Five Ways to Super Charge your STO Strategy

Send Time Optimization or STO for short has been heavily listed in the consortium of tools that a marketer can employ to enhance campaign efficiency and improve overall conversions. Several ESPs have this as a basic “On – Off” feature in their platforms and most of the optimization happens under the hood – sometimes without the campaign manager being aware that the process is live, kicking and optimizing every contact marked for a campaign. Getting to the top of the inbox is one sure shot way to increase chances of a click through but there are certain considerations to be kept in mind before you can get to that “Sweet Slot” and repeat this at scale for all your valuable customers. Before getting into the nuances of tweaking your STO, it makes sense to get a hang of the typical Implementation Process as seen on most MSPs.

STO & Recommendation:

The overarching philosophy of STO is simple though each MSP has its variations and subtleties in its implementation. The STO Framework in the form of capability to aggregate Campaign event data and build models on top is essentially what is provided to marketers out of the box as part of the marketing platform. The following points illustrate the solution as it is commonly executed.

  1. Campaign Event Data is collated from different campaigns for individual subscribers.
  2. Send and Open Data is aggregated over a period of time.
  3. Aggregation happens by Demographics and Related Customer Attributes.
  4. Weighted Recommendation Scores are built for each customer / segment.
  5. Regular refreshing of the Model keeps scores updated.
  6. Campaigns refer to the send time metric before blasting to recipients..
  7. There is no accounting for seasonal fluctuations of opens and clicks.

Tweaks that can propel your STO Strategy:

STO can be categorized as a form of Contextual Marketing tactic that is applicable to any of the Acquisition, Cross Sell or Retention campaigns that marketers work with. The key aspect to is that STO is a framework and is as intelligent as the number of dimensions it operates on. The onus is on the marketer to propel the framework with the intelligence that will add aggregated value to campaign efficiency and help organizations drive meaningful conversations. The “smartness” to the framework can be supplemented in the form of advanced models, Statistical segmentation methods like clustering, time series analysis and effective A/B Testing. It is also critical to keep in mind that like CX, marketing analytics is a journey and the more you get back to the drawing board, the more mature is your customer engagement strategy.

The following tweaks can significantly enhance the efficiency of your STO execution and help you inch closer to contextual targeting,

  1. Start Small: Use STO on the most engaged Customers. The least engaged customers don’t need STO at the point in time you are starting out and even if you do have a mind blowing algorithm, disengaged customers probably are the last set you should experiment with. And of course, it makes sense to test performance on a smaller population.
  2. Test & Record: Compare open rates between emails sent using STO and sent without STO for a variety of predictive models to pick the model with significant lift in Clicks (or Opens). Use Algorithms to deliver
  3. Segmented Recommendation: Use behavioural segmentation allied with demographic analysis to get advanced insights into how STO varies by customer segment.
  4. One To One Recommendation: One on One predictive and extrapolation techniques like Holt Winters, ARIMA & Exponential Smoothing Methods that can manage Seasonality and Trend based fluctuations at scale.
  5. Measure: Use Mature metrics like Send to Click ratios, Revenue per Mail and AVO rather than Plain Jane CTR / CBR.
  6. Manage Channels: People read on Mobile and Buy on the Desktop. When you see this behaviour, indicated by multiple click counts for the same campaign (for one customer of course) tuck that nugget away in a corner of your marketing platform. Get a good DB analyst to review the structure vis a vis your marketing strategy.
  7. Brand & Design: From a brand experience perspective, you will need to re-think about the campaign theme and customer experience based on the Send Time recommendation your platform spits out. While gender, location and product level dynamic personalization is quite common, they intrinsically work on having consistent wire frames and most marketing platforms seamlessly manage this need. STO can potentially rock the boat in terms of rethinking how an “Early morning riser Mid aged Californian Dentist” experiences the brand vis a vis a Younger East Coast theatre Personality who in the best traditions of the industry rarely gets to greet the early morning sun.

Campaign A: A cross sell campaign for a group of high value customers launched using default timings. No throttling was employed.

Campaign B: Cross Sell Campaign for the same product with a similar behavioural segment employing direct one on one STO.STO drove significant improvements in the test campaign. On an average we saw:

  • - 5% to 25% increase in Open Rates
  • - 10% to 30% increase in CTR
  • - 15% to 25% increase in AOV and RPE Lift

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