Black Friday Emails: Get Creative

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 Listrak 0 Comments

When I logged into my inbox last Black Friday I expected to see a lot of black and I wasn’t disappointed. Black is naturally the go to color for Black Friday creative. However, when everyone is using black, how do you make your creative stand out in the crowd? Let’s take a look at some examples that did just that.

First let’s look at some examples that get lost in the sea of black. These examples from Staples and Fab are representative of the average Black Friday email creative. Not bad by most standards but they don’t exactly stand out.

This example from American Apparel uses black. However, they’ve created an eye catching contrast by using black elements on a light background. By using plenty of whitespace they’re able to really make the bold text and image stand out.
J.Crew uses a splash of red to create high contrast. The use of a bright red sweater in this example really makes it pop. I also find it interesting there’s no mention of “Black Friday”. Instead they call it “The gifts, gifts, gifts! Event”.

Coldwater Creek chose to use black as an accent color. It still references Black Friday and uses the color black but red is the featured color here. All that red combined with black and green accents give the email a nice seasonal feel. 

Tiger Direct used an animated ticker in their creative. Animation is a good way to draw attention. In this case it also helps emphasize the limited amount of time you have to take advantage of the sale.

Another way to stand out is to avoid using black at all. This email from Nordstrom is full of bright colors which help it stand out. Barring the dotted border they completely avoided using black. They could have used black for the text “BLACK FRIDAY” but instead chose gray. 

Stand Out in the Inbox
Another thing to remember on Black Friday is that you have to be creative with your subject lines in order to stand out. Here is a snapshot of my inbox last year:

Every subject line is just about the same and nothing stands out. There are a few things you can do, though, so you don't blend in.

Use personalization, like the recipient's name, their favorite brands, or other messaging that is personal to the shopper:

Or, test using special characters as they really catch my attention:

 Finally, simply using creative copy will help you stand out this year:


Personalized Messages that will Boost Engagement during the Holidays

Monday, October 12, 2015 Listrak 0 Comments

Today’s consumers are savvy shoppers. They shop on more devices than ever – not just the standard laptop, tablet and phone – but also smart TVs and wearable technology as the Internet of Things becomes a reality. And with the rise of subscription box services customers don’t even have to shop anymore as hand-selected, personalized merchandise is delivered right to them.

They know that retailers collect a lot of data on their shopping habits and they expect the retailers to use that information to inform and personalize future interactions.

Remember, your messages have a lot of competition, not just from your competitors but from emails from friends and family, cute cat videos and funny memes. For your messages to cut through the noise they must be useful and beneficial to the shoppers. And nothing is more useful or beneficial than an email that is personalized for each subscriber.

Below are five personalized automated messages that are designed to boost both engagement and revenue.

1. Recurring Automated Campaigns

Recurring Automated Campaigns let you deliver the most relevant products and messages to each subscriber in an automated fashion. Using a predesigned template and a set weekly deployment time, the messages are populated the moment shoppers open them based on past shopping and browsing behavior or other business rules, such as new markdowns or top sellers.

Recurring Automated Campaigns have a ton of benefits both for you and your audience. You can send more than one of these themed emails per week; and, to make them even more useful, you can let subscribers sign up to receive the ones they are most interested in receiving. These emails can essentially replace your batch and blast messages as you can promote the same content but in an automated and personalized fashion.

These campaigns work. In this email example, the retailer sends weekly messages to customers who have browsed its site but didn’t purchase. The email features items in the same category that each customer browsed, previously purchased or abandoned in their carts. The retailer had been sending weekly hand-curated messages designed in DreamWeaver that took hours for the designers to create but, with Listrak’s Product Recommender, the emails are now designed in a small fraction of the time as the template is already built and the client simply has to set up the business rules to show the right merchandise.

Have some fun with these campaigns over the holidays with weekly messages like “Monday’s Must Have Gifts” or “Santa’s Saturday Social”

With a 9% click-through rate and 1.8% conversion rate, these messages generate revenue that is 4-5 times higher than the regular broadcast messages.

2. Abandonment Nurture

The path to purchase for any customer is far from linear. But, when buying gifts, customers are even more hesitant as they often must research products, brands and prices. While cart abandonment rates typically drop somewhat over the holidays, browse abandonment increases as site traffic grows.

Adding in some targeted and personalized messages to your site and cart abandoners can help re-engage those shoppers using a useful and soft-sale approach. Abandonment nurture campaigns add two or three additional messages to your typical campaign. Let’s say you currently send three cart abandonment messages on day one, three and five. Adding two nurturing messages on days two and four will increase the likelihood of a conversion by nearly 25%.

These messages include the merchandise that was browsed or abandoned, along with related content on the product or similar products. What isn’t included is any messaging related to the abandonment, such as “items you love” or “come back and take a second look” or “complete your purchase”. They look like a product email or one of your broadcast campaigns. The difference is that they are highly personalized with the merchandise each subscriber has previously shown interest in and purchase intent.

On average, these messages have 25% higher conversion rates and generate 16% more revenue than other emails.

3. Transactional with Recommendations

Transactional emails have the highest open rates and shoppers just don’t keep them, they often refer to them more than once, especially during the holidays. These messages, which range from order confirmation, shipping notification, delivery or even return processing, are the perfect opportunities to promote additional merchandise that is directly related to the transaction.

Think product recommendations don’t belong in an order confirmation email? Think again! You might be surprised to hear that most second sales take place on the same day as the first, with nearly 85% coming in within the first three days after the purchase. Take advantage of this opportunity by helping customers discover new great products they are bound to love based on their previous purchases. 

4. Thank You

Many of your holiday shoppers will be first time shoppers. There is no better way to keep them engaged after the first purchase than to send a thank you email.

A thank you message helps you build goodwill and strengthens your relationship. You’ll stand out from other retailers who don’t take the time to thank their customers for purchasing. And, by adding an incentive to place a second purchase, along with personal product recommendations related to the past purchase and browse history, you’ll encourage shoppers to place that second order. 

This example has a 45% open rate, 24% click-to-open rate and 13% conversion rate.

5. Back in Stock

An automated back in stock message will help you recapture shoppers while better managing inventory over the holidays.

Many holiday shoppers visit your site to compare merchandise and prices. By removing items from your site when you are out of stock, you lose customers. But, if you allow customers to sign up for a notification when the item is back in stock and available for purchase, you will prevent some of the shoppers from purchasing the items elsewhere. 

This back in stock message, which uses dynamic product recommendations, has a 52.5% open rate, 33.7% click-to-open rate and 23.5% conversion rate. The retailer recently moved from static recommendations to dynamic and has achieved a 14.5% higher open rate, 14.4% higher click-to-open rate and 45.4% increase in conversions.

Questions about other ways to engage your holiday shoppers? Let us know.


What Email Marketers Need to Know about iPhone 6s and iOS9

Monday, October 05, 2015 Listrak 1 Comments

Every designer loves to be asked the age old cliché, “Can you make it pop”? Thanks to Apple, now we can make your emails Peek & Pop!

iPhone 6s has some fancy new features that are getting email marketers a little worked up. It’s certainly not something to ignore, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job in preparing for this. Let’s take a look at some of these new features and find out how they will impact our inboxes.

The big kicker is the new gesture called ‘Peek and Pop’ ­-- a 3D touch feature that functions as a “right-click” for mobile devices.

3D Touch helps you get through the email in your inbox more quickly and efficiently. To Peek at a message, just press it lightly. 

The content of the email appears on top of your inbox. If it’s a short message and a Peek is all you need, simply stop pressing and you’re back in your inbox.

If you want more than a Peek, press a little more deeply to Pop into the message for a full view — just as if you’d tapped to open it from your inbox.

There are a few concerns with this new ability to preview messages in your inbox. Is it going to count as an open? How will it affect engagement? Will responsive design impact engagement? Does this reintroduce the fold to emails? Is anyone even going to use this new feature???

An open by any other method is still an open.
Opens are collected when images are downloaded in a message, which triggers the download of an image tracking pixel. This varies across inboxes and devices because some inboxes force the user to agree to download images first. You may recall Gmail updating in 2013 to download images automatically without consent from the user. iPhone has long been known to perform the same way.

Since the Peek preview is downloading images, we will be tracking this as an open. #quickwin

However, what is different about this open? The way users are engaging with this preview is probably more of the focus for concern. I’ll quote one of my past blog posts:

“The life span of a subject line and preheader are measurable by one statistic, open rate. Subscribers only spend about 3-4 seconds reading the description of your email in an inbox. We need to grab their attention and interest immediately.”
It’s true. We really do need to grab their attention immediately. We don’t spend a lot of time pondering over emails (unless you’re an email design geek). Subject lines and preheaders will still be the key to getting an open or a Peek. #quickwin

The Peek.
The Peek preview is not scrollable so it will only show the top section of the email. With only 3-4 seconds of undivided attention on each message, it’s easy to swipe left and delete. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that…

Take control of your email with a press and a swipe. While you’re taking a Peek at an email, you can swipe left to delete it or swipe right to mark it as unread.

What does that mean for designers?

Enjoy some technical specs, or just skip ahead and get to the important stuff:

iPhone 6s
  • Retina HD display with 3D Touch 
  • 4.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit widescreen
  • 1334-by-750-pixel resolution at 326 ppi 
  • 1400:1 contrast ratio (typical) 
  • Peek preview: 1050-by-710 pixel at 326 ppi 

iPhone 6s Plus
  • Retina HD display with 3D Touch 
  • 5.5-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit widescreen 
  • 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution at 401 ppi 
  • 1300:1 contrast ratio (typical) 
  • Peek preview: 1510-by-1020 pixel at 401 ppi

The important stuff
At a standard web pixel density of 72 ppi, the preview will show about 380 pixels of the top of the email. If you design at 2x for retina then do the math and you’ll get 760px.

Peek preview changes the way recipients engage with the email initially. You have to be strategic with the limited amount of real estate you have. How do you get the most value out of 380px of space? Because you can’t click-through in Peek view, a call to action “above the fold” or “within the preview” isn’t going to provide a lot of value from a functionality standpoint. Remember, the goal is to get the user to Peek and then Pop. Then you can work on your content strategy and test engagement.

Knowing your audience is important, so always be sure to check if the demographic of iPhone 6s users is important to your brand. Whether you have an active iPhone 6s audience or not, the following are quick design suggestions to implement into your mobile email strategy.
  • Design your logo at a reasonable size. “Make my logo bigger” is not a good strategy for mobile optimized email
  • Remove navigation and other unnecessary information from the top of the email, such as preheader and view in browser links
  • Clearly state the purpose of the email in the hero graphic, headline and body copy
  • Organize your content by placing the most valuable information near the top
  • Continue to write awesome subject lines and preheader text

As of September 2015, iPhone accounts for 30% of all email opens, but we’re only talking about a portion of the market share who will be upgrading to the new iPhone 6s. A breakdown does show that the newest model typically holds the largest number of users. Will users be using this feature? A quick poll around the office tells me that a lot of avid iPhone users do not think they would use this new feature. My experience so far has been: it’s quick for personal emails, but marketing emails still need to get me at the subject and preheader.

Questions? Let us know. Will you be using this new feature? Let us know that, too. 


Fighting Comp: Are Early Holiday Promotions a Charm or a Challenge?

Friday, October 02, 2015 Listrak 0 Comments

Holiday marketing campaigns appear to start earlier every year, both in-store and online, and it seems that the larger omnichannel retailers are leading the way this year. RJMetrics released a study to remind us that Q4, specifically November and December, can account for more than 30% of total annual revenue, and the holiday-themed promotions tend to lift revenue upwards of 40% when compared to off-season promotions with similar offers.

With these types of performance metrics, it’s no wonder retailers are anxious to get started early.

Christmas in September

My colleagues and I share our consumer experiences with each other and we were all surprised to have recently received early holiday campaigns from some of the larger omnichannel retailers. The examples below show two unique strategies; one head-on Christmas message featuring holiday decorations from Pier 1 Imports (received 9-16-15) and the second from Wisteria (received 9-29-15) featuring its holiday gift guide and lookbook. Don’t misunderstand, I have no objections to receiving solid marketing messages with offers that help me better prepare for the holidays; but, based on years working in the retail sector, I know that leveraging holiday messaging so early can also have its downside.

The challenge is that these types of campaigns will probably drive an increase in top-line sales, especially when companies compare them against the same time period LY when they didn’t circulate an early holiday campaign. And in addition to seeing top-line revenue lift, these omnichannel retailers will also see an increase in comparable sales across their physical store locations.

This attributable increase in comp sales is probably the main reason retailers tend to start their holiday marketing campaigns earlier and earlier each year. You can just imagine how happy retailers are with the numbers – and themselves - when they run their first early holiday campaign.

Hard Act to Follow

So now that retailers are fighting comp and winning with their newly discovered early holiday campaigns, confidence is high for a strong holiday and Q4. However, there may be a surprise right around the corner.

What happens when the consumer is trained to shop early for holiday and ultimately stops or slows down on the more traditional holiday shopping days, i.e., Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc? This consumer behavior shift can create a huge business challenge with eroding YOY comp sales that could significantly impact a retailer’s business during the most important selling period of the year. Remember, the year before, retailers may not have sent an early holiday campaign, thus pushing purchase demand further into the traditional holiday shopping days.

Simple polling indicates that many consumers will shop early and late, or in other words, when there’s a reason (deals); however, we can all agree that there is a ceiling to total retail spending within Q4. According to a recent Study by AlixPartners via Reuters, 2015 Holiday sales are expected to grow 2.8 to 3.4 percent during the November-December shopping period compared with 4.4 percent in 2014. Although projections don’t always come to materialize, if this study has any accuracy, starting early with holiday marketing campaigns this year could only exacerbate an already challenging Holiday Q4 sales comp.

What You Can Do

Keep holiday shoppers engaged and buying throughout the entire holiday season – even those who purchased early – by ensuring that every email you send to them is personalized to their needs. Remember that people are not only buying gifts, but also for themselves as 57% of shoppers admitted to self-gifting last year. Emails that feature personalized content based on the shopper’s behavior will be the key to reaching and exceeding your holiday goals this year.