How Apple, and zero party data, will promote the rise of the more responsible marketer

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Email remains one of the most effective and versatile channels available to marketers. As a result, email constantly evolves; email always finds a way.

I'm sure you've heard that all before, and if you're reading this blog, you have an interest in email, and I'm sure you heard plenty of those phrases over the last couple of weeks, and if you haven't, where the hell have you been?! 

You could say that Apple declared war on the channel we love so much. You may also have thought the sky was falling, but you could almost say we had it coming. OK, I'm being overly dramatic. Whether or not you believe their intentions, Apple hasn't declared war on email. Instead, they have done what they think they needed to protect and give the power back to those we should hold in the highest esteem, our customers. Because, unfortunately, the very same customers are on the receiving end of billions of (mostly irrelevant) emails sent by brands worldwide. 

But let me go back to something I mentioned earlier, "we had it coming." Why would I say that? Well, for far too long, we've allowed ourselves to put way too much confidence in open rate. Let's be clear, it's a vanity metric, and while email open rate is far from dead, I hope we can agree that it doesn't tell us a vast amount about the individual who received the email and what they are likely to do next. It's not hugely accurate either; that pesky pixel often throws up misleading results, but I get it, it's an ego stroker, and your boss probably loves it, "look at how many eyes are on my email!" I hear them cry. But who cares about that, especially if they're not reading the email you so carefully crafted over several hours?

So Gavin, if we can't rely on an open rate, what should we rely on? That's an excellent question, and I'm glad you've asked. Look, open rates aren't the be-all and end-all. However, by considering other metrics like clicks, conversions, and ROI, you will better understand customer engagement. Which indeed should be what we're being paid to do. Right? These metrics offer more insight than open rate ever could. You can learn more about what makes email subscribers sit up and pay attention than just looking at open rates alone. 

If the metrics mentioned above aren't enough for you and you're worried you have no control over open rate anymore, you'll need to focus on what you can, and that is being a more responsible marketer. 

Defining responsible marketing can be tricky. But for me, the best way of breaking this term down is by putting the customer at the center of everything you do, from your communications to the broader world down to every customer you message. If the customer is genuinely your first thought, the open rate won't matter. Instead, your customers will see the authenticity in your messaging and be compelled to engage with them.

To achieve responsible marketing status, you need to be open, honest, and transparent, letting them know exactly what you intend to do for them and focusing more on zero party data. A term defined by Forrester zero party data describes any data that a customer proactively and deliberately shares with us. 

Quick Data definitions:

Zero party data - I typically refer to as explicit data. The data we receive first hand from the customer, giving greater clarity and accuracy. They're filling out preferences age, shoe size, budget, team size allowing brands to build direct and personal relationships with them. 

First party data: Often referred to as implicit data. The data you collect here is a direct result of an action made by your customer. They are not saying what they want explicitly, but their actions imply it. We can build a pretty good picture of the individual here and understand the intent as long as the data point is accurate.

Essentially, zero party data highlights what our customers crave most, more personalization, and shows brands precisely what they would like in return for their personal information- the value exchange. It gives brands deeper insight into a customer's needs, interests, and intent.

The benefits of zero party data are numerous, but principally, zero party data almost certainly guarantees customer engagement. As a result, brands using zero party data can be assured that customers actively want to hear from them – and will be engaged when targeted.

Building these deeper bonds means you can worry less about your open rates. And by encouraging customers to share as much information as possible, they can craft their own customized journey, and you can create relevant and targeted segments.

Another sure-fire way of becoming a more responsible marketer is to not always rely on email. As I said previously, email remains one of the most effective and versatile channels available to marketers. But to prolong its effectiveness, you need to other channels into your marketing mix to run in tandem with it.

Live chat is an excellent tool and can enforce the connection between your brand and customers. It promotes two-way conversations that form stronger bonds with audiences, bonds that will bring about more engagement. Also, like zero-party data, customers have made the first move, so they are in control of the relationship.

SMS has never relied on opens to measure success, and with read rates of 98%, its success is undisputed. In my opinion, adding SMS to your marketing mix is a necessity. You'll need to be sure to include country-specific templates, so relevant opt-outs for each region will ensure SMS campaigns are up and running quickly and responsibly. Something that the team at dotdigital are all too happy to help you out with.

So, in short, the sky is not falling. Email always finds a way to adapt no matter what is thrown at it. Using zero party data can allow brands to promote the open, honest, and transparent culture I spoke of, the culture of the responsible marketer. In turn, it highlights the value exchange and informs consumers what type of emails they want, driving more engagement giving you the result you've been craving.

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