Our friends at Iterable develop an integrated, cross-channel customer engagement platform for growth marketers. The Iterable team recently released their 2018 Cross-Channel Engagement Benchmark Report, detailing the results of an inaugural survey sent to over 200 of the company’s customers. The recipients were nearly evenly split between enterprise and mid-market organizations and represented a wide range of industries.

The survey focused on business-to-consumer (B2C) cross-channel communications, something Iterable has plenty of experience with: since 2016, the company has sent hundreds of thousands of marketing campaigns across email, direct mail, mobile push, web push, in-app and SMS. Iterable is well-versed in engagement strategies across the lifecycle, from activating new customers to nurturing them to reactivating the ones who have churned.

Email Is a Foundation of Any Cross-Channel Engagement Mix

Among respondents, 80% of them said that their email efforts are somewhat or highly successful, and only 3% felt that their email campaigns were somewhat or not at all successful. Given their success rates, it wasn’t a surprise that growth teams rely on email as a major part of their cross-channel strategy at every stage of the customer journey.

Iterable asked which channels they use across five customer lifecycle stages. Here’s how the responses broke down:

Email Mobile Push SMS In-App Notifications Web Push Direct Mail
Welcome 98% 17% 19% 12% 10% 10%
Nurture: promotion 80% 15% 10% 25% 20% 20%
Reactivation: abandonment 91% 13% 3% 3% 13% 22%
Reactivation: reengagement 94% 14% 6% 14% 11% 8%
Reactivation: loyalty 90% 20% 10% 20% 10% 15%
Average 90.6% 15.8% 9.6% 14.8% 12.8% 15%


Email is overwhelmingly a foundation of these business’ growth strategies, with 90.6% average usage across the customer lifecycle. The use of other channels also is relatively consistent except SMS, which tends to be relied on most during the welcome stage but much less later, with 9.6% average usage overall.

In a bit of a surprise, direct (snail) mail remains a strong channel, with 15% average usage across the customer lifecycle. Michael McCarthy, CEO at direct mail provider Inkit, said of the channel’s usage in abandonment campaigns: “Likely you would send an email first, but follow up with a postcard if the customer hasn’t engaged to keep the brand top of mind.”

Cross-Channel Engagement at Each Stage of the Customer Lifecycle

Iterable’s findings also delved into specific responses for each lifecycle stage and type of engagement program. You’ll want to read the full report for some interesting detail, including advice for taking engagement campaigns to the next level.

Welcome and onboarding

Among respondents, 83% of them said they send a dedicated welcome or onboarding campaign. Jen Capstraw, Director of Strategic Insights and Evangelism at Iterable, says there’s a good reason for that. “The first message in a welcome campaign often garners the most engagement of any message in an email program.”

Nurture: promotions

Nurture campaigns are sent by 100% of those surveyed, with varied messaging frequencies. Commenting on the oft-asked query of what the right cadence should be, Capstraw said, “Unfortunately, that’s a question that can’t be easily answered—it always depends.”

Reactivation: cart and browse abandonment

Capstraw was dismayed that just 51% of respondents use abandonment campaigns. For businesses with an e-commerce component, she explained, “Abandoned cart campaigns nearly always generate more ROI than any other campaign in your email program.”

In fact, 81% of those surveyed said that their abandonment campaigns achieve a conversion rate of up to 40%.

Reactivation: reengagement

This kind of message is used by 64% of those surveyed. Iterable’s report also notes that 54% of those employing that strategy try to reengage customers for three months before removing them from their contact lists. This practice is considered a best practice for optimizing email deliverability, but Capstraw also commented, “You can’t quantify inbox impressions among non-openers, but the existence of your brand in the inbox may be influencing behavior in other ways, or simply cementing brand recognition.”

Reengagement emails are particularly important for SaaS and other digital businesses. In the report, SparkPost’s own Head of Marketing, Tracy Sestili, notes that “Reengagement emails are essential for delivering growth by driving customer engagement and fighting churn. Effective reengagement messages build loyalty by delivering value and extending the customer experience from an app or service right into a user’s inbox.”

Reactivation: Loyalty

Only 37% of respondents use this type of campaign, which is geared toward converting customers into VIPs. Iterable had a few suggestions for making this kind of messaging work:

  • Segment customers based on behaviors and actions and target them accordingly.
  • Amplify your biggest fans’ advocacy.
  • Give loyal customers surprises, like exclusive access to a special sale.

Read More

Email marketers will find Iterable’s report especially on-point but there are useful lessons in it for SaaS growth and product teams as well. Do check it out. It gives a broad view of the state of cross-channel customer engagement today—and it’s a perfect complement to SparkPost’s own Transactional Email Benchmark Report.