Originally posted on The EEC Blog…

Fans of Star Wars will know the reference ‘A New Hope’, it’s the subtitle to the first, ground-breaking film Lucas released in 1977. It’s now 38 years later—fans and nerds alike are pacing in circles waiting for the December release of episode 7. What does this have to do with email marketing? Nothing. Everything.

We’re a week into 2015 and I’m predicting we’ll see much of the same behavior that characterized email marketing circa 2014. My hope is that good holiday sales, a rebounding economy, and the general prosperous gestalt that seems to be everywhere finds its way into marketing budgets to adopt tools that ensure the ongoing success of email as a channel.

Here’s what you should be concerned with in 2015 that you may have tabled behind more ‘important’ initiatives in 2014:

  • Your transactional mail is just as important as your marketing mail.That’s right! Transactional mail, you know that welcome message that nothing short of a ‘first date’, or the all-important password reset that let’s you use your account or make a transaction, these things have to be prioritized over the batches of 20% coupons that you’re sending. I’m guessing there are still oodles of companies out there that have no clue if their transactional and triggered messages are getting stuck behind batched campaigns. Spend the time to get it right: get the password reset out first, make sure welcome messages don’t arrive 3 or 4 days later with the information someone needs on day 1, and that receipts and confirmations that decrease calls for customer service get to where they’re going without being impeded by sales messages or newsletters.
  • Yep mobile is still important. If you’re not responsive all the time then half of your audience isn’t getting the same rendering experience as your other half. With the number of devices in the wild today you have to assume that your email is viewed on dozens of different mobile devices and browsers on displays stretched to extreme letterbox proportions (and curved—coming soon to a desktop near you). So the importance of ensuring a smooth experience regardless of the device or platform is paramount. Part of a mobile device’s unstated purpose is to diminish the barriers from browse to buy by deep linking to a native mobile app via a received email; if the initial rendering of the email is poor the likelihood of using an app as the next step in the customer journey is scant at best.
  • Inbox & Verse were unleashed by the Sith! Don’t worry, the sky isn’t falling because Google decided to reinvent email by launching Inbox, nor is IBM’s Verse going to cause CTRs and open rates to plummet. These are efficiency tools that were built in hopes that people agree to the fact that Google and IBM both know much better about how and what you want to read and experience in your inbox. When Google Tabs were launched the industry cried foul and proclaimed that the sky would fall. We’re still here. I predict that these tools will have a limited following and if their algorithms are worth their salt they will simply prove out that the most engaging brands and communications, the ones customers want to read, will remain top of mind and top of inbox. That is all.
  • The proof is in the pudding. Now what?! Here’s what you need to know: depending on whom you read mobile traffic accounted for 45% of all online traffic during the holidays. Nearly a quarter of all online sales were generated via mobile. And finally, more men shop on smartphones than women, this is true in my house given my wife uses my Amazon account (or orders me to use it). The fact of the matter is that every holiday season results in a wealth of data—it’s stacking up all around you, petabytes of behavioral analytics that you should leverage throughout the year. My prediction is that some of the potential, and here I stress potential, that like the force, it’s all around you, it’s really up to each and everyone one of us to use the data at our fingertips in meaningful ways. The holidays are not an event; it’s the gift that should keep on giving through out 2015 and beyond.

 

Weekly Email Marketing News Digest

It’s the weekend before Christmas, and we hope you’re just as excited as we are!

Big news this week with Instagram’s change to their terms of service and resultant uproar in the online sphere. Clearly, corporations need to be mindful of how protective people are of personal privacy as that continues to be an emotional trigger point for online users.  Instagram reverted back to their original terms days later with a blog post announcement by co-founder Kevin Systrom. Not to belabor the point, but here’s another privacy gaffe making the rounds.

FTC Complaint Says SpongeBob App Violates COPPA

Marketing and children. Replace “and” with a “to”, and that line is enough fuel to spark lively debates about the need to protect children’s data from being exploited. The Center for Digital Democracy has filed a complaint that the popular Spongebob Diner Dash mobile app has violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Its crime? Collecting the email addresses of users without first requiring parental consent. The Spongebob Diner Dash app has since been removed from the iTunes store.

Mobile marketing serves as an attractive option for marketers in generating new leads due to its prevalence and effectiveness, but caution is clearly needed. Mobile is one of the most private user experiences. While it exists as a unique opportunity to reach customers, it’s easy to cross the line and become too intrusive. When children are involved, things get even trickier.

Does your company overestimate the value of an email address?

More on the issue of privacy.

We all know how valuable email marketing is to companies. It’s been known as the best tool to nurture a lead, and reports of its demise are greatly exaggerated. Email guru, David Daniels stated in a recent webinar that social media does not replace email, but rather complements it. Obtaining a potential lead and building up one’s database for email marketing is necessary for marketers, but how this is done matters. Gaining personal data without customers filling up a form and requesting more information or making a purchase, strays too far into the nebulous ethical grey area. It’s like waving a red flag in the face of bulls.

Email Marketing: Factors that influence open rate

A/B testing continues to be one of my favourite reading topics. It’s fascinating to see how simple tweaks to colour and font can influence clickthrough rate.

Designers all over the world despair, but as Obama’s campaign staff discovered, a personal tone and gawdy design is sometimes the key to brand engagement. As far as I am concerned, if I’m getting conversions through ugly design, then I’ll stand behind ugly design!

Aside from design, here is a comprehensive list of elements that continue to affect open rates:

  • Event triggers
  • Sender recognition
  • Subject lines and relevance to content
  • Urgency
  • Word count
  • Forwarded emails
  • Time of day

lp-form-test

The creation of personas allows for subsequent messages to be tailored to customers’ needs and this has seen to be more effective than normal emails in driving clicks.

Email Inspiration: Six Great Responsive Email Designs

Look how well the design below works when it is opened on a mobile phone.  Lyris has highlighted 6 brands that have created some great designs that work across multi-channels. Also check out this cool presentation on responsive design.

british-airways-emails

Email is most important channel for driving Christmas sales: infographic

And finally, to put everyone into a Christmas mood here’s a lovely infographic about driving Christmas sales. Email is seen to be the most effective at 43%, SEO and SEM tie at 33% and social media comes in fourth at 21%.

ecircle-infographic-2012

Capitalize on mobile to increase your open rate in your marketing campaigns with our 10 Steps To Mobile Messaging Guide!

10 Steps To Mobile Messaging

As the holiday season rolls around, retailers are scrambling to get their marketing act together and roll out the red carpet online to welcome season shoppers. Instead of acquiring new customers, econsultancy suggests 21 tips to retain customers instead. Here are some key statistics about customer retention all retailers should know:

– Customer attraction is 5 times more expensive than customer retention
– The average cost to a company when losing a customer is $243
– An existing customer is 60-70% more likely to buy from you than a new one (5-20%)

In view of these numbers, appealing to the current customer is far more rewarding than chasing after new prospects. While social media remains the sexy new toy of the digital marketer, it’s important to get the fundamentals right. Here’s a summary of some of the article’s salient points:

– Keep the customer informed at each stage of the delivery through email and mobile alerts. Basic, but often overlooked, this action builds trust. Without trust, your customers are going to skip off to your competitors’ Xmas sale.
– Did Tim buy an iPhone last month? Well, maybe he needs a screen protector and cover too! Take advantage of data that is already available to you and engage in behavior-based cross selling through email marketing.
– Everybody has a birthday. Everybody loves a discount. Use event triggered automated messaging to send customers personalized emails with offers to celebrate their special day.
– Here’s a no-brainer: Easy password or account retrieval. I can’t even remember the number of times I’ve given up on following through with a request for more information or a purchase, because I simply couldn’t recall my password. What with the mandatory inclusion of caps, special characters, numbers and the like, my password is more like a code I have to break than a gateway to my account. Being able to retrieve it quickly is simply a necessity.

The one similar thread underlining these points is putting into place a consolidated console that is able to:

(A) Handle multiple messaging streams from different operational lines at high volumes.
(B) Ensure low latency with transactional messaging.
(C) Trigger automated messages based on customer preferences and previous buying behavior

So before marketers even begin their (hopefully) highly personalized and targeted email blasts, perhaps it might be more prudent to ensure their current systems are able to deliver on the age old foundations of email marketing: reliability and speed.

Learn more about how you can use email alerts to drive engagement and conversion in the Transactional Messaging Best Practices eBook!

Transactional Messaging Best Practices