September 1, 2006, 12:00 AM

Overstock.com puts certified e-mail to the test

By using certified e-mail that ensures delivery of intact content in marketing campaigns, Overstock.com generated 22% more revenue per e-mail compared to non-certified e-mail.

Early this year Overstock.com Inc. researched new certified e-mail technology that ensures-through a strict process of certification of retailers-delivery and intact content and formatting of retailers’ e-mail messages to recipients. In a test to customers with AOL addresses conducted June 9 and 10, the company found that e-mail messages sent via Goodmail Systems Inc.’s CertifiedEmail service generated 22% higher revenue per e-mail compared with non-certified e-mails.

The e-retailer split its list of customers with addresses on AOL-which agreed to begin accepting the Goodmail service earlier this year-and sent all customers marketing e-mails for six different campaigns: half received certified e-mails and half received conventional e-mails. In addition to the 22% direct sales increase, Overstock registered a 19% jump in click-through rates.

Certified e-mail messages have generated significant positive return on investment; as a result, Overstock will continue using the service, the company says.

“The increase in sales generated per e-mail makes the ROI of certified e-mail compelling,” says Geoff Atkinson, director of e-mail and web site marketing at Overstock.com, which hit $804 million in sales in 2005, a 62.5% increase over $494.6 million in 2004. “Plus, authenticated certified e-mail messages also provide security benefits for our customers.”

The success of initial certified e-mail efforts is not surprising, contends David Daniels, who specializes in e-mail issues in his role as vice president and research director at JupiterResearch.

“Overstock’s results are impressive, actually a bit more than I would have expected. It shows that trust and complete image-rendering stand out in a user’s inbox,” Daniels says. “Time magazine recently did the very same test and realized similar improvements in click-through rates.”

Certified e-mail makes e-mail marketing more transparent, which is a good thing, Daniels adds. “The industry wants consumer trust back in e-mail and everyone wants to hold senders accountable. Certified e-mail seems to be an easy way to accomplish these goals.”

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