Customer engagement vital to email strategy

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Kissinger: The one area where we have been doing it a lot is with our younger audiences. We are really interested in how the Facebook audience engages with their content, what content they like. We definitely do see differences in channels. The Food Network Twitter feed is much more a gourmet audience and The Food Network Facebook audience is much more the mac and cheese comfort-food type crowd.

Deutsch: I think brands are starting to put Facebook applications up specifically to capture data.  If you don't have app engagement on Facebook, you are really very limited in the data you can internalize outside of the Facebook platform. For example a hotel chain might know that 40% of my friends are in Cincinnati, because that's where I grew up. When I get the daily deal or the travel offer, the property in Cincinnati is going to be at the top of my email message because I'm probably much more likely to book a last minute trip Cincinnati than I am somewhere else.

Direct Marketing News: It's interesting we have had some generational conversations.  Targeting an older audience at Healthy Directions and Nicole you have mentioned a younger audience, while others have a corporate audience. There was a study that came out recently about how the younger generation just wants to talk to you on social media; they don't read email. Is that true?

Berol: I think the major operating rule is I want what I want when I want it and I want it without all your propaganda, thank you very much.  I think that operating rule regardless of the tool is going to continue because it's definitely going to be a me-centric conversation initially until they can convert and become more engaged.

As I look at the cross-generational world in my home and I look at a friend of mine's eleven year old daughter who loaned me her phone. My phone had died and I was using her phone and I said how do you make a phone call?  She said I don't know.  I said seriously she said I've never used it to make a phone call. I've had it for a year.  I don't know that that's not unique. I think there is going to be some generational shifting in terms of what tools get used, what tools get adopted, what tools get abandoned.

Delma: Our audience is actually super sensitive. We are starting really around the age of 13.  [When we did] subject line testing, we got the most backlash from changing the formula, which had been the artist names. Teenagers were like, “oh, you sold out to the man.”

We switched back to the prior subject lines. We are implementing required registration this week for the first time in our three or four year history of the site and we are very nervous about it because I think that this is the first time that we are going to ask them for that information that they're not accustomed to. 

Direct Marketing News: What spurred the move to requiring registration?

Delma: You know we just see that there is ten times the traffic on the site; they're accessing the content for free. One of the goals of the company is to create a more personalized experience for everybody on behalf of our consumers and our advertisers, in the Pandora-esque model, and we can't do that right now except for a select few whose email addresses we have. Once they log in, they will be able to access anything they want and they will stay logged in, but we need to be able to also provide the feedback back to the providers and the labels and the artists who are giving us the free downloads to be able to say who is listening to your music and then retargeting. 

They are super vocal and they want to be heard and we get lots of submissions, but again we know that we are dealing with a very sensitive, very viral group of people that we don't want to upset.

Direct Marketing News: What is one way that you are looking to improve your email marketing in the next year? What are some of your goals?

Wasserman: More data, smarter targeting, better lifecycle messaging. It's really about continuing to improve in those areas.

Jackson: It's going to be a combination of new automated emails, a new campaign strategy for promotional emails and then secondarily we are looking to utilize new ways of messaging, including for multiple devices that are out there.

Berman: I think for us and we talked about it a little bit earlier is the viral piece of it.  Of course we want to have stronger brand voice and things like that in our communications and do a better job of targeting, but really it's about trying to identify those advocates and help them spread the positive word. We're using a number of channels including email.

Deutsch: I think one of the things that we are seeing our customers do this year and it goes back to your question about what's going to win.  Is it going to be email in the future or text or social media?  It's the investment in multichannel campaign management. We usually decide what is real and what's not real based on the amount of money large enterprises are spending. That's usually a good gauge. What we are seeing is investments in things like Unica, Aprimo, Teradata, SAP, SAS; big investments in systems that are pretty much geared to create a campaign that can be executed in email, mobile, social. it's kind of breaking down the silos that we've traditionally seen at a campaign level and trying to execute across those.

Scheiman: I'm hearing some of the same things from our clients and seeing some of the same activity and realistically, it comes down to how can you get more data in, not just how do I share stuff across the social channels, but give me the data, let me get it in, so that I can share more intelligently. Then how do I go back to some more rigorous testing? I know in recent years there have been so many new things thrown at us that we've been doing a lot of trial and throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks. I think we need to start moving back to the rigor that all of direct marketing is built on.

Ray: We will continue to add new data sources and segment deeper and test.  I think the biggest focus this year is going to be around reactivation and engagement, looking at some of the people who haven't engaged, and also the ones that are engaging and trying to move them to engaging on multiple channels.

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