Wizard World hosts several monthly pop-culture themed conventions in cities across United States, with featured celebrity guests, cosplay contests, comics, artwork, and more. They also sell branded merchandise through their website, and publish relevant content on multiple channels.
Their large contact database includes former event attendees, newsletter subscribers, those who’ve made purchases online, and subscribers from other owned properties.
Email marketing is a critical revenue driver for the comic conventions, as the recipients are largely familiar with the brand and events in some capacity and are excited to receive announcements, schedules, and offers for the events in their area. However, Wizard World noticed a steady decline in open and clickthrough rates for the event emails, and was not seeing the value in this specific channel.
We identified three specific issues:
- Audience Fatigue
A newsletter was sent every Friday to the entire contact database with general content and announcements, mostly related to pop culture franchises. In the weeks leading up to each event, region-specific announcements with purchase CTAs were were added to the newsletter for those in the nearby areas. Using the weekly newsletter as a vehicle for the event admissions weakened the overall impact, particularly since there wasn’t much distinction between the two emails, nor was there a break in the schedule. The audience response was “meh.”
- Lack of Sales Attribution
While the client was able to track open and clickthrough rates for each email, there was no proper tracking in place to attribute sales and transactions to specific emails. They could see if users were clicking from the email to the site, but that’s where the visibility ended.
- Vague Content Directions and Calls to Action
The newsletter template, also used for the event announcements, was text-heavy and lacked unique CTAs. For example, a sidebar would showcase a celebrity appearance with biographical information, but would not explain the related admissions or opportunities for photo ops and autographs.
- Add Breathing Room to Email Schedule
Previous learnings have shown us that “space” between email communications can greatly increase open and clickthrough rates, reduce unsubscribes and opt-outs, and improve email-channel ROI. Therefore, our first priority was to add breathing room to Wizard World’s communications schedule. We assessed historical send dates relative to the start-date of each event and matched corresponding open and clickthrough rates to determine when each email should be sent–2 weeks between emails. The recurring newsletters were paused during the the regional event schedule to minimize the inbox clutter
- Implement a Resend Policy
A resend policy was implemented to improve the delivery and open rates without spamming the active contacts. If a contact opened the email on the first send, they would not receive another email for two weeks. Those who did not open the first email received a re-sent iteration of the first, with a slightly tweaked subject line and contents.
- Segment Audiences Based on Interest and Status
Our mantra is to “serve the right message to the right audience at the right time,” and we immediately identified the opportunity to segment Wizard World’s audience beyond region and event city. Using additional customer data from the point-of-sale system and previous email actions, we were able to create new audience segments based on event interests, such as talent and celebrity VIP experiences, and separate the current ticket holders from those who had yet to make a purchase. We created three distinct audiences for each event.
- Non-Ticket Holders with General Interest were sent standard announcement emails with calls to action to purchase event admissions and celebrity VIP experiences.
- Non-Tickets Holders with Talent Interest received “themed” email content with artwork and calls to action focused on a specific VIP experience; for example, The X-Files or Back To The Future.
- Ticket Holders would be informed of changes to the event schedule, new exhibitors on the event floor, and receive opportunities to purchase photo ops and autographs with celebrity guests as an upsell.
- CRM Account Cleanup
More than 10% of the contacts in the database were inactive or unsubscribed, and we removed these contacts to improve the overall deliverability.
- Responsive Email Template
As an email marketing best practice, we created an email template with clear, distinct calls to action in a layout optimized for desktop and mobile screens.
We compared the campaign results between two city events: Chicago 2015 & Chicago 2016, and found that segmenting the audience and implementing the resend policy were two most effective additions to the email program.
Take a look at the increase in open and clickthrough rates from 2015 (one segment–baseline) to 2016 (3 unique segments–measurable increase).
- General Interest: Open rate increased 66% | Clickthrough rate increased 110%
- Talent-Interest Open rate increased 199% | Clickthrough rate increased 478%
- Ticket Holders Open rate increased 211% | Clickthrough rate increased 340%
The resend policy allowed us to achieve “space” in the email schedule, ensuring that the most active members would only be emailed every 2 weeks to avoid burnout and the illusion of spam. Resending every email, after 7 days, to those who did not open it the first time, increased the overall open rate by 31%.
More valuable than the increased metrics is the assignment of sales attribution, which allowed us to match revenue and transactions to specific emails and provide an overall ROAS score. We determined an overall ROI of 4:5 for the 2016 Chicago email program.
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