Plug-ins: search marketing
Email marketing enables marketers to deliver custom messages directly to an in-box that many consumers check multiple times a day. Best of all, consumers have opted into most email databases, meaning they've already expressed interest in receiving communications from that brand. However, client-side marketers are always looking to improve their use of email to better target consumers through precision timing, more compelling subject lines and better personalization.
Our three Plug-ins contributors this month offer marketers advice on ways to improve email marketing campaigns through relevant testing processes, as well as how to develop content and design to make messages more appealing. In addition, our columnists offer advice on how to attract consumers through welcome messages, how to create effective shopping cart-abandonment or repurchasing campaigns, and how to improve data accuracy.
How to improve campaign conversion rates:
Sam Cece, CEO, StrongMail
Email marketing remains one of the most cost effective marketing channels with an exceptional ROI, but serious marketers need to begin thinking beyond batch-and-blast campaigns and embrace the revenue-generating potential of life cycle marketing. Before you stop reading because "life cycle marketing" seems too complicated or daunting, let me lay out some of the reasons why these programs are within reach and can provide a significant boost to conversion rates.
Even the best segmentation and targeting of batch campaigns can't match the effectiveness of reaching a consumer with the right message at exactly the right time, and that's exactly what is enabled by life cycle email marketing. By triggering a relevant message based on a customer's activity on your website or at a critical time in their relationship with your brand, you are able to reach him at the right time instead of one dictated by your email marketing calendar.
According to Gartner, marketers can expect a 600% lift in performance by migrating from traditional outbound tactics to event-triggered communications. Brands including InterContinental Hotels Group, Zappos, Travelocity and FootSmart are already seeing anywhere between 2X and 15X increases in performance by embracing life cycle marketing techniques.
Triggered messages do require integration, but you can start small. With a straightforward integration with your Web analytics or e-commerce system, you can start driving conversions with effective welcome programs, first-purchase incentives or carefully crafted cart-abandonment programs. The beauty of such programs is that once they're set up, they run in an automated fashion. The marketing commitment is reduced to periodic testing and refreshing of copy or creative.
Once you have decided on a technical platform, follow these four steps to get started:
- Identify available data sources. What customer data are you already accessing that you can leverage for life cycle marketing campaigns? This includes existing, one-off triggered messages that you could transform into a multi-step program designed to hold the customer's hand through to a conversion.
- Audit the data to ensure that it's accurate and up-to-date. If you're missing key data points, consider dropping a survey to your customers to gather more information or conduct fresh market research to get the information you need to drive effective life cycle email marketing programs.
- Centralize your efforts. While an email marketing program might (and likely should) involve multiple departments, the strategy and justification should be driven from
- Create and test your message. Data is key to an effective life cycle marketing program, but you need to leverage it judiciously so you don't come across as "big brother." When developing the message, consider how you'd feel if you were on the receiving end, and then test it against a control group to help maximize performance and set benchmarks to measure your marketing success.
When it comes to life cycle marketing, the question shouldn't be "if," it should be "when" — and the sooner the better. The payoff is too great to ignore.
Plan holiday email strategies to gain traffic:
Ross Kramer, cofounder and CEO, Listrak
It's not easy for most of us to think about the holidays mid-summer, but for retailers it is imperative. While you're enjoying the sunshine and long days, you should also be thinking about your holiday marketing strategy. Here are four automated email campaigns and examples of their success that any retailer can implement.
- Welcome series. Back-to-school and holiday shopping brings increased traffic to your site and leads to an increase in subscribers to your marketing list. Take this opportunity to further engage these shoppers with an email welcome series that gives them more information about your brand and
- Shopping cart-abandonment campaigns. Online shoppers constantly abandon carts — to the tune of 70% of your shoppers — but that doesn't mean the sale is lost. Timely cart abandonment reach-back campaigns that include product reminders, social proof, and even discounts prompt customers to complete the purchase. Vintage Tub & Bath has a three-message cart-abandonment series, integrated with its Bazaarvoice reviews, that achieves an average 22.5% cart recovery rate.
- Restock notifications. When you sell out of a particular item, you and your customers both lose, unless you have a restock notification campaign to alleviate the
problem. Give customers an easy way to sign up on the product or checkout page to receive an email when the item is back in stock. BirkenstockCentral.com sends emails with images of the particular product and a link back to the cart for shoppers to purchase, which averages a 33% click-through rate and 28.5% conversion rate.
- Repurchase campaigns. Keep the sales rolling in after the holidays with automated repurchase campaigns for consumable items. These campaigns can be based on customer purchase history and the shelf life of particular products. Sending an email message or series offers customers a convenient way
to repurchase the product.
Optimize email marketing for campaigns:
Josh Levine, founder and chief experience officer, Alexander Interactive
Email still rules when it comes to building customer relationships. It's direct, it showcases your brand or product and it drives immediate action. However, many companies still get it wrong. Here are a few things every marketer should remember in order to grow a trusting relationship with your customers and deliver compelling, expertly designed emails that reward business.
- Test like crazy. Know your options in A/B and multivariate testing. Sophisticated email providers have list segmentation, testing and targeting options that will do much of the heavy lifting. Testing can be performed on subject lines, and the time and frequency of delivery.
- Timing is everything.
Set a regular schedule for your campaigns, and try to adhere to it. Messages sent at
the beginning of the workday may not be as effective as those sent later in the afternoon or over the weekend. What best suits one group of customers may not work well for another. For instance, maybe a weekend email works for Yahoo/Gmail users, but not for subscribers using a business email.
- Content is still king. Subject lines drive open rates, so test a few options with a small segment before rolling out a campaign to the entire list. Ensure that your content is valuable by making offers clear and getting to the point quick.
- Maintaining visual
consistency is crucial. Your content should change, but your email must be immediately recognizable. How you say something is important. Since your objective is for people to click and act, make sure you
offer a clear and prominent
call-to-action. If they hesitate, you've lost them.
- Users need control. Segment your content into distinct newsletters for topical sending, and let readers tell you when they want to hear from you. If you send a weekly email, let customers indicate which day they want to receive it. If a reader wants to go, make it easy with a simple, one-click unsubscribe link within your email.