LiveIntent doubles down on email subscriber advertising

In an age where consumers spend an increasing amount of time in an ever-expanding world of social media, email marketing may seem like a terribly old-school, if not quaint, tactic. But New York-based startup LiveIntent is convinced it can bring sophisticated Web targeting tools to the aging medium to help companies get more out of what it considers to be their most valuable asset: email subscribers.

In November, the company launched a first-of-its kind platform for delivering dynamic real-time ads via email. And, expanding its advertising capabilities, LiveIntent last week released a new platform allowing publishers and advertisers to target and bid for email subscribers no matter where they are on the Web – in emails and beyond.

The platform, called LFX, gives publishers the tools to sell against their subscribers anywhere they are on the Web. It also gives advertisers a way to buy subscribers as they would other kinds of premium display inventory. With LFX, publishers’ direct ad sales teams, as well as DSPs (demand-side platforms) and agency trading desks can buy and bid for a publishers’ subscribers.

“The email subscriber is the most loyal customer,” said Dave Hendricks, COO of LiveIntent. Not only has the subscriber opted-in to receive communication, email subscribers are more likely to click on the messages a business sends them and therefore more likely to make purchases or visit monetized websites.

Loyal subscribers can also generate positive ripple effects for marketers by forwarding along messages to friends and family, Hendricks said.

Email messages with LiveIntent tags generate 30 percent more impressions post decision (or after the initial email open), the company reports, indicating that the subscriber either opened the message again or passed it along to a contact who viewed the same ad. LiveIntent also says average click-through rates for its email ads are about 0.3 percent, which is about three times the average click-through rate for online display ads.

But while the company may tout the value of the email sharing, it’s hard to ignore the increasing power of sharing through Facebook, Twitter and other emerging social platforms. According to 2011 data from sharing platform ShareThis, Facebook generated 38 percent of sharing referral traffic, while email contributes just 17 percent and Twitter accounts for 11 percent.  Additionally, with the proliferation of daily deal and flash sale sites – and the flood of emails that they beget – consumers may view sifting through their inboxes as an increasingly unwelcome chore.

Adrian Tompsett, VP of business development for DSP DataXu, said the controlled environment of an email and the opt-in orientation of a subscriber makes email a promising vehicle for marketers. But he added that performance depends on a wide range of variables, from the marketers’ overall strategy to the specific message in a given email. Another potential question could also be scale as, presumably, the amount of online premium display and video inventory is much larger than premium email inventory. But LiveIntent says it counts more than 100 premium publishers on its platform and Tompsett said it seems to be effectively building the scale it needs.

Personal finance startup LearnVest (one of LiveIntent’s publishers) declined to provide specific data showing LiveIntent’s effectiveness. But Jacquelyn White, VP of advertising for LearnVest, said the platform was enabling her company to use its rich data about users to provide a premium experience to advertisers via email and draw high engagement rates.