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 thecontainerstore.com 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.
Thecontainerstore.com 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 ideliveremail.com


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.