Email Marketing Insights
September 09, 2011 | Laura Crawford
There are lots of ways marketers can improve their email marketing success. The newest advances in design can spice up email curb appeal, while the availability of reams of information can contribute to content value.
But with all the newest innovations, it’s important not to miss a basic element of success for email marketing – consistency.
Consistency in Content
When you create an ongoing email newsletter or series, you’ve established a relationship with your subscribers. Build that relationship with elements of familiarity in your content:
- Once you’ve started continuing features (such as columns, regular updates, event info) maintain them so readers can depend on them.
- Continually test content types within features and maintain that integrity throughout the year.
- Incorporate seasonal aspects into your content for year-round relevancy.
- Use search terms to create new content topics.
- Encourage feedback with each issue so you know what issues are top-of-mind for your readers.
Consistency in Design
Grab your audience’s attention and train them to expect unique features using color, graphics, animation, etc. Create a template into which you can place your content to deliver the same look. With each issue, readers will know where their favorite content will appear based on previous emails.
Doug Steinberg, creative director at StrongMail, advocates a consistently branded email experience. “Over the years, we’ve found time and time again that when readers can consistently recognize where components are, they are much more likely to react to that message. In effect, you train your readers where to look for important information and CTAs.”
By evolving and testing module creative over time using metrics as your guide, your email templates can continue to capture attention from your subscriber base without confusing them in the process. If your business caters to a conservative audience, subtle changes are likely the best way to go. If your audience craves innovation, more dramatic shifts in creative could resonate best.
Consistency in Timing
Recent industry studies may say that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are best for deliverability, but you should rely on testing to determine the best day of week and time of day to deliver – and then don’t stray from your schedule. For example, if you’ve started delivering your monthly newsletter Wednesdays at 1 p.m., continue on that timeframe. But test it annually to a sample set to see if your audience reacts differently. Consider too that unique segments may act differently. A lot can change in our digital world in a year.
Have some fun with your email content and design. Keep it appropriate to your audience but allow yourself some creative room to experiment. And continue to test and evolve your templates! Just be sure not to add too many changes to your template at one time.
Remember, subscribers continue opening your emails because they know what to expect. Build on that foundation, and you’ll see your email marketing success soar.
If you require guidance on best-in-class email tests to improve your programs, contact StrongMail's Agency Services team at +1 (212) 244-2048.
Posted by: Laura Crawford at 3:15 PM
August 29, 2011 | Laura Crawford
Individual and business travelers have many well-known online brands to choose from when making travel arrangements. It is not uncommon for these travelers to be signed up for several email programs to monitor the best deals. Maintaining ongoing relationships with an email subscriber base and competing in this arena is a constant challenge to keep members engaged and purchasing. Creating a compelling email marketing campaign to win back business deserves a well thought out strategy and approach. It has to be relevant, timely and unique enough to grab attention to keep the dialog going and stand out from all the clutter. The following case study showcases how Travelocity leveraged StrongMail's Agency Services to do just that.
Travelocity identified a segment of existing email subscribers who booked in 2009 but had not booked in 2010 – and wanted to win back their business. Travelocity challenged StrongMail's Agency Services team to come up with a compelling email campaign strategy to generate engagement and ultimately drive conversions.
Knowing we were likely competing in the inbox with other top travel companies and that recent Travelocity offers had not enticed these members to engage or purchase in the last 12 months, we knew it had to be more than just advertising a good deal. If you look at the inbox, most of the travel company emails are all about deals.
We considered typical reactivation email campaign approaches that utilize catch phrases such as “we want you back;” however, since this group was comprised of former purchasers, we chose to capitalize on past loyalty to the Travelocity brand (speaking to the audience as if they were members of our exclusive club already) and to draw on that continuity.
The approach was to test the audience to see if they would respond to a loyalty message, as well as discover if escalating degrees of discounts could have an impact. To test the offer threshold, Travelocity chose a single use coupon for a 10% or 15% discount above and beyond any purchase these customers could select from Travelocity’s current online offers. To maximize open rates or increase opportunities for conversions, we performed an A/B subject line test; one with a generic offer and sense of urgency and the other with a “valued customer” introduction. What was important about the subject line test was that all things were equal with the exception of swapping out the introduction. Best practices in any test should contain only one simple element change.
Travel is an emotional experience driven by rational decision-making (timing, cost, etc.). The creative approach of this email campaign was to use the emotional side of travel as a driver for the rational side. To reach an audience who had not connected with the brand recently, our aim was to deliver a message that reminded them of Travelocity’s core value and brand drivers, while acknowledging them as an individual. Utilizing imagery to tell most of the story, we leveraged light, tight copy to drive the message home.
To ensure compatibility and deliverability best practices, we selected key imagery that could be blended with simple HTML table cells. For example, the beach imagery shown in the email creative below blends to a solid blue table cell, which allowed us to use straight HTML for the text areas. Though this approach required careful selection of images, we narrowed down the program to touch on a number of key travel drivers: Urban Getaways, Beach Getaways and Winter Sports Escapes.
To support the notion of a valued customer, we created a digital version of a “platinum” card — a personalized offer that had the appearance of a physical offer. Through careful programming, we were able to add on personalized names and offer codes within the creative of the card itself.
Customers responded to our strategy with higher than anticipated engagement. In terms of revenue and conversions, the email generated 2 to 3 times greater ROI than similar campaigns, outperforming some of Travelocity’s targeted upper-funnel email campaigns. In terms of campaign performance, our approach resonated well with our audience, and testing efforts helped to increase Travelocity’s bottom line by 12.3%.
As anticipated, “valued customer” subject line outperformed the generic one.
- Subject Line A: “Save an additional 10% for a limited time only.”
- Subject Line B: “As our valued customer, get an extra 10% off for a limited time only.”
Once the 10/10 subject line test was performed, subject line B was a clear winner by 10%. To no surprise, it contained the valued customer message, yet it was longer. When the 10% offer versus the 15% offer was presented in the subject line, it didn’t yield an increase in open rates. However, after the entire email campaign push, we learned that the 15% offer outperformed the 10% offer in click-to-open ratio (CTO) by 2.3%. The combination of a valued customer message along with a better offer caused a 12.3% increase in clicks due to our testing methodology and approach, which also led to an increase in conversions and revenue.
The strong results of this email marketing campaign have earned its current status as a finalist for an OMMA Award in the Best Email Marketing Campaign category. If you like what you're learned, you can help it win OMMA's Member's Choice Award by voting for it here.
Want some more email marketing resources? Check out our white papers!
Posted by: Laura Crawford at 6:00 AM
August 24, 2011 | Kara Trivunovic
Today, there are over 5 billion mobile subscribers worldwide (70% of the world’s population) – making it clear that mobile device technology is here to stay. In fact, it’s going to change the way we market forever, especially when it comes to email marketing.
A recent “Email on the Move: The Future of Mobile Messaging” study found “an explosive 81% growth in mobile email viewership.”
So if marketers want to have success in the years to come, they need to jump on the mobile email train and get up to speed on how this channel will affect messaging and design.
It isn’t as easy as taking online email templates and assuming they’ll fit into mobile screens. Email messaging needs to be formatted for a variety of mobile devices.
Add to that the growth in touch technology, which promises to add another twist to email design and you’ve got a host of new challenges on the email marketing horizon.
So in order to keep up with the changes in email marketing, consider the following points:
Not All Mobile Viewers Are Created Equal
According to a recent comScore study, approximately 20% of your email list will read your emails via their mobile devices.
More importantly, Morgan Stanley analysts concluded in a 2010 report that by 2015 mobile web access will be larger than desktop Internet use. But not all mobile subscribers view the same way.
Inherent in tablet design is the fact that users will have a more relaxed approach to viewing. They’ll most likely be sitting down and spending longer amounts of time. Contrast that to folks viewing their emails via smart phones while on the go.
As mobile email designs become more targeted (i.e., tablet, mobile phone), they’ll need to take into account not just mobile vs. desktop but device user profiles as well.
Mobile Emails Must Fit The Medium
The task of designing for the variety of screens is a growing discipline of expertise. You should incorporate these elements into your mobile email marketing design process:
- Use headers and subject lines to let subscribers know what’s in your email. If they have trouble opening your message, they’ll at least get a clue of your content.
- Keep your clickable links clear of each other. With varying mobile screen sizes, separating your links allows for cleaner clicks.
It’s clear that the answer to “if you should market via mobile,” is a resounding “YES”. That train has already left the station. Now it’s a matter of deciding how soon you will start.
Want some more email marketing resources? Check out our white papers!
Posted by: Kara Trivunovic at 4:41 PM
Email and Social Media Done Right: LinkedIn’s Connection Update Email Delivers World-Class Personalization in an Eye-Catching Mosaic Design
August 05, 2011 | Laura Crawford
When I received the LinkedIn campaign below in my inbox, I couldn’t decide what I was more impressed with. Was it the convergence of email and social media, with social network sending an email using highly personalized social data? Or was it the design, execution and impact of the experience?
Let’s start with design: clean, simple and the mosaic tile layout is very appealing. The focus is on the subject, the people who started something new. The call-to-actions (CTAs) are fun and their casual tone is engaging and reminiscent of running into an old friend with whom I want to catch up …so they nailed it on emotional draw. Weekly LinkedIn summaries were great in the early days when none of us had hundreds of contacts, but now it is difficult to keep up and they don’t all fit in the email. This is where a more strategic approach to email and social media comes into play. LinkedIn was able to effectively identify how to condense the ideal user experience into a short, comprehensive email. I found this to be very personal and valuable, and it inspired me to touch base with a few people who I did not know had new positions. I was indeed able to catch up on this year with one single email communication. Got to love that.
Personalization & Execution
Now lets’ move now to the data, personalization and execution. This is the ultimate display of how personalized content can generate a memorable user experience – creating value to the customer using the data. In LinkedIn’s case, all the parts exist and are member generated – but no doubt this took some serious planning and execution. Several members of the marketing team here at StrongMail received this message, but it has been staggered over a few days. Some received this message yesterday and others today at different times. With over 100,000,000 LinkedIn members – and over a million new members every week – careful and methodical execution of this campaign is critical. I suspect they are still sending. Nice work.
We preach this to our clients on a daily basis to personalize email messages using customer data, but it is not as easy as it sounds. There are multiple operational parts and bureaucratic hoops to jump through that can seriously slow down progress.
This is a great example of the hard work paying off!
Brands are starting to interact more with email and social media online, but it is a commitment. The data is being mined and observed mostly to build personas, or apps are being created to add value. Bing Shopping, for example, allows shoppers to integrate with their Facebook network, then share and post items in a cart to get feedback on a potential purchase before committing. I know we’ll see much more of these great apps and content integration with email in the future. Can’t wait.
To all you email marketers out there, hang in there. Lock on to a great idea and persevere!
If you want to apply some of these ideas to your campaigns but don't have the resources or expertise, StrongMail offers a wide range of agency services that can provide any level of support that you need. Give StrongMail's agency a call at +1 (212) 244-2048 to learn more.
Want some more email marketing resources? Check out our white papers!
Posted by: Laura Crawford at 3:04 PM
August 01, 2011 | Kristin Hersant
Last week, the email industry started buzzing about HTML5 video support finally coming to Hotmail. As the world's largest web-based email service with more than 60 million unique users per month, this is a significant development for the video-in-email movement. While there hasn't been an official announcement from Microsoft, numerous industry players, including StrongMail, have tested Hotmail's support for video-in-email when accessed via browsers that support HTML5. However, before you start sending video-in-email to all the Hotmail addresses in your email list, there are still a number of caveats that you need to consider, especially when utilizing this new advancement with your email marketing.
First, the user interface still needs to be worked out, which is perhaps why Microsoft hasn't officially announced Hotmail's support. When sent to an HTML5 compliant browser, the end recipient must first turn on images and then right-click the video (a blank image or first frame depending on browser) to play. These two hurdles alone could significantly inhibit participation. One way around this is to add an "auto-play" tag; however, automatically playing a video upon opening could annoy recipients – especially if the video has sound.
Second, not all browsers support HTML5, so you need to have a fallback image in place to make sure recipients aren't met with a blank image. Right now, only Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 9 and Firefox 4/5 support video playing in Hotmail, which means that customers on older or other browsers will not receive the video experience that you intended.
Given all these caveats, now may not be the best time to revise your email campaigns to take advantage of this latest development. However, another viable option is to check out Liveclicker, which recently announced support for Hotmail's HTML video support. Liveclicker is a video-in-email solution that uses proprietary technology to detect the browser and email client of the recipient in real-time and then serve up a compatible version of a video or image asset within the email. Because Liveclicker serves up the right video or image asset for each recipient on your list, there is no need to worry about segmentation or spend time and money on developing multiple creative versions of your email templates.
Hotmail's unofficial support for HTML5 video in email is a big step. While it’s certainly still in its infancy, now could be a good time to start testing this capability. This is particularly true for companies with a product or service that truly lends itself to video. By targeting members of your database that are able to experience this new technology, or working with a company like Liveclicker to simplify the process, you may just find that getting ahead of the curve can drive real results for your email marketing and your business.
Want some more email marketing resources? Check out our white papers!
Posted by: Kristin Hersant at 4:54 PM
June 01, 2011 | Laura Crawford
Want to build trust with your audience? Let recipients dictate the frequency of emails.
Email marketing tools enable marketers to put together messaging and get it out the door faster now more than ever before. Marketers are able to schedule campaigns for designated times, and then move along to other projects until the analytics start pouring in. The challenge is that some recipients do not want to receive emails as frequently as others, or perhaps they may only want to receive certain types of emails. A best-in-class email marketing program allows the flexibility for recipients to dictate frequency and content type.
For example, if a recipient decides that they appreciate the content you are sending, but they would like to receive it on a less frequent basis; they may select an option to indicate when they would like to receive the emails (i.e. weekly, monthly, quarterly). Additionally, if a recipient has signed up to receive newsletters, then they should receive newsletters only. You may choose to add additional topics in your preference center that the recipient can opt-in to receive emails on as well (e.g. product releases, product updates, alerts, news or services).
When the recipients can see that you are honoring their frequency choices, this builds their trust in your company. Additionally, once trust is established, recipients may take more interest in your content and in turn increase email frequency.
Posted by: Laura Crawford at 5:58 PM
May 18, 2011 | Kara Trivunovic
Are you properly segmenting your database?
The effectiveness email marketing affords marketers is a double-edge sword, as it can easily tempt a brand to “blast” their entire database of contacts with the same information. This means that your brand new contacts are receiving the same level of interaction as your existing clients. Trust me when I say that at least one of the two segments is getting annoyed in this scenario, opt-outs are consistently occurring, and you are missing tremendous opportunities laying right at your fingertips.
For example: I am already a loyal, paying customer to a company; do I want to continue to get “sold” to with the same intensity as a newly acquired contact that is just learning about the business? No. Chances are, I know how great the company is – that is why I am still a customer. So you should talk to me like a customer – a loyal customer. The things I care about and understand about the brand are vastly different than a new customer. Send me offers, content and information I care about, have interacted with in the past or have purchased.
Properly segmenting your database allows you to appropriately target audiences by product lines, by level of engagement, by user type (if applicable), or any number of different ways suitable to your business. It also allows you to more effectively perform A/B testing. Changing subject lines, font sizes, images or simple nuances to the content will provide you with information on what resonates with your audiences.
Incorporating a segmentation process into your email marketing practices, will allow you to watch opt-outs decline, opt-ins increase, and your knowledge of your audience’s behavior improve tenfold. This knowledge enables you to gauge audience acceptance and will tell you volumes, improving your lead qualification process.
Need help segmenting your audience? Learn how StrongMail’s email marketing system can help segment and target your audience.