The owner of Piccolino, The Restaurant Bar & Grill, Bank Restaurant & Bar and Gino D’Acampo restaurants had a problem: its promotional emails weren't landing in customer's inboxes.

"We had a major issue with our mailbox providers, Hotmail in particular, in that we were seeing sub 10% inbox placement rates," Adam Purslow, IT director at Individual Restaurants Group told Techworld.

© Individual Restaurant Group
© Individual Restaurant Group

The group's loyalty scheme, Club Individual, counts 1.4 million members who are delivered weekly updates, deals and 'What's On' guides, but 90% of people on that list weren't receiving the emails.

The problem for Purslow and his IT team was a lack of accurate and consistent data across the major email providers: Hotmail, AOL and Gmail:

"We couldn't get proper data and didn't have dashboards, but we managed to work out that [inbox placement] metric and did our own internal tests, so that was detrimental. It started to become more of a problem, as we communicated more and more by email, to get such poor placement and response rates."

Individual Restaurants Group was already using a Sender Score tool to measure its email effectiveness from US email software vendor Return Path, so Purslow picked up the phone to see if they could fix some of his biggest email problems.

The vendor promised that it could get the group certified, essentially whitelisting its domain so that emails wouldn't get filtered by the major email providers, as well as an inbox placement guarantee of more than 80% after a more general data cleanse and some email best practice support.

That deal was signed in November and the company was certified by January this year. The group saw "an increase almost instantly" and is trending towards a 100% inbox placement rate.

As a result of the implementation, the group has improved its Click Through Rate (CTR) from a paltry 0.19% to 3.95%. This translated directly to a 20% increase in uptake of the group's annual 50% back email campaign (where customers are offered 50% off their next meal in January) which equated to an additional £200,000 in revenue year-on-year.

Next, the restaurant group is looking to migrate away from its homegrown email system "to go next level and look at something new that can segment better," Purslow said. The aim is to be more omnichannel, moving into SMS text messages and more communication through the Club Individual mobile app. It is also working towards the email marketing holy grail of 'one-to-one' personalised email communications.

Individual Restaurants Group and Return Path won the Innovative Project of the Year at the techies awards 2019. The judges said the project "demonstrates that the company has a healthy, Walmart-style, obsession with the finest detail. Demonstrating that sweating the small stuff can lead to big impact, and that real change does not need to be as the result of major upheaval, and does not need to cost the earth."