One Email That Packs the Punch of Three

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The Back Story: Three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and the fact that we all get too much email.

But that’s because email is such an effective channel. According to Epsilon, 34% of people will open retail-related emails almost every time they receive them. To put that into perspective, people are more likely to open a marketing email than floss their teeth; according to the American Dental Association 31% of people don’t floss daily. (Guilty as charged on both counts.)

For Best of the Best, a UK-based company that hosts bimonthly skills-based competitions for the chance to win hot cars and other luxury products, email is where is where the money is. In fact, email brings in about 70% of its online revenue.

“As a company that means we’re relatively risk-averse in that area,” says Jarrod Purchase, email marketing manager at Best of the Best. “But on the flip side, because email is such a strong revenue driver for us, we need to keep it fresh and keep trying new things as a way to stand out in the email world and stand out in the consumer’s inbox.”

The Strategy: Which is why Best of the Best teamed up with agile email marketing company Movable Ink to launch the “Hold onto this email” campaign, an initiative that flips the script on the conventional wisdom that an email message has to be at the top of the inbox to make an impact.

The campaign centered on a three-day promotion to increase engagement and participation in Best of the Best’s giveaway competitions. To wit, Best of the Best sent out a single email message—subject line: “Hold onto this email”—with content that refreshed each day with updated deals and offer information.

The first iteration of the email featured three luxury vehicles in a row: an Aston Martin under a header that said “Today”; a Range Rover beneath “Tomorrow”; and a Porsche labeled “Wednesday.” As the featured deal of the day, the Aston Martin was displayed in full color; the other two cars were grayed out. Beneath it all was a lineup of five Aston Martin deals. A live countdown clock ticked off the time until the next day’s promo would become available.

When recipients went back and reopened the same message on day two, the Range Rover at center was in full color and the five deals promoted beneath had changed from Aston Martins to Range Rovers. The headers would have also changed to reflect the new timeline, with the Range Rover listed as “Today” and the Porsche labeled as “Tomorrow.” Similarly, on day three the content changed to make the Porsche the center of attention.

When the campaign closed at the end of day three, the email transformed itself one last time: All three images were now in black and white, signalling the close of the promotion, and the call-to-action encouraged people to visit the Best of the Best website.

“The top priority for email marketers this decade has been to be more relevant and timely,” says Jordan Cohen, VP of marketing at Movable Ink. “But what excites me about this case in particular is how creative it is. Finally, we’re seeing email marketers start to think more about the brand and about being experimental, rather than just pushing 10% off offers.”

Quality over quantity is the clear winner here, Purchase points out.

“The genesis of the idea for this came from people internally wanting us to send more and more email and me not wanting to because even though email works, send too much and you’re on the verge of turning into spam,” Purchase says. “But in this case we got to send one email with content that changed to keep it fresh—like three emails in one.”

The Results: Roughly 7% of all recipients transacted more than once as a result of the “Hold onto this email” campaign, a number significantly higher than what Best of the Best typically sees during its 15-day promotion cycles. Twenty-three percent of recipients who opened the email on day one opened it again on day two; 7% of those who opened the email on day two came back on day three.

But the real proof is in the revenue: Best of the Best saw a 170% increase as compared to the revenue forecast for the three days that coincided with the email promotion.

The Tip-off: Part of the campaign’s success can be attributed to responsive design. Best of the Best always designs and develops all its email communications with mobile in mind—which makes sense considering 50% of its emails are opened on mobile devices.

It’s a number consistent with what Movable Ink has seen in its industry research. According to the agency’s latest U.S. Consumer Device Preference Report (Q3 2013), 61% of all email opens take place on smartphones and tablets. Marketers who optimize for mobile see their clicks improve anywhere from between 15 to 30%, Cohen says.

“It’s surprising to me how many companies, including Fortune 500 companies, still don’t have a mobile optimization strategy—you get their email, it has a beautiful design and a great offer, but the font is, in the words of Zoolander, designed for ants, with buttons meant for clicking on a desktop,” Cohen says. “Without a mobile strategy, brands are literally leaving money on the table.”

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