By Siong Eng
User Experience Architect
There's a communication technology out there that is not only advancing at a rapid rate, but is also changing the way marketers make direct and meaningful connections with target audiences.
It is a technology you're probably very familiar with: it’s called 'email'. After a slump in popularity, email marketing is making a triumphant comeback.
From responsive email (optimised for mobile) to HTML5 Video support (accommodating video within the email) and of course marketing automation, the technology itself has significantly advanced, allowing users to do more without breaking the budget.
Email marketing’s 'direct connection' with end users is very valuable in the social media era. Users today are showing signs of message fatigue thanks to the endless bombardment of information from digital channels, as a result the old email is looking comparatively gentle, trustworthy and appealing again. (Add to this that most people consciously subscribe to receive emails from providers, there is already an established interest in the email subject matter.)
Plus, when it comes to email, most of us treat our Inbox as a rolling 'to do list' and check in multiple times a day: which for marketers means there are a great many opportunities to connect with target audiences.
Finally: we've remembered email marketing is cost effective and can be easily measured, meaning maximum optimisation and bang for your buck.
So now we are all back on the email bandwagon, the question remains: how can we use this technology to maximum effect in 2016?
1. Create more engaging content
Today's users are visual creatures and as a rule, they will more readily consume video over text heavy content. In fact, it has been shown that just having the word 'video' in your email subject line will boost open rates by 19%, increase click through rates by a whopping 65% and reduce unsubscribes by 26%. Thankfully the technology has advanced to allow us to include video quite effectively (HTML5 Video support).
They say 'a picture is worth a thousand words', so you could safely assume an animated GIF is worth a whole lot more! Animated GIFs have been making a comeback in email marketing recently because they are naturally engaging and compatible across most devices.
Animation is a really effective way to bring a product to life, illustrate a simple narrative or draw attention to your call to action.
2. Tailor-made messages
'Segmenting subscribers' is a modern email marketer's dream come true! Allocating subscribers to targeted lists allows you to tailor your email content to very specific target audiences.
'Personalisation' of the message is a wonderful thing because it goes against the old school 'spammy' email culture and instead inspires more meaningful engagement with the email and lower unsubscribe rates.
3. Timing is everything
Today we know a lot more about how the timing of an email marketing campaign impacts upon its success. Again, this feeds into the increased personalisation of email marketing by creating the illusion that your messages are tailored and super responsive.
Examples of good timing include sending a birthday greeting or discount voucher on a customer's birthday; holiday or season inspired emails (Christmas, Australia Day, Easter etc), or targeted follow up emails suggesting products the customer might like, based on their most recent purchase.
Thankfully, advances in automation have simplified this seemingly huge process and does so without sacrificing the personal touch.
For example, prompting a customer who filled and then abandoned a shopping cart to perhaps reconsider with a simple, personalised follow up message. All in all these touches really work to enhance the customer experience.
4. Optimise emails for mobile
Now more than ever it is essential that websites be optimised for mobile devices because we know mobile optimisation can increase sales, generate more traffic and boost customer engagement. A little known fact: the same principle applies to email marketing.
Given a whopping 74% of people check email on a mobile device, multiple times in a day, it makes sense to incorporate mobile optimised design into our email marketing to ensure the best possible experience for end users.
If you already have a mobile responsive website, mobile email is a valuable extension as it adds a whole new level of convenience to the user experience, particularly if you are linking through to your website from email. Research shows that users are more likely to convert when browsing from a mobile device, so it's all about making it as easy as possible for your customers to take action.
(Also, at this point in time very few marketers are optimising email for mobile so it presents a great opportunity to differentiate from the competition.)
5. Monitor, test and optimise
Monitor, test, optimise your emails and repeat! Effective email marketing campaigns need maintenance.
Monitor click through rates (the percentage of people who clicked on your email). This will give you a good idea of how timely, useful or interesting your emails are, and subsequently, any areas that need to be improved.
Monitor conversion rates (the percentage of people fulfilling your email's call to action). This identifies whether or not the campaign is meeting your goals. For example: is your 'Super Saturday Flash Sale' campaign translating into actual sales?
Optimise your emails by A/B testing variations of an email. Test only one change at a time, for example testing two variations of a subject line to see which version performs better.
a) "We're selling out: 50% off all items in store. Ends Sunday." b) "We're selling out: 50% off all items in store."
Option a) performed better than option b) due to the added sense of urgency created by the Sunday deadline.
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