Why owned channels are essential in a world of rising ad costs

Profile photo of author Michael Pattison
Customer data ownership
February 29, 2024
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In the ever-evolving world of digital marketing, staying ahead of the curve is essential for success.

With paid media costs on the rise and uncertainty looming over the future of cookies, businesses must hone their strategies.

Platforms like Meta and Google, once reliable sources of traffic, are becoming less predictable, less trackable, and more expensive. This shift underscores the importance of diversifying marketing efforts and focusing on owned channels such as email and SMS.

Here, you’ll learn why owned channels are key to thriving in today’s consumer landscape.

CACs rising: the importance of zero- and first-party data

As paid advertising costs rise, so do customer acquisition costs (CACs)—which makes it more challenging for businesses to acquire new customers profitably.

To combat this trend, collecting zero- and first-party data is crucial. Building your own database of engaged subscribers empowers you to not only rely less on paid media, now and in the future, but also nurture higher-quality leads that can lower your brand’s CACs.

Pro tip: Invest in activating your web traffic for both conversion and data collection. To increase conversion rates, implement strategies to maximize site traffic, such as optimizing landing pages and improving user experience. Sign-up forms and quizzes, meanwhile, can collect valuable zero-party data from engaged visitors to ensure site visits aren’t in vain.

Email and SMS collection: building your subscriber base

Email and SMS remain powerful channels for customer engagement and acquisition. Offering incentives such as discounts for email and SMS sign-ups can encourage visitors to join your subscriber list, providing you with a direct line of communication to nurture leads and drive conversions.

Your site’s bounce rate: an opportunity

Take a look at your site’s bounce rates to better understand your opportunity. Each visitor that leaves your site without making a purchase or subscribing to email or SMS is a missed opportunity. By doing some simple math, your company could seize the opportunity of turning site bounces into subscribers.

According to Klaviyo data, sign-up forms can convert 3-6% of site visitors into subscribers. Many brands drive even better results, so this is a great place for brands to test.

What gets your visitors excited to subscribe to your email or SMS program? Maybe 10% off or free shipping works. Maybe simply creating a sense of exclusivity does the trick.

Lastly, look at the return on ad spend (ROAS) per source and determine if some sources are better than others at driving an immediate purchase, a subscriber sign-up, and/or a bounce. Your team may want to track cost per acquisition (CPA) alongside CACs.

Test, test, test: the best way to optimize conversion

Where your sources are already optimized, consider testing to increase conversion or sign-ups.

Where your sources are underperforming for purchase and/or sign-ups, consider different tactics to entice them, such as:

  • Adjust your sign-up form settings so that the form appears later during the site visit, or earlier.
  • Time the offer based on the time you expect the prospective customer to bounce.
  • Increase your offer for subscribing to email, or enhance your offer for an email + SMS sign-up.

If your brand tracks customer lifetime value (CLTV), you should be able to quickly understand the cost of these discounts and plan accordingly.

Pro tip: Make sure your forms provider is able to distinguish subscribers from non-subscribers. No one likes clicking onto your website from an email or SMS and being asked to sign up for a marketing list they’re already on.

Effective subscriber onboarding: how to build a solid welcome series

Once you start collecting email addresses, your brand should implement a welcome series. These series are essential for setting expectations for long-term subscriber engagement. By delivering valuable content and personalized messaging from the outset, you can establish trust and build rapport with new subscribers.

We suggest you welcome subscribers with a series of touchpoints per channel. It may look something like this:

Sample email welcome series

  • Email 1: Welcome the subscriber to your brand and share their coupon code, if applicable.
  • Email 2: Explain your brand’s core mission, values, etc. Include a reminder of the coupon, if applicable.
  • Email 3: Outline your loyalty program, special programs, or anything else you want them to know about.
  • …and more: If you have a lot of content and more to say, there are no hard and fast rules. Do whatever makes sense for your brand and makes new subscribers feel special.

Pro tip: Consider two branches in this series: one for purchasers and one for non-purchasers. The latter may need a 4th email to push them to make their first purchase.

Sample SMS welcome series

  • SMS 1: Confirmation the subscriber’s opt-in.
  • SMS 2: Deliver their coupon code, if applicable.
  • SMS 3: Welcome the subscriber and set expectations (e.g., “We’ll be sending you emails a few times a week with great deals and news”). This is a great time to ask questions about what interests them most about your brand.
  • SMS 4: Engage your new customers with a question that connects to your products and can help you personalize their experience (for example, “Do you like jeans or sweats?”)
  • SMS 5: Send your contact card to ensure they can easily identify your messages (note: this requires a dedicated short or long code).

Pro tip: To reduce confusion, keep customers in welcome automations isolated from other emails and SMS messages until they complete the series.

Optimizing outreach: finding the right cadence and frequency

Once you’ve built a solid subscriber base and set your subscribers’ expectations, you have to determine the optimal cadence and frequency for email and SMS campaigns.

Your optimal cadence should be based on your business type, frequency of sales, product cycles, and news. Can you support daily emails or SMS sends? That really depends on your brand’s ability to produce content that engages your subscribers.

What kind of engagement do you want from email and SMS? Opens, clicks, and conversions, of course! To drive that engagement, consider these strategies:

  • Promotion and sales campaigns (sitewide discounts, product-specific sales, etc.)
  • Informational campaigns (new product drops, loyalty program updates, new store opening announcements, events, big news, etc.)
  • Educational campaigns (newsletters, “things you should know,” connections to community, etc.)

Pro tip: Maintain a minimum sending cadence. Your subscribers should not be surprised when you email or text them. By setting, say, a weekly send minimum, you will stay top of mind, reduce confusion, opt-outs, and spam complaints, and maximize opens, clicks, and conversions.

Finding the best send times: test, test, test (again)

Testing is a great way to determine your optimal send frequency. You may need to test both the frequency and the segments you send to. Some subscribers will be more engaged than others.

Start by looking at your least engaged subscribers (>180 unengaged, meaning they haven’t opened or clicked in ~6 months) and crafting a plan to speak specifically to them. Some call these win-back campaigns.

Think about what types of content and offers might bring these lapsed subscribers back to your website or stores. You should also try different frequencies for these customers. If you typically send a few times a week, maybe hold these customers to once a week.

From there, you could then work down to 90-, 60-, and 30-day engagers. Those who’ve engaged more recently are the subscribers most likely to accept more frequent campaigns.

Finally, be sure to set KPIs for each campaign to ensure your testing has goals to hit. Are you trying to drive clicks, conversions, page views, or in-store visits?

Pro tip: Test your landing page strategy. If you see strong email engagement that doesn’t result in conversions, you need to tackle that opportunity on your website.

Maximize marketing returns: great flows and campaigns to drive ROI

Though campaigns will drive the vast majority of of your volume, all brands should set up a strong set of automations:

How to grow your business in 2024: 5 things you can do today

  1. Evaluate your current marketing channels. Assess the effectiveness of paid media vs. owned channels. Make sure they work in concert and that you maximize your brand’s investment in paid site visitors.
  2. Collect zero and first-party data from your website visitors. Don’t let site visitors bounce without subscribing.
  3. Develop a solid welcome series. Then, set up ongoing engagement campaigns to nurture your subscriber base.
  4. Experiment. Try out different sending frequencies and campaign types to optimize engagement and ROI.
  5. Continuously monitor key metrics. Adjust your strategies accordingly to maximize channel reach and health.

Marketing in today’s ever-changing economy will keep any marketer on their toes, but one way to keep things stable is to invest in the channels you can control: email and SMS. Besides keeping your budget under control, it can help you build stronger digital relationships for the long run.

Michael Pattison
Michael Pattison
Lead Digital Strategist
Michael joined Klaviyo in 2023 as the Lead Digital Strategist. Prior to joining Klaviyo, Michael ran Relationship Marketing at Vail Resorts for 5 years where he managed all aspects of email, SMS, push and direct marketing. Before going brand side, he built and managed professional and client services teams at several marketing technology SaaS companies including SendGrid, Sailthru, Criteo and CheetahMail. Overall, he has been working in digital marketing for 20 years and loves helping brands and people connect through digital means.