Canada’s Anti-Spam Law Coming Into Force June 2014

Wednesday, December 04, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

Canada’s Anti-Spam Law, CASL, is now a done deal.
Last Thursday, the Treasury Board of Canada President (and champion of CASL) Tony Clement approved Industry Canada’s regulations in their finalized form. These will be published in The Canada Gazette December 18, 2013.

Today, Canadian Minister of Industry the Honourable James Moore announced CASL will come into force in June, 2014.

Bringing CASL into being has been an arduous, but meticulously thorough consultative process. Beginning in May 2004 with the Federal Task Force on Spam, The Government of Canada, with input from hundreds of stakeholders with an interest in safe and responsible online messaging have worked tirelessly to develop and deploy the world’s most stringent and comprehensive anti-spam law.


Happy Hanukkah

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

During the holiday season, I see many retailers successfully tailoring their emails to holiday shoppers. Most holiday emails, however, are specifically focused on Christmas specials or sales; what I don’t see as often are emails focused on Hanukkah, especially with regards to the creative. A search through my inbox will return many emails with “Hanukkah” in the subject line, but there are few examples that carry the theme through to the actual design. Here are two nice examples I’ve seen that focus on Hanukkah.


It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…Well, Not Really.

Monday, November 18, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

Until now, the emails I’ve been getting from top Alexa-ranked clothing retailers have been curiously lacking in holiday spirit, despite the short timeframe the merchants have to promote it. I’ll be curious to see if emails begin looking more festive this week or if I’ll have to wait until after Thanksgiving. Take a look at what I’ve received so far:  


According to my email files, Gap was the first to make a holiday mention on October 12. An email promoting a Columbus Day event featured this at the bottom:  
Then on November 4, this appeared at the top of an email that had a non-holiday subject line, 1969 denim:  new luxe treatments + washes:
The most recent (and only other) holiday reference I’ve seen from Gap was last Wednesday (November 13), and although it references gifts, it does not mention holidays specifically, nor does the landing page of winter items it links to.

Lands' End

Way back on October 17, Lands’ End sent an email with the subject line Sweater weather and an announcement of a holiday contest at the bottom of an email promoting a Focus on Fall Halloween sale. I’ve gotten nothing referencing holidays since:

Victoria's Secret

On October 23, Victoria’s Secret sent an email with the subject line Your first gift of the season:  Free tote with $75 purchase and a winter-themed hero shot with no particular holiday reference:
And the subtle winter (but not holiday) theme appeared again last Tuesday (November 12):
Then on Wednesday (November 13) an email with snowflakes and the visual above repeated lower in the email:  
And on Friday (November 15), more winter, but nothing holiday-specific: image

Forever 21

On November 21, I received this email from Forever 21 with the subject line Fab Holiday Finds For Your Favorites subject line and not a single email featuring a holiday reference since:  


H&M began a bit earlier, sending this November 1 email. Although the email references holiday looks, the subject line was simply Stunning Party Styles + Exclusive Online Offers:  25% off & free shipping:
Then last Friday (November 15) a holiday subject line – New holiday collection + 50% off select sweaters online – and fairly subtle holiday references in the email’s photos:

J Crew

I got my first and only holiday reference from J Crew in this email last Tuesday (November 12), but neither the email’s subject line nor images had a holiday theme:  

American Eagle Outfitters

Last Wednesday (November 13) I got my first hint of the holidays from AEO with this subtle reference at the bottom of an email:
And on Friday (November 15) the words Warmest Wishes in this email gave the slightest hint of holiday:

Have the messages in your inbox been hitting the holidays hard yet? 


Break it to me Gently - Re-ngagement Done (Mostly) Right

Thursday, September 26, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

I recently received this email from Chico’s that exemplifies how to do re-engagement right. If you’re considering a re-engagement campaign to warm up inactive subscribers for the upcoming holiday season (and you really should be), you might take some tips from this effort.
First, the subject line, “Last Chance…50% Off (Confirm Your Email),” broke it to me gently. They want me off their mailing list if I plan to keep trashing their daily sends unopened, but they’d like to keep me enough to offer me an incentive to stay. 
Inside, rather than being all-business, I was treated to an attractively-designed email with a style consistent with the brand (lest I’ve forgotten why I was attracted in the first place). And finally, the offer was communicated loudly and clearly and the call-to-action was prominent.
When I clicked through, a similarly-designed page enthusiastically thanked me for staying connected, re-stated the offer and gave me the code:

All of that being said, I would have liked to have seen Chico’s do one critical thing differently. Because I shop there so infrequently (only for gifts), I really do tire of seeing emails so frequently and delete them habitually.There will come another gift-giving time, however, when I will want to shop there again, so I don’t want to be cut off completely. 
As it turns out, when I went back to the original email and clicked “unsubscribe” out of curiosity, I was pleased to see that I could actually opt-down to two emails a month, which is ideal. The email and landing page, as well as the standard unsubscribe link in the email, however, made it seem to me that it was going to be either Chico’s way or the highway.
So, I guess you could say we’re now on a break. We’re going to see each other much less frequently, but there’s still hope that we’ll one day get back together…


Hitting the Inbox this Holiday Season - Your Questions Answered

Wednesday, September 04, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

Listrak recently offered a webinar, “Hitting the Inbox this Holiday Season,” in which our Chief Privacy Officer James Koons and 250ok Founder and CEO Greg Kraois presented valuable tips on what you need to monitor to maximize email delivery during the busy holiday season. 
A link to a recording of the webinar will be available soon. 
During a Q and A session at the conclusion of the webinar. James and Greg were able to answer many - but not all - of the questions participants raised. Below, as promised, are responses to the questions that could not be addressed within the hour:

Q:  What is a bounced email and what is the difference between a hard bounce and a soft bounce?

A:  A bounced email is a message that did not reach the intended recipient’s inbox. The message is returned to the sender with information about why it failed. These appended messages are referred to as bounce messages and can help a sender determine why a particular email has bounced.
Bounce messages are usually defined as “hard” or “soft," however, we feel it is better to describe them as being either temporary or permanent delivery failures.
A hard bounce is a permanent delivery failure. Generally these recipients will never accept email. Common hard bounce reasons are that the email account or domain does not exist.
A soft bounce is a temporary failure.  Examples of a soft bounce reason would be the user is over his or her email storage quote or the server is temporarily unavailable. 

Q:  Can I find out why a spam filter rejected my message if no reason is given?

A:  Unfortunately, not all spam filters provide a reason as to why messages are filtered out.  Some are open about their content restrictions, while others are not.  In general, most filters are not willing to share much information at all and are not willing to share their filter logic with email senders in an effort to keep spammers guessing.

Q:  I’ve noticed that a lot of email clients block images by default.  Is there a way to force images to be shown?

A:  If the sender’s email address has been marked as a trusted sender, the images will be enabled automatically.  A good way to ensure that images are shown by default is to encourage recipients to add you to their address book. 

Q:  If I am on a shared pool of IPs and there is a problem with one IP (perhaps that of another customer), I am told that all the IPs in the pool will be affected.  Is this true?

A:  It is very rare that an entire IP range is blocked due to a single IP issue. This was a more common practice in the past, but now ISPs tend to only block the problem IP addresses individually. Listrak uses 250ok’s Blacklist Monitor to watch our entire IP space. Individual IP blocks are monitored daily, and each one is thoroughly investigated and mitigated as needed.

Q:  How do you ensure that the message volume and send speed matches the requirements of each ISP?

A:  Send volumes that are too high or too low can have a negative impact on your email deliverability. Listrak’s deliverability team will balance your email volume according to the requirements of various ISPs and message sending speed is also adjusted by ISP to help ensure your messages won’t be blocked due to rate limiting issues.


Want to Know your Customers’ Preferences? Just Ask!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

I ordered a couple of things from The Container Store a few days ago. And this morning I received this email with the subject line “We want to get to know you…”
I think the email is nicely done as it tells the customer what information The Container Store is looking for and offers a birthday reward for sharing the info. It also says it will only take a minute, so customers know up front they don’t have to invest too much time answering tons of questions.
And it’s true. The online preference center simply asks what product categories the customer wants to hear about, how the customer describes him- or herself, shopping preferences, birthday, and zip code. There is also an option to add a mobile phone number but it clearly states that it doesn’t currently have a mobile marketing program at this time.
The email and preference center are nicely organized. But what else would I expect from The Container Store, which specializes in organization!


What Information do you Ask for on List Registration Forms?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

Marketing Sherpa just released its latest Marketing Research Chart - 

It’s obvious that email marketers are following the best practice of requiring only basic information at sign-up, but further analysis of the marketers’ responses also shows how data is power and how important data is for sending more relevant email messages. 
That is why implementing Welcome Series emails that invite new subscribers to share more information via a preference center should be an integral part of your email marketing strategy.


Recommended Products in Order Confirmation Emails

Monday, August 19, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

I spent the weekend crossing items off my to-do list around the house. I cleaned out and painted my garage. I repainted the lamp posts and the trim around the garage doors. I organized my laundry room and went shopping to buy items to help me keep it organized, only I couldn’t find what I was looking for at Bed, Bath, and Beyond so I ordered a couple of things from The Container Store’s website. And I received this email confirmation:
I love the fact that it includes recommended products, but I’m surprised that it didn’t include any of the items that I actually added to my cart, but then removed before checking out. I spent a good amount of time on and at one point I had seven items in my cart. I would add things, remove them, add something new, remove it and go back and re-add an item I had previously deleted. It took me a while to decide exactly what I wanted. easily could have talked me into ordering some of the items I had removed from my cart simply by including them in the email confirmation. I didn’t look at shoe racks, garbage cans, cabinets or shower caddies, but I did look at other laundry room and closet organization items. Not just look, but I added them to my cart, which shows purchase intent.
I’m guessing that the recommended items in this email are hard-coded and that the same products are recommended to every shopper. They might be best sellers, or they might be items that they just want to move. But they aren’t items recommended for me based on my purchase intent or purchase history.


'Tis the Season to Warm Up Your IP Address

Monday, August 12, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

Much like it used to be necessary to heat up a car on a cold day before driving, email marketers must warm up their IP addresses to ensure smooth delivery of holiday emails. If like most merchants you’re gearing up to increase your email sending volume over the holidays, now is the time to begin the warming process in order to establish your sender reputation and ensure maximum delivery rates.
Basically, you must begin by sending to a smaller number of subscribers on a conservative schedule and gradually increase email volume and frequency as your sender reputation begins to be established. Much like respect, sender reputation must be earned, and it doesn’t happen overnight.
Below is a checklist to get you started. Together, these steps will help eliminate the major spam signals for IPs – heavy volume, high bounce-back and complaint rates and spam trap hits.
  • Begin by sending targeted campaigns to your best (most recent, engaged) subscribers
  • Send emails that are not time-sensitive and that have historically performed well for your brand
  • Divide large volume emails into batches and send separately
  • Be sure to include active contact requirements to avoid SPAM traps
  • Ensure that all authentication steps have been implemented – register a sub- or custom-domain for email marketing; get records in place for Sender-ID/Sender Policy Framework; utilize DomainKeys Idenified Mail (DKIM)
  • Monitor ISP-specific deliverability reporting and abuse reporting with feedback loops
  • Automatically remove all addresses who hard bounce or complain
  • Closely monitor subscriber engagement and suppress inactive subscribers from specific campaigns
  • Do A/B split testing to find out what works to improve any less than average results
  • Monitor your reputation by performing routine Inbox testing using tools like 250ok’s Inbox Informant
  • Each week increase email volume - for example send to 2% of your list daily for a week, then 10% daily for a week, 25% daily for a week, and so on – until peak holiday volume and frequency is reached
As Greg Kraios, founder and CEO of 250ok and a deliverability industry thought leader, says, email delivery is a privilege earned based on the continued responsibility of the sender. Even if you’re working with a reputable email service provider, much of the responsibility still falls on you.
If you begin now to warm your IP address, you will be in the best position to achieve maximum inbox delivery of your holiday emails.


Using Characters in Holiday Subject Lines - Tips you’ll Love

Monday, August 05, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

A tactic that can really help your message stand out in an over-crowded email inbox is to use special characters in the subject line.
Listrak 5.2 gives you the ability to add the characters easily using a drop down menu:
But, before you start adding them to every subject line, there are a few things you should know:
  1. Special characters work best if they start and end the subject line - that way they really stand out
  2. If the subject line doesn’t begin with the symbol, at least make sure it is within the first 20 characters to ensure it will be viewed on a mobile device
  3. You should never use different symbols in the same subject line
  4. Try to use the characters to replace words, don’t just add them to add them
  5. Some characters won’t render properly in every email client - be sure to test the subject lines first
  6. Don’t overuse them - they should be used to add emphasis in one or two emails per month - if you use them in every message you could look like a spammer
  7. Do an A/B split test to see if the subject lines boost the open and conversion rates
  8. Monitor deliverability of the messages 
  9. Watch what your competitors are doing and be different - stars and snowflakes are common symbols used during the holidays
  10. Have fun and be creative with them
When used correctly, special characters in subject lines can boost open rates 10-15%. If you have any questions, let us know!


Holiday Email Deliverability Tips

Friday, August 02, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

Email marketers face a conundrum during the holidays. They know they have to increase both list size and frequency but they also know that messages that aren’t relevant and over-mailing are the two biggest reasons people opt-out and/or submit spam complaints. And that can greatly damage their ability to reach the inbox, putting their holiday email strategy in jeopardy.
But, all will be well if ramp up your deployment schedule in a responsible and measured fashion and pay close attention to deliverability best practices.  Here are some tips to help you stay on track:

Monitor complaints

One of the easiest ways for subscribers to opt-out of an email list is to click the “report spam” button. When a subscriber complains, he or she should be removed from your list immediately and automatically, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t monitor the abuse report after each send. Reviewing this information will help you quickly identify – and resolve – any issues.  If you haven’t looked at your abuse report lately, you should do so before you begin your holiday campaigns.

Warm Up your IP Address

ISPs closely monitor your sending routines over time, so a sudden increase in volume will look suspicious. Slowly increase your volume and deployment times leading up to the holidays and be sure to manage your IP addresses carefully, including closely monitoring reputation, setting up authentication, throttling deployment, list hygiene, etc.

Let Customers Opt Down instead of Out

To help mitigate complaints, be sure every message includes an opt-out button that is easy to find and use. After all, if a subscriber wants to unsubscribe, it’s better for them to click the unsub button than the spam button. Another best practice is to let subscribers opt-down instead of opting-out. This strategy will help you keep your subscribers engaged and happy with the emails they receive this holiday season.

Monitor Engagement

The holiday frenzy doesn’t give you an excuse to throw all of your engagement best practices out the window. For example, if you usually suppress subscribers who haven’t opened one of your emails within a certain time frame, you shouldn’t start sending them daily holiday campaigns. Before the holidays, try to re-engage those lapsed subscribers with a fabulous offer. If that doesn’t work, be sure to keep them on a suppression list for most of your holiday campaigns. You can certainly send specific holiday re-engagement campaigns to them throughout the season in an attempt to recapture their attentions, like beau coup did last December, but don’t blast out every single one of your messages to inactive subscribers.

Pay Attention to the Changing Landscape

A lot of big things have been happening in the deliverability landscape recently – Gmail’s tabbed inboxYahoo’s release of unused email addressesCASLCOPPACybersecurity Act of 2013, to name a few.  If you aren’t up on all of the latest news and regulations, you should brush up before the holidays. A great place to start is by subscribing to James Koons’ blog


Everyone Makes Mistakes…

Thursday, August 01, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

While we do everything in our power to avoid them, mistakes inevitably happen. The following, aptly titled, “Oops! Email Mistakes Happen” from Marketing Land shares some great pointers on how to handle them: 
Let’s face it: humans aren’t perfect. And there is definitely a human element to email marketing. From the designer who creates the graphics, to the front-line associate that clicks “Send,” there is a risk of something going wrong. So, on occasion, an email makes it to the inbox that isn’t 100% right.
Unfortunately, it can be a highly visible mistake. After all, most executives of a brand receive their own emails, not to mention the thousands or millions of subscribers. And unlike a webpage that can be replaced with new code relatively quickly or a Facebook post that can be deleted and re-posted (or at least commented on to correct a mistake), once an email is sent, it’s sent. Like a print ad in a magazine, it’s there for everyone to see.

What Can Be Fixed

Once it’s sent, it’s sent. Or at least, that’s what most people think. In reality, there are a few things that can be fixed after an email has been deployed.
The most obvious is an image. Have a graphic with spelling error? Simply replace the image on the server with a corrected version that has the same filename. Anyone who opens the email (even if he/she already opened the email in the past) will see the corrected image. Keep in mind that it can take time for the corrected image to propagate across servers, so subscribers could see a cached version for a while, but generally speaking your issue is resolved.
Some links can also be corrected after the fact. If you are linking to an incorrect product, or perhaps the URL you were given of where “it should be live” wasn’t accurate — that link can be modified (via your email service provider) after the email has been deployed. Again, anyone opening the email after it’s been corrected will be directed to the right webpage.
Last, if you are utilizing a feature that takes advantage of live content that renders at time of open (not time of send), then you can also modify any content, even if it is HTML text. In this scenario, content is pulled from an external webpage, and you would modify the inaccurate content on the webpage to resolve the issue. If the content is pulled at time of send, however, this will not work to resolve your issue.

What Can't Be Fixed

Unfortunately, the most visible part of any email, the subject line, cannot be changed once it’s sent. Even if you spell-checked your content, some mistakes can be overlooked. In this email from Blue Fly, I received a subject line of “See it. Love it. Not get it.”

While I didn’t work on this email, I’m pretty sure this subject line was supposed to read “See it. Love it. Now get it.” (That being said, I did open it, because I wanted to know, “Why do they want me to not get it?”)
In addition to subject lines, HTML text is another item that cannot be modified after an email is deployed (unless you are using a live content feature that renders at time of open, as mentioned above). This is copy-specific, so the most common issues have to do with spelling and grammar. Providing text that can be copied and then pasted in the transition from an email concept-to-build eliminates the need to retype content — removing a step where errors are commonly introduced.

When to Send an "Oops" Email

A mistake does not necessarily warrant an “Oops” email.
There are very few instances in which I would recommend sending a correction email. First, if there was a significant issue with the promotion itself — for instance, if a discount code didn’t work on the site, or the percentage off number was incorrect.
Another acceptable instance for sending a follow-up email is if the website was down, or the shopping experience didn’t work. This can happen to a website that isn’t prepared for high traffic or when something is out of your control like a DNS issue. Following is an example from Red Envelope, which extended their Cyber Monday sale last year due to site issues for customers.
Red Envelope Cyber Monday Oops
Sometimes, I receive an “Oops” email when I didn’t even realize there was an issue. In most cases, you should only send the email to those subscribers who were affected. You know exactly who opened your email and saw the mistake and exactly who clicked on the link that didn’t work, so reach out to them directly. Isolate the message to those who were affected.
In this example from Lee (a client of my employer, DEG) the wrong end date of the sale was displayed on the mobile version of the women’s email. The end date read “5/9″ instead of “5/19″ and was coded in HTML text.
An oops email was sent to only those subscribers who opened the email on a mobile device, with an updated subject line reading, “Oops! Our shorts sale isn’t THAT short…” Human nature spikes our curiosity to want to know what was wrong and also allows us to empathize when a mistake occurs.
Lee Emails
This works if you can correct the issue (image, link, site performance) and then follow up to those that were affected, allowing for closure.
However, if the mistake cannot be corrected and is severe enough (incorrect promo code in HTML text, for example), it may be appropriate to send a correction email to everyone. Still, the better solution (if possible) would be to set up the erroneous promotion code to be valid, allowing you to isolate the “Oops” email to only go to those affected.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t draw more attention to the error than you have to. Yes, “Oops” emails perform very well, and it can be tempting to send one for even the slightest mistake — but mistakes should be few and far between, or your brand’s credibility will suffer.
Of course, zero mistakes is always the goal, and successful performance should be rewarded. Preventing mistakes comes from thorough quality assurance processes as well as testing tools for rendering and link validation. Adhering to Service Level Agreements (SLAs) both internally and with any external resources is also critical. In my experience, issues are frequently the result of rushing or not following established processes.

The Threshold for Errors is (Rightfully) Low

As an email marketer, one of the worst things we can do is send an email to someone who shouldn’t get it, or not send an email to someone who should. As an agency, in terms of campaign management, our clients pay us to get it right. And, quite simply put, if we don’t, they will take the business to someone else who will. When it comes to getting the job done, focus on accuracy and efficiency. Accuracy first and foremost, but of course, the email must still deploy on time.


Using Email to Drive In-Store Sales

Monday, July 29, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

Ann Taylor sent this email to customers this morning. It stood out to me because of its clear CTA - go to the store.
Email is such a boost to online sales so I thought it was interesting that  Ann Taylor would use the email to drive in-store traffic.
I clicked on the “find a store" link and was taken to this landing page:
Again, I found this interesting. This email and landing page do not promote the fall preview at all - it simply wants customers to go into a store to see the new arrivals in person.
The email does include a link to the online summer sale items, so customers can shop online if they choose. And the landing page also has a link to the new arrivals. But in order to view the fall preview online, customers not only have to click twice, they have to navigate their own way and find it by themselves. 
The point is clear - Ann Taylor wants the customers to go to the stores and work with a stylist instead of fending for themselves. They even request that customers make an appointment before they go in.
I’m willing to bet that the people who do go in and work with a stylist have a much higher AOV than the people who buy online. And they are also more likely to be repeat and loyal customers.
It is an interesting email tactic and one you should keep in mind for the holidays as it could be a great way to invite customers to shop in your stores and not just on your website.


10 Tips to Holiday Email Marketing Success - Part Two

Friday, July 19, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

In a previous post, you learned five strategic tips that will help you set up your email campaigns for success this holiday season. Below are five more tips and best practices.
But first, here are some interesting stats from the 2012 holiday season. The numbers below represent online sales and the increase over 2011:
  • Online holiday sales - $42.3B / +14%
  • Thanksgiving - $633M / +32%
  • Black Friday - $1.042B / +28%
  • Cyber Monday - $1.465B / +17%
  • Green Monday - $1.275B / +13%
  • Free Shipping Day - $1.013B / +76%
  • Christmas Day - $288M / +36%
And here are some interesting mobile stats from last year:
  • 33% of eCommerce holiday traffic was from a mobile device / +109%
  • Mobile conversions increased 30% and mobile sales increased 171%
Keep in mind that the NRF is expecting a 4.1% increase in online sales this holiday season, and there are 6 fewer shopping days, which means 6 fewer days to email your customers. You can’t just dust off your campaigns from last year and give them a quick update – your entire strategy will need a reboot. 
Tip 6 – Two words: responsive design
If you implement just one new strategy this holiday season, it should be this one. More than half of all opened emails are currently being opened on a mobile device, and that number is on the rise. If you aren’t using responsive design email templates – don’t wait! Responsive design templates not only scale to fit the screen, but also provide the flexibility to hide, reveal or stack content so the right message is displayed. Your email campaigns will look its best no matter where customers are viewing them. Listrak is releasing a whitepaper on responsive design best practices next week, so stay tuned!
Tip 7 – If using characters in subject lines, use them correctly
Special characters can really help your message stand out in a crowded inbox. However, only use them if it enhances the message and be strategic about it. Never use more than one symbol in a subject line and don’t use them every time because it can easily become spammy. Special characters work best in the first 20 characters of the subject line to ensure it will be viewed on a mobile device, and work really well if replacing a word or as a design element at the beginning and end of the subject line. It should never be used in place of punctuation.
Tip 8 – Re-engage before the holidays
This email from Toms was one of my favorites last year. I received it the third week of October and loved the simplicity. “We’ve missed you! Come on back and be the first to shop the Toms 2012 holiday collection. Get new seasonal styles before anyone else!” It was sent earlier enough in the season to make it feel like I really would be one of the first holiday shoppers, and it gave me a reason to re-engage with the brand.
 Tip 9 – Be unique, but be yourself
There is so much right with this email Uncommon Goods sent last December, it’s crazy! First, it used customer ratings and reviews for each product mentioned in the email, which is one of the greatest things you can do to boost sales. Next, it arranged the products in a fun and clever way that kept recipients engaged and scrolling through (it was quite long but was fun to read). And, at the bottom, it asked recipients to vote on the next best seller – it didn’t ask them to buy anything, it simply let customers vote on which products to include in future email campaigns. What a great way to get customers to visit the site!  
Tip 10 – Have a contingency plan
The holidays are the busiest time of year for most eCommerce companies and, invariably, something at some point will go wrong. An email will go out with a missing or broken link. A product sells out faster than expected and you don’t have time to stop a pre-scheduled email promoting that product. An email that was meant to go to a small segment accidently goes to your entire list. Mistakes like this are common and forgivable if handled correctly and in a timely fashion.  Having a contingency plan in place will help you out tremendously when you’re facing an emergency. Put together a resolution team and decide what errors will warrant an apology or follow up email, what the tone will be, which errors call for a new discount or sale extension, if you’ll send the follow up email to everyone who received the message or only the people who opened it, etc.  Also, remember that it’s not the end of the world and don’t over-react. Here’s a great example from Chinese Laundry. An email went out last year with a broken link. As soon as it realized the mistake, it resent the email, simply adding “Oops our link is fixed” to the subject line.
Any questions on these ideas? Let me know – you can contact me here.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll post some additional email examples from last year so you can see how other retailers interacted with their holiday shoppers.


Email Engagement Using a Welcome Series

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

I recently received two questions regarding welcome messages.  I initially stated that it isn’t necessarily easily answered with specifics.  Listrak is always keen on having a chat about the details first.  However, I offered up some broad strokes to help get the conversation started.
“How many different welcome emails should we create?”
I would say that you should have one unique message for each unique acquisition touch point.  So, you may have the following messages:
1) New Organic subscriber Welcome (Pop-up, simple form, etc.)
2) New Customer Welcome (Marketing message for new customers being added to the list for the first time.)
3) New Preference Center Subscriber Welcome (Welcome for subscribers who are offering up more data than just email.)
4) Additional Touch Points (In Store, Special Event, Social Media, etc)
Those messages may all be mostly the same with a small change to some copy, content, or call to action.
Additionally, I would recommend two follow-up emails that occur after the initial welcome message.  These can be generic enough to fit into the messaging requirements of each audience.
“Also, do you have any insights as to what types of messages work best?”
As for messages, I think the following three messages work well:
1) Welcome 1 – Thank You for reaching out, Welcome to our brand, Here is what you can expect, Here is the most important thing you need to know.  This will include specific language that speaks to the funnel through which the subscriber entered.
2) Welcome 2 – Our brand is important (or products), This is why we are different, This is why you can feel “safe” buying from us (trust, awareness, exclusivity, scarcity, etc.)
3) Welcome 3 – There are a few more things you must know about us, here they are…  
Although these are clearly broad strokes, it may give you the starting point you were looking for.  The broad strokes can be distilled down by having a more detailed discussion about your audience, products, brand standards, marketing goals, KPIs, and more.


Using Google Analytics to Identify Important Holidays

Tuesday, July 02, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

This blog post comes to us from our friends at Blue Acorn, an award-winning, full-service eCommerce agency. It was written by Conversion Consultant Amanda Graham (be sure to read her bio below!).
As you begin your email marketing strategy planning for the upcoming holiday season, in addition to the obvious promotions, make sure to include a plan for any secondary holidays, as well. Amanda explains how to identify them.  
Everyone knows about Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season. With few exceptions, it is the most active time of the year for eCommerce sites, but what about other holidays? Most eCommerce stores have at least one other holiday bump. Think of the other holiday bump as a secondary holiday that drives traffic and sales. Somewhere in Google Analytics, there is data pointing to a secondary holiday spike.
You may not believe you have a secondary holiday, but trust me you do. To identify your secondary holiday, simply log into Google Analytics (or another web analytics platform) and research your traffic over the past year. Do you see spikes? Next, look at revenue throughout the past year. Do you see corresponding spikes?
A spike in traffic and revenue does not necessarily directly correlate to a secondary holiday. It is possible you are looking at spike caused by a successful campaign or massive public relations bump.
By always carefully annotating your web analytics account, you can quickly dismiss campaign/PR spikes and consult your calendar to determine what people were celebrating.
multichannelfunnel for advanced tagging
For example, you might frequently see a spike near the 3rd Saturday in August and discover the indicated date correlates with: International Geocaching Day! That explains why during this time your eCommerce store sells so many GPS devices and flashlights. Not all secondary holidays are as eclectic as International Geocaching Day; some are very obvious such as a beer t-shirt eCommerce site’s secondary holidays, St. Patrick’s Day and Spring Break.
Once you have discovered your secondary holiday, it is important to target visitors during this time period and determine how they are finding your site. Not all holidays are the same. For example you may find visitors convert very well from affiliate sites during the Christmas holiday season, but observe a negative ROI from affiliates during your secondary holiday. Using Multi-Channel Funnels in Google Analytics allows you to discover what visitor paths convert best and use that information to better target your visitors during any holiday season.
What to do about a spike is important, but the first step is simply finding out when. Take a few minutes today to check out your site data in order to discover your hidden secondary holidays.
Check out the original blog post here.


Amanda is our resident scientist at Blue Acorn. You won’t find any contractions or oxford commas in her articles. She’s always quick to pick up on new techniques and even faster at teaching them to us. We count ourselves lucky to have her here. In her free time, she volunteers for the Analysis Exchange, a group that offers free web analytics consulting to nonprofits and NGOs around the world. She spends the rest of her spare time hanging out with Charley, her wicked-cool miniature schnauzer, who you can also follow on Twitter @charleydoggy.


Remember the Preheader Message

Friday, June 21, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

Best practices for the preheader area in email tell you should include two things – a message to support the content of the email and a link to view the email in a browser. While the browser link is important, a supporting message is arguably more important. In Outlook, Gmail and the iPhone, the preheader text is displayed following the Subject Line. Since the iPhone holds 23% of the market share for email clients this is certainly something that should be taken advantage of.
Let’s take a look at two examples.

American Apparel

Subject Line:
KESH x American Apparel: The New Limited Collection
Please click here if you are unable to view the images.
This email from American Apparel doesn’t include a supporting preheader message. Instead, they’re using the space for a browser link only. Kudos for including a browser link, but as you can see on the iPhone preview, they’re missing out on an opportunity to better communicate the message.

Subject Line:
Casual Summer Clothes + The 4th of July Sale Is On
Kick Back With Summertime Clothes From Icebreaker, The North Face, prAna, & More ›
This email from is a good example of best practices. There is a nice supporting message in the preheader as well as a browser link. Notice the preheader message is on the left and the browser link is on the right. Positioning is important. In order for the preheader text to appear after the subject line it needs to be the first instance of html text in the email. Positioning the preheader message on the left side ensures that it’s the first instance.


Re-Engage Inactive Subscribers

Thursday, June 20, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

A great example of a re-engagement campaign sent to inactive users:
You probably heard the news by now that Yahoo will be releasing email addresses that haven’t been used in over 12 months. You can read about it here. Yahoo is now trying to re-engage inactive users, like me, and this email does a good job - it gives a deadline for renewing, offers several links to do so, provides help if needed, and even gives the user a reason to reactivate. 
Email marketers can use these same tactics in their re-engagement campaigns - which is so important. Everyone should be reviewing subscriber engagement and cleaning lists to get ready for the holidays. Why not try a re-engagement campaign like this to try to reactivate subscribers who haven’t opened a message from you in the past six months? If you can get them back before the holidays, you could have a customer! And for the ones you can’t re-engage, be sure to suppress them from future sends. They’re no longer interested in your products and services and continuing to send to them can do more harm than good.
Any questions - let me know!


Implementing a Proper Email Subscription Point on Your Website

Friday, May 24, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

Email acquisition is a hot topic right now at Listrak. With Twitter’s release of the lead generation card and Listrak’s recent whitepaper on the importance of acquisition, I felt it relevant to talk about implementing a proper email subscription point on your website.
Beyond a modal popup solution, the subscription point should be a mini form in the header or footer of your site. By positioning it there, you’re ensuring that the mini form will be on all pages of your website. The most common placement is in the footer, but including it in both the header and footer certainly isn’t  a bad idea. The bottom line is you want the mini form to be easily noticed. Don’t ask for lots of information. Keep the form short and sweet. Ask for  email address only. You can work on acquiring more info later via a welcome message that points to your preference center.
Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Here’s a great example of what a subscription point should be. This example was located in the footer. It’s a mini form that only asks for your email address and it was very visible and easy to find. Well done.
This example has the subscription point located in the header. In this case it’s a text link that upon click displays a pop up mini form. The problem here is it’s hard to find. I really had to scan the page before I saw it. While this example does display a mini form, they would be better served having the mini form directly on the page.
In this example the subscription point was located in the footer. This one had several things going against it. It’s a text link that wasn’t easy to locate. This link directs you to another page that explains the benefits of receiving their email. You then have to click on yet another link that takes you to the account login page. So basically you need to create an account in order to receive their emails. Like it or not, people tend to be impatient, which is why a quick and easy solution is vital. Also, asking the visitor to create an account feels like a commitment. If it feels like a commitment, you’re surely going to scare some potential subscribers away.
Finally, let’s take a look at an example that has all the right things going for it. This is a great example for retailers to follow. There are three subscription points in this example, a link in the header, a modal pop up, and a mini form in the footer.


Making Twitter a Part of your Email Acquisition Strategy

Thursday, May 23, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

As many of you know, yesterday Twitter released the Lead Generation Card, a new type of card which allows marketers to collect leads directly within a tweet.
This could be a game changer because users do not need to fill out any lengthy forms.  Their information (Name, email, and username) is already pulled into the card. They literally just have to hit “Submit” on the Card’s call-to-action.  Currently, this is only available as a feature in Promoted Tweets — a paid feature of Twitter Ads.
As email marketers, we’re always looking for new ways to boost our acquisition.  The launch of this new Twitter feature is exceptionally timely as Listrak recently published a whitepaper focused solely on the importance of acquisition.
This is a great tool to get more bang for your buck from your social media spend.  With Twitter Ads, you pay for the Cost Per Engagement on retweets, replies to, clicks, or favorites your Promoted Tweet — and clicks count both on the URL in the tweet and anywhere in the tweet itself, so this is something you definitely want to test.
It’s important to treat this acquisition source as you would any others (website signup, modal/lightbox signup, etc.) and send new subscribers a welcome email/series. 
There are many reasons that a welcome series is highly recommended. To begin, it validates the email address, which protects your sender reputation. It also reminds subscribers about their opt-in and confirms what they may expect as a result of signing up. In addition, welcome emails may be used to request more profile information while reinforcing your brand. And finally, a welcome series immediately engages new subscribers and keeps them engaged beginning at the moment they have shown interest in your brand.
Will you be testing the new Twitter Lead Generation cards?  Would love to know your thoughts!


AOL Postmaster - New Spam Filtering

Monday, May 13, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

Email marketers should be aware that last week AOL announced on their POSTMASTER BLOG that they have made some changes to their spam filtering.  In a POST from  Lili Crowley, it was announced that based on customer feedback changes have been made to the handling of identified spam.  As a result, some senders may be blocked with 544 CON:B1 Refuses.  AOL’s Postmaster website defines a 554 CON:B1 as “The IP address has been blocked due to a spike in unfavorable e-mail statistics”.  
This type of error message would indicate that the sender has been blocked due to a poor sending reputation.  Senders should be aware that even tough they may have  been able to deliver email in the past without any major deliverability issues, they might not be able to get delivered today.


Customer Loyalty through User Experience

Monday, May 06, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

I’d like to introduce guest blogger Cherene Etemadi, marketing manager with EYEMAGINE, a full-service Magento and web development company based in sunny California. Below Cherene shares some tips for designing and building websites that create customer loyalty through the user experience.   

Customer Loyalty through User Experience

People love things that make their lives simpler, and good online user experience will do just that for your customers.
Many merchants make the mistake of letting the convenience of eCommerce become an excuse for standardized, “out-of-the-box” user experience design and development; but the best online shopping experiences should deliver much more than just the ability to shop in your pajamas. Delivering a superior user experience is the fundamental key to turning your online store into a customer loyalty machine.
Here are some ways to begin thinking about how to deliver that optimal online shopping user experience:

Be Frictionless

A good user experience/user interface designer will focus on the “friction points” of the user experience. Friction points are the sticky areas of online shopping, where customers will often get bogged down and lost before they complete the checkout process. Your UI/UX designer will ask why you’re requiring  customers to go through 5 steps to check out when only 3 would do, asking  them  to  search for where they need to go next, or making them wait an eternity for a page to load.
Identifying friction points means empathizing with users. For a recent Magento custom development and design project, the design team at EYEMAGINE smoothed a shopping flow friction point by adding a “Details” tooltip when hovering over a product image — providing an instant, brief description of product features - as well as an “Add to Cart” button, without the need to click through to the product’s detail page.


Suddenly a friction point was eased and a process that may have taken minutes was reduced to seconds.

Be Persistent

Persistency, or “stickiness,” pertains to the elements of a site’s layout that don’t vanish from the viewport of a browser no matter how far you scroll up or down a page. Creating persistent elements on an eCommerce website allows customers to have what they need at their fingertips at all times instead of needing to scroll up or down.
This can be particularly helpful when it comes to navigation — something you might want users to have access to at all times. For example, for the portable speaker site (another Magento custom development and design project),  the EYEMAGINE design team created an extremely “tall” product details page, full of product information, but requiring an extremely long scroll by users. In order to ensure that customers don’t lose their way on the page, we also added a dark gray persistent navigation bar.


No matter where users scroll within the page, this black bar follows them and remains “stuck” to the top of their browser.

Be Responsive

In addition to being responsive to your customers’ concerns, you must also embrace responsive web design. Not just an eCommerce trend, responsive design is here to stay because it fulfills the need to provide an optimal user experience on the multiplicity of user screen sizes, including tablet, phone, laptop, desktop, and every variety of each.
Embracing responsive design in eCommerce allows an online store to be tailored perfectly to all customers, no matter how they access the site. And while some larger and more trusted eCommerce developers find more success providing custom apps for their clients,  for those without the resource to invest in a fully customized app, and those who want to target all platforms without worrying about particular device compatibility, responsive design is an ideal solution.


Be Scientific

Being ruthlessly scientific is perhaps the most important trait an online storeowner can have, and isn’t easy to master. Being scientific means:
Being willing to constantly discard and refine elements of your site until you arrive at a model that truly works
Forgetting about what your competition is doing and learning for yourself what makes sense
Being able to put your site where it belongs — in users’ hands, instead of in your head
Websites aren’t static items to be designed, built and then left alone. The Internet is a living, breathing creation made with changeable code that provides the huge advantage of flexibility. Good online storeowners embrace flexibility, and use it to their advantage to slowly, over time, arrive at a model that truly works for their businesses.
This can be accomplished with A/B testing, the ultimate scientific method applied to eCommerce web design. When executed correctly, A/B testing can take the neurosis and guesswork out of running an online store by validating ideas with real results.

What it All Means

You don’t just want to redesign your site to look good. You want to redesign it to drive conversions, increase average order value, and create loyal customers.
The only way to effectively build eCommerce customer loyalty through good user experience is by having a deep knowledge of online consumer behavior; something EYEMAGINE’s expert team of designers and developers know better than your 16 year-old-nephew knows Call of Duty.