Bonobos achieves 100% Inbox Deliverability with Innovative Frequency Modeling and a Robust Opt-Down Strategy From Email Aptitude
Email deliverability has become a true science in strategy, with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) placing more weight on user engagement ratios and online retailers focusing more of their effort on building stronger user engagement to optimize profitability. Bonobos partnered with Email Aptitude so they could quickly forge several key strategic initiatives to drive more revenue from the email channel
Bonobos, an exclusive men's online retailer, realized the importance of chasing these challenges in order to drive more profit from the email channel. Bonobos was founded in 2007 to fix an issue that men routinely face: “Men’s pants just don’t fit well. They're either too tight to be comfortable or too baggy to look good. But by innovating in a few key areas, we've developed a fit that actually looks and feels great for a wide variety of men."
Today the site offers not only a large array of perfectly fitting pants, but also many other products, including men’s suits, shirts, shoes, accessories, golf apparel, swimwear, outerwear and more. The company’s phenomenal growth over the past six years has positioned Bonobos as a leading men’s online retailer with exceptional customer service, offered through an uniquely branded “Ninja Service.” Focused on catering to its customers and building a strong brand, Bonobos has established a loyal “Bonobos Nation” of consumers.
Bonobos aligned with Email Aptitude, a strategic email marketing firm, in order to enhance its email marketing efforts. With many robust strategies on the roadmap, building a pristine deliverability foundation was key.
Managing Sender Reputation And Deliverability Risk
Prior to working with the strategists at Email Aptitude, Bonobos had utilized an Email Service Provider (ESP) that leveraged a shared IP pool. By sending out of a shared pool, the company was also sharing its sender reputation and increasing its vulnerability with respect to inbox deliverability.
A Dedicated IP (DIP) and a Private Domain are essential for sender reputation management and inbox deliverability for the following reasons:
IP Addresses: When a company deploys emails through an ESP, it shares multiple IP addresses within a pool with many other companies also using that ESP. This can increase reputation and inbox deliverability risk, since the sender has no control over what other companies are doing. If one of the companies in the IP pool implements bad practices, for example, shared IP addresses can be bulked or blocked at multiple ISP's, thus affecting inbox deliverability of other companies.
When a company uses a DIP, on the other hand, it is the only entity sending through that IP address. Therefore, it can have more control over its sender reputation.
Private Domains: A Private Domain allows a company to completely remove the ESP and isolate its reputation from other entities. It also empowers the sender to tell ISPs that mail is, in fact, coming from their company.
Over the past few years, ISPs have been placing less focus on IP-based reputation and more on domain-based reputation assessment, with Gmail, Yahoo! and AOL serving as primaries in changing filter algorithms to look at specific domains. Nevertheless, both components are critical for managing reputation and deliverability risk. Leveraging both a DIP and Private Domain provides a company with the greatest control over its sender reputation and inbox deliverability.
Gaining Accurate Inbox Deliverability Insight
ISPs evaluate reputation based on three primary factors:
- Content, code structure, and the user's response to that content (i.e., is the user opening, clicking through, marking it as spam, etc.)
- The historical trend of content and engagement originating from a particular IP address
- The historical trend of content and engagement associated with a particular domain
By sending through a shared pool, Bonobos had no access to Inbox Deliverability Reporting. Its only insight was a delivery ratio provided by the ESP. Unfortunately, though, an ESP’s delivery ratio only tells half the story. An ESP reports an email as “delivered” as long as it doesn’t receive a call back from the ISP with a soft or hard bounce notification. Thus, a delivery ratio doesn’t report on whether the email actually hit the inbox, was sent to a spam folder, or was bulked altogether.
Email Aptitude crafted a clear and concise strategy to transition Bonobos to a new ESP, with an account offering a DIP, Private Domains and Inbox Deliverability Reporting. This transition strategy included a robust onboarding plan to ensure that Bonobos’ new DIP would be “warmed” slowly over the first 30 days. The goal was to show ISPs the strongest user engagement possible, in an effort to build a stellar sender reputation.
The onboarding initiative also encompassed staged sending, initially deploying only to the most engaged subscriber segment and then dripping into less engaged segments over the course of several weeks.
Another critical component of the onboarding process included aggressively pursuing white-listing efforts. To this end, Bonobos took several steps to drive contacts to white-list its new address by prompting subscribers to add it to their personal address books. This was accomplished through a three-pronged approach:
- Sending a savvy email invitation out of Bonobos’ former ESP to contacts before they were onboarded
- Displaying consistent messaging in the pre-header for the first 30 days
- Making it an “event” through social media channels
This robust onboarding plan worked flawlessly, building a pristine sender reputation for Bonobos right from the start.
“The ESP transition was seamless and Email Aptitude's onboarding strategy and frequency modeling helped us achieve perfect inbox deliverability.”
The success of this strategy was also confirmed through the retailer’s new Inbox Deliverability Reporting. The report below provides true inboxing ratios for Bonobos’ promotional campaigns across major ISPs. Partnering with Email Aptitude has enabled Bonobos to consistently maintain a stellar sender reputation and garner 100% inboxing across all critical ISPs.
Harness User Engagement With Frequency Modeling
To attain and maintain strong user engagement, it is important to maximize each campaign touch point. Online retailers want to land in their subscribers’ inboxes as often as possible, in an effort to maximize the bottom line. However, increasing your program’s cadence without a smart frequency strategy can actually hinder results. To handle this challenge, Bonobos leveraged Frequency IQ™ from Email Aptitude to forge a scalable strategy that engaged subscribers as consistently as possible without affecting their attrition ratio or inbox deliverability.
Many marketers face pressure to increase frequency in order to drive more revenue from the email channel. However, the mistake that many retailers make is to treat all contacts the same in terms of cadence.
Before working with Email Aptitude, Bonobos had a fairly consistent frequency of 2-3 emails a week. As shown in the graph below, all contacts received the same frequency.
With a desire to increase engagement and drive more revenue from email, Bonobos wanted to tackle cadence in a smart way in order to provide a winning user-experience and maximize revenue.
Frequency tracks enable email marketers to touch contacts based on their natural engagement curve. By tracking how contacts interact with Bonobos campaigns, Frequency IQ™ analyzes and segments the active house file into key tracks. With threshold flexibility, the initial 4 tracks for Bonobos were as follows:
Phase 1 New Frequency Tracks
These tracks are formulated via a dynamic proprietary algorithm, enabling contacts to shift from one track to another based on their continued engagement with Bonobos emails. By segmenting their house file into frequency tracks, Bonobos was able to increase cadence for contacts who naturally have higher engagement, and maintain (or decrease) frequency for less engaged contacts.
By adjusting their email deployment frequency based on historic user engagement, Bonobos was able to:
- Maintain strong user engagement ratios, which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are starting to weigh more when determining sender reputation
- Send 2-3X more often, to highly engaged contacts, to drive more revenue and to maintain extremely low unsubscribe ratios
- Increase engagement with lower-engaged contacts due to reduced frequency
- Maintain pristine 100% inboxing at all major and mid-tier ISPs
- Help achieve an 84% decrease in monthly attrition
“Treating contacts differently in terms of frequency is a logical user experience. This frequency modeling has allowed us to drive more volume to consistently high-engaged contacts, ultimately driving more revenue while decreasing churn.”
Leveraging frequency tracks has truly changed the game for Bonobos. Instead of blanket changes to frequency for all subscribers, this approach allows contacts to move up and down in cadence based on actual engagement. Bonobos is now driving more revenue and providing a better email experience to its growing subscriber base.
Build & Leverage a Robust Opt-down Strategy
Great thought must be taken when building an opt-down strategy. Too often, retailers jump in head first, not weighing all the variables before building a preference opt-out webform. Making sure your program can actually adhere to and scale the desired send preference options in the opt-out webform is critical.
Bonobos and Email Aptitude followed these important guidelines when planning the opt-down strategy:
- Offer send preferences that your program can truly follow. If a subscriber chooses to opt down to one email a week rather than unsubscribe from the program, you must meet this request without issue. Bonobos worked with Email Aptitude to build these opt-down segments in advance, ensuring they were automated via the webform and tested thoroughly.
- Offer a select number of opt-down send preferences. Too many options can actually diminish the power of propelling a subscriber to opt down.
- Use your content team to capture the essence and voice of your brand to ensure the options outlined in the opt-down form are as compelling and clear as possible. This is truly your last chance to embrace and entice subscribers. Bonobos and Email Aptitude collaborated with the brilliant Bonobos content team to create opt-down copy that exemplified the brand.
- Roll live with version 1.0 sooner rather than later, knowing you’ll quickly uncover key data points that will drive optimization efforts for formulating version 2.0. Subscribers will quickly determine which opt-down preferences are the most effective in keeping them engaged with your program.
Below is the Bonobos opt-out form (at time of writing). This is displayed only if a contact intends to unsubscribe from the email list.
Phase 1 New Frequency Tracks
At this stage, a contact is already in the mode of unsubscribing. With the above form, however, Bonobos has consistently saved 25% of these opt-out bound subscribers, converting them into a lower-cadence frequency option and keeping them on the list. Combined with other efforts, including frequency modeling, Bonobos was able to reduce attrition by 86%.
With an increasingly competitive inbox landscape, it is pivotal for email marketers to strive for optimal performance of all program elements. Bonobos and Email Aptitude are in the process of building a world-class email program and are seeing strong steps in the right direction.
About Email Aptitude
Email Aptitude is an ESP-Agnostic and award-winning Agency focused on full-service email program management and advanced email strategy. Based in San Francisco, CA, Email Aptitude was recently named to the Inc. 5000 as the #1 fastest growing email agency in the country; the Bay Area Fast 100; and honored by the prestigious AdAge Top 50 Best Places to Work in the US. The Email Aptitude team is made up of top industry veterans and the new bright minds of email who grow and manage email programs for some of the world's hottest fast-growth startups and global enterprise brands. To learn more about Email Aptitude and view current job openings please visit our website: https://goo.gl/ExKz39