Customer acquisition specialist esbconnect has completed a management buyout (MBO), and the new team is steering the company into a first-party first cookieless ecosystem. Suzanna Chaplin, esbconnect’s CEO, spoke with Modern Retail about why she anticipates a renaissance of email marketing as the death of cookies heralds a fresh relevance for this traditional channel.
You had a management buyout earlier this year. How is this changing the business?
This business has been around for nine years and has enormous potential, and the MBO allows us to scale the business and take it in a new direction. We’re focusing on growth by streamlining the company, introducing new products and taking advantage of the opportunities arising from today’s changing advertising environment.
Our challenge is that in this digital-first world, email can be overlooked and is not naturally front of mind. However, we aim to overturn any misperceptions about email marketing, as an acquisition channel and prove the value of this channel in driving ROI.
And in this changing business environment, how do you see email playing a pivotal role?
There are huge opportunities. Today’s marketers must invest in channels that work for them and deliver results, which makes email critical. They must ensure their marketing remains relevant and personal across channels while delivering the required results on budget. This makes email critical.
Email is a key channel for communicating with your customers, building relationships and driving future purchasing decisions. It’s a central pillar for powering a brand’s marketing strategy.
But email’s more than just a retention mechanism. It can be used for acquisition and a persistent ID to improve the performance of both acquisition and retention campaigns. And as an acquisition channel, we’re not talking about mass email marketing; we’re talking about a modern data-driven marketing channel. Email is a deterministic, deliverable and trusted channel for acquisition. This is because we ensure that it’s driven by deep insights based on real individual-level information – not just assumed data. It’s what we call Inbox Intelligence. Above all, you can demonstrate its impact on your business and prove it’s delivering to your KPIs.
As we move into a cookieless world, email lets brands create personal journeys across channels, leveraging inbox intelligence to ensure precise targeting.
When you talk about ‘deep insights’, how are these arrived at?
It’s all based on the data that we are collecting. This comes through our own activities and our partnerships. We have a proprietary database which is generated through our owned and operated sites, as well as through a number of partner sites. These include financial services companies that give us access to privacy-compliant data they have collected when individuals sign up for their products. This is also complemented by the 50 million monthly emails we deliver on behalf of brands, which allow us to append new data, including transactional, product, intention and brand preference information. This means we constantly enrich our individual-level data to gain fresh behavioural insights that power effective email marketing.
This wealth of real data also allows us to model audiences and further build accurate insights. For example, home ownership information can be used to infer household income.
These audiences we build are portable. They’re not simply for email; brands can leverage them in other environments to support their multichannel people-based marketing activity. With social media platforms reducing their targeting options, our data helps brands leverage their audiences in these environments. They can then benefit from enhanced, personalised targeting- something they could not achieve on these platforms alone.
So why’s now the right time for email marketing to come to the fore?
Email is gaining traction as we move towards a post-cookie world and brands look for replacement solutions. Market changes are ushering in a greater focus on the value of first-party data. Brands are looking to build their databases with this critical data and ensure they have a first-party data strategy fit for modern marketing.
Email, as an acquisition channel is perfect for this. It great for lead generation and can drive traffic which is likely to convert, allowing brands to build up their CRM data, and brands can also take advantage of the information we have to append our data to enhance their insights. And better data and insights drive better segmentation and targeting, which means better results.
Couple this with the current challenging cost-of-living market conditions, and brands must constantly review their marketing spend to ensure their activities drive a strong ROI. This tighter period for marketers requires them to justify every investment decision, and email’s measurability provides the performance clarity they need, making it the right channel for these times.
As online marketing changes beyond recognition, the humble email address’s stability makes email marketing a resilient channel. And this stability means email is the perfect foundation for developing future digital IDs.
Today, why is email marketing relevant for retailers?
For consumers, email is their preferred channel for receiving marketing messages – even Google has dedicated a tab to promotional emails. And for many retailers, customer emails generate the highest ROI of any channel. That’s why we help retailers extend this success to lookalike audiences. By applying insights from over 150 data points on an individual, we can help them discover a wealth of potential customers that mirror their current best customers. And these can be leveraged in other channels, from offline direct marketing to CTV or social.
As you look to develop the business, does the rarity of being a female founder in a tech business make your job harder?
Not at all. I don’t know if I’ve been lucky, but I’ve never been aware of any gender issues, never felt I’ve been treated differently, and it’s had no impact on growing esbconnect.
Speaking with male founders, I have noticed that as a female, you take more on than your male counterparts. And while it’s often highlighted that females find it harder to delegate and have a greater emotional attachment to their teams, this is just part of the fact that we manage differently than men. It’s not better or worse, just different.
Realising this is important. Both sides can learn from the strengths each brings and use this to adapt and evolve their approaches, so they become better managers, build better teams and run better businesses. Ultimately, this is what it’s all about. We’ll always be different, and that makes the world and business a better place.
esbconnect equips brands with the tools and strategies they need to better target and connect with customers. Its services deliver rich insights for brands, with its platform reaching some 17m consumers across the UK and tracking opens and click-rates of 50m emails each month. Our Inbox Intelligence provides valuable insights, enabling brands to understand their customers, expand their first party data, and create personalised marketing campaigns across offline and online channels. As a strategic partner, esbconnect helps brands navigate the challenges of a changing digital landscape, unlocking new opportunities for growth and delivering exceptional results. esbconnect have helped more than 600 brands grow, including the likes of Clarks, Tails and Hello Fresh.