Tag Archives: email marketing

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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Mailing to New Customers and Managing Deliverability Risk

List size is an important metric for many marketers. It dictates the number of inboxes they have access to and can drive internal conversations around budgets, initiatives, and available resources. As a result, the same question is often repeated to our deliverability operations team:

How do we grow our list and mail to new users?

Today, I want to focus on the second half of that question: How do we mail to new users. It is important to understand that mailing to new email addresses comes with a unique set of challenges and pitfalls separate than those associated with general mailings. These are addresses that have never previously been included in your marketing campaigns and are inherently risky as a result. In short, brands should not forget that new users are strangers. Applying scrutiny to these addresses before considering them potential customers will do tremendous good toward protecting sender reputation.

Stranger Danger

Any new address can cause real harm to a mailing list as a potential spam trap, invalid contact, or unengaged user. To avoid reputation ramifications, the first thing a marketer should do is consider the motivation a particular user had for signing up for emails.

All acquisition channels come with their own unique drawbacks:

  • In-store sign ups may not have realized they were providing contact information for more than a simple receipt.
  • Shoppers seeking to collect on discounts or sign up incentives may not be interested in mailing content long term.
  • Form completion addresses may have simply been trying to get beyond the paywall or pop-up add blocking their view.

All are susceptible to improperly set user expectations, and the likelihood that users have supplied false, or inaccurate data is high. As such, no marketer should simply release a new address into the full scope of their email ecosystem.

Put Your Users to Work

Especially in the wake of new global privacy regulations like GDPR, implementing the correct procedures surrounding consent is critical for mailers. Implementing a confirmed opt in allows the user to do a portion of this work for you. A confirmed opt in requires further action from a user in order to confirm that they do wish to opt into receiving messages from your brand.

After signing up, a welcome email is triggered to these users prompting this confirmation. From there, the path is clear: Those who take action to complete this confirmation can be funneled into regularly scheduled campaigns – those who do not, should not.

Shortcuts Aren’t Worth the Risk

Inevitably, there will be senders who do not have the patience for organic list growth and development. From this vantage point, list purchasing and appending can sound very appealing.

But let’s be quite clear about this:

  • Email addresses added to mailing lists should *never* be purchased.
  • Email addresses that are acquired for mailing should *never* be from appended lists.

These strategies not only go against Oracle recommendations and myriad privacy regulations, but they are also guaranteed to negatively impact your sender reputation in the eyes of ISPs. Spam traps and invalid addresses will enter your mailing stream via these methods, and spam complaints, hard bounce rates, trap hits, and unengaged users will all increase as you attempt to contact them. Spam folder placement directly correlates with these negative metrics, and an inevitable blacklisting will further destroy your inboxing rates and overall standing in the eyes of ISPs.

Once lost, mailing reputation requires weeks of pristine sending to correct. Ask yourself: Is it worth it? Instead, stick to best practices, use a confirmed opt in for your users, and slowly release your new senders into your larger mailing campaigns. Your performance will be stronger as a result.

Learn how to achieve email deliverability that really delivers. Download Email Deliverability: Guide for Modern Marketers.

Email Deliverability Guide

3 Ways Retailers Can Heat Up Their Summer Email Campaigns

As we begin to embrace longer days and shed our winter wardrobes, it’s a great time for retail marketers to re-evaluate the email calendar and replace ineffective strategies with fresh approaches. Here are a few of our favorite tips to heat up your summer email campaigns and reinvigorate your marketing efforts:

New Season, New Content

We conducted a survey to learn how retail marketers plan their email marketing calendars. We found that 85 percent of email marketers are relying too heavily on products and categories that worked well the previous year.

This is mirrored in our most recent study on email effectiveness in retail, where we found that it would take retailers an average of two years to introduce all their categories to email subscribers at their current rate. Instead of highlighting last year’s best sellers, email marketers need to recognize that email communications need to evolve along with consumers’ ever-changing tastes and preferences. 

Chart of how long it takes retailers to expose their categories

Consider making creatives for products or categories that haven’t yet been introduced to your customers. Then introduce new categories into a section of your email, while keeping the high-performing categories elsewhere in the email. When you include more category choices, you’ll have a better chance of finding relevant products for each customer.

It may sound simple, but many retailers are delivering emails that cover only one category or one type of email content, such as an email only filled with discounts. While other retailers like Neiman Marcus and EXPRESS have increased their customer engagement by displaying a variety of categories within each email, and mixing and matching editorial email content, product shots, and discounts.

Recycle and Reuse Email Content

Our survey on retail marketers also found that 74 percent of marketers create emails for a single day and never reuse or resend that content. These marketers likely assume that a customer wouldn’t want to see the same message in their inbox a second time, but that line of thinking leaves a lot of revenue on the table. The reality is that email creatives are time-consuming and costly to make, and chances are that many consumers will not remember the images you used.

As we mentioned above, you can also mix and match new email content with recycled content in different zones. For example, if you included a product image in the header of your email yesterday, you can then include it in an email below the fold a few weeks later. Another strategy is to track high-performing email content and use it for all new email subscribers at a later date. And finally, you can resend creatives to email subscribers who have received, but not opened, your previous email.  

Recognize Your New Shoppers

If there’s one thing we can’t stress enough, it’s that email marketers are not taking advantage of their purchase data to personalize the customer experience. While personalized campaigns drive higher revenue, most marketers collect customer data but do not use it.

Additionally, our research on email effectiveness in retail indicates that retailers are sending the exact same emails, on the same day, for 62 percent of their sends to both brand new customers and non-customers. They are also sending less emails to new customers than other email subscribers.

Chart demonstrating personalization benchmark

If you’re one of those retailers, it’s time to put your data to work. Make sure to separate your customers from non-customers, and new customers from other customers. (Most new customers are highly engaged and are open to receiving more emails than others.) Then use purchase data to recommend additional products or tailor your editorial content. Savvy retailers like L.L.Bean and Staples are doing this best by using machine learning to analyze customer data and predict the products that shoppers will want to see.

Summer Email Campaigns That Sizzle

Instead of merchandise-driven, batch-and-blast email campaigns, consider what the customer wants to see and how to make them feel like an individual. By using a customer-centric and data-driven approach to email marketing, you’ll be sure to add some heat to your summer email campaigns, while generating the highest ROI and lifetime value.

To learn more about successful email marketing campaigns, check out Oracle’s Marketing Automation Simplified Guide for automation fundamentals in modern email marketing.

Marketing Automation Simplified guide

 

Turn Off Bad Pop Music and Turn On Good Marketing Strategy

This week, we got into the sadness of crummy email marketing, the delight of writing productivity, and the puzzle of why anyone ever treated marketing and selling like they were two completely different things. On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman talked about how weak email marketing is even weaker than Nickelback. (Wow.) Apologies in advance for any
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Putting Dynamic Back into Email Design

While it may surprise those who view emails as an antiquated channel of communication, emails are still a crucial part of the way brands communicate with consumers. Just consider that in 2017, global email users amounted to 3.7 billion people, and, this figure is set to grow to 4.3 billion in 2022.

While this sounds conclusive, in practice, email marketing remains a hotbed of discussion with marketers divided on one question: Is the content or design more important?

The first email was sent in 1971. Back then, content ruled supreme. But over 37 years, emails have evolved to offering greater scope for marketers. Today, we want to focus on design. This isn’t just about finding the right images and colors for the message, but rather the opportunity to be fully interactive, enhance product engagement and have the look and feel of an app.

So how do marketers achieve that? It is by understanding that neither content nor design is more important. The performance of both is intrinsically linked to data. Only informative, relevant content together with engaging design will keep a customer’s attention. And whether it be an image change, text change or module change, data can now determine exactly how the customer interaction takes place.

Making the Leap

In 2018, email design is all about dynamic content.

Imagine an email campaign that automatically adapts based on the known interests of each subscriber. That is dynamic content. It is an advanced personalization technique, which uses data held within each subscriber’s profile to automatically display content more closely aligned with their known interests or preferences.

The key is aggregated data that can be pulled from email sign-up preferences, profiling subscribers or behavioral data. And dynamic content can be used in a wide range of applications. Either data-based design, including a CTA offering based on previous interactions, or using the nearest store location information or gender specific information. Or you could provide contextual content pulled from custom feeds, social networks, and website behavior. This information includes recent interactions, weather feeds, location, and customer persona.

Putting it into Action

This is all well and good, but you might be thinking, "We just don’t have time to create great designs and tap into dynamic content. We are always working to extremely tight deadlines.” The answer is templates and planning.

Modular email templates are the key to successful use of dynamic content. The template is a framework that includes a header and footer with several content modules. These content modules can be stacked and then removed, rearranged, and repeated in numerous configurations. Most importantly, they allow for design freedom without the need for extensive HTML knowledge.

As a first step, marketers should conduct an audit of previous email campaigns to see what works and how consumers reacted to design. Then, template the most commonly used modules and template dynamic content rules.

Ultimately, brands and marketers don’t have to compromise on email design to send a relevant, data-driven email. Why? Data drives design. It ensures that content is shown in the best possible way to different audiences. Relevant content increases familiarity and loyalty, which in turn, improves click through and conversion rates.

Want more?

Watch the webinar, Bridging the Gap: How to Orchestrate and Personalize the Entire Customer Experience, to learn how your organization can unify email and web orchestration with a strategy that will keep communications relevant and audiences engaged.

Watch the webinar today.