It takes an average of six to eight touch points to generate a qualified sales lead. (Salesforce))
The WGM Client Email Project is Born
When we are working with our client on their email-marketing efforts, many of our clients want to know what others are doing. The internet is full of benchmarks and studies about email marketing, but very little exists about wine-related content. Can we assume that we are most analogous to a “Retail” category? Agricultural? Food and beverage? We’re never sure.
So we started a project in January 2018 that entailed recording every email we sent for our clients: 3,089,124 emails across 1,697 campaigns for 43 clients over 21 months, to be exact. We removed administrative and club emails and checked for statistical significance and can confirm this is a large enough sample to be confident about the findings. Our goal was to compare our clients’ results to the posted industry benchmarks to see if they were a good judge of success. What we uncovered was interesting.
We are not the same!
Immediately, we saw that our emails performed differently than the posted benchmarks. We had always used Mailchimp’s “Retail” benchmarks for our marketing – but never knew if this was a good comparison. It turns out that its’s not.
I’d like to say that the emails we create for our clients are so creative and impactful that they perform 20% better than industry average, and there might be some small truth there. But, it’s more likely that the wine category, as a whole, gets better response than the average category. “Retail” is a broad category for any email that is selling something from Amazon to Zappos. But our clients are selling wine, which, in most people’s world, is a good thing and a welcome distraction from their daily drivel. Our theory is that winery customers look forward to news about their wineries, their favorite wines or upcoming events because it is an enjoyable hobby they have chosen to learn about and follow, versus the Sunday white sale at Macy’s which, may or may not be, relevant this week.
Getting Their Attention: Thoughts on Open Rates
The two best predictors of whether an email will be opened is the subject line, and when the email is sent. We wanted to isolate both of these variables. According to data from Marketo, 41 characters–or 7 words–is reported to be the sweet spot for email subject line length in 2019. We counted all the characters (including spaces) in our campaigns and came out with an average of 42…so, we were pretty confident about our test results.
But when we got into the data we were surprised. We couldn’t find any general statistical significance between open rate and the length of the subject line. (For you nerds out there, in our analysis, R2 =.04894 indicating that there is no linear relationship.) Put another way, if you have more, or less, characters in your subject line, we couldn’t say if your email is more, or less, likely to be opened. Length didn’t matter when looking at the emails in aggregate.
However, when we look at the type of email, we saw trending. We bucketed emails into groups of club emails, eCommerce or sales emails, event announcements and emails with just information or news. We then looked at the open rate of emails whose subject line were low (1-25), medium (26-50), high (51-75) and very high (over 75) character counts. What we found was club emails perform better with brief subject lines, whereas event and newsletters are more likely to be opened with a longer, more explanative subject line. The fact that eCommerce shows little difference between lengths of subject lines indicates that it is the message that matters – or, simply, what is the offer?
The frequently debated topic of which day to send emails was also on our radar. Old-school folklore says Tuesdays are the best, but we should know by now that mobile phones have changed the way we consume email. It is now a 24-7 activity done on the bus, in line at the lunch counter, during weekends and before bedtime. Also, most people use mail applications that merge personal and work email together on their phone or they switch back and forth. So, it’s no longer a world where we read our work emails at the office desk between 9-5 on weekdays, and our home emails at the weekend home computer. In fact, there is substantial research indicating that a hobby topic like reading about wine is most often enjoyed and acted upon during weekends. So, we had our doubts.
Looking at our clients’ data, the majority of the emails were sent on Thursday, and this coincided with a peak in open rate and click through rate. We surmised that for each client we naturally started optimizing to the best send day, and it is definitively Thursday. (Since they are all averages, the increased number of email campaigns on Thursday shouldn’t necessarily mean that open and click through rates are better, so we feel confident that mid-week is still the best time to send for optimal performance.)
Keeping Their Attention: What About Frequency?
Then there is the question of frequency. Frequency is a complex mix of your unique databases’ relationship with your winery, and the quality of content you deliver to them. Some wineries may have developed a relationship that their customers tolerate several emails a week. Some only email twice a year. The only true way to tell your particular ideal frequency is to test and look at unsubscribe, open and click through rates.
The client pool for our data collection was wide and diverse. It included large, distributed mass-market brands, as well as small, allocation-only wines. It should be noted, generally, that the larger the winery, the more frequently they emailed their database. But, when we looked across all 43 clients, more than half of them are sending emails once or twice a month. Only 10% are sending weekly, and 9% are sending every 6 weeks or every 3 months. The 13% of wineries sending every 6 months are all on allocations.
But, the question becomes, what is the optimal frequency for performance? Well the answer there is more is not better, but there’s a catch. At first glance, the data suggests that every six months gets you the best open and click through rate, but take into consideration these communications are highly anticipated semi-annual release allocations. For those of us that don’t have a line waiting around the block for our wine, it appears somewhere around 4-5 weeks is the sweet spot. This is also supported by the data and knowledge that segmentation and smaller lists get better response. Remember – it’s not how often you send an email, but how often any one person on your list receives one. So, your best bet is to spread out your communication and don’t hit everyone all the time. Segment your lists by their preference, location, or buying habits, and your frequency will naturally drop.
Getting To The Sale
Not all of our email campaigns were sales based (yours’ shouldn’t be either.) Some were event invitations or newsletters, but we did pull out the eCommerce emails for sales statistics. Klaviyo.com quoted the average conversion rate on 18,000 customers across 13 industries during the full 2018 calendar year at .09%. We felt pretty awesome at our. 48% average. But once again, take into account this is wine versus kitty litter or whatever other offer ends up in your inbox. Our consumers generally want to hear about our winery and order our wine because they choose to enjoy it.
If you were to project out response, you can assume about $334 AOV and 7-8 orders on an average campaign.
So, what does this all mean? Here are our take-aways:
1. Wine is a cheerful addition to the inbox, so set your goals higher than posted averages. Below is what we’re using for our winery benchmark performance moving forward.
2. Go ahead and use those long subject lines and test emojis and other attention grabbers. But on sales emails, keep the offer short and to the point.
3. Don’t feel stressed about making a specific send day of the week. It is true that Thursdays are the best day for email drops. But if you miss that, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays are good, too.
4. While most of us send emails every 2-4 weeks, it appears that spacing this out to every 4-6 weeks would be beneficial. Rather than cutting back on good content, try segmenting communications to who might best respond to the message.
5. Smaller lists perform better. Always. Get out of the habit of sending every message to everyone on your list. Its more work to segment, but it’s worth it.
We were pleased with the results of this inaugural benchmark, and will continue and broaden our study, and continue reporting annual results.
We are curious – does this match with what you see in your own database? If you have comments, we’d love to hear them at email@example.com.
Susan DeMatei is the President of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. www.wineglassmarketing.com