Sep 6, 2012

The New Revenue Chart

In MailChimp v7.5, we launched a new feature under the Reports screen: The Revenue Chart. Here’s how that came to be, and why it’s useful.

I was talking to a customer a few months ago. He sells stuff online, and he tells me that his email newsletters are his biggest revenue driver. Every time he sends a campaign, he makes several thousand dollars. He was particularly proud of his consistently high open rate, and he asked if I had any advice for improving it. So I looked at his campaign stats under the "Reports" tab:

The first thing I noticed was that August 1st campaign in the screenshot. "Whoah, what happened there?!?" At first glance, it looks like his worst-ever campaign, because his open rate plummeted from the 40s (which is amazing when you look at industry standards) down to the low teens. Yikes. Was it his subject line? Did he send the email on a non-optimal day? Why’d it suck so bad? I was just about to tell him "Whatever you did on that day, don’t ever do it again." But I looked more closely at the campaign stats, and I’m so glad I didn’t give him that horrible advice.

Turns out it was actually an extremely successful campaign…


Based on revenue, that is.

Even though his opens plummeted, purchases were extremely high on August 1st. About 7 times higher than normal, actually. How do I know that? Well, since he had our Google Analytics integration turned on, and since he’s set up goals inside Google Analytics, we can track revenue per campaign in MailChimp. And on your MailChimp Reports screen, there’s a handy little button labeled "Compare All Campaigns:"

which lets me download the stats for ALL campaigns into a nice spreadsheet, so I can then generate pretty charts and stuff (trivia: we once referred to this as the "BARF" report).

So I opened up this file in Excel, and plotted his campaign revenue over time. The graph looked like this:



Aaaaand there’s the problem. I had to plot the revenue in a spreadsheet. Yes. I had to LITERALLY open up another program, and then click MULTIPLE buttons. Oh, the horror! That was waaaaaaay too much work.  So we made a new Revenue chart in MailChimp:

It’s got some nifty details, too. When you hover over each dot, we display the following for each campaign:

  • subject line
  • date
  • day of week, time of day
So you can hover over all the "spikes" in revenue, and quickly look for common trends (your subject line formula, the day of week, etc).
We also have some nice aggregate stats under the chart, like your total revenue from all your MailChimp campaigns, and your top three campaigns.

And while we had the hood open, we upgraded the Dashboard screen to include your "top five campaigns" by revenue:

Wow. Notice they’ve had some campaigns that did even better than the one from August 1st. Rock on.

Furthermore, if you have our eCommerce360 plugin installed (this is where we integrate with various shopping carts to give you user-specific behavior that Google Analytics does not) we can also show your top five customers:

Tip: You might want to mark these top five customers as "golden monkeys" in MailChimp

Oh, I should also mention that with eCommerce360 installed, you get these additional segmentation options, where you can send targeted campaigns based on purchase behavior:


So you can send a campaign to people who bought X, and suggest they buy Y, but only if they spent more than $Z.

But let’s get back to our original discussion. You’re probably wondering what happened with that August 1st campaign. Why’d it have such a horrible open rate, yet make so much more money than usual? In this case, our user normally sends campaigns with a certain type of subject line, where the formula is always some witty way of saying, "Buy this XYZ product." But for that August 1st campaign, the formula changed to something less creative, and more aggressive, like: "Big giant 30% off sale." Which is kind of salesy and obnoxious, imho. And I’ve always preached that salesy subject lines hurt open rates.  Now I’m starting to think that in some cases, salesy subject lines might hurt open rates, but help sales. Obviously, you can’t abuse this tactic, or it’ll get old fast. Maybe. Heck, nothing’s obvious anymore. Up is down, and down is up, I tell you.

Here’s another e-commerce customer whose campaign on March 26th had higher-than-usual revenue:


Yet lower than normal open rate:


In this case, their subject line formula didn’t change or get more "salesy." Nothing was dramatically different about the send date, or time of day either. It might’ve just been a case of "right product, right time." Who knows. All we do know is that success is about more than just your open rate.