Author Archives: James Bunting

James Bunting

About James Bunting

James has worked at leading email & mobile marketing provider Communicator since its incorporation in 2003, now driving the organisation forward as Managing Director. He is an advocate of email marketing and works closely with the Direct Marketing Association to move the email marketing industry forward, now sitting as the Vice President of DMA UK Email Council. Sending email marketing campaigns since the late 90’s, James has developed a wide range of knowledge and experience, working with a range of Communicator clients including The Co-operative Group, Matalan, Adidas and John Smedley to deliver email marketing strategy delivering genuine return on investment. Having taught on the IDM’s Award in Email Marketing for a number of years now, James has a genuine passion for email and loves helping people learn more about the channel, seeing how their knowledge and results can develop over time.

Are you delivering to vulnerable email users?

An interesting discussion topic was raised during a recent DMA meeting; one which is highly relevant in terms of email marketing, however isn’t as widely discussed or documented as you’d expect. That topic was:

How well do you understand your recipients’ needs?

Sound like you’ve heard this before? As an email marketer, I’d assume if you’re sending targeted communications based on recipient preferences or behaviour and you’d consider yourself as having asked this fairly recently.

But have you ever considered their needs in the context of anything which would potentially make them unable to access, open, read or respond to your emails due to being a ‘vulnerable user’?

Vulnerable users defined and the current approach

I’d define a vulnerable user as: anyone who is unable to access email content easily due to a health condition, disability, impairment or age.

Chances are there are people on your mailing list who are vulnerable email users and there are countless difficulties and limitations these people could face when dealing with email. However, at this particular point in time it’s rare for companies to have policies in place to cater for vulnerable users. As email is vastly opt-in, it’s often assumed that recipients understand and are able to interact with the content they’re being supplied with.

When considering the potential issues vulnerable users could face, it’s prevalent that it would be near impossible to ensure your emails cater for every recipient eventuality; however there are places you can turn to for advice on how to tackle this issue.

What can I do to improve my emails?

The Business Disability Forum offer advice to members on how to tailor communications and marketing materials for the relevant audience. They recommend that email features such as fonts, colours, sizes and languages should be considered when creating marketing communications.

From an email marketing perspective, how do you learn about your recipients? Do you ask questions such as “do you have any disabilities or impairments which could potentially affect how you read or receive emails?” or do you think approach is too direct? A preference centre could be utilised to enable users to specify whether they’d like to receive emails in larger fonts, certain colours, or would prefer a telephone call over an email where company resource allows. For now this topic is fairly new, but it’d be interesting to see how companies incorporate strategies to understand whether their recipients are vulnerable users, and to see how this could potentially develop the future email marketing landscape.

You’re beautiful

Believe it or not, “you’re beautiful” were the words that I uttered when I was doing some last minute online Christmas shopping for my wife. Not because she is (although for clarity she certainly is), but because when I was buying some beauty products for her from online beauty retailer I had some beautiful email experiences.

This is clearly a company that sees the value in email, so let me share some of the experiences that made me gush out loud.

They understand the importance of data collection

When you first arrive on the site you’re presented with a well-crafted home page. Centre stage above the fold is a clear call to action to subscribe, reading “STAY IN TOUCH for beauty news and offers”. At this stage I simply wanted to move on and buy, so searched for the Kardashian product range that was top of my wife’s gift list. Each page thereafter, not only showed me the products, but included the call to action to subscribe, which is so often a missed opportunity.

The experience then got even better when I discovered the product was out of stock! Why? Because they used this as an opportunity to collect my email address, so they could notify me when it came back into stock. Customer experience and data collection rolled into one… and I was that impressed I still bought something else from the collection (or should that be Kollection for all you Kardashian fans?).

They use email to enhance the customer experience

The good email experience wasn’t just limited to data collection though, when have your email address they know exactly how to use it. I quickly selected the products that I wanted and went through to the checkout to pay. As well as entering my payment details I could confirm whether I wanted to receive email reminders when my product was likely to run out and, once the transaction was complete, I was prompted to share details of my purchase with my friends via social media sites and email. Not appropriate for my Christmas gift, but a nice touch none the less.

But now I’ve become a customer, is just getting started. I immediately received an email confirming my order, showing me exactly what I’d bought and where it was going to be delivered to. Customer service was top of mind here as they clearly highlighted how to get in touch if I had any questions. My next email was just as impressive; letting me know the exact time my product had been delivered. Of course, this also included details of how to get in touch if I had any problems and a call to action to start buying again. Customer experience and revenue generation all nicely tied up together!

They use email to sell me more

Now I’m officially a customer, are using email to help me buy even more. And much to my wife’s delight they’re doing it rather well. I’ve received emails telling me that the first product I’d wanted is now back in stock and I’ve just received a reminder that I should think about replenishing the lip gloss I bought in the first place, all perfectly times to tie in with my original purchase. As well as this, I’ve I’ve received a beauty diary and some exclusive special offers. I’ve also noticed that the brand provides a subscription service enabling you to set the frequency of the reminders you receive to replenish your products- this sounds like a great tactic to me, especially if you’re a regular user of the products they sell.

The DMA’s own National Client Email Report 2013 ( shows that on average businesses see a return of £21.48 for every £1 they spend on email marketing. With my own experience in mind, I suspect that is generating a significantly high ROI for their email marketing efforts; even higher than £21.48 I think! No wonder they continue to be one of the UK’s fastest growing companies and are winning awards for their ecommerce site, product range and customer service – they’ve a really beautiful email programme and are reaping the benefits (clearly, so is my wife!) And much to her delight, I now quite look forward to being able to go back to to top up her makeup and my desire for seeing innovative email marketing!


Go responsive in time for Christmas!

Santa is coming! OK, so it’s not quite time to get my Christmas albums out, but it’s definitely time to start thinking about your festive marketing strategy.

It really does pay to be organised with your email marketing, especially at the festive time of year. So, with the coming months leading up to what will undoubtedly be the busiest time of year, you should be taking a serious look at adopting responsive email design – it could mean the difference between a customer converting or deleting!

Responsive Email Design aims to provide your recipients with the optimal viewing experience, with easy navigation no matter what device they’re using; smart phone, tablet, desktop etc. It works by responding to the end user’s environment and uses adaptable images and layouts to automatically stack, shift, or hide, fitting to the device the email is being read on.

We know that mCommerce is on the rise, with more and more people purchasing on the go. In fact, it’s said that by 2017, 25% of all online retail transactions will take place on a mobile or tablet. With this in mind, you should be aiming to make your customer journey as smooth as possible, with email which guide them to purchase no matter what device they’re using.

So why is this most important at Christmas? Well, more and more people are on the go over the festive period – rushing around buying gifts and moving from party to party, so it’s more important than ever to make sure you make it easy for your recipients to read, click and convert whilst on the go. Looking at the Communicator Multi-Channel Retail Report of Christmas 2012, we found that 82% of brands researched sent emails which weren’t responsive, during the Christmas period. With 41.2% of all emails sent being opened on a mobile device, it makes little sense that a lot of these emails weren’t optimised. It’s a competitive time of year so you’re going to be battling for your recipient’s attention; make sure you make it easy for them to purchase from you or they’ll go elsewhere!

Communicator’s Responsive Email Design Guide can be used by anyone who’d like to build a responsive email template, giving you guidance on how to create an email using a responsive template and allowing you to get the best out of your campaigns.

Your Industry Needs You!

Regular readers of the National Email Benchmarking Report will know that the report provides a valuable insight into email marketing trends in the UK.  This is particularly apparent in the latest report which highlighted the continued growth in email volumes. Growth which has seen email volumes grow at 58% over the last year, despite what has been a difficult couple of years for the marketing industry as whole.

Regular readers of the report will also know that it is constant work in progress.  Whilst there are plenty of elements of the research that remain constant in order to enable us to highlight trends, there are also new elements of research that focus key learning’s at a given point in time.  A great example of this has been the recent inclusion of key benchmarks by industry sector.  The latest report highlighting that the Travel sector is now enjoying the highest unique average open rate (18% if you haven’t yet read the report) of any of the sectors in the report.

We have evolved the report over time, not because we wanted to create more work for ourselves (or less in some cases), but thanks to feedback and suggestions from those people who matter most, the ones reading and using the report. So in order to continue the evolution of the report and ensure it meets your needs in the future, please take 5 minutes to complete our brief questionnaire.

Thanks in advance for your comments the more feedback you can provide the more valuable we can make the report.

The 2011 DMA National Client Email Marketing Study

Needs you…

Regular readers will know that the DMA Client Email Marketing Survey is an initiative undertaken by the Email Marketing Council and, more specifically, the Email Benchmarking hub, to complement the National Email Benchmarking Report.  The report provides email marketers with valuable research into the state of email, the latest challenges effecting the channel and perhaps more importantly insight into the opportunities of tomorrow.  We are now collecting data for the 2011 survey and would really appreciate it if you could spend ten minutes completing the survey.

Take the survey

In return for taking part in this year’s survey you will receive a free copy of the report.

In my opinion, the 2010 report included a number of highlights:-

  • Most marketers agreed that social media presented both an opportunity and threat to their email marketing activity
  • 90% of marketers were planning to increase their spend on email marketing
  • Concern over budget, resource and data integration were high and likely to have prohibit marketers from targeting, segmenting and integrating campaigns
  • Competition in the inbox continued to hot up, with businesses sending more messages and social media messages increasingly taking up space in the inbox

I can’t wait to see what the 2011 report is going to tell us, so please take ten minutes to complete the survey and ensure you receive your free copy of the report.

Complete the survey

7 Golden Rules for Email Marketing

As email has evolved as a channel, so has the role of the Email Marketer.  You now need to integrate your email campaign with your social strategy, check how your email is going to perform when viewed on a mobile device, remove recipients who haven’t opened in the last 6 months – the list goes on and on. 

With so much to think about it is often easy to forget the basic principles that lead to successful emails campaigns;

Rule 1:- Promote Sign Up
Adding new people to your mailing list is one of the email marketing “quick wins” so make sure you have time to check and review the sign up process and that you promote subscription wherever possible.

Rule 2:- Set and Meet Recipient Expectations

When recipient’s sign up for your email communications make sure you accurately set their expectations about what they can expect to receive.  Then all you need to do is ensure your emails meet their expectations.

Rule 3:- Maintain and Refresh Data
Ensuring that the data you hold on each recipient is up to date is vital to sending them relevant communications.  Utilise Preference Managers within your email campaigns so that recipients can update their personal information and tell you about changes in their preferences.

Rule 4:- Build a Relationship
Due to the cost effective nature of email, it is possible to talk very frequently to your prospects and customers.  Use these frequent communications as a tool to build a relationship and encourage the recipient to purchase rather than simply trying to sell to them at each stage.

Rule 5:- Deliver Valuable Emails
Developing messages that recipient’s value is an important element of building a successful email program.  Reminding recipients they have left a product in their shopping basket, highlighting complimentary products in an order confirmation email and welcoming a new subscriber are all important elements of a successful email program.  These valuable emails not only improve the customer experience (and drive additional revenue) but they enhance your email brand value.

Rule 6:- Utilise Results and Data
One of the really great things about email is that you learn something about your audience and campaigns every time you press send.  Make sure you utilise the valuable information you are gaining to improve future campaign performance.

Rule 7:- Add Email to the Customer Journey
Email can be used to save cost within your business, so make sure you take the time to add it to your customer journey.  Automated emails to remind the recipient about a booked appointment or confirm when a service is about to run out can save the cost of more traditional marketing messages.

So next time you are focusing on the finer details of a campaign, make sure you take the time to think about the basic principles of email marketing.  Often the biggest returns will come from getting the basics right.

What does it all mean?

Since 2007 I have been working with the DMA’s Email Marketing Council and specifically the Benchmarking Hub to produce the National Email Benchmarking Report.  The report surveys leading UK ESP’s to provide companies involved in email marketing with a reliable series of benchmarks to aid their planning and campaign management.  A whole host of information is covered within the report and a quick look at any ESP’s reporting will show a whole load more metrics about your campaign’s success than you probably ever thought possible – but what does it all mean?

Open Rates – Perhaps the most popular email metric of all and certainly one that leads to two very common questions; “what is the open rate?” and “How does it compare?” The open rate is usually calculated as the number of people who have opened an email divided by the number of emails delivered. 

Sent Bounced Delivered Opened Open Rate
1,000 100 990 251 25.4%

Open rates are often not the be all and end all of a campaign’s success as there are a number of factors that affect their accuracy.  In order to understand that we need to understand how the open rate is tracked. 

Open rates are tracked through the use of code in a tiny invisible image within the email which report back to the sending software when that code is displayed.  The key word here is “image”.  In order for the email to be recorded as an open, images need to be enabled when the message is viewed.  If the email is read without images enabled then no open information will be recorded.  Conversely if a recipient is skipping through their inbox, they may display an email in their preview panel without reading it – if images are enabled this will report as an open even though the recipient didn’t open the message. 

However as the above factors are always constants, if you look at the trends behind your open rate it can provide some valuable insight into your campaign.  A declining open rate might indicate that you need to refresh your subject lines, whereas an improving open rate might highlight that your emails are increasing in relevancy to your audience.

Open rates provide an indication of the success of an email campaign – but need to be looked at in conjunction with other metrics.

Click Rates – This is where things start to get more interesting – especially if you are including specific calls to action within your email campaign.  The click rate is usually calculated as the number of people clicking links within your email divided by the number of emails delivered.

Sent Bounced Delivered Clicked Click Rate
1,000 100 990 94 9.5%

Click rates are tracked by code that is assigned to each link in the email.  This code then reports back to the sending system when the link has been clicked.  As a result, click rates report on specific actions completed by the recipient within the email campaign and don’t have the ambiguity of Open Rates.  This means that you can use your Click Rate as a very good indication of how relevant your email was to your audience.

Click data (the raw data behind the click rate) can be used to provide further insight into your recipient’s activity.  Looking at this information will enable you to see exactly which links within your email were relevant to your readers.  When you know which bits of information the readers were most interested in you can then use this to inform future campaigns – targeting recipients who clicked on specific links with further information of interest based on the link they had clicked.

Click Rates show how relevant your content is and how many recipients you have driven to a particular website – but for many businesses that doesn’t show the complete picture.  That is where conversion rates come in…

Conversion Rate – If the role of your email is to drive a specific action on your website (making a purchase, completing a form, downloading software etc), the conversion rate is a vitally important metric to review.  The conversion rate is usually calculated by dividing the number of people who have completed the action by the number of emails delivered.

Sent Bounced Delivered Converted Conversion Rate
1,000 100 990 15 1.5%

Conversion rates are tracked by code included on your website that report back to the sending software when an action has been completed by a recipient of an email campaign. Like click rates, this means that only specific action is reported on making the conversion rate an accurate metric.

In my opinion for the majority of campaigns the conversion rate is the most important metric for the marketer to consider.  This is because it shows what percentage of your recipients completed the thing that was most important to you i.e. made a purchase etc.

When you know your open rate and click-through rate, these become levers you can use to influence the conversion rate.  For example, if you are achieving a conversion rate of 1.5% from a click rate of 9.5% you can assume that doubling the click rate will result in double the conversion rate!

If you would like to know how your metrics compare to those achieved by other emails, why not take a look at the latest National Email Benchmarking Report.