How Not To Make Your Emails Scary

Monday, October 31, 2016 Listrak 0 Comments

Recently I read a nice article from Really Good Emails (if you’re not already following them, you should). The article focuses on some key concepts to keep in mind when designing your email layout. Many of these concepts hit home for me, as they’re concepts that I preach often to my team. White space, hierarchy, organization of content, font choices, compelling imagery, and clear calls-to-action, are all vital to the success of an email design.

Take white space, for example. I wish I had $10 for every email I see with poor use of white space. I wouldn’t be retiring, but the lunch bill would be taken care of for the foreseeable future.

More often than not, the reasons for getting rid of white space are because of this devious little creature called “the fold" (or, if you ask Litmus, "the scroll") and the ever-present power it has to make marketers want to cram as much content above it as possible. This often results in an email that’s confusing and difficult to read. White space opens up the layout and makes the content easier to digest. If the fold is your primary concern, that can be alleviated by the other concepts like hierarchy and organization of content. Always remember, a good email design should draw your eyes down through the layout.

Check out the positive impact white space can have in the visual below.

For more on these concepts, check out the article here.

Design well, my friends.

Travis Buck
Listrak's Creative Director


Writing for mobile-optimized emails

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 Listrak 0 Comments

Writing for mobile audiences is actually much simpler than you’d think.

It’s all about being what I like to call “skimmable” – someone should be able to read your email while scrolling at a normal speed and get the major points. You’ve got about 3 seconds to grab a reader’s attention before they move on, so make good use of it with succinct copy, relevant content, and lots of highly breathable white space.

Here are some tips:

#1: Channel Joey Gladstone and cut it out
The biggest difference between a desktop email and a mobile one is the amount of room you have to work with. Because the device width is smaller, you have to be even more fierce with your editing. Every word counts, so if it’s fluffy or unnecessary, get rid of it.

The goal with mobile-friendly email design (and just good marketing design, period) is to be easily digested and understood. Be skimmable (despite what your high school English teacher said, sentence fragments are allowed), use active speech, and tell your customers to click through for full details (which should live on your landing page).

A prime example of short and sweet copy used in a gorgeous design.

#2: Make a plan (and stick to it).
Before you start designing, decide exactly what you want to address (i.e., make a content hierarchy) and be ruthless with yourself if you start deviating.

For example, let’s say that my email is dropping on a Friday morning and I’ve got a TGIF sale planned, an in-store event on Sunday, tons of clearance merchandise that I need to move, and a slew of new products arriving on Tuesday.

As tempting as it may seem to pack all of this into one email, I’m not going to. Think about it this way… you just got a brand new pint of Chunky Monkey. You know you could dive in face-first and house the entire thing directly from the container, but should you? Clearly not. As delicious a choice as that would be, do the right thing: go get a bowl and decide how much you really need.

So in our scenario, we need to figure out how much our readers need in one sitting. What’s the #1 most important thing we absolutely need to get across right now? I’d say the TGIF sale, and because it’s so timely and important, it’s totally OK to stop there and call it a day. Sending an email out with just 1 thing that’s compelling and relevant is a great idea.

But, if you really want more, it would be OK to add just one more thing, so let’s determine what’s #2. Depending on whether or not this is the last email of the weekend, I’m going to say it’s either the in-store event or the clearance goodies. Now I’m going to stop there and make this email with just those 2 things. I’ll give my #1 priority a ton of real estate to really hype it up, put #2 below that, and stop designing.

This brand chose to say just one thing (aside from their permanent social content) and it's marvelous. 

This email literally tells you what the top story is (not that they had to since they made it front and center) and makes everything else secondary.

#3: Images are your BFF.
People process images 60,000x faster than they read words (it’s science), so lean heavily on them to create an emotional connection and tell your story in far fewer words. Lifestyle images (those that feature people in real-life situations) tend to be the most emotionally grabby, but also try playing around with iconography to save space and create visual interest.

Just two bits of content in this email, each with a perfectly chosen image.
Without all the images, this email would be very dry and copy-heavy. Adding product images and photography in a zig-zag layout adds visual interest and makes it feel lighter.

This brand eliminated a lot of excess words from its design just by adding icons. Sentence fragments for the win!

#4 Use social proof
Your customers are on their phones constantly, so use the opportunity to weave user-generated social media content into your emails. If you’re fortunate enough to have customers who post pictures of your products, that is pure gold. Incorporating their images along with your own content will make for a much more compelling message, and you get the added bonus of acquiring a few new followers.

Social images are like product images and product reviews in one -- a double-whammy of "you should totally buy this, see how great it is?!"

#5 Be clickworthy & clickable
So by now, your email should be the right length, feature interesting images, and include relevant social proof. There’s just one more thing you need: calls to action.

Call-to-action buttons (or CTAs if you want to get all jargony) are incredibly important on mobile emails, and you need to make sure they’re big enough to be tapped. There’s nothing worse than tapping the wrong link, so 40px is the smallest dimension you want to be working with on mobile devices. If your CTA is within a larger image, make sure that when it scales down, it’s still big enough to tap comfortably.

You should also play around with phrasing. “Shop Now” can work well and is very traditional, but it’s certainly overdone. I encourage you to be creative and have as much fun as your brand allows.

All CTAs are sufficiently large, even the one that's over top of an image, and the copy is just spicy enough to make you want to click.

This brand clearly knows their customer base. "Shop Newness" is a perfect little tweak on "Shop Now" that adds some personality. Buttons are big enough to tap and well placed.

*Note about the right amount of content.
Ultimately, you just have to know your customers. How old are they? What are their habits? Are they natural-born scrollers or is their attention span super quick?

Some brands thrive on massively long emails. Take Dot & Bo, for example (RIP, my gone-too-soon wonderland of décor). Their emails were unbelievably longbut you’d better believe I scrolled through every single one of them because their content was marvelously curated. A well-deserved post-mortem round of applause to whomever was in charge of those beauties.

Questions? Let us know!

Laurel Morse
Manager of Copywriting and Content Strategy


Know the basics of Facebook targeting

Thursday, October 06, 2016 Listrak 0 Comments

In the United States, we spend 50 minutes on average each day on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. That’s a lot of time, and we’re often in a state of mind to be influenced by effective and relevant marketing.

As Facebook users, we can probably recall the last few sponsored ads and posts that resonated with us. As Facebook marketers, however, it can be challenging to build the ideal audiences that will be positively influenced by our ads and content. With so many targeting capabilities available to us, we can sometimes experience paralysis through analysis.

If we take it back to the basics, however, and build upon fundamentals, we can efficiently target audiences in a way that drives a positive response without breaking the bank. Here are a few audiences we can explore to jump start our Facebook marketing strategies.

Retargeting website visitors
A staple of most Facebook marketing strategies is retargeting users who visited our websites. The technique is a staple for a simple reason: It works! In an era when we pay a premium in paid search and site optimizations to attract qualified visitors, we need to put as many strategies in place to re-engage visitors who don’t convert during their first visit.

This tactic is highly effective for emerging retailers and established retailers alike. It’s also incredibly easy. Simply install the Facebook pixel on every page of your website and give Facebook at least a week to build your audience of website visitors. You’ve now unlocked the opportunity to reach a very specific audience with many types of Facebook ads.

If you’ve already taken this step, but it has been a while since you’ve look at your Facebook pixel code, make sure you’re using the most current version. Facebook discontinued a few older tracking features this fall.

While you are likely familiar with this audience type, here are a few key things for e-retailers to consider:

Regardless of how much traffic your site receives, this audience is limited in size.Set your lifetime or weekly budgets too high and you may exhaust this audience rather quickly. Watch your relevance score, conversion rate and frequency metrics to ensure you’re not over-delivering your ads to this audience.

Think through your visitors’ journeys before retargeting all website visitors.
We’ve all seen ads for products or services we already purchased. Even the best technologies and processes won’t stop this from happening in every scenario. However, we can limit those experiences. For example, if you’re running a Facebook lead ad to acquire email addresses of anonymous visitors, then don’t forget to exclude your current subscriber list when building your Custom Audience.

Reach this audience with dynamic content.

The dawn of dynamic ads—which used to be called dynamic product ads—demonstrated how easy it was to be highly relevant to visitors who abandoned their shopping cart or product page. With dynamic ads, you can retarget users with the last product they viewed on your site and additional recommendations driven by Facebook data. This ad type does require additional website integrations and a product catalog, so it’s not as plug-and-play as regular retargeting, but the payoffs are worth it.

One of the lowest hanging fruits for e-retail marketers to pick is to get consumers who’ve expressed a very high level of purchase intent, such as by adding products to a cart but then abandoning it, to opt in to the marketing list. This group also comprises purchasers who may not have subscribed at the time of purchase. Reaching this audience with a small offer on Facebook is a great way to reengage them and convert them into purchasers and/or subscribers. Some retailers we’ve tested Facebook lead ads with have seen costs as low as 40 cents per acquisition. This is a small price to pay for a valuable subscriber’s consent.

Here are three tips to remember when targeting this audience:

Babysit your high budget campaigns.
While it may be tempting to throw a large budget at this audience, don’t forget it is limited in size. Be timely and relevant with this audience, but don’t overdeliver. If you do wish to run this campaign with a hefty budget, be prepared to watch its performance and hit the kill switch when the audience shows indications of exhaustion.

Update your Custom Audiences.
This is possibly the biggest time suck for marketers. Add and remove contacts from your Custom Audience as frequently as possible. Think about how often you’re acquiring email addresses of reachable cart abandoners, browse abandoners and purchasers. No one enjoys manual processes, but this will ensure that you’re being relevant to the right people.

Use detailed targeting based on purchase behaviors and life events.This is one of the best kept secrets in Facebook’s Ads Manager. Most of us know that we can target audiences by interests, job titles and employers, but did you know that the behaviors category is based on propensity to purchase from any given product category? This is an excellent way to narrow a broad audience, for example a lookalike audience based on your best repeat purchasers.

The other best kept secret is targeting by life events. You’ve most likely seen life events show up in your news feed when friends’ relationship status changes or when their employment changes. As Facebook users, we see these events as an opportunity to share a quick “congrats,” but as marketers we should do our best to leverage these events. A real-world example of this is when I began seeing mobile ads that focused on my upcoming one-year wedding anniversary. While I didn’t purchase from this advertiser, it wasn’t due to lack of ad relevancy. It was an effective series of ads that I’ve remembered.

A further detail to keep in mind when you use detailed targeting is to include and exclude audiences. Years ago, one of the biggest gripes from Facebook marketers was that we couldn’t exclude audiences. Now we can! Don’t overlook this easy-to-use feature because it will enable you to really dial in to who you’re targeting. When targeting interests and behaviors it’s easy to end up with a bloated audience, sometimes in the hundreds of millions. Exclude some obvious or not-so-obvious audiences from this larger audience to positively affect your result rates and return on investment.

Our imagination is our only limit when it comes to targeting audiences on Facebook. These three audience targeting tactics have proven to be successful for many Facebook advertisers, but there are countless more available and Facebook continues to develop more.

Matt Vollmer 
Listrak's Product Manager
Previously published in the October issue of Internet Retailer

Matt Vollmer works closely with cross-channel retailers to understand and evolve their marketing strategies within email, social and display channels. As a product manager at Listrak, he collaborates with retail experts and engineering teams to develop new products and features that will enable digital marketers to more effectively reach their audiences across multiple channels.