How to Increase Sales Using Email-Based Retargeting – with Adam Robinson

By Lamont Benson
How to Increase Sales Using Email-Based Retargeting – with Adam Robinson

Welcome to the Ecommerce Marketing Podcast everyone. I am your host, Arlen Robinson, and today we have a very special guest, Adam Robinson,

Adam was born in Houston, Texas, and graduated from Rice University in 2003 with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics.

In 2014, he launched Robly Email Marketing after working on Wall Street for ten years. The business grew to $5 million in revenue in the first two years and by 2017 was awarded #1 in Customer Satisfaction across the entire email marketing space. After proving Robly’s viability, Adam worked to scale the business. After testing and scrapping a few ideas, he and his team launched GetEmails in 2019.

In GetEmails’ first twelve months it’s grown to $4 million in Annual Recurring Revenue.

Adam is now based in Austin, Texas where he lives with his wife Helen and their Chiweenie, Bonnie Rosa. Welcome to the podcast, Adam. Thanks.

We’re actually brothers, by the way.

Fun fact, we are brothers. I was going to ask you that before we started recording.

I don’t know.

Maybe at this point, maybe brothers from another mother. You never know exactly. There are quite a few Robinsons, though. I don’t know if you’ve come across too a lot, but, yeah, there are a lot of Robinson’s all over. I don’t know.

We’re prolific spreaders, I guess, right?

Yeah, I guess so. One of these days, I’ll have to look more into the history of that family name and see what’s going on with the Robinson lineage, but, yeah, it’s awesome to have you on. I’m super excited to talk to you today because we’ve got a hot topic that’s never been covered before in the podcast, which is retargeting emails, email retargeting rather and you’ve kind of developed a unique niche regarding that. And around that. And I’m really excited to dig deep and really find out about how email retargeting works and how it can benefit ecommerce businesses.

But before we get into all of that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your background and specifically how you got into what you do today? Sure.

So unlike I think most people, in fact, I actually started my career as a credit default swap trader. And I worked at Lehman Brothers, and they made a movie about my job called The Big Short. Even more interesting than that is my first roommates in Manhattan. When I showed up, they were starting a website called Vimeo in the apartment that I was living in just IPOed. So I was watching these guys, and I had this wild job in the middle of the whole financial meltdown. But the whole time, I just wanted to get into this tech stuff.

And after the financial crisis, I’d saved up enough money to say, like, all right, instead of going to business school, I’m going to go try to start a company, like, not even really knowing what that meant. And like, as an entrepreneur, I’m sure you can appreciate just retraining my brain to be a guy who was running a successful tech business was brutal, super expensive, super long road. But Robbly was a great little email marketing platform. We actually just sold it in March and sort of in that journey of trying to differentiate in the email marketing space, which is a very difficult space.

There’s 150 vendors, there’s two or three dominant ones. And then there’s, like, 147 that are all doing 3 million or less in revenue. And they’re all selling the same stuff more or less. That’s kind of how the structure is. And the guys who win, they have a niche. They have something different about their product and the market loves it and just takes them to the moon. And Clayvia is a great example. Best platform for Shopify. As your audience knows, they just nailed that niche right above MailChimp.

And it took off. So in trying to figure out how to differentiate, I came across this identity resolution space and just we figured out that you could look at anonymous indicators in the advertising world that were, like, for display, and you could Daisy chain together a workflow that would basically match that up to real customer profiles. And it was actually compliant to send somebody a plain text email and to have the market to it in the US, which I did not even know. After owning an email marketing company for five years, I assumed that non opt in email marketing was the law.

That’s what I thought. And it’s just not true. It is patently not true. The can spam access email marketing opt out, not in it’s like, well, why doesn’t everybody spam everybody? It’s because engagement deliverability you’ll ruin your ability to send email if you do that. And we can go in a little later to how? Well, the reason our business is growing so fast, and we just crossed 7 million Arr 18 months in which we got five employees, which, like for a software business, that’s crazy. Some ecommerce companies can grow quicker than that.

But like for SaaS, it’s nuts. It’s because we developed this process to where we’re giving people unbelievably hot emails. It’s emails that were on your website highly accurate. And then the real magic in the product is we buy a bunch of open and click data, which you can buy in the marketplace, and we only give you a lead if we have a registered open or click event in the last 14 days. So imagine that it’s people on your website, right. And then it’s people that we know are alive and clicking around in the last two weeks.

Right.

So the product works phenomenally. Well, because email is all about recency and targeting, right. So that’s the email retargeting part of it. I want to mention one other product real quick before we dig deeper into how it works that we just launched that I think is an even bigger product than that. And with anybody who’s been emailing for a long time, you specially affiliate software, your customers will be like, oh, I know what you’re talking about. So the biggest problem in email marketing, in my opinion, is how do I get more emails?

The second biggest problem in email marketing is, well, to maintain my deliverability, I need to sunset or I need to take off unengaged people off of my list. If they don’t open for, like, three or six months or whatever, because if I don’t do that, then my open rate slowly goes down over time, and the ISPs don’t want to see that they don’t want to see you sending 5% engaged emails. So what do you do? You got to move half your list to the unengaged. Your open rate goes up to 20%, and everybody’s happy with that.

But it’s a huge pain point because you can’t really email these people. And if you do it’s like a 2% open rate, you can hit spam traps. It’s a problem. So we have this product called Get Openers, which we take your dormant list, which you’re not currently actively contacting, and all that open and click data we’re buying. We actually run that your dormant list against all that data. And in real time, when somebody on that dormant list is clicking another email in our network, we send an event to your ESP and you send an email to them saying we miss you or whatever.

And the open rates, like 30% to 50% because they’re already in their cell phone looking at emails sending at the exact right time, and they get back in your active list and you continue to drift to them. That product works incredibly well, so in my opinion, we’re solving the two biggest problems in email in a way that 99% of people didn’t even know was possible before. And the only reason there are reasons people wouldn’t do the first product because it’s super aggressive. Right. Like you’re saying, I want to grow.

There are organizations that are big enough to where they won’t take the PR risk of sending non opt in email.

Right.

But guys like us, we want to grow. We don’t care. I’ll send an email to someone who is on my website, especially if I know it’s a hot email and it’s alive and stuff. Just because I know email is so effective that retargeting somebody through that channel will work, period. But there are people who won’t do it. Nobody won’t do this get openers thing. Everybody wants access to that dormant list. You already have relationships with them. It’s opt in. The product works incredibly well. It’s very cost effective.

So I’m so much more bullish on the next twelve months of our growth. And I was on the last because now we have both of these things. This is the perfect complement to any emailing program, especially ecommerce. I mean, ecommerce is our bread and butter because there’s a value to the email address. People are converting the heck out of their emails.

Definitely. Yeah. The one thing that’s always floated around, and it keeps coming up every few years about technology is advanced so much we’ve got text messaging. Now we have all the social media platforms. We have these push notifications. People are like, oh, the email is dead. You always see these articles that pop up always. And it’s not the case. It’s never farther from the truth that it’s not dying. Yeah.

Everybody listening to this podcast is going to be nodding right now. They’re like, no, it’s not dead. It’s my best channel.

Exactly. That’s the bottom line. But yeah, very interesting stuff. And you had a really interesting kind of career trajectory in your path from Wall Street on to finding these companies. You don’t see that too often to make a switch from the financial space to the tech space.

I was very lucky that I didn’t have to go back there. I got a lot of friends who tried, and it didn’t work for them.

Yeah, it’s a tough space. There’s a lot of changes going on for sure. Well, that’s awesome. And thank you for sharing that. And that sounds really exciting with what you guys are doing with your company. But as I mentioned, the top of that. So what we really want to dig into is really just kind of how all of this works. How do you make the magic happen? How does this email targeting retargeting work? Rather sure.

So I’m going to just act as though I’m a listener of this podcast, and I have a direct to consumer email, or I have a direct consumer ecommerce. So I hit get emails website. I read the copy. I’m like, I want to grow my email list with people who don’t fill out forms. Heck, yeah, I believe in this. You literally can just sign up on your own, and then we have this checklist, right. And you just take this Pixel, put it on your website, either in Google Tag manager, WordPress, whatever.

And that Pixel will monitor your traffic for people that we have cookies. The cookies were going to die at the end of this year, and we were developing a cookie list technology that did something very similar, but it got pushed out two more years. So we just stopped focusing on it and start building other stuff that people wanted. So it starts off with users that we have cookies, and we’re looking for those people. And inside of that cookie, it’s got an MD five email address that is an encryption language for those who don’t know.

So that’s step one and the MD five, it’s used to identify people anonymously in the display world so that you can say so and so is on So and so website. And when they go to this website, we should show them X-Y-Z. So that’s what the cookies for in the first place. What we figured out how to do was if you had every email address in the US, then you could descramble all of these MB fives, because if you have every email and you make them MD fives, you can literally just do a VLOOKUP of the MD fives and then back out what the email is.

Md five is a one way language. So automakemygiemail dot com gets translated in the same MD five every time. So what we did was we went out and made business development relationships with all of the lead Gen guys in the world. And there’s a lot of them, and they’re creating a ton of data every single month. And we can now get those email addresses that are MD fives and you can’t send to and we can convert them to plain text. So that’s step one and then step two, as I mentioned earlier, we couldn’t just hand those over to you, because if we were giving people undeliverable emails that weren’t hot and we’re dead, it would just blow everybody up.

So this last filter is we buy all the open and click data we can, and we only give you email addresses that we know have open to click in the last 14 days. Then what happens is you do Clavia is the most popular platform of people that use our product. You do a one click integration, and we’re sending these email addresses into Clavio, where our customers have basically altered their welcome series by basically just changing the subject line of the first email from welcome to our email list to thank you for coming by the site that person gets sent.

These three part welcome series, coupon offers or whatever and then after whatever the welcome series is, get put right to their newsletter and re targeted over time. And the interesting thing is, the first email prints the most money, the second email prints the second most money. But the long tail of beyond the welcome Series is where the majority of the actual profit comes from from just retargeting people over and over and over again. And that’s just marketing 101, right? It takes seven brand impressions or whatever to get somebody to buy whatever it is they say.

So.

Yeah, it’s a pretty simple product. It’s just like we look for this person. We descramble the MD Five. We make sure the email is a good email and we give it to you and then you market to it.

Interesting stuff. Now, would it be safe to say, are you guys some of the only guys that are doing this? Like, if somebody wanted to do this, could it be done with any other tools, solutions, or resources or manually?

What was interesting to me about the space when we entered it is there were a few vendors who had gone as far as connecting the MD Fives to plain text emails, but that’s where it stopped. You got sent a file once a week. You had to do all of this stuff yourself. You had to sign contracts. I’m a software guy. It was not a good user experience. The data wasn’t useful because it wasn’t connected. There are no other vendors who have 75 integrations who do this in real time and have aggregated all of the identity providers out there.

So we can provide the breadth of data that we do. And there’s this weird thing where there are some identity vendors, they’re competing with each other, but all of them sell to us. So our product ends up being better than everybody else’s because we’re buying all of the possible data out there. And our products really like this hub that just makes all this stuff useful. It’s like a middleware that makes sense.

Pipes, that makes sense. Yeah, I think you’re right. As far as I mean, I’ve seen other vendors that have been some stuff where live chat vendors and other components like that where they’re able to people that are visiting a website. Of course, you can get some demographics and some information, and then they try to scrub some of that information about who that person is, what company are they with? And then you try to get captured lead data. So I’ve seen stuff like that. But yeah, what you guys are doing with gathering the click data really is kind of probably the differentiator which kind of sets you guys apart because that’s the main thing you want to see if that data that you get is the right data.

Is it bad?

And even more important, is it deliverable?

Yeah. That’s the bottom line you’d rather have.

And there’s a weird thing to say you’d rather have an inaccurate but directionally correct deliverable email, then an accurate, undeliverable email. An accurate, undeliverable email will mess your world up.

Yeah, very true.

A directionally correct, highly deliverable email. Maybe there’s not the same percentage chance you could convert that person as the actual person. But if it’s directionally correct, there’s a really good chance you want to take a shot at that guy at the price that we’re giving you emails for.

Yeah, definitely cool stuff. Now, as far as we talked a little bit about this earlier about, you know, all of this stuff about we hear this every two years. Email is a dying channel. No one checks their email anymore.

That’s nonsense.

Yes, I agree too. What do you see? Like if you were to guess, you’d say have a Crystal ball or just from your knowledge in the industry the next 510 years, where do you see all of this going? As far as email is concerned, because there’s all these other platforms and things. But where do you see the evolution of this?

So I think in five to ten years, brands will have to spend a lot more effort creating touch points from everywhere. But email will always serve the purpose that it does. It’s kind of like it’s a static, not real time thing that almost serves as entertainment for people. It’s like they’re on the subway or whatever they just like, look through their promotions tab and see if there’s any interesting brand that they want to see a text message. Isn’t that people aren’t, like scrolling back through their text message is incredible for you.

Abandoned cart. It’s better than email for that, right? Because it just stops you in your tracks. That’s the reason why Attentive or whatever that company is blowing up great technology for abandonment type emails. But I just think that email will always have a place in retargeting and for nourishment, for building brand value and building brand trust. It’s just a channel that does what it does. And no matter what other channels pop up to engage that you’re going to have to be on top of, none of them will replace what email is.

Yeah, very true. Now, as far as just a kind of question about just kind of how this technology works with this email retargeting that you guys are doing, does it work any differently across the various platforms? Because we have a ton of these different mobile devices. Now, coming up, we have the tablets, ipads, Kindles, all of that versus people that are on desktops laptops, all of that. Is there anything that with respect to, I guess you could say, the browser across these devices that would cause you guys to have to do things differently.

So right now, the whole we get about a third of people’s us traffic. And the reason we don’t get more of that is because Safari and Firefox blocked third party cookies. Years ago, Chrome was going to which was going to force us to change the methodology to only slightly differently. Actually, it was all going to be based off of activity in the email ecosystem. We were going to take a click that would give us the MD five to whatever web page it hit and then take a fingerprint of the browser, which is a dirty word.

And Apple doesn’t want you doing this, but we’re not getting their information. We’re not getting their people anyway. But Chrome, we could continue to enforce people future. So is there tech risk? Like if you’re listening to me, I would be a liar if I said there’s absolutely no tech risk. Do we have a solution that we were testing and seeing very similar results? That is cookie list for sure. So we will be able to do something very similar to what we’re doing well before third party cookies get deprecated.

Right now, it’s only picking up people on Chrome, which is mostly on their desktop, some on their phones or whatever misses some people. But the Chrome audience is so large that we can really 35% of your traffic is probably ten X improvement over your pop up capture.

Right.

So we’re getting enough.

Very true. And I’m an Apple guy. I’m on a MacBook Pro right now. I have an iphone and I don’t use Safari, this Chrome from the very beginning to me, it’s just my better experience. They get better performance over Chrome. And yeah, I just been kind of loyal to it. And from what I’ve seen, you talk to other people that are even on the Apple’s various devices. I see the same type of thing where you have some people that will stick with the Safari if they’re not really, I guess you could say they’re not doing a whole lot on the computer.

They just type of people. They kind of just kind of take things as they are as far as what’s installed and just kind of go with it. But yes, just for my opinion, I can definitely see why Chrome is really still maintained such I guess, a hold on the market for now. But one of the things I wanted to kind of wrap things up with based on your experience, either with customers that you’ve dealt with or anybody in your space, or maybe even your company, if you don’t mind sharing some examples, specific examples or use cases of companies that have been successful with this email retargeting and kind of what are some of the things that they’ve done or that you guys have done in your company?

Sure.

My biggest customer, everybody knows him. Warby Parker. They have us on all of their product pages, and they basically when someone hits a product page, they send a tailored email out. It says, thanks for coming by. The site has a picture of the product in it, and they’re pulling people back to the site that way. It’s a really straightforward use case. It’s super easy to understand because everybody knows that brand, like somebody hits a glasses page, they capture the info and they send them an email with picture of the glasses in and looks really cool.

Woody Parker style.

Yeah. Good stuff. Quick question. I want to kind of throw in just to be kind of Devil’s advocate here. Do you in your experience speaking with either your customers and the customers of your customers? Have you seen any pushback from people that these days? I think everything is just kind of wide open. People are used to getting marketed to from a lot of channels. But have you ever gotten any pushback from people saying, wow, how did they get my information? I don’t remember subscribing to Warby Parker’s list.

That’s kind of weird.

It’s a great question. It’s a highly logical question. So the only problem we have ever had, and this is thousands of paying customers is when somebody doesn’t set up. The integration doesn’t set up their welcome flow to go out real time. They collect a bunch of data. They wait a couple of weeks and they send out a batch blast to data that’s old. So the narrative that I have in my head is it’s no longer an infuriating experience to receive an email from a website that you were on 30 seconds ago?

You still remember that? Maybe don’t remember if you signed up for it or not. But it just doesn’t piss you off. It is an infuriating experience. If two weeks go by, which is 1000 years in internet time. If I asked you what website you were on two Thursdays ago, you would have no idea. Right?

Correct.

If that website blast you with an email today, you might be like, who are these assholes?

Right?

You might hit the spam. But so literally, the only problem that we’ve had is when people don’t listen to us, they do that and they get themselves in trouble that way.

That makes sense. Yeah, I can definitely see it. The fact that the email goes out in a timely manner, like soon after they visited the site. It may make sense because obviously they’ve gone to that site for a reason. They’re checking it out. So receiving something from that company, especially if it’s something that’s going to be add value to that person is not really going to be a surprise, because obviously it’s not like they didn’t go to the company’s website. They didn’t check out the brand. So I see how that all can work, and it’s just a better for being timely with it, for sure.

Well, Adam, this has been awesome. You’re definitely in a new space here. I think you’ve got a really kind of coin, almost like a whole different little niche in the whole emarketing world. I guess you could say I wish you guys much success with it because it sounds like it’d be very popular. I’m actually going to be going back to our marketing team and check it out, see if it’s definitely something we want to try to do.

You got to check out that Get Openers product, too, for the dormant. I mean, it’s incredible to be able to access those people.

That seems pretty awesome for sure. Well, it’s been a pleasure having you on. I know. I’ve learned a lot. Hopefully our listeners have as well, but I always like to switch things up. Here my last question just to lighten it up a bit and let our audience get to know you a little bit better if you don’t mind sharing one closing fun fact that you think our audience would be interested to know about you.

Fun fact that our audience would be. So I bought a wake surfing boat with one of my friends a month ago, and if you’ve never done that, it’s one of the most fun things in the world, like surfing behind a boat with no rope and just riding the wave. This is a new foundation.

It’s crazy.

It’s a new found hobby of mine. If you can ever get in a situation where you’re doing that, it’s just incredibly fun. And it is like what? I try to spend a lot of my free time doing. That’s a fun fact.

Interesting. So wait a minute. I’ve done the wakeboarding. I’m here in Florida. I’ve done it all as far as on the water. So you’re on a wakeboard. You’re behind a boat. There’s no rope. It’s not like exactly.

They build the boats now to where they basically tilt up and to the side, and they create a wave that you can actually surf up and down without a rope. The wave you’re surfing on it rather than getting pulled by the rope and jumping it, the boat moves slower, it’s heavier. You fill these ballast things up with water. So it’s just creating these forces that actually throw up a way that you can surf on.

Okay, very interesting.

Crazy dude. Look it up. It’s so fun.

I will, because I’ve tried the whole wake boarding with the rope, and I’ve had a hard time.

Yeah, I never could.

Really. I’ve crashed and burned.

So everybody in Austin is doing surfing now instead of wakeboarding because you’re only going 10 miles an hour and you literally can’t get hurt at that speed. Even if you go full speed into the boat, you can’t get hurt. Whereas, like, wakeboarding, you’re going so fast that something happens. You’re not tied into the board either with wake surfing. So, like, any potential for injury is just, like, gone. So the sports taken off got you that’s good stuff, man.

I definitely want to look that up and have to try here in Florida, for sure. The place I can do it. Well, thank you for sharing that. Adam, it’s been awesome talking to you. Awesome having you on last week before we let you go. If you don’t mind letting our audience know the best way for them to get in touch with you if they want to pick your brain anymore by email retargeting.

So if you want to learn about email retargeting, go to geteenails.Com.

We have a resources section. I recorded a ton of videos that explain everything. If you wanted to contact me personally, just email me. Adam at getmails.Com. Got it. That’s pretty simple. Great domain name there. Get emails. Com. We’ll be sure to check it out. I’m going to check it out more myself and yeah, thanks again, Adam, for joining us today. The Ecommerce Marketing Podcast.

You’re very welcome. Thank you.

Thank you for listening to the Ecommerce Marketing Podcast.

Podcast Guest Info

Adam Robinson
Founder of GetEmails

By Lamont Benson

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