Tag Archives: email marketing

Holiday Mailing Lessons for 2019

The 2019 mailing year is already well underway. For many senders, that means dealing with reputation fallout from sky-high holiday volume and re-implementing best practices on outbound campaigns that may have been improperly removed. For the Oracle Deliverability Operations team, it means reflecting on the patterns and practices we have monitored over the November and December mailing period, and leveraging those lessons to improve mailing for our customers in the year to come. No matter where you find the current state of your own mailing program, our insights below will provide a foundation to improve your mailing practices in 2019.

Volume

Yet again, we continued to see a year-over-year increase in overall messaging volume for the holiday mailing period in both November and December. Considering US shoppers registered record-breaking levels of shopping over Cyber Monday in 2018, this is not surprising. But it is important to remember record-breaking email volume isn’t necessarily a good thing for everyone.

Many senders think launching more email will result in earning more ROI, but user fatigue can cause serious harm to a mailing list. This is particularly true if the increase in volume is due to repeat messaging rather than an organic increase in general mailing list size. Bombarding recipients—or worse opening up targeting to an entire list regardless of opt-in status or engagement—will drive spikes in bounces, spam complaints, and negative brand awareness. This will lead to reputation and spam placement issues that can take weeks to resolve. It is important to give recipients a break in the inbox and to only target individuals who are opted-in and engaged.

Gmail Reigns

In other unsurprising news, we saw the largest volume of outbound mail go out to Gmail. Gmail has long been a top email client for users in terms of market share and could even surpass the Apple iPhone for the top spot in 2019 if growth continues.

2018 saw Gmail focusing on improving the user experience with updates to their inbox interface, including added features allowing you to:

  • Snooze messages
  • View messages in confidential mode
  • Receive annotations on messages before they are even opened.

What does this mean for senders going into the New Year? It tells you that best practices are more critical than ever before.

Senders have the ability to feature their messages in the inbox in new ways, but none of this will matter if campaigns keep finding themselves landing in the spam folder.  

Speaking of Landing in the Inbox at Gmail

Throttling and reputation-based filtering appears to be the new normal on a larger scale at the Gmail ISP. While user preferences (i.e., if a receiver adds a mailing address to their address book, drops a message in a particular tab, or flags a message as spam, etc.) still have the power to override the ISP’s placement algorithms at an individual level, more and more senders are falling victim to overall deferred or delayed delivery based on their reputation alone. As has long been the case at other ISPs, this is determined by the same underlying factors, namely IP- and domain-based reputation.

Lax best practices and increased volume over the holidays can add up along with everything else, and the result. If engagement-based criteria (such as how much time has passed since a user opened or clicked a campaign) are overridden, unsubscribes ignored, or acquisition best practices (i.e., confirming opt-ins) allowed to fall to the wayside, it’s likely that hard bounces, spam complaints, and reputation issues will swiftly occur.

Senders need to make sure they are:

  • Targeting their best users (those who are regularly engaging)
  • Acquiring their users correctly
  • Removing inactive segments/processing unsubscribes on an ongoing basis

Now is the time for senders to take a step back, review their campaign performance, and assess what strategies did and did not work for them. And most importantly, it’s time to triple check that all best practices are applied and functioning as they should be on outbound mail in 2019.

Learn more about emails and how you can use to their utmost potential on mobile with Oracle Marketing Cloud’s “Mobile Email Guide.”

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Why Gmail’s New Promotions Tab Is a Big Plus for Your Email Campaigns

Email marketers have gained access to a powerful new platform for reaching subscribers: Gmail’s new Promotions tab. Google’s latest update to the Gmail app includes a tab that’s tailor-made to showcase your most compelling B2C offers—and this gives your top content a chance to shine like never before.

Marketers have long known that email delivers the highest ROI of all digital channels, but ROI can fluctuate widely depending on how sophisticated a campaign’s targeting is.

Emails containing personalized offers are far more likely to survive spam filters, generate clicks, and deliver revenue. But even for brands that invest heavily in email personalization, the daily struggle to stand out against the spam can often prove difficult.

Gmail’s latest update aims to sharpen the contrast between meaningful emails and non-personalized junk. How? By bundling the offers most relevant to each recipient under a specialized Promotions tab, which highlights specific features of those offers, like promo codes and expiration dates.

Here’s how your brand can start taking advantage of this new feature right now — using the creative assets you’re already showcasing in your emails.

Gmail’s Promotions Tab Helps Your Personalized Offers Stand Out from the Spam

Personalized emails are powerful, so long as they are opened. In the beginning you have to create a compelling subject line and snippet of preview text to capture each subscriber’s attention. Any email with a subject line or preview snippet that fails to captivate subscribers is likely to be ignored, sent to the trash — or worse, blocked by Gmail’s spam filter. It doesn’t matter how well designed your tailored promotions are if they go unseen.

Gmail’s new Promotions tab gives your most compelling offers a far greater chance of capturing subscribers’ interest, while also keeping your brand in full control of each email’s messaging and visual appearance. Now, instead of a text-only subject line and preview snippet, your offers can show up in a specialized tab within Gmail’s iOS and Android apps — bundled by category and featuring enticing details and imagery.

In short, the Promotions tab can supercharge your power to engage subscribers with each personalized email you send — meaning your most relevant offers will get more clicks and generate more revenue.

And best of all, you can do all this without creating any new assets. With a personalization solution capable of managing a content library of creatives, you won’t need to spend any more time or resources developing new assets or messaging for Google to feature in the Promotions tab. All you need to do is paste the generated code from the Litmus tool into the email templates currently used in your campaigns and the promotional content will appear in the preview.

Sound good? Let’s take a closer look at how it works.

Litmus’s Gmail Promotions Builder Makes It Easy to Customize Email Previews

Each email preview in the Promotions tab consists of modules, including:

  • A single image preview
  • A green badge with offer details
  • A gray badge with a discount code, your brand’s logo
  • The offer’s expiration date

Although Gmail is able to pull content for all these modules directly from each email you send, you’re also free to customize the modules — which means you can fully control each preview’s appearance within the Promotions tab as well as the promo details you’d like to highlight.

You don’t need to write a single line of code, thanks to Litmus’ Gmail Promotions Builder. Litmus has teamed up with Gmail to create this easy-to-use tool, which makes the preview customization process as simple as entering a few details into a form.

Once you’ve generated the code and pasted it into your email template, Gmail users on iOS and Android will see exactly the offer details you’ve specified — along with your brand’s logo and a featured image — bundled with other brands’ relevant offers in the Promotions tab.

That’s all there is to it. It’s like upgrading from a text-only ad to a full-color spread on the front page — with just a few seconds of work, using the email assets you’ve already got.

One final important note: annotating an email doesn’t guarantee Gmail will feature it in the Promotions tab. To be featured, you still need to make sure your emails are personalized for each subscriber, containing content tailored towards that subscriber’s desires and goals.

Jordan Grossman, Product Manager at Gmail, even said, “Gmail doesn’t create value in the Promotions tab. It’s the best emails that create value. The new Promotions tab rewards brands who send truly valuable email by making them easier to find with a richer means of delivering that value.”

Google is getting smarter every day at recognizing relevant emails — and just as before, the most surefire way to generate engagement is to keep your content updated and relevant for every customer on your list.

Find out what else you can do to optimize your emails with “Go Further with Email Deliverability and Privacy.”

Read the guide

 

 

 

 

Loyalty Programs and Holiday Mailing

As Cyber Monday sales top $7.869 billion for 2018, a 19.3% year-over-year increase from 2017, many marketers are eager to “reward” their customers for their loyalty with ongoing promotions and offers to the inbox. It’s a great strategy when executed correctly. Brands are able to create special, individualized offers for existing customers and continue to drive sales through the rest of the holiday season. But there is a very important, often overlooked, caveat to this marketing strategy. Loyalty programs should always be treated as promotional, and not transactional, messaging.

Particularly for senders with dedicated transactional IPs, the idea of sending loyalty campaigns as a transactional message is tempting. Transactional campaigns are highly engaged with (receipts, shipping confirmations, recall notices, etc.), and typically have much higher delivery rates as a result. But this should never act as justification for the “ends justifying the means” of a bad mailing practice. In this case, the bad far outweighs the good and it’s your customers who could end up paying the price.

Keyword: Transaction

When asking yourself, “can this be sent as a transactional message?” consider the keyword in that sentence: transaction. Is the goal of this message to convey information about an existing transaction? Or is the intention to drive a further transaction? If the answer is to motivate a new purchase, the message is promotional. Period. Through this lens, loyalty programs clearly fall into the latter category. 

You may be thinking, “But this loyalty/reward was earned because of an existing purchase. It’s a logical follow-up communication. Clearly, that makes this transactional.” However, the intent of the message still needs to be considered as the determining factor. Ultimately, the reward in question is meaningless unless a further transaction is completed by the customer. It is still a tool to drive further sales. And when it comes to protecting your transactional mail, it is better to be safe than sorry. 

Promotional vs. Transactional

Keep in mind that ISPs don’t distinguish or care if the IP you are sending from is promotional or transactional. All inbound mail will be treated with the same scrutiny. Delivery will still be determined based on reputation and reputation is still based on all standard mailing metrics. Loyalty programs run the same risk of spam complaints, delete without opening rates, or bounce/trap rates as any other promotional message. The difference is the reputation impact they can have on a transactional stream of mail is far disproportional to that of general promotional mailing. Don’t risk the delivery performance of those critical messages that need to get to your subscribers’ inboxes. Keep loyalty programs promotional.

And read this blog post for further information on promotional vs transactional mailing guidelines.    

Getting your message delivered is vital to revenue performance. A slight increase at the top of the funnel can make a huge difference to your bottom line. Check out our guide Do More With Email Deliverability and Privacy for tips to tackle email deliverability and privacy.       

Marketing Automation, Beyond the First Hello

Marketing Automation, Beyond the First Hello

Marketing automation tools make it simple for marketers to enhance the customer experience (CX), enabling them to do things like send out personalized welcome emails or quickly handle problems involving abandoned carts. But marketing automation technology provides efficiencies in other areas that make a marketer’s life easier and improve CX.

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Want to Connect with Millennials? Take a Page from Print Catalogs

In today’s tidal wave of new social media platforms, smartphones, and streaming services, it’s easy to write off forms of “traditional” advertising as obsolete and irrelevant. That bias is certainly understandable — after all, it’s the message that experts in Forbes and LinkedIn have been hammering into marketers’ heads since the early 2010s.

But the latest research shows that print catalogs still offer a striking degree of insight into the minds of shoppers — and even more surprisingly, the millennial generation can’t seem to get enough of them.

That’s right — according to a 2017 USPS survey on direct mail advertising (DMA), a full 87 percent of Millennials report that they genuinely enjoy receiving at least some direct mail advertising. In fact, millennials are 54 percent more likely to read paper catalogs than customers of any previous generation, and quite a few of those flip-throughs lead to actual purchases.

What are some catalogs doing right that digital marketers may be getting wrong? The answers reveal some fundamental truths about the tactics that turn shoppers off — along with an array of time-tested approaches that generate sales on any channel, from print to email and beyond.

When paper beats (shallow) personalization

As convenient as it might seem to dismiss paper advertising as irrelevant in today’s digital world, direct mail sales techniques represent more than a century of intensive consumer research, not to mention decades of trial and error in a wide variety of print formats. 

Even if many of those techniques strike us as outmoded today, millennials’ overall positive responses to paper catalogs hint that a certain amount of gold may lie buried among yesterday’s mountains of discarded snail mail. So what do paper catalogs have to teach us about marketing in the digital age — particularly in the email realm?

Most noticeably, catalogs have never contained “you may also like” product recommendations. One reason for this, of course, is that even if a catalog retailer had data on every customer’s individual purchase history, the high costs of printing would’ve made it prohibitively expensive to print a unique page of recommendations for every recipient.

But as it turns out, this lack of product recommendations has become a positive selling point for print catalogs — in contrast to emails, which can offer endless suggestions that often showcase products similar to those already purchased. Catalogs, on the other hand, present an ever-changing variety of hand-selected new and different products, exposing consumers to more merchandise while creating moments of magic and delight.  

In other words, catalog purveyors carefully curate the content that will resonate most with their shoppers — which means they rarely have to rely on heavy discounting or other tactics to make a sale. By focusing on a combination of relevance and creativity, catalogs gain a reputation as art exhibitions in their own right, attracting readers who may have no intention of making a purchase, but end up making one anyway.

Finding the balance between relevance and excitement

As every email marketer knows, an effective email campaign focuses on relevant content above all else. But there’s a lesson to be learned from print catalogs here, too: product recommendations shouldn’t remind customers where they’ve already been — they should point the way forward to new discoveries, encouraging customers to comfortably branch outward from their core tastes.

Of course, this can be a delicate balancing act: present a category or product that feels too far out, and customers will be unlikely to follow you into the new territory. Timing and relevance are crucial when you’re personalizing offers — it demonstrates that you recognize what the customer’s tastes and aspirations look like at this moment and understand where they’re comfortable going next.

How do you find the balance, and present relevant recommendations that also feel creative and inspirational? By bringing together truths about each customer from a wide range of data sources, and synthesizing them into nuanced insights about that customer’s personal journey, evolving interests, aspirational tastes, and longer-term goals.

When an email campaign is powered by these deep insights into each customer, it’s possible to deliver recommendations that delight and feel as if they were hand-picked by a personal shopper. That’s the key balance at the center of impactful email marketing — and for many digital marketers, hitting the right notes can be a challenge.

Even so, this is a crucial balance to understand, because millennials aren’t just engaging with print catalogs — they’re checking email multiple times a day, which means their inboxes continue to represent prime advertising real estate. 

By using email to deliver personalized, curated content that feels fresh and engaging, retailers can share areas of their product catalogs that traditional recommendation algorithms might never present to customers — and unlock new worlds of exploration and discovery.

Also, don't miss our Email Deliverability Guide to ensure you are following all critical procedure to deliver those emails to the inbox. 

eharmony Uses AI to Help Their Users Find Love

eharmony thrives by using algorithms and mathematical models to find the best match for their customers. Using big data and patented artificial intelligence, eharmony has found ways to predict how likely two people are to be compatible. The model is built upon an in-depth relationship questionnaire which gathers information on a person’s likes, dislikes and their personality traits to understand who they are, and how they rank on key dimensions of compatibility. This gives eharmony the best chance to find someone who is a good match for a serious relationship. Yet all of this modeling and math is useless if they cannot build an ongoing engagement with their customers. 

To make meaningful relationship connections, you need to know a lot about the people you’re trying to connect. The same applies for knowing how to keep customers coming back. Oracle helps eharmony find its customers meaningful relationships by enabling better targeting, segmentation, and a more personalized and relevant experience across various touchpoints.

Email is a main channel of communication for eharmony customers. eharmony has built out an advanced email-marketing program to engage them with relevant content at all points in the customer lifecycle. These communications are designed to maximize the chances of connecting customers to one another by using their activity on the website and their communications with other members. The data informs eharmony all about the customer’s context, allowing them to achieve higher levels of engagement and keep customers coming back. 

Timing Cupid’s Arrow

eharmony improves a customer’s experience by optimizing the best time to send an email to each individual. Using AI to model when each customer is most likely to engage with their messaging, eharmony can build predictions for when to send the next message and when an individual is most likely to open and engage. This resulted in an 11% increase in email engagement and an 18% increase in revenue. 

The math of matchmaking has led to eharmony’s position as the #1 trusted dating site for relationship-minded singles. Dating is one of the most personal things we do as humans. Using artificial intelligence to create more personalized matches for their customers was a natural step for eharmony to ensure their customers keep returning to the service and help find those impeccable matches, or, that perfect match. In partnering with Oracle for building advanced email campaigns, eharmony can give their customers the best message, delivered at the best time, and make a perfect match for each person. 

For our readers in the United States, eharmony is offering a 10% off any plan with the promo code ORACLE. 

The Real Bottom Line: Open Rate and Customer Engagement

As a marketing channel, email shows no signs of slowing down. Nearly 233 million of the world’s 3.7 billion email users are located in the US, and that number is expected to grow to nearly 255 million by the year 2020. It should come as no surprise then that over half of marketers plan to expand their budget for email in the same period to leverage this growing audience.

But as email adoption increases and brands invest more in the space, traditional KPIs like opens and clicks are falling behind money generated per email as the key decision and strategy driver for larger marketers. This begs the question, what happens to deliverability when attention is solely on the bottom line?

Performance Impact

There is a perpetual concern in the email community that open rates are falling. Customers are receiving more and more mail—ignoring even messaging they’ve opted into—and subscriber fatigue is a real issue. Recently, email performance expert eDataSource analyzed “Back to School” email campaign performance YOY for 2017 and 2018, and noticed the same downward trend. Almost universally, email read (or open) rates underperformed from the year previously.

This made me curious – was it increased fatigue generated by a specific type of campaign that individuals could easily ignore, or was there something larger at work here? Leveraging eDataSource I decided to pull performance across a few additional industries for the entire month of July in both 2017 and 2018 to compare.
 

Category

MM/YY

Inbox Rate

Read/Open Rate

Apparel & Accessories

J-17

77.096

18.887

Apparel & Accessories

J-18

84.987

17.654

Restaurants, Bars, & Food Service

J-17

83.753

18.797

Restaurants, Bars, & Food Service

J-18

89.963

18.021

Sporting Goods

J-17

77.896

18.174

Sporting Goods

J-18

84.440

17.652

It’s Time to Refocus

The results were certainly interesting and confirm what others in the space are seeing. While Inbox rates did go up, open rates dipped across the board. Combined with numerous industry studies, a larger picture is starting to emerge here. Customers are receiving more mail, marketers are focusing more on monetary returns per campaign, and a deliverability impact is coming.

The importance of open rates cannot be understated. This is a key indicator to ISPs that an individual actually *wants*to receive and engage with a brand’s messaging. It sends a direct signal to the ISP to deliver this mail to the inbox. Essentially, the higher the open rate, the lower the spam rate, the better deliverability is likely to be overall. Not to mention the fact that a customer can’t spend money on an offer they never receive or look at in the first place.

It is critical that marketers don’t lose sight of traditional engagement metrics in their efforts to capitalize on returns. Standard best practices should always apply. Leverage a double opt-in, always apply engagement-based segmentation and cease mailing to customers who opt out or do not re-engage. These are the building blocks to ensure campaigns continue to deliver functionally to the inbox.

Email marketers, also make sure to read 'Tis the Season for Holiday Planning (Now!) from Kenna Hilburn, Director of Account Development at Liveclicker. She has four tips, to highly engaging email campaigns your customers will love. 

Is Your Personalization Strategy Missing How To Be Personal?

We’ve all been put off by pushy salespeople. But have you ever been truly pleased with a salesperson? It’s not as often as you’d like, but every once in a while you get a salesperson you feel completely comfortable around, someone who genuinely seems to understand your taste and knows exactly what you want.

Inexperienced salespeople seem to either ignore you or follow you around with products that you’ve already put down or even purchased. Great salespeople, on the other hand, are attentive without seeming overbearing, helpful without coming across as pushy, and always on hand with exactly the item you’d been hoping for, even if you didn’t know it yet—just like a skilled personal shopper.

A successful personalized email marketing campaign is no different. When you take time to learn your subscribers’ tastes and delight them with perfect recommendations, they’ll reward you with repeat purchases and long-term loyalty.

Great personalization can make all the difference. Eighty percent of consumers are more likely to do business with a company if it offers a personalized experience, according to an Epsilon research report.

Personalize Emails with Novel Content

A great salesperson is like your very own personal shopper. They aren’t trying to sell you anything at all. Rather, their sole focus is to manifest a better version of you. They are eager — but not too eager — to learn your tastes and preferences, and dazzle you with novel, yet appropriate, suggestions.

In comparison, the inexperienced salesperson uses the same script of pitches for the same products he tried to sell to the last customer. In a similar fashion, the average email marketer relies on automated product recommendation engines to show subscribers products closest to recent purchases, or, worse yet, already purchased. This may be why nearly 70 percent of marketers think they’re not getting personalization right, according to a study by Evergage.

A good email marketer, on the other hand, looks to the future. They gather data on the products a customer has already viewed or purchased and use that to formulate tailored suggestions for new products — or even entirely new product categories — the customer never knew they wanted. 

Get Email Frequency Right

A personal shopper doesn’t distract you in the middle of a thought to showcase another product. Nor do they talk about ten suggestions right in a row. No, their timing is impeccable: They patiently attend to your needs and seamlessly insert suggestions just as you need them.

Marketing emails need to be just as well timed. Following the common refrain to send out mass emails on Tuesdays between noon and 1 p.m. simply won’t do. Good email cadence requires a much more intricate strategy.

Marketers need to know exactly when and how each subscriber interacts with the content they send out — and when they’ll be most responsive to specific messages and offers. Only then can marketers effectively individualize content so that emails show up in each subscriber’s inbox at the perfect moment, with the perfect creatives, offers, and layouts.

Dancing with The Data

Skillful sales is a kind of elegant dance. Salespeople who gracefully lead this dance are reacting to minute cues from their customers and adjusting accordingly. The result is happy customers who leave the store with armfuls of items they never knew they wanted.

In email marketing, these cues come in the form of data: knowledge of opens, clicks, user behavior, and conversions. It’s absolutely essential for email marketers to test varieties of wording, email structures, layouts, and creative assets to gather as much customer data as possible. When combined with an open-minded approach to customers’ preferences, this data enables marketers to deliver personalized email experiences that become even more delightful over time.