AdRoll, the retargeting and advertising company, is announcing a new product today called SendRoll, which will extend the power of retargeting to email marketing. Email is consistently the most lucrative channel for digital marketers, in part because of its inherent user identification and measurability. Marketers know exactly which users are seeing which offers and the rate of conversion for those offers. This typically isn’t the case in the dynamic, crowded, fraud-laden world of programmatic advertising. AdRoll’s new product draws on email’s strengths and augments them with the power and scale of retargeting.
AdRoll has a deep history in retargeting, remarketing, and programmatic advertising. Those are jargony terms for what amounts to tracking people who visit your site and displaying relevant ads to them as they visit other sites online.
The company was founded in 2007, when, as president and chief marketing officer Adam Berke told me, “no one was really thinking about how you democratize these technologies and make them accessible.”
What’s your intent?
Programmatic media’s strength is all about what’s called “intent data.” “Everyone goes to Google and types in exactly what they want to buy, where they want to travel — every online business is collecting a treasure trove of that data and didn’t realize how to apply it for marketing purposes,” Berke told me in an interview. “That’s how we fit on the product market fit for retargeting — every online business was going to want to collect on their customer data and target those segments across all this programmatic media.”
According to Berke, the core technology of customer segmentation, user scoring, and personalized targeting can be applied to any marketing channel — so investing in email was a no-brainer. “We expect SendRoll to open the floodgates for personalized email marketing in the same way AdRoll did for display retargeting in 2008,” Berke told me. That’s a bold statement, but he’s not far off. Around 700 customers have already signed up in the pre-release, and many are seeing clickthrough rates double while using the tool. The product, which is available now, touts a “1 click” setup process and is aimed at creating even more marketer autonomy from IT. And since the better data marketers inject into advertising campaigns, the better the outcome — it would make sense that the same would hold true for email.
Email gets personal, because it has to
In a recent VB Insight study, we found that the effects of using behavioral data to influence personalized marketing can bring unprecedented ROI. The bedrock for SendRoll began with AdRoll’s acquisition in January 2014 of Userfox — a Y Combinator graduate with a focus on email engagement. AdRoll has raised almost $90 million to date; it can afford to acquire its way into new spaces. What it gained in Userfox was a rock star team with which to build an email engine.
Since, broadly speaking, email sends are going up and opens are going down, a company that uses machine learning to crunch all those behavioral intent indicators (what type of customer is interested in buying what type of product) and engage customers with relevant email has the chance to be really successful. According to Berke, AdRoll has an especially long leg up, since it understands the trade-offs of buying media. “We can’t waste impressions on people that won’t convert,” he said. This line of thinking pairs nicely with the direction the email industry is moving. “We’re going to send smarter emails,” Berke said. “That trade-off is going to be more quantifiable in email. And if you send more, you burn people out. You can’t make performance work [by sending more emails].”
And if the last hundred or so cart abandonment emails I’ve received lend any credibility to this idea, I’m inclined to agree.
Berke couldn’t comment on how AdRoll will extend this line of thinking into other channels (like mobile), but did indicate that there is plenty more to come. In response to my probing about the hit Adtech has taken in the venture community, he was more forthcoming. “It’s still relatively early days in programmatic marketing. It’s going to take some time to digest the winners and losers.”
For the sake of marketers forced to play in this space and the success of this important tool, let’s hope that digestion happens sooner than later.