Archive for the ‘Email Marketing Trends’ Category

Enchantment, Deliverability and The Beatles

Posted by Kavita Jaswal on February 13th, 2015

KJBlog_21315The Email Evolution Conference (EEC) in Miami was all it promised to be. As we boarded the yacht of information and sailed along the smooth sea of industry-expert knowledge, I was able to soak in an abundance of informative ideas, trends and industry information.

Here are a few key points I took away from the conference:

Opening keynote speaker, Guy Kawasaki spoke to the “Art of Enchantment.” He defined enchantment as, “the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization or idea,” and introduced this concept with the idea of creating an atmosphere of likability and trust in any given situation. He went further by stating that, “cultivating those elements  into a service or product, we can “enchant” a consumer.”

As marketers, our email campaigns rely heavily on engagement. We create and deploy several emails within one campaign, collect data, test and analyze metrics. But sometimes, no matter what we do, we do not get the results we are looking for. Kawasaki’s theory is not rocket science, anyone can assume that being “delighted” with a service or product would initiate the click of a button to open an email or request more information, but to actually attain that level of enchantment through elements such as likeability and trust is the challenge.

An email marketing conference would not be complete without the topic of deliverability. In his Deliverability 101 session, Spencer Kollas spoke to the importance deliverability has on an organization as, “98% of brands use email as a marketing channel.” Clearly, this indicates the importance email deliverability can have on an organization’s overall marketing plan.

Kollas also discussed how, “78% of organizations globally have had deliverability issues within the last 12 months.” The results are not only staggering, but they prove the point that an organization must continuously monitor bounce rates, manage list hygiene and ensure its sender reputation is not susceptible to email filtering. The discussion lead to various types of spam traps, and the impact they have on inbox delivery. Once an IP address is blacklisted in a spam database, 85-90% of mail can be blocked. These are frightening figures for any marketer, but it’s more proof that organizations need to pro-actively take all the necessary steps to stay clear of simple spam traps.

Through a series of cleverly chosen song and album titles, a panel of industry experts lead a discussion on trending topics that encompass the future of email marketing.

The Beatles’ “Here, There and Every Where,” began a discussion on today’s omnichannel consumer. Today, marketers have the ability to reach customers through multiple channels other than email. What does this mean for today’s marketer? While it’s still necessary to utilize and optimize an email communications plan, we must  use a multi-level approach for any email campaign can offer greater opportunity for success.

R.E.M.’s “Automatic For the People,” lead to a conversation of traditional vs. behavioral marketing. Traditional email included the idea of filling up a marketing calendar with general content. Today, behavioral marketing is more impactful and easily accessible through data collection and marketing automation. The general idea was to go from being a push marketer to advancing into a pull marketer. This means instead of pushing out all sorts of content and information that is relevant to your brand as a whole, you take the time to learn more about what your consumers want to read by pulling in data and revising and personalizing your content calendar on a regular basis.

will.i.am’s “Geekin’” brought about a discussion on the ever present struggle between a company’s marketing department and respective technical teams. As we progress into the future, marketers need to get their left-brain wheels turning, so to speak. Technology is now a big part of marketing and everything we do seems to be more data-centric. In order to progress towards these technological advances, pairing up with other departments and working cohesively can ensure successful outcomes.

Beginning with a keynote session on enchantment, a seminar on deliverability and a panel discussion on what we can expect for the future of email marketing, the EEC proved to be an informative and insightful success.

For more insight from the EEC, check out the Twitter stream from attendees using the EEC15 hashtag.

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Email Design Strategies – According to Whom?

Posted by Deanna Cruzan on February 5th, 2015

CruzanBlog_2_5_15Strategies to improve email engagement are constantly evolving. With the ever-changing digital landscape, I find it critical to research new design trends, find a consistent pattern and test it out. Once I have solid results, I share them with my clients so they can incorporate them into their email marketing program. However in my experience, I find that when it comes to email design, there is not always one correct answer.

Email design has a tremendous affect on email deliverability, which is based on understanding and complying with the laws that make up the business of sending email. Deliverability is measured by taking a hard look at the numbers of emails sent compared to the numbers of emails that actually land in an inbox. In order to ensure the best deliverability, I tell my clients that they need to put their communications through an internal content evaluation so the email can be accepted by the IP filter.

Regarding design, IP filters take a look at the ratio of texts to images and font color. The structure of the HTML is an important part of a filter’s analysis. If it sees more HTML comments to actual text, this can trigger the filter to mark your email as spam. But how can companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts® or Menard’s® send image-only emails directly to their customer’s inbox? Many filters take what is called a “fingerprint” of the email, which is then compared to a database that lists out known spammers. Filters also look closely at the sender’s domain name. If the domain name has an exceptional reputation, that is factored into deliverability. So being a big brand name like Dunkin’ Donuts or Menard’s, these businesses can send image-only emails that aren’t flagged as spam. So, what should you do if you aren’t a large, well-known brand? Stick to the tried-and-true rule — Use an equal ratio of images to text and avoid hard-to-read color palettes.

Responsive design is turning into more than trend; it’s becoming the norm especially regarding web design. But, is it always necessary for email messages? Responsive designs can lead to a user-friendly experience while on a mobile device, but that doesn’t apply to ALL mobile devices especially those that are not iOS or Android or ALL email providers like those who use Outlook or Gmail. The coding for email is much more complicated and can lead to problems especially if the CSS style isn’t formatted correctly. While it might not be a huge problem with simple CSS, the more complicated the code becomes with tables, nested tables, spacing and so on, the harder it may become for an email provider to format the message correctly.

Responsive design is a great option if you have a simpler message or the right employees who have experience creating responsive code for email. You also want to take into consideration the state of your website. Is it responsive as well? If it’s not, you might have some displeased clients who go from a responsive email experience to an unresponsive website experience. Although this detail might not be detrimental, it’s extremely important to keep your messaging as seamless as possible. You want tone and branding to come across the same in all locations. So while responsive design might seem like a “must-have” in regards to email design, it’s not always the right option at the moment. You can still create positive experiences with your email recipients by focusing on a design that works well with mobile users.

Email design strategies are constantly changing as new technologies emerge. The key is to determine what is best for you and your clients, and the best way to do this is to test, test, test. Then once you figure that out, something new will come along, and you will need to test again!

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How Much Is Too Much?

Posted by Bill Leming on May 13th, 2014

UnsubscribeRatesThere’s probably still not a week that goes by when we’re not asked that old question, “How often should we be sending email to our list?” And while we’d all like to have the one, single answer that applies universally to each vertical, the answer, like so many others, is, “It depends.” It almost certainly depends upon what you’re sending let alone what you’re sending to whom. Deep discount retailers like Gilt and Rue La La send multiple offers on a daily basis without any problem. They even send a Sunday evening alert announcing what will be offered on Monday. Direct Buy sends its members special offers on a daily basis without driving up unsubscribes and actually uses these daily offers as an added incentive to join.

Contrast that frequency with banks and credit union that are typically at the other end of the spectrum. I was told recently by one bank that the board of directors had actually weighed in on the topic and felt that once a quarter sounded about right. As wrong as I personally felt that perception was, without supporting data and well-structured research, that opinion was no more sound than mine. So, what’s the answer?

The answer is dependent on all sorts of variables…all of which are testable. So, start slowly with one message a month if you’re overly concerned about upsetting your recipients. (Few are going to be upset with one email a month.) Then, select a random sample group and increase the message frequency to that group to twice a month and see what happens. If your unsubscribe rate increases appreciably, you may want to learn more about what types of recipients are actually unsubscribing. This is especially important if those unsubscribers are within the top 20% of your customers who control 80% of your business. Clearly, we do not want to drive off that group by over-messaging them.

On the other hand, if there is no significant increase in opt-outs, then double the twice-a-month test frequency to once a week and again, see what happens. If your offers are less than engaging, are the same as last week’s message, and/or not compelling from the recipient’s standpoint, there is a far greater likelihood that you’ll experience a substantial increase in unsubscribes thus deciding to revert back to the lower frequency. But, the answer is not just about frequency. It’s also about your content and the appeal of the offers you make to your recipients.

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Increase the Efficiency of Your Overall Cross Selling Efforts

Posted by Bill Leming on February 24th, 2014

temptationblog width=We all know that temptation is a powerful force in our personal lives. It’s also a powerful force in our professional marketing lives, particularly when one begins to look at distributions of the number of services per household, the number of individual sales per customer, or the number of sales dollars per customer. In Financial Services and many retail services sectors, the number of single service households is far greater than the number of two service households which, in turn, is far greater than the number of three service households, etc.  And that’s where temptation rears its insidious head.

As marketers and as managers we focus on that great big, juicy opportunity of selling a second service to all those single service households. And why wouldn’t we? The number and percentage are typically much larger than any other segment so the opportunity is a huge, ripe plum just waiting to be eaten. By definition they are customers who somehow chose to do business with you, so while they might not be advocates, they’re still customers who must have additional service needs that marketers just haven’t yet satisfied.  And then the “numbers” temptation…if we could just get ⅓ or even ¼ of those single service households to use a second service, look at the positive impact on our customer retention rates, our retail asset base, and our bottom line.

The problem is that the cost to sell these single service customers a second service is generally pretty steep (you can quantify exactly how steep it is in any number of ways). What we all know to be true is that the cost to do so is comparatively steep especially when compared to the cost of selling an eight-service household a ninth service.

And that’s exactly where we should begin the up-selling effort; namely where it is most cost effective — and that’s not at the single-service level but rather at the eight-service household or the highest level within your organization. Almost no one has all the services or products you offer, so begin from the top down.  Eventually if you follow this process, you’ll get to the single service household, which is what everyone wanted at the outset.

By avoiding the temptation to begin with that juicy single service plum, you’ll have done so with not only an eye toward efficiency but also with the knowledge that we can get to them largely because your cost per service sold was well below what you were willing to pay at the single service household level. You’ll have spent your marketing dollars where the cost per new service sold is lowest first, followed by the next lowest and so on until your cumulative cost per new service/product sold is where you want it to be. In effect you’ll be able to go deeper into the customer file, ultimately down to the single-service customer level because you were so successful at the higher services per customer tiers, because the cost per new service sold at the highest number of services per customer was so low.

But temptation is what it is…tempting.

 

 

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Take Care When Labeling Email Recipients

Posted by Dave McCue on December 4th, 2013

The challenge of delivering properly formatted emails to recipients on mobile devices has prompted a great deal of discussion and a few different strategies over the past couple of years. Some marketers created mobile-friendly HTML pages containing similar content as their emails, and simply offered a way for recipients to “click for mobile version” on the mobile-unfriendly email they received on their smartphones. Others went the way of responsive design, which certainly added complexity but also avoided the duplicate work mentioned previously, allowing for emails that adapted (as necessary) to the device being used by the recipient. Harland Clarke Digital has taken the responsive design approach with our own newsletter, which you can view by clicking here. (If you’re on a desktop/laptop, simply drag the corner of your browser window and you’ll see the template respond by shifting to a single column view when space becomes an issue).

Another approach is the idea of tracking recipients’ engagement history, and creating different versions of messages designed specifically for the device they use to view messages. For instance, your “iPad users” would receive a message you built specifically for the iPad. This wouldn’t be necessary for every available device (a daunting task), but could certainly be valuable if data indicates a large percentage of engaged recipients gravitate toward a specific device(s). Why not provide those recipients with an optimal experience, especially since they are clearly engaged?

On the surface, this approach certainly makes sense if you have the resources to produce such customized versions of each message, and the SubscriberMail® email platform from Harland Clarke Digital offers insight into mobile device use among recipients. However, there are drawbacks to this approach due to the growing number of recipients who engage with email in multiple ways.

Over a 12-month span, Harland Clarke Digital found that 12.4% of recipients (on average) were rendering emails using at least two of the three methods being analyzed: Desktop, Smartphone or Tablet. A large amount of recipients engaged exclusively via desktop (55%) or smartphone (25%), but with smartphone and tablet adoption rates continuing to climb, the percentage of multi-method engagement is likely to rise as well. It’s an important point to keep in mind before applying recipient filters that might identify a recipient as an “iPhone user” — it’s entirely possible that an alternate method will be used to view the next mailing.

Download the infographic Engagement Habits of Today’s Email Recipient from Harland Clarke Digital.

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