Tag Archives: email marketing

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.

‘Tis the Season for Holiday Planning (Now!)

By ​Kenna Hilburn, Director of Account Development, Liveclicker

🎶 It’s beginning to look a lot like … September. 🎶

Which means your holiday planning is in full swing! Instead of writing an article with vague ideas that only add to your growing to-do list, we decided to give four specific tactics you can execute NOW to better position your programs for a successful holiday season and Q4.

Tip #1: Test, Test, Test

The first item on your holiday prep list should be to A/B test. Now is the time to determine the right creative mix for subject lines and email designs so your content is fully optimized and ready for the holiday season.

It’s a real opportunity, especially when you consider a surprisingly high number of marketers still aren’t testing. In fact, research shows that nearly 39 percent of brands never or rarely A/B test their broadcast and segmented emails.

The good news is that there are tools that can help automate the process and deliver winning creative in real time. This reduces the effort needed to analyze results and send a winning version.

Your broadcast messages shouldn’t be the only touch points to benefit from a test – also consider testing your automated and triggered messages for maximum impact. According to the same research, successful email marketers are 70 percent more likely to A/B test their triggered emails at least once a year. Also, these marketers are 95 percent more likely to A/B test their transactional emails at least once a year.

Start your test now, and carry it through the holiday season with dynamic testing tools that continuously test creative versions to ensure the champion version is always deployed.

Tip #2: Refresh Your Welcome Emails

The next item to tackle is a welcome series refresh. Your welcome series is your chance at a first impression, and if you are not personalizing that content, the impact of personalization later in the journey can be lost.

Here are a few suggestions any brand can implement to improve their welcome series – and generate better results:

  • In welcome message No. 1, start your relationship off on the right foot by featuring first name personalization in a fun font over an image. 

text overlay of Micki

You can also begin to progressively collect user preferences via a poll to personalize future emails.

  • In welcome message No. 2, dynamically serve up category or product recommendations aligned with the preferences you collected in the poll using a targeted webscrape. This email is also a great place to start telling your brand story – feature an embedded video that brings your company story to life.

  • Finally, use welcome No. 3 and 4 to collect even more user preferences with additional polls, surveys, and other interactive devices. Just remember, use the preference data you collect to serve your customer with the personalized experience they expect.
Tip #3: Don’t Forget Transactional Emails

Think quick: What is the one message all converted shoppers receive in their experience with your brand?

Shipping confirmations are often an afterthought in the marketing strategy – sometimes they are even executed by a different team – but think of the opportunity these messages represent. WIth high open and re-open rates, as customers anxiously await and track their precious packages, these emails are the perfect opportunity to keep a customer in your branded experience instead of sending them to a third-party tracking site.

For example, digital retailer Evine uses live business context data to display live package location information in its shipping confirmation emails. This tactic increased month-over-month click-to-open rates by 16 percent. 

Tip #4: Plan Ahead with Time-Based Campaigns

Our last recommendation focuses on planning. The phrase, holiday rush, is not an exaggeration. Timely offers and communications are key for a consumer looking for the best deal, and driving urgency is one of the most effective tools in your marketing playbook.

This demand is the perfect opportunity to use time-based targeted messages. Create an hourly, daily, or weekly deals campaign, and drive urgency with a mix of countdown timers, add-to-calendar calls to action, and images that change in real time as offers expire and new promotions come online.

These types of messages successfully cut through the clutter by delivering dynamic content that is always up to date and never provides the negative experience of an expired offer.

A Gift Any Email Marketer Will Love

As you start developing this year’s holiday campaigns, don’t resort to the same old, same old approach. This year, get creative with innovative new strategies and technologies that are proven to increase important email metrics and improve sales. With these four tips, you can truly give the gift that keeps giving – highly engaging email campaigns your customers will love. 

 

Kenna Hilburn serves as Liveclicker's Director of Account Development, leading an international team of account management professionals in client services, satisfaction, and growth. In her role, she is able to share her expertise in both the email marketing and video commerce industries with clients targeting an ever-changing, global marketplace. 

A Tale of Two Sweaters: Why Segmentation Alone Isn’t Enough

Every retailer knows that customer segmentation makes campaigns more effective. When you classify customers according to their interests and desires, it’s much easier to deliver content that speaks to them personally, creating a connection that builds long-term loyalty.

On paper, segmentation looks like a straightforward way to turn subscribers into delighted customers. But segmentation does have its limits. When you’re dealing with one-time purchasers, market segments don’t tell you what customers will purchase next. They don’t make accurate predictions and can’t tell you why customers purchase certain items together.

To understand those aspects of your customers’ preferences, you’ve got to look beyond segmentation, and implement advanced techniques.

The Sweater Experiment

Imagine you’re a clothing retailer and want to promote two new red sweaters this season – a men’s and a women’s. You’ve got an email list of 25,000 men and 25,000 women. Do you segment your next email campaign? If so, how?

At first glance, the answer might seem obvious: If you don’t segment your list, and instead send a promo for the women’s sweater to all 50,000 subscribers, hypothetically you might only get about 50 percent opens, 50 percent clicks, and 50 percent purchases. If you send a promo for the women’s sweater only to female subscribers, on the other hand, you’ll get a significant boost: a potential 100 percent opens, clicks, and purchases.

While this might look like a major improvement, it comes with risks. Some of your male subscribers might’ve been interested in buying the women’s sweater for their girlfriends and sisters, but you’ve missed your chance to sell to them. And what about your female subscribers who already bought that sweater? You sent an unengaging email to them, when you could’ve shown a new item they might actually have been interested in.

For all these reasons, segmentation alone isn’t enough for effective email personalization.

Stepping Beyond Segmentation

As our sweater scenario demonstrates, the core limitation of segmentation is that its improvements are often just smoke and mirrors. A metric like a “50 percent lift in clicks” sounds concrete and comforting – but it doesn’t tell you anything about missed opportunities for even more lucrative cross-sells and upsells, or about which products your customers might want to buy next.

Segmentation has its advantages, of course. It’s helpful for personalizing emails, which protects your emails from getting sent to spam. Email content aligned with each subscriber’s interests also helps safeguard against unsubscribes, reducing subscriber churn.

But to really connect with your customers, you’ve got to look beyond segments. Even within a given customer segment, each customer is on their own personal journey, interacting with your brand across a unique sequence of touchpoints — email included. That means to really connect with your customers where they are, you’ve got to start mapping those journeys and addressing each stage with tailored content.

When you understand where each customer is on their individual journey, and which products will meet them where they are, you’ll be able to predict what a customer wants even before they know it themselves. And by guiding customers through a personalized series of product discoveries, you can lead them to new areas of interest that can significantly raise your margins, while driving stronger customer loyalty.

Christmas in July: Consistency is the Key to Email Success

Identifying suspicious sending behavior is the name of the game for ISPs trying to protect their networks from bad actors. They’re constantly updating algorithms and leveraging machine learning to identify spam and preserve the inboxes of users. To avoid being caught up in the same net, legitimate senders need to avoid red flags on their own sending activity. At no other time of year is this more critical than the holidays.

Why talk about Christmas in July? Because sending volume matters. To ensure the success of larger campaigns during the holiday season, you have to start planning and prepping your lists. Now.

In the eyes of ISPs, good senders are consistent. They have consistent open rates, consistent positive engagement with their recipients, and are sending consistent volume to their networks at regular intervals. Unfortunately, make-or-break holiday revenue will cause some marketers to ignore these practices and roll the dice with abnormally large volumes of mail. This typically manifests itself by senders overriding the engagement criteria on their campaigns, and batch-and-blast mailing to entire lists of subscribers with heavy frequency, fatiguing subscribers.

It’s My List, Why Can’t I Mail as I Please?

The most obvious problem with this type of mailing behavior is that it is not consistent with the behavior a sender exhibits throughout the rest of the mailing year.

Consider the ISP’s perspective: A known sender to their network suddenly doubles, triples, even quadruples the amount of mail hitting their servers for a single campaign—and at a much higher frequency. Not only does the ISP detect a spike in volume, but spam trap hits increase, hard bounces increase, and a wave of fresh spam complaints are generated by the change in activity. Must be spam. Block.

Opening up campaigns to entire mailing lists means opening up sender reputation to a host of issues. ISPs determine reputation by 24-hour, 7-day, and 30-day performance trends, so week-to-week and month-to-month volume fluctuations are critical. If an ISP notices any dramatic deviations from a sender’s volume patterns, it will raise a red flag.

Slow and steady wins the race: By starting increases now, peaking around 2-3 weeks prior to the start of holiday mailing, this activity will appear normal to the ISPs receiving it.

So, What Can I Do?

If larger sending is on your holiday horizon, now is the time to start expanding your lists in small chunks.

Segmentation should remain a key consideration as you expand:

  • Users who have opted out should never be included in campaigns.
  • Riskier segments—with lengthier and lengthier lapses in email engagement—should be monitored carefully. As segments trigger negative metrics (e.g., hard bounces, spam complaints, etc.), they should be removed from regular sending unless they can be re-engaged.

Actively weed out inactive addresses:

  • Plan re-engagement campaign cycles now so users are active and up-to-date for holiday mailings.
  • Use a confirmed opt-in to eliminate unengaged users from entering campaign lists right out of the gate.
  • Users who decline to confirm an opt-in or re-engage should be removed from your lists.

The last thing you want to face is a blacklist or block going into the holiday season. Reputation damage, once it occurs, requires weeks of consistent sending to correct. Often by the time the damage is inflicted, senders don’t have time to recover before the holiday mailing season. Slowly increasing mailing volume, meticulously reviewing metrics to weed out and remove risky segments and contacts, and adhering to confirmed opt-in guidelines will help line up a successful holiday season.

The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018: Do you know where your personal data is?

It’s past your bedtime. Do you know where your private personal data is? Do you know who has access to that data? Your answers are probably ‘No’. That’s because you’ve handed over a lot of private data to service providers on the internet and trusted that they’re protecting you and that data. Recent events have shown that’s not always the case and a new law in California aims to fix that.

New legislation will add significant privacy protections for Californians and place new burdens on businesses. While the new legislation applies only to residents of California, most businesses will have customers in the state and do collect some level of private information from customers, so this legislation has broad implications for marketers even outside the state.

Earlier this year law makers in California introduced sweeping consumer privacy legislation. The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 unanimously passed in the California State Assembly and Senate, was signed into law by the Governor and will go into effect in 2020. The Act is the most sweeping consumer privacy legislation ever passed in the United States and gives consumers broad control over personal information collected by businesses. The law is not specific to any one digital channel, but spans all channels where personal information is collected, stored and used by marketers.

Californians will have the following rights under the law:

  • Right to know what personal information is being collected and whether it is sold or disclosed and to whom
  • The right to say no to the sale of personal information
  • The right to access their personal information
  • The right to equal service and price when privacy rights are exercised

Businesses have enjoyed great freedom in how they collect and use consumers' private information. Consumers have had little recourse when their private information is compromised. Recent high-profile incidents involving private consumer data collected by marketers in the digital realm have rattled users of social media and other internet services. Data breaches exposed millions of consumers' credit information. Consumers' social media data was misused by Cambridge Analytica. Users' trust of these services is eroding.

The law will enact several requirements which will directly impact how marketers interact with consumers in California and manage their personal information across a broad range of marketing media. These requirements include:

  • Inform customers at the point of collection what personal information will be collected
  • Allow consumers free access to their personal information and make the information available in a portable and readily usable format that can be transmitted to another service
  • Delete a consumer's personal information on request
  • Disclose on request personal information collected, the purpose for collecting or selling personal information, and any third parties with which personal information was shared
  • Honor consumers' requests to opt-out of having their personal information sold to third parties
  • Provide a prominent "Do Not Sell My Personal Information" link on the homepage to facilitate the consumer opt-out process
  • Provide the same level of service and price even when a consumer chooses to exercise their rights under the Act

When the Act goes into effect in 2020 marketers must be ready to comply, with new procedures, processes and customer facing tools. Companies will also need to decide if they will treat California consumers differently from those outside California.

The law will be enforced by the Attorney General of California, and the Act creates a "Consumer Privacy Fund" to offset costs of enforcing the Act. Consumers will also have a private right of action if companies fail to adequately protect their personal information under the requirements of the Act. Penalties for data breaches are also laid out in the Act.

This legislation, and others like the recently enacted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union, reflect a rising tide of personal data protection for consumers. The message from these enactments is clear: consumers must maintain primary control over their own personal information and businesses must provide access, transparency and strong safeguards to protect consumers' personal information.

Marketers should study this new legislation and start planning now on how to comply. 2020 will approach quickly, and businesses that are not ready to comply may be subject to penalties if they don't meet the requirements of the Act.

Create Content Success with a Cohesive Content Experience

One of my favorite things about content marketing is the ability to create an experience. Instead of buying a single ad, you can use different kinds of content to do different work strategically. This week on Copyblogger, we shared ways content can create an experience for your audience and help you strategically move people in
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How to Create Emails Your Customers Look Forward to Opening

How to Create Emails Your Customers Look Forward to Opening

In 1978, a marketer at Digital Equipment Corp. sent a mass email to nearly 400 recipients on ARPANET, a precursor to the internet. The email promoted a new computer model, and like that, email marketing was born. But it was far from perfect: Complaints came in almost immediately and

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