How to Optimize Your Email Marketing Strategy with Data

This blog post from Listrak Channel and Customer Marketing Manager Kate Lowry was co-authored with Emma Tzeng, Content Marketing Manager at Gigya. Gigya helps businesses acquire and know their customers by registering users across devices, consolidating data into a single customer view, and integrating into marketing applications.

The volume of email hitting subscribers’ inboxes is on the rise and is at its peak during the holiday season. Last year, nearly 30% of all US email volume occurred during the holiday season, which was an increase of nearly 13% over the previous year, and even more is predicted for this year.

No wonder consumers feel overwhelmed. In fact, 45% report email overload as a reason for not opening an email.

So how do you get your message across to the overwhelmed, indifferent masses?  The answer lies in first party consumer data and email personalization.

What’s First Party Data Got to do with Anything?

Data on your customers provides tons of insight into users’ backgrounds and habits, which serves as the building blocks for personalized email marketing campaigns. In other words, first party data lets you speak to your users on an individual level so you can deliver the messages that matter most to them.

First Party Data vs. Cookie Data

Back in the former dark days of marketing, businesses relied on cookie data to inform their marketing campaigns, which essentially required marketers to draw inferences based on browsing history. Every consumer has probably experienced the downfalls of cookie data to some degree: You know how it feels when your spouse uses your desktop to shop for new shoes, only to receive an onslaught of banner ads for women’s evening heels for the next week. Not only does the browsing experience become totally irrelevant — and frankly, a bit irritating — to the user, but it’s also a waste of money and resources for the business.

First party data, on the other hand, consists of data points that the user provides voluntarily and knowingly about himself when he fills in his social media profiles. For instance, when you update your location on Facebook, the social network saves this information and it becomes a first party data point. Businesses looking to access and leverage this first party data should look into investing in a suite of technologies that can collect and manage large volumes of these user identities in a responsible, easy to access way.

Capturing First Party Data

To start collecting first party data, you’ll want to implement a social login dialog that lets users authenticate their social identities when they enter your site or mobile app in a secure, permission-based manner. When requesting user data, be sure to communicate clearly to your users what data points you’ll be collecting and explain how you plan to use their information. This builds a sense of trust between your business and your customers while communicating your commitment to responsible data handling practices.

To increase the chances of your users logging in socially, you may also want to consider providing some incentives for doing so, like Lancôme does below.

 

Beauty company Lancôme offers deluxe samples and early access to new products for users that register for its site.

Segmenting and Leveraging First Party Insights

Once you access your users’ information, it’s important to have a strategy in place to actually use this data to provide relevant experiences for your customers. To see this process through, you’ll want to invest in a platform that lets you visualize and sort your data in a user-friendly way.

Segmenting your audience is the first step when creating a tailored email campaign, as it essentially lets you group your readers according to specific criteria, such as interests, site actions and backgrounds. By dividing your audience into groups, you set the stage to begin sending tailored emails that your readers will actually care about.

Did You Know?

Online shoppers are open to receiving more emails if they feature personalized products and help make shopping easier.

Optimizing Your Email Campaigns

With email marketing, trial and error is a necessary first step when fine-tuning your email campaigns. To find which messages resonate the most with your audiences, consider writing multiple messages with the same call-to-action and the A/B testing your emails. To streamline the email customization process, you’ll want to use an email client that makes it easy to test your email performance and generate new content for each of your subscribers.

An Email Strategy Founded on Data

Accurate, comprehensive data lies at the foundation of every cohesive marketing strategy. While first party data contains insights to power your marketing campaigns, performance data instructs you how to better optimize your campaigns for conversions. As you tweak and measure your email strategy, consider how data plays a role each step of the way - your customers will respond to it in positive ways.

What Makes me Click: 4 Tips for Creating Scrolling Emails

By Jerica Reddig, Listrak Marketing Intern 

Today we present this season’s last blog post from Marketing Intern Extraordinaire Jerica. We have enjoyed her lending us her fresh perspective on the consumer’s take on what’s in her inbox and hope you have, too! Join us in wishing her the best for this coming school year. We hope to see her back in our offices - and on our blog - again soon! 

“Above the fold” is a phrase that originated in the newspaper industry and refers to the space that is above the crease in a newspaper. The principle - to put all important content “above the fold” because that’s what consumers will scan to see if it’s worth buying - has been used for years. Yet with social media, like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, users are forced to scroll down for more content, which means it’s okay – and sometimes preferable – to send scrolling emails. Well, as long as you follow these four guidelines:

Large, Interesting Pictures

In order to keep your readers’ attention – and keep them scrolling –your email should mainly consist of pictures, which is why this format is great for flaunting new arrivals or sale items. Just be sure that your pictures are large enough that the reader doesn’t have to squint to see. You may laugh, but I’ve gotten multiple emails that I’ve deleted before reading, because the pictures are too small, and I can’t make out the details.

Minimal Text

This tip goes hand-in-hand with the first tip. Scrolling emails are like mini-shopping trips for your subscribers. They want to scan your products and continue scrolling, not have to stop constantly to read the text below each item. Show them your products; don’t tell.

Similarity of Products

Choose an overall theme for your email that unifies the products displayed. This could be interpreted in numerous ways. You could display all shirts or pants, items of the same color pallet, or even items that have a Victorian look. Either way, your reader won’t have to switch gears with each scroll down.

Breaks Between Groupings 

Just like when reading a book or a news article, people get lost and unmotivated by large chunks of text. In this case, the text is your pictures. Give your readers an opportunity to take a break and absorb the previous information, like they would at the end of a paragraph. Have one overall theme (see Tip 3), but also have mini groups below that. Your theme could be shirts, but you could have three groups based on pattern (tropical, pastel, and neon), or your theme could be color and you could group by shirts, purses and pants.

Let’s take a look at the queen of scroll-through emails, Etsy. 

The subject line, The Grass Is Greener, clearly implies that the theme is green/nature. However, products are organized by August birthstone jewelry (Peridot, which is green), back to school items and August baby items. The pictures are large and interesting, with one sentence being the most amount of text. Overall, the email is intriguing, engaging, and honestly leaves me wanting to see more.

What Makes Me Click: 4 Ways to Add Humor into Emails

By Jerica Reddig, Listrak Marketing Intern

Laughter is the best medicine, and an effective way to stand out in the inbox as well. Humorous emails are relatable and compelling to read. What makes them so effective is that humor can shock, refresh and even brighten your reader’s day. In essence, your company becomes humanized in your subscriber’s eyes.

Okay, okay, you get it. Humor + Emails = Lots of Clicks. But how do you actually incorporate comedy into your messages? Here are 4 ways to do it:

Subject lines

Subject lines are the first impression your subscribers have of you. Catching your reader’s eye will drive that open rate higher which will ultimately boost overall engagement. The examples below do a great job of not only grabbing the reader’s attention but also tying into what the actual content of the email itself is.

From: Dormify

Subject Line: this SHEET is bananas

Date: 8/1/2014 4:01 PM

From: Dormify

Subject Line: A bunch of free ship

Date: 12/18/2013 10:01 AM

Email message

The body copy of your email is the most important part and the perfect place for a little humor. Below is an example by Poppin, who is introducing a new product in a unique and funny way. What I like most is the added commentary throughout the message: from “Get me from my good side” to “No peel appeal” to making up words like “unsnappability,” Poppin perfectly balances being fun and still promoting the product’s benefits.

From: Poppin

Subject Line: Product Spotlight: Meet Our Poppin Crayons

Date: 8/14/2014 8:06 AM

A twist on the usual

Every store has a sale. Not every store has a sale because they “accidently” sent you an email of a cat picture.

 Fab did.                                                                                      

After sending me an email at 4 AM with just an image of a cat, they sent me “Sorry! 10% off” email 15 hours later filled with cute cat puns as if playing it off. What I especially like about this second email is the embarrassed vibe it has: the cat’s eyes are wide as if staring shocked at the computer screen and the prominent ‘Oh Hi!’ text translates as ‘oh, I didn’t mean to do that, but I’m trying to maintain my cool.’ Which still leaves me questioning, was it a clever marketing campaign or did someone actually mess up?

From: Fab

Subject Line: [TEST] PM Tracking Test

Date: 8/3/2014 4:06 AM

 

From: Fab

Subject Line: Meow. Our goof is your gain. Additional 10% off today only.

Date: 8/3/2014 7:30 PM

Be Punny

The first time you hear a pun, it’s funny. The second time, it’s not. What does this teach us? If you’re going to use puns, make them new and innovative. The example below by Kenneth Cole does a FANTASTIC job of this. It’s clever and relevant, giving this email a fun vibe while still getting the point across.

From: Kenneth Cole

Subject Line: Hashtag, you’re it.

Date: 7/23/2014 10:00 AM

Note: Humor is not for every brand. Always keep in mind who your target audience is and what your brand voice is. If your brand is more serious in nature, then be more cautious when/if using humor.

Holiday email templates - save time by setting them up in advance

Email templates are essential to holiday campaigns as they reduce time and resources needed to create campaigns. 

Last year, Soft Surroundings Outlet sent out a recurring campaign every Tuesday in November called Tick Tock Tuesday:

The same email was sent every Tuesday on November 5, 12, 19 and 26 with the subject line “The clock is ticking…time to get clicking.”

It works because the recurring message became familiar and anticipated by shoppers. And the mystery offer encourgaged customers to click through to see what was on sale that day. Best of all, the retailer saved time by reusing the email creative each week.

Do more with animated emails

Animated gifs in email can really help keep customers focused on your message - and it gives you the opportunity to highlight different products, show off certain features and draw attention to your call to action.

I love this example from Fossil, received Dec. 4, 2013 with the subject line “Festive Watches to Give or Receive”. It works because shoppers can see a variety of watches quickly. The look is engaging and clean.

Making the Most of Back in Stock Products

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In our latest Holiday 2014 post, Jerica, Listrak intern extraordinaire, reports on effective ways to turn out of stock situations around this holiday season: 

Being out of an item isn’t just embarrassing, but can be damaging to your company’s reputation and result in loss of potential sales. This is especially true, and more likely to occur, during the holiday season. However, there are clever ways you can turn this potentially damaging situation into a great experience:

Back in Stock Alerts

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What I Like: Allowing a customer to sign up for a product-specific back in stock alert email when an out of stock item she previously showed interest in comes back in stock not only gets new subscribers on your list, but also helps to save the sale.

Style does a great job of color coordination, giving this email a sophisticated appearance. Putting recommendations at the bottom is an added bonus.

What I Would Try: While “shop now” is a nice call to action, I would love to see an “add to cart” or “buy now” link instead. I would also experiment with adding reviews onto the recommendations.

Bestsellers Back in Stock Emails

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If you don’t have a Back in Stock Alerts solution in place, you can still take advantage of back in stock products in your regular marketing emails.

What I like: The large “Back in Stock” banner is very eye-catching. Since Gant is promoting Fall Bestsellers, showing a variety of items covers most of their bases. Tacking on the Holiday Shipping Deadlines at the end is a good move because it creates a sense of urgency that motivates the reader to act now.

What I would try:  Perhaps under the Shop Men/Women’s Sale I would put solely gender-specific items.

Single Item Back in Stock Email

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What I Like: This email creates a bandwagon effect on its readers. You should buy this product; everyone else did. The photo used displays the boots nicely from both sides and allows the reader to imagine themselves in the boots.

What I Would Try: Using a customer’s review might make a weightier impact on the reader, and adding a buy now button would give this email a stronger call to action.

Do you have any examples to add? We would love to see them! 

 

And so it begins…Happy Holidays in my inbox

We’ve been talking about holiday preparation for a while now. These two emails that recently landed in my inbox show that it’s not too early to begin planting seeds for a successful season with holiday messaging:  

Received: July 25

Subject line: Unreal Black Friday in July deals - thru Saturday.

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Received: August 4

Subject line: CYBER MONDAY savings event - today only!

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Have you done anything to begin getting your subscribers in the spirit of the season? 

In my inbox

Donna Fulmer

Lately, especially with holiday planning in full swing, we’ve been hearing (and talking) a lot about nurturing your relationship with subscribers now in order to have them engaged with your brand as email volume rises. In going through my files of interesting emails, I found a few - several not from traditional retailers - that I thought were worth sharing. 

Re-engagement campaigns 

Re-engagement campaigns are especially important now to ensure optimum deliverability during the holiday season. But saying the right thing to re-engage someone who may have fallen off the radar, so to speak, can be challenging.  

This one from Chili’s has a clever subject line - Oops…we haven’t sent you any coupons lately. I thought it was interesting because Chili’s was taking the blame for our disconnect, even though I’m pretty sure they’ve sent me plenty of coupons in the past few months but I simply haven’t opened the emails. I also liked the enthusiastic “Let’s reconnect!” before they served up my incentive: 

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This re-engagement email from Upworthy caught my attention with it’s lengthy but intriguing subject line - You Haven’t Been Around Here Lately, Which Makes You The Person Perfect Person To Do This

Like Chili’s they took the blame for the cooling of our relationship by saying, “What can we do better?” and linking to a survey. I liked the tone of the rest of the copy, as well, and the link to the type of post that reminded me why I signed up in the first place: 

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This one from Walmart, by the way, paled in comparison. The subject line - We have missed you :-) - confused me. A smiley face? Were they happy about it?

I subscribed to this list when I ordered photo reprints online to pick up in my local store, and haven’t made a purchase since. That would probably explain why when I opened the email I was presented with a very random grid of “great new product recommendations.” Are they new products? That’s the only reason I can imagine they would feature them for me. Still, a bit of a disorganized, uninspiring mess:

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Preference Centers 

It’s always a good idea to ask your subscribers what they’re interested in and what and how often they’d like to hear from you, and especially the latter when you’re planning to up your email frequency. Asking for personal information, however, can sometimes be tricky. I thought the following two did a nice job of it. 

The first, from abc carpet & home, is simple and elegant and very much consistent with the brand. The subject line - We want to hear from you. - is pretty straightforward yet sincere, much like the copy inside, which is enhanced by a stunning photo:

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Following in the same straightforward pattern was this subject line from Sirius -Take Action - - Complete Your Preferences Now - but it was the image and the tone of the copy inside that I thought was clever. I especially like, “Yeah, we know filling out forms isn’t high on your to-do list. But trust us, this is one to put at the top.” 

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Have you seen anything inspiring in your inbox lately? 

To Send or Not to Send More Email: That Is the Question

So, just how much email is okay to send? It’s a question on many retailers’ minds, especially as we enter the holiday season. 

Recently, Elyse Dupre of Direct Marketing News interviewed Listrak CEO Ross Kramer and Listrak client, Alex Cresswell, of Lisa Leonard Designs, on the topic for an article that appears in the August issue. 

In short, Ross and Alex suggest that it’s okay to send more if …

- your target customers are in market

- you’ve segmented your list 

- it’s Black Friday or Cyber Monday 

- you’re leveraging scarcity 

…and you shouldn’t send more if…

- your customers are making big-ticket purchases 

- your customers aren’t receiving your emails 

Read the article to find out more.