Email marketing generates sales. That’s the good news. The slightly more confusing news is that there are several ways to track these sales and each method has its own pros and cons. No 2 methods will provide you with the exact same revenue.
Why is that? The main reason is that you can’t drop cookies with an email. No cookies means limited tracking ability.
Many web analytics programs, including the major free ones – Yahoo and Google – allow for tracking codes to be included within each of your URLs in your email.
In Google, we use the UTM code to track our e-mail marketing efforts. Google allows us to tracking valuable information within a URL that includes 3 key components: the Source (for example here, a newsletter); the Campaign (in case of email, it will be Email); and the Name of the campaign (i.e. Valentine’s Day, February Deals, etc.).
You can also track campaigns very effectively in Yahoo Web Analytics. Similarly to Google, Yahoo uses query string parameters to pass campaign names and likewise information to the analytics back-end so that data can later be aggregated to that event. The caveat is that you’ll need to create this yourself. It’s simple, the first bit of information would be your campaign: here, I call it “EMC” for e-mail marketing campaign. I’m stating that the name of this particular “emc” is 021110. I can then track all my e-mail marketing campaigns in one aggregated location and drill into the specific campaign data therein.
There are limitations to using tracking URLs however. Only if a person clicks on a link within your email, goes to your website, and then makes a purchase is that sale directly attributed to your email campaign. The issue arises when a person reads your email, or even clicks on a link, but then decides to make a purchase later by directly entering your website or makes their purchase from a different computer. For example, a customer can read and click on your email at work but choose to wait until they get home to purchase something. All they need to do is go directly to your website if they remember the URL – and if they bypass your email at home, that sale, although technically triggered by your email campaign, is not attributed to it.
There are 2 other ways to capture and track revenue data. Neither of them rely on tracking URLs. As mentioned before there are pros and cons to both.
The first way is known as the email match back. This method looks at all your sales within a certain time frame and then matches back each of the customers’ email addresses to those that you emailed. The benefit to this approach is that you won’t miss counting those sales from people that make a purchase not directly from an email. The drawback is that it can attribute a sale to your email campaign that had nothing to do with your email campaign. For example, let’s say you have a customer named JohnDoe@Yahoo.com who purchases something from your website. However, he didn’t check his email account that morning – otherwise he would have noticed he was sent an email offer from you. Essentially he’s made a purchase regardless of your email campaign. In this situation, the email match back method will count that sale as part of the revenue generated from your email campaign although it wasn’t necessarily triggered by your email campaign. On the other hand, if the e-mail did inspire a purchase, John may wish to use a different e-mail address when making his new purchase. This would also be attributed improperly.
The second method to track email campaign revenue is to utilize email-only coupon codes. Because this coupon code is only offered from your email campaign, every sale made using that coupon code is a sale generated by your campaign. The catch here is that sometimes people will not use a coupon code. If, for example, you own an online shoe store and send an email campaign promoting boots you might include a coupon code for boots. But let’s say JaneDoe@google.com got your email, remembered that she needed a new pair of running shoes, and went to your site to purchase running shoes. In this case she couldn’t have used a coupon since it wasn’t good toward the product she wanted, but her purchase WAS triggered by your campaign.
The bottom line is that there is no clear winner as to which revenue tracking method is best. The safe thing to do is to utilize several tracking methods at the same time – for example, both a coupon code and a tracking URL, and compare statistics.
We face these challenges on behalf of our clients every week. The difference is knowledge: understanding what limitations in each approach must be complimented by another approach to accurately attribute revenue to your campaigns. If you’re interested in learning more about how our Precision E-mail Marketing approach will help you drive more sales for your site, and also track them properly, give us a call at 800-504-4324. We also offer free e-mail audits to qualified candidates that will allow you, the business owner, to see the true revenue-generating opportunities that lie within your existing customer base.