White Labeling Email Communications with Template Substitutions

In past discussions, we have talked about how substitution can be used to create dynamic emails. This drastically decreases the number of templates that need to be managed by using conditionals and looping statements. But did you know that you can also use substitution for your CSS within an email?

For companies hosting email services and providing sample templates to their customers, this capability can significantly decrease the number of email templates needed. In order to illustrate the challenges and how template substitutions can solve many of those issues, let’s create a fictional ISP who is bringing on a new customer.

A Practical Application

So, let’s imagine a fictional ISP named SuperComm; they provide corporate phone and webinar services to their customers. Emails from SuperComm to their client’s employees (e.g. sign-ups, feature updates, and personalized notices) are all branded for that specific client using their own color scheme and logos. In this example, SuperComm just acquired Graphite550 as a client and now needs to start the process of helping Graphite550 to get their employees to use the SuperComm platform. In order to do this, SuperComm’s Account Managers obtain the following information from Graphite550:

  • Color scheme: white and orange
  • Copy of Graphite550’s logo
  • Graphite550 phone support numbers
  • Graphite550 support website URL
  • Address
  • Corporate URL

Once they have this information, the account manager goes into the SuperComm repository and retrieves a copy of the 15 default emails that are used for each SuperComm customer. They then spend the next several hours branding each of these email templates with Graphite550’s information. As you can imagine, this is a very error prone process which typically needs a few iterations and the eye of a few different employees to get right. Once finished, SuperComm then needs to keep each of these templates in a repository along with all of their other 700 customers. While SuperComm has done everything they can to minimize changes by separating out the main body from headers or footers, maintaining over a thousand templates is very challenging.

So for this example, let’s take a look at the welcome email that will go out to each Graphite550 employee.

Just this one email has over 20 different fields that SuperComm uses in order to brand the email to Graphite550, which turns out to be over 65 individual replacements that have to be done by the account manager. If the other 14 templates are similar to this one, that means there are close to 1000 changes that need to be made for each customer!

So how can this be simplified? SparkPost has the capability to not only support recipient-focused personalization like ‘first_name’ and ‘accountid’ but also CSS entries, enabling per-customer white labeling. In the above example, the title line actually looks like this in the template:

Not only is the company name a substitution field, but so is the background color and the text color which are passed to SparkPost along with the employee personalization. Here is the global substitution data for Graphite550:

Note: In our example, we are using inline CSS but those CSS fields could also be placed in the header, as in this example:

In this new approach all the account manager needs to do is to put this data into a simple web form. This form, created by their IT department, obtains the necessary data, generates a preview for confirmation, and places it into a database. With this new process, the application triggering the welcome emails to each new customer will not only obtain the personalization fields like first name, but also the branding fields. Both types of information are then sent to SparkPost so the email can be branded and personalized during the generation process.

By using branding substitution fields within each template, SuperComm can clean out their repository of 1000+ branded templates down to the original 15 that can be used for every one of their customers. As a result of this, customer acquisition costs decrease significantly and template management becomes simpler.

Now that you know this, the next question is, how can substitution simplify your life?

Happy Sending,
Jeff Goldstein

Please feel free to leave any questions about template substitutions or white labeling in the comments.

Announcing an Exciting New Partnership with Boomtrain

Publishers and retailers have a big challenge ahead of them. Users demand individual attention through 1:1 personalized user experiences in an increasingly noisy, crowded digital space. Scaling effective marketing efforts, converting traffic, and driving consistent engagement and loyalty isn’t easy.

That’s why SparkPost and Boomtrain have teamed up to offer those users a best-of-breed experience by delivering 1:1 personalized emails. Boomtrain’s machine intelligence supercharges efforts to connect with the right customers, at the right time, using the content most likely to engage each individual.

SparkPost’s industry leading email platform automates the assembly and delivery of individually tailored messages designed to arrive in the recipient’s inbox at optimal engagement periods. Reaching the inbox 98% of the time ensures that personalized messages will be delivered on-time and efficiently at scale.

This integration also provides users a seamless experience to surface scalable recommendations and insights on an individual level. By coupling SparkPost with Boomtrain, the ability to reach each user across channels such as email, on-site, in-app, SMS, and push has never been easier.

According to Neej Gore, SVP of Business Operations at Boomtrain, “SparkPost’s leading infrastructure, combined with Boomtrain’s AI-powered marketing automation, delivers the new standard for marketers. Inevitably, consumers benefit through more timely conversations tailored to their individual preferences.”

Boomtrain-blog-screenshot

Features that SparkPost users can harness through the integration:

  • Auto-event generation based on visitors viewing a specific URL
  • Dynamic 1:1 personalized messaging using smart tags
  • Robust drag-and-drop editor for fully responsive email templates with native support for dynamic content tags
  • Dynamic content for on-site engagement

In addition, Boomtrain customers typically see the following results:

  • 2.4x increase in onsite recirculation and email engagement
  • 2.8x increase in return frequency and onsite page views
  • 4.0x increase in content engagement

To learn more about Boomtrain, please visit their websiteFor SparkPost customers wanting a more in-depth demo of the Boomtrain solution, please contact our partner team for an introduction.

gartner blog banner

personalization retail marketing

Findings from eTail West: Tips to Optimize your Retail Marketing Strategy

Last month, I attended eTail West 2016 to better understand the lives of our retail customers. I wanted to hear their pain points, challenges and the trends driving the industry. My goal, like any Product Manager, is to build products and features that address those pain points and challenges.  And of course, to stay ahead of trends, of which there were several that permeated the conference.

Here are some of my takeaways:

  1. Build experiences. Don’t focus on direct selling and don’t try to compete on price with larger retailers. Instead, build great customer experiences that make customers want to buy from you. Some specific tactics were:
    • Focus your messaging on the “why” and not the “what”. Demonstrate how your product makes the customer’s life better.
    • Reduce friction. Everything from optimizing page load times to integrating PayPal as a payment option. Everything and anything to make it easy – online, in store, and in the app.
    • Use responsive design to optimize the mobile experience. Various speakers had various statistics, but a large percentage of purchases are being either researched and/or conducted on a mobile device. So make sure the site – and the emails you send! — both utilize responsive design to accommodate different mobile devices, screen sizes, and resolutions.
    • Leverage technologies. For example, location information and/or beacons to better serve the customer in the store, smart banners on the mobile site to either open the app (if installed) or encourage app download.
  2. Encourage conversation. The concept of a brand having a conversation with their customer or telling a story isn’t new, yet it’s still very relevant. However, what stood out was the idea of fostering conversations between customers about the brand. So, not just employing social media to promote and amplify the marketing message, but having customers promote and amplify the marketing message on behalf of the brand. For example, a great way to keep those conversations going could be to send emails to your most engaged customers to encourage them to talk about your brand on social media while offering a reward for doing so.
  3. Personalization. There was a lot of chatter about personalization. In walking the exhibit hall, every vendor talked about personalization in some way, shape, or form. Some talked about personalized content, others talked about segmentation and some spoke about analyzing data to drive personalized advertising on their site or via other ad networks.

As I approached each exhibitor I always asked the question, “What do you do and how is it different from everyone else here?” Of course, everyone had their own secret sauce on algorithms they use to do personalization. However, the real question was, how should one use that information? How could they help the retailer make that data actionable?

Here are some pretty compelling tools I found useful for retailers:

  • Iterable: Allows you to increase your revenue and customer engagement with real-time segmentation, automation, personalization, A/B testing and messaging to web-scale audiences. (In the interest of full disclosure, Iterable is a partner of SparkPost.)
  • SmarterHQ: Enables the retailer to make informed product recommendations to site visitors even if they’ve never visited the retailer’s site.
  • Custora: Reduces customer churn, wins back lost customers, and converts one-time buyers into loyal, repeat shoppers.

A lesson from Forrester on why segmenting your list doesn’t cut it.

What really drove the point home was attending the presentation by Forrester’s Brendan Witcher. The quick summary is that segmenting your visitors or customers into groups doesn’t cut it because with any segment, the content you send to any specific individual is still likely to be wrong most of the time. The goal is to send EACH person the content that is right for them, at any stage of their journey, whether they’re first-time browsers, repeat visitors or long-time customers.  This is individualization. You do this through contextual data, third party data (where has that visitor been before coming to your site), and of course, your own visitor and purchase information.

Batch and blast can be costly and inefficient.

This mode of thinking requires a re-think of how you work with your ESP. Today, many marketers are still sending a batch email, collecting the data, doing the analysis, deciding on what to send next and then developing a new message based on those findings. Lather, rinse, repeat. This cycle is too slow to engage your customers, and site visitors who may have moved on to a competitive product by then. It’s also expensive. Every time you develop a new template – it’s hours of someone’s time you’re paying for – either employee, contractors, or outside agencies.

There’s a better way!

Decide on your most important lifecycle journeys, develop the messages that nurture your visitors and customers on that journey, and then trigger those messages in real time. Content can be personalized in real time. Not only is each message more relevant and more likely to serve up the correct content for each individual, but your email development costs are likely to fall since you won’t be developing a new creative template for every send. As you learn more about your customer journeys, you can refine the business rules that drive them, and develop new templates. Companies like Iterable, BoomTrain, and the ones mentioned above can do the heavy lifting on the personalization (what to send and to whom) while SparkPost handles the delivery to make sure the message goes in real time — and lands in the inbox.

How will I be incorporating what I’ve learned in the days, weeks, and months ahead? By researching all of the great companies I talked to (or whose swag I brought home), and determining which partners deliver on these themes for our customers.

Which companies would you recommend to drive personalization?

–Irina, Cloud Queen

gartner blog banner

OK, everyone! Are you a marketer? If not, please get up from your desk, stretch your legs, get a cup of coffee.

Still with me? Well, now that it’s just us marketers in the room, come closer. Shh— I want to talk about a dirty secret I bet a lot of us share.

We’ve heard a lot about the ubiquity of data and the power of personalization in marketing. We’ve admired (and maybe envied) some successful retailers or other businesses who’ve pioneered data-driven marketing and commerce. And, we all know we shouldn’t batch-and-blast our customers with unwanted email or shotgun marketing messages—but, gosh, it’s so easy.

On the other hand, cultivating a personalized relationship with a customer and giving them a reason to come back to you isn’t easy. It takes time, and it takes a willingness to pay attention to your customer as an individual. It sounds a lot like running an old-fashioned corner store, doesn’t it? Well, it kind of is. But in the online world, it also takes investment in the right sort of technology to be able to do it on a large scale.

Three things I learned about personalization 2.0

So, when we’re talking e-commerce, how do you move your marketing from batch-and-blast to individualization? SparkPost recently hosted a webinar about “Personalization 2.0” with Forrester Research’s Brendan Witcher and our own Jose Santa Ana. In the webinar, these experts shared their vision for Personalization 2.0: seamless customer engagement across an entire ecosystem of touch points.

I learned a lot listening to the webinar, but here are three particular take-aways I wanted to share about Personalization 2.0:

1. Consumers pay more for a brand that treats them as individuals.

Almost two-thirds (62%) of consumers will pay more and recommend a brand that provides a more personalized experience. That sounds like a really big number, but think back to the last brand that sent you relevant, wanted content. Chances are you’re still buying from them, right?

2. It’s all about the data.

Individualizing customer experiences is impossible without the right customer data. Investing in technologies that provide real-time access to customer data is a must to achieve Personalization 2.0. But it’s not all about spending money on the latest-and-greatest. This change is as much a mindset as it is a technology hurdle. It means designing your digital touch points right from the start with the idea of using and collecting data so as to create a more complete view of your customer.

3. Don’t boil the ocean!

But, remember, Personalization 2.0 is an end goal and a journey. It takes work—you should continually work towards it, but you’ll need to start small and build up. A good starting point is to invest in one mature, data-rich channel (hint hint: email!) and then continually integrate other channels to eventually grow into individualization.

Creating content and experiences that your customers find relevant isn’t easy. It takes a commitment to investing time and money into building out technology and processes to create a richer view of your customer—but it’s really worth it. It’s simple: when brands treat customers like royalty, customers reward brands with loyalty.

What’s been your experience with Personalization 2.0? I’d love to hear from you.

Bonus: Upcoming Webinar

And, by the way, I’d like to invite you to an upcoming webinar. Join us on January 26 for a lightning round of 2016 predictions as 10 (count ’em, 10!) email experts go head to head. It’s going to be a great chance to capitalize on what’s coming in our industry—and maybe to have a little fun, too. Register today!

Beyond the click blog footer 600x150 unsubscribers

Christmas_440x220_102315-v2

Happy Holidays! We’re taking the day off, however, if you’re up to your ears in eggnog, football or family, then kick back with your favorite beverage and take a break to view one of these webinars. ~ The SparkPost Team

Learn how to create individualized experiences at every digital touch point in our Personalization 2.0 webinar with Forrester. Learn how to get ready for CASL enforcements round 2 in our ‘What CASL Means for Email Marketers’ webinar with the CRTC. Learn how to go beyond demographic data with your analytics to truly personalize your customer’s experience in our Contextual Marketing 101 webinar.
personalization20_200x200 CASL_200x200 ContextualMktg101

Our personal success as marketers, the success of our individual companies and, indeed, our entire ecosystem for digital communication and commerce is predicated on one thing: trust. Trust is the cornerstone of all we do — from when consumers entrust their data to us in the belief that we’ll safeguard it and use it consistent with their desires, to the trust relationships that exist between our companies and the partners, service providers and ISPs we routinely rely on. Trust is central to all we do in email today. It will be even more important as we move into a communication environment that’s increasingly mobile, cross-channel and interactive, where data must be captured, transmitted and applied in real time. (more…)