Email Marketing Insights
April 01, 2013 | Kara Trivunovic
Here's an article I wrote for Figaro Digital:
Big Data. It’s a hot topic and it’s being debated by direct and email marketers alike. Some argue that the concept has been around for years (they aren’t wrong). Others have concerns about big data providing marketers with the mechanisms to flub their results. (They aren’t wrong either). Still others believe it is the solution that drives a more one-to-one experience between the marketer and the customers (and it could).
The big data discussion is becoming a very real business initiative for companies across multiple verticals. This leaves email marketers concerned about the implications this discussion will have on their channel. What will you do with the few quintillion bytes of data generated every day? It’s a good thing email is a dynamic and flexible channel, but that doesn’t mean email marketers must scramble to adapt to this unprecedented paradigm of lots and lots of data today. Do the increasing volume, velocity and variety of data spell doom for seasoned email marketing practices? Not really.
Leveraging data is nothing new – it’s core to the practice of marketing. What the big data initiative means for email marketers is access to the data they have wanted for years but haven’t been able to get their hands on. But be careful to not overthink it. The goal is to be smarter marketers, providing a more relevant and meaningful experience to the subscriber. Don’t lose sight of the fundamentals of email marketing; rather, enhance your capabilities with a newfound wealth of information.
Targeted, meaningful interactions
It is the data, not the intuition, that makes marketing programmes successful. Being relevant is something we have discussed as an industry since its inception. We prefer not to batch and blast; instead, we strive to create unique and optimal engagements with the customer to drive desirable behaviours. And it is the ability to leverage data in order to make informed decisions and drive relevant offers that helps to achieve that reality.
According to the 40/40/20 rule of email marketing: 40 per cent of a programme’s success is determined by getting the right message to the right person (data); 40 per cent of the success is delivering the message at the right time (data, again). The remaining 20 per cent is how it is delivered. The creative element associated with the message – and determining the right creative envelope can also be born out of, yep, you guessed it, data. It is important to keep your focus on turning the dials that are most impactful first. After all, with all this data at your fingertips, it wouldn’t be unusual to find yourself diving down a variety of data-mining rabbit holes.
Start by leveraging the insights you gain to determine what the right message is for your audience. Years back I worked for a loyalty agency, and we always started with the ‘who.’ Understanding an audience or a segment is the first necessary step in determining an offer. If you don’t know who you are trying to appeal to, how can you ever be relevant? Once you have the audience, start looking at historic behaviour. Past offer performance will help determine what to offer (or better yet, what offers to test) to the defined audience. Next, you need to determine the proper timing of the offer. (Is it seasonal? Is there a product or buying cycle to consider?) Finally, but just as important, is identifying creative for delivering this carefully crafted message. Don’t be afraid to step out of the box and have a little fun with it.
Find the offers that drive ROI
Email marketers have been running tests, comparing results and measuring lift and incremental behaviour since before email marketing was a channel. This is a practice which direct mailers really perfected – largely because of the increasing costs to print and mail offers, but whatever the reason it drove significant relevance. With the flexibility of email, these tests are easier and more effective (and leveraged less often) than before. Get back on the testing bandwagon – strive to be a more relevant marketer. The more data consumers generate, the more relevant they expect you to be; don’t lose sight of the importance just because it is cost-effective to send email.
You need to get your testing methodology defined and implemented with the data you have access to today because as more data becomes available (and your ability to analyse it speeds up) you will need to be in the practice of testing as an organisational culture. You should also start looking more closely at your metrics for success. Be prepared to move beyond conversions to bigger concepts like ROI and lifetime value.
Keep striving for greater gains
We’ve come a long way from the days when marketers could say “I waste half my advertising dollars, I just don’t know which half.” Advances in cross-channel tracking and reporting enable email marketers to build detailed reports for follow-up. Still, most of these reports have been limited: either in detail or timescale. For example, a detailed report is given about a specific mailing or programme, but only aggregate-level data is available over a quarter or entire year. This has long been a reality of data storage limitations associated with system performance, and that is one big challenge which the big data effort is addressing. The ability to store, process and analyse mounds of information is making many reporting geeks extremely happy.
What’s exciting for marketers is the promise of a data structure that can store and make available highly detailed information on what emails/campaigns/ promotions users have received, how they’ve responded to those and how that behaviour has changed over a year or longer. How will personas and strategies change when such detailed data over such a long period is available so quickly?
So, the principles of marketing will remain unchanged as big data becomes reality. Data, and how it’s used, remains core to a marketer’s strategy.
One thing may change: analysis. As the sets of data become larger, methods of analysis beyond the experience of most marketers become necessary. I’m talking about statistical modeling and predictive analytics - the types of things quantitative analysts do for a living. Some larger organisations, in parallel with tech changes to accommodate big data, have created teams of quants to service different business units (including marketing) with this type of analysis. Marketers must learn to speak the language and ask the right questions of these people as they become a part of the marketing process.
If you’re experienced in the ways of marketing, big data shouldn’t be something that keeps you up at night with anxiety. Although you may lose sleep thinking about all the opportunities it provides for creating more relevant and effective programmes.
Posted by: Kara Trivunovic at 12:18 AM
October 19, 2012 | Brittany Landenberger
Here's an article I wrote for Multichannel Merchant:
Recently, I heard a friend say that they’ve already had to use the “Santa’s watching” story to keep their children from misbehaving, and it’s only October.
As we are approach the holiday season, there are some key things to consider in designing your holiday email marketing campaigns, and creating a successful cross-channel holiday experience for your customers this season should be one of them. Are you as prepared as you’d like to be at this point?
Consider these key strategies as you prepare for this holiday season:
Optimize your campaigns across multiple channels
The success of your holiday email campaigns relies heavily on whether they are optimized and properly designed for consumers viewing your messages on multiple devices. StrongMail’s Marketing Services Team recently helped a large crafts retailer undergo a complete email template redesign to get them fully mobile optimized.
The brand wanted to make sure their messages were mobile-friendly, so we helped them reduce the number of offers and resized images accordingly as an initial place to start. We also created content with less prose and more calls to action, and emphasized the brand's most compelling content.
Properly organizing the content made it easier for their customers to engage with their messages on mobile devices. By taking a proactive approach early on, their email campaigns are now fully optimized and ready for the upcoming holiday shopping season.
Before launching your own holiday campaigns, take a look at your messages and try to make a purchase from your phone or on a tablet. What are the obstacles you find? Take note that if it's difficult to complete a purchase because customers have to scroll or scan multiple pages, you should consider optimizing your templates.
Don’t forget who’s using multiple channels
Last holiday season, 18% of consumers made a purchase on their mobile devices, and we would only expect this to increase this year. Currently, 68% of shoppers are using mobile sites, and 76% of shoppers are using smartphones. Keep this in mind when targeting consumers this holiday season.
Remember that consumers viewing your email messages on mobile are usually “on the go,” and they can be easily distracted.
Maybe their kids interrupt them while shopping, or they have an early meeting to start and they can’t look at their phone, tablet or laptop. In order to engage mobile customers, you need to make your compelling content/call to action easy to see with next steps clearly defined and easy to implement. Make it easy for them to engage quickly and easily.
Keep in mind that 4 out of 10 people are purchasing from tablets. Tablet users more often have higher purchase rates, and it’s primarily due to the fact that the screen is larger. With tablets, consumers scroll less than they do with their mobile phones. If you're targeting tablet users, remember that most purchases are made while customers are at home in the evenings – often while watching TV.
Understand the crosschannel holiday consumer buying cycle
Consumers often use their smartphones to research products and other deals while in-store. How can you enhance your customer experience to make purchasing with your company more immersive? Why do they want to interact with your email messages? What are the goals you’re looking to achieve with them?
You want to understand and take note of the consumer buying cycle. The funnel is still the same, but the way consumers go about researching and purchasing is changing. Support the shopping activities of customers, who increasingly are looking for access to a retailer when and where it’s convenient for them. Informative and engaging content needs to be present in your holiday campaigns across all channels to facilitate a customer researching and ultimately buying.
Think about the content people may be seeking out about your brand – it’s the holiday season, and consumers are looking for the best sales from brands that are top of mind. Consider sending SMS alerts to keep them updated about new sales events over Thanksgiving weekend. Use mobile location data to target consumers who are at relevant retail locations and email them coupons while they are shopping to use at checkout. Ask yourself “How are my customers buying from these devices, and how are they using them as their mobile wallet?”
With the holiday season fast approaching, remember to “make your list, and check it twice.” With 57% of consumers owning a laptop, 53% owning a smartphone, and 19% owning a tablet, it’s important to make sure that your holiday email campaigns are fully optimized and properly targeting all of these channels.
So remember this year to know what devices your customers use to engage with your campaign and take the time to understand their buying cycles. And don't forget to create engaging, relevant and innovative crosschannel strategies to keep your brand top of mind this holiday season!
Posted by: Brittany Landenberger at 8:44 AM
September 11, 2012 | Kara Trivunovic
Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:
Email marketing is often the unsung hero of marketing portfolio success. Instead of praise and worship, email marketing gets a bad rap. Questions like "Is it dead?" "Does it work?" "Will it go on?" continue, everywhere…except among email marketers. Go figure, right?
What is comical is that it's common to find that the budgets of the naysayers, the exploration of new channels, is often funded by…revenue generated from email marketing. The biggest challenge that faces most email marketers (and marketers in general) is attribution. There is very little way to attribute the proper revenue consideration to email, mobile, social, apps - the list continues to grow. So I ask, "Where have all the control groups gone?"
In an age where the mindset around email marketing is quantity over quality, the idea of a "control" group has all but disappeared - which is unfortunate, because it's one of the single most telling methodologies to leverage in attribution modeling.
Where to Begin
First, you need to understand your entire marketing mix and map it out. There are going to be elements outside of your control, such as mass advertising opportunities that cannot be tracked to the individual, but it's important to understand that they exist and play a role in the communication of a message or brand to the customer. Categorize your efforts in groups of targeted and mass media to see what dials you have the opportunity to turn.
Finding the Audience
Once you have determined where you will be messaging, you need to then focus on the targeted efforts and begin adjusting the "who." It's imperative that you keep two things in mind. First, the "select" for the test must be random and representative of the entire mix. No segmenting geographically or taking an alphabetical data set and slicing it after every 10,000 customers - it needs to be truly random. Second, it needs to be statistically viable; each cell of the test needs to meet the requirements for a statistically viable sample size - often 10 percent works; depending on the size of your data set you may even be able to get away with a smaller percent - but better to be safe than sorry.
Determine the Mix
Now that you have the "who," you need to figure out exactly what they're going to get. It's suggested to execute these types of tests over a period of time, especially with attribution. A one-time proof does not a point make. But consistently exposing the same audience to a similar or like marketing mix will truly help you determine what impact each channel has on the likelihood to convert.
Let's take an example here. Say you have a database of 1 million subscribers that have proper permission to receive marketing messaging in all of your four available targetable channels: direct mail, email, SMS, and push-app notifications. The hypothesis is that email is the strongest contributor to the portfolio. To keep it manageable, break the audience into four categories: email only, email + direct mail, email + direct mail + SMS, and all four channels. This would allow you to measure the impact of adding the additional channels to communication flow. Clearly the messaging needs to be on point and the timing considerations are important - but now you have something to measure.
As you get everything ready to go, be sure each audience is held out in its assigned category for the duration of the test and that each category has its own set of tracking tags and categorizations so that you can easily determine who is part of which data set. While tests like this can get complex to manage, your diligence and attention to detail through the process will certainly simplify matters.
It's important to remain the master of the test - there are likely going to be scenarios where someone wants to "just get a message out to everyone via all channels," but these exceptions will certainly corrupt your test, and ultimately the ability to determine attribution and lift by channels.
Posted by: Kara Trivunovic at 9:56 AM
September 03, 2012 | Tal Nathan
I have a hunch that every email marketing manager has an objective to grow their email marketing database this year. The challenge of such an endeavor is even more daunting when the database is constantly losing names due to unsubscribes, spam complaints, and undeliverable email addresses. Fortunately, there are some fairly straightforward tactics you can employ to overcome these obstacles.
To that end, here are nine things you can start doing today to meet your growth objectives.
1. Use your website. Make email collection a priority by including prominent sign-up opportunities throughout your website. Remember that most visitors are on your site to browse and learn more about your company and products. No one should leave your site without leaving behind their email address.
2. Capture email in the real world. If you have retail stores, your in-store staff should be trained to collect email address - in a friendly, non-creepy way, of course! Most retailers see higher lifetime value for customers who buy offline and online. So incentivize appropriately and capture the email address at the retail point of sale. This same principle carries to trade shows and other events. Remember, if you're asking for somebody to handwrite their email address, have them complete it twice!
3. Capture email in the call center. Don't forget about your call center. Your customer may call in for customer service or look to complete a transaction via telephone. Train the call center with a short speech about the benefits of having their email address and get them to capture it right there on the spot.
4. Refer-a-friend. Do you have a referral program? If not, this is a must-have. Referral programs not only grow your email marketing database, but also lead to immediate revenue and customer acquisition. Acquiring new subscribers through the social networks of your best customers is one of the best ways to build your list with quality individuals.
5. Lead generation through publishers. Some publishers will include your email subscription offer as part of their registration process. Pontiflex, a cost-per-lead advertiser, has now taken the concept to mobile applications with great success. Start by finding a publisher with a readership that aligns closely with your customer base, and you'll increase your chances of success.
6. Leverage your Facebook fan page. As an email marketer, you've probably been required to promote your company's Facebook fan page. It's a great idea, and it's time that your social media counterpart reciprocates with kindness. In addition to featuring your email registration prominently on your fan page, you can also ask them to periodically post an appeal to sign up, whether out of the goodness of their hearts or in return for some benefit: "Register to receive our emails and receive a coupon for 50%!"
7. Reactivate your unengaged. So, this is not technically growing your list. However, I would argue that an inactive member on your list might as well not be on the list. Running reactivation campaigns should be part of the customer lifecycle strategy. Increasing engagement will also help with your overall deliverability.
8. Invest in data hygiene. Collecting an undeliverable email address is so annoying. Make sure that you have proper hygiene rules to correct known errors such as two consecutive dots (i.e., tnathan@strongmail..com). Requiring subscribers to enter their email address twice can also help, but you'll want to test to see if that lowers subscription rates.
9. Consider email append. If you have a large "offline" customer base, you may want to consider appending their email address and communicating with them "online." If interested, proceed slowly with a well-thought-out plan. If you are too aggressive, your customers may revolt and your ISP reputation may suffer.
So, follow the nine tips outlined above and enjoy watching your list grow the rest of the year!
Posted by: Tal Nathan at 9:43 AM
July 26, 2012 | Kara Trivunovic
Here is an article I wrote for MediaPost:
The thing about great strategies and approaches to the email channel is that they are very specific and unique to a brand, or even a product line – they don't necessarily translate across every vertical or even brands within a vertical. Your email program and its success is as unique as the swirls and loops on your thumb. However, the premise of great email is very similar, but daunting: Give your subscribers what they want.
What makes this task daunting is that what (s)he wants today can be different from tomorrow. Heck – (s)he may not even know (s)he wants or needs something until you deliver it to the inbox. As email marketers, we need to be fluid in the approach, the strategy, the content and context we are delivering to the customer.
Here are some recent programs that have grabbed the attention of our internal brain trust – we pass these around our already crowded inboxes with comments like, "This is a great idea," or, "Nice use of an animated .gif." You know you all do this too!
Message:Black Friday-like Deals All Week
It isn't so much about the unique way Target has positioned the sale, "Black Friday in July," which is interesting in and of itself. But what really stood out to our Creative Director was that when he didn't open the email the first time, a few days later he got another one with an altered subject line that said, "We'll try this again."
Following up on email that wasn't opened isn't necessarily a new idea – but is it a tactic that is leveraged enough? It isn't something you would want to do with every email you send, but if you have a particularly public sale or opportunity and a sub-segment of your audience that either consistently opens or engages online, this could be a great way to "remind" them about your offer. It is also important to inject some personality into the copy and align the tone with your brand.
Message:Last Item Available
This is all about timing. At Yoox.com you can save items that you may want to purchase in your "dream box." The items you place are color and size specific so that you can purchase at a later date in a turnkey way. Even better, the company’s email communications are tied to inventory, so that when only one of your chosen items is left, an email is triggered to inform you of that fact.
This approach is not only relevant (as it is an item the consumer has preselected and identified), but it also uses the "urgency" approach, highlighting the need to act quickly to get the item you want.
Fab actually gets two on this list, because we think their email messages are, well...Fab.
Message: Customize your email messages
Gaining further information from customers to better position your marketing efforts is always something marketers struggle with. Fab sent a dedicated email communication to subscribers to encourage them to update preferences, but it goes beyond that. Fab executes this very effectively by outlining in the email itself the types of email communications the company sends, how frequently each of them come, and then telling recipients that they are in "full control of the inbox." For control freaks like me, no other statement could be better!
Message:Get ready today - Next week Fab reinvents social shopping. Again.
Nothing like a good teaser. Our Global Strategic Services Director thought this one was a winner. Introducing a new concept to engaged users in advance of a launch is always a good idea. If you have an audience of people who are opening, clicking or converting from your email communications, it’s safe to say that they are a more engaged customer than someone who does not receive your email communications. Give your email subscribers advanced access to new, cool stuff. Again, not a brand-new concept, but certainly effective.
What great email campaigns have you seen lately?
Posted by: Kara Trivunovic at 8:00 AM
July 28, 2011 | Kristin Hersant
Lifecycle email marketing outperforms traditional email marketing. We’ve always said so, and now we have some hard numbers to back that up.
We recently surveyed over 1000 email marketers about lifecycle email marketing. Here’s what we found (and more of what we think):
- 51 percent did not have an active event-triggered lifecycle program. Of those, 32 percent said that they planned on implementing lifecycle email marketing within a year. Our conclusion: The word is getting out that lifecycle email marketing works.
- 67 percent of those with lifecycle email marketing programs said that the switch in email marketing strategy increased subscriber engagement. Our conclusion: When you get emails to people when they’re most likely to read them, you’re going to get more responses. That’s what lifecycle email marketing is all about.
- 55 percent of those with a lifecycle email marketing program reported an increase in open and click-through rates since switching email marketing strategies. Our conclusion: Same as above. Lifecycle email marketing is all about getting the right message to the right customer at the right time.
- 63 percent of hospitality/travel respondents use lifecycle email marketing as compared to only 37 percent of financial services marketers. Our conclusion: Travel and hospitality companies have to think like lifecycle marketers – trips all have a concrete beginning, middle and end, whereas a consumer’s lifecycle relationship with their bank or brokerage house is less defined.
- The most popular lifecycle emails: 78 percent use welcome emails and 45 percent send post-purchase emails. Our conclusion: Welcome emails will always be first in line, but post-purchase emails are definitely underused by those with lifecycle email marketing programs.
One of our clients, InterContinental Hotels Group, has seen a 16 percent increase in revenue from email channels since switching from traditional to lifecycle email marketing. Why? Again and again: Lifecycle emails are more likely to be read. They reach the consumer with the right message at the right time.
Want some more email marketing resources? Check out our white papers!
Posted by: Kristin Hersant at 1:28 PM
Determining the Value of Email Marketing Subscribers Versus Facebook Fans -- Why It’s Important Now.
June 28, 2011 | Laura Crawford
Facebook has become a media force to be reckoned with for large B2C brand marketers. If I had a dollar for every time I've recently been asked if a brand should apply more of their marketing dollars to Facebook or email... I could buy a great pair of shoes :)
The answer is of course - it depends on your business.
But for most online retailers, it can be summed up in two simple words: addressable media. If your email marketing plan and revenue model relies on reaching your customers directly to drive sales using offers and promotions, the value of an email will prevail. But why guess. With simple analysis you can get answers and know just how much of your marketing dollars to apply to both.
Research shows that somewhere between 40%-50% of Facebook fans are also email subscribers. That's a significant correlation but it makes sense. Your best brand advocates are likely fans and I'm betting also active in email. This also means that a subset of your Facebook fans will crossover in your analysis. Obviously a fan who is also a subscriber is a key influencer. It’s the subset of email only subscribers or Facebook only fans and their level of activity that will provide the perspective you need.
The question then becomes what to do about it.
For the Crocs brand the value of an email address outweighs the value of a Facebook fan. Reaching customers directly is a clear and measurable driver of revenue, so knowing this they drive email signups from Facebook. Currently, 12% of their net new email sign ups come from Facebook.
I learned during a recent conversation with an analyst from a large regional discount retailer, that a Facebook fan has more value. An investment in addressable media, or email marketing in this case, may not be their strong suit since their product is already heavily discounted so offers are not part of their promotional arsenal.
Start by talking to your analytics lead to establish these values. If you haven’t gone there already, companies like Rapleaf can help you to access the data. Your Facebook to email ratio is going to differ from other brands as it is dependent on your brand equity, marketing model and marketing efforts thus far. But that’s a good gauge that your brand equity is healthy.
Your marketing plans should be much clearer from here. But, before drawing conclusions and committing marketing dollars to Facebook, you should be confident that your email strategy and tactics thus far have been stellar. Email remains a powerful demand generation force with undeniable ROI. If you are not practicing best-in-class email marketing, you may not be giving your audience the right opportunities to purchase and engage to drive revenue. See the latest trends in email marketing that are driving engagement.
More on the value of addressable media and how to drive engagement, sign ups and likes from email to Facebook and back in my next blogs. Stay tuned!
Want some more email marketing resources? Check out our white papers!
Posted by: Laura Crawford at 10:57 AM
December 17, 2010 | Ryan Deutsch
It’s holiday season and email subscribers around the world are being bombarded with well wishes, offers and advice all meant to make the holiday season brighter for the subscriber and to help the email marketer maximize holiday sales. Even the brands with fiercely loyal subscribers are dialing up frequency and offer value. Look below at my inbox from early December (click to enlarge) and the emails I received from menswear retailer Jos A. Bank. It looks like they want me in the store.
Now, I am a loyal Jos A. Bank customer. I travel weekly, so I tend to buy suits that, while good quality, are more reasonably priced than stuff you find at Saks or Macy’s. Anyway, look at the cadence that began in December: daily emails (with a much needed break on Sunday) for the last two weeks. This is typical behavior during the holiday season. In fact, the Jos. A. Bank cadence started to increase in October.
So, what do we do as email marketers now that the holidays will soon be behind us? The key is to re-establish a high level of ongoing email engagement. The fact is that many subscribers will have a high level of email fatigue after the holidays. Still others are now conditioned to look at only offers that boast 50% off. Here are some ideas to consider for enhancing email engagement after the holiday season.
“Gone Fishing:” Your subscribers’ need a break. Cadence in general has been overwhelming. Drop them an email after the holiday season is over and let them know your email program has “Gone Fishing.” Not for a month, but for a few days to recharge and put together some really fantastic deals once you’re back in the office. Offer subtle hints as to the valuable content that’s coming in the next communication and try to get the subscriber anticipating your email again.
New Channels: In 2011, email engagement cannot be looked at as channel-specific. Brands need to understand that consumers are opting to consume content in new ways. An “inactive” email subscriber could very well be active and engaging with your brand on Facebook, Twitter or other online communities. The trick here is to make sure that these new channels offer fresh content. Do not repurpose email or web content for Facebook. Customers who engage your brand on the social web should be treated to content that cannot be found elsewhere; this encourages repeat visits and reinforces the value of multichannel engagement. Launch a re-engagement campaign to inactives on your list and direct them to alternate channels and the special content available there.
User-Generated Content: Post Holiday Season consumers are tired of hearing from the marketer. Discount messages and offers carry less weight than they did in December. This is a great time to let your customers advocate on your behalf. Consider bringing Twitter and Facebook conversations into the email marketing program. Most brands have a great deal more than ratings and reviews available from their customers. Scour online communities for stories, trends and topics that will resonate with your consumer and leverage them to facilitate a dialogue triggered by your email marketing program. We expect to see a number of new email communication built around user-generated content in 2011 - get started now!
Kill the Launch Button: Sophisticated email marketers are looking to decrease the number of promotional campaigns and increase the use of automated/triggered messaging. Most businesses have a cadence of communication that helps support the ongoing customer relationship. These include purchase confirmations, statements and many other automated email messages. The email engagement levels with these messages have always been much higher than traditional promotional campaigns. Map out each communication sent to a customer and consider how these triggered emails could be leveraged for cross-sell/up-sell purposes. Often adding dynamic elements to these messages is a great way to get subscribers engaged even though they may have ignored a similar offer not embedded in a triggered email.
Regardless of the strategy you implement, change it up after the holidays. Email engagement must be earned month to month and program to program. StrongMail offers a number of strategic program options to help our clients drive email engagement. Give our team a call, and we would be happy to discuss how we can help!