Overlook This Email Issue and Customers Will Opt Out

Email marketing may be mature, but that doesn’t make it easy. There’s much to consider, not just with overall strategy, but also with day-to-day execution. So Direct Marketing News asked several industry leaders, “What is one issue that email marketers aren’t thinking about today that they should be, and why?”

Here, they share their opinions on overlooked areas that can trip up email marketers and lead customers to ignore messages or opt out altogether.

Liz Gould
Director of strategic accounts for cross-channel marketing, Experian Marketing Services

One issue that’s often overlooked by marketers is making sure they’re optimizing their program with triggered messages based on customer interactions or insights. Although triggered messages may be slightly more time intensive at the outset, they’re the workhorses of an optimized email program. Marketers can get so caught up trying to get promotions out the door that they ignore longer-term programs that can, ultimately, contribute more to their bottom line and can help avoid the “coupons and promotions scramble.” To customers, triggered response messages are often very timely and relevant. Triggered messages like browse emails that are based on categories or products a user has surfed, abandoned cart series, and even thank-you-for-purchase emails are extremely effective and also help to engage customers and keep them active on your list. We’ve seen a 54% lift in revenue when sending a second abandoned-cart reminder, a 3.4x increase in revenue with browse emails, and 13x increase in revenue with thank-you-for-purchase emails. These are all no brainer programs that every marketer should be deploying.

Simms Jenkins
Founder and CEO, BrightWave Marketing

Email marketing remains the hub of all digital marketing. The marketing world has seen more innovation in email in the past few years than in the past decade. These macro changes are all positives and the opportunities for email remain near endless. Of course, these new opportunities bring new challenges and many email marketers are not looking beyond the horizon. Some aren’t even taking advantage of the biggest thing to ever hit the email universe: mobile.

Mobile is the game changer for email marketers. A well-defined mobile email strategy will either take your email program to the next level or wreak havoc to your subscribers’ inbox and your bottom line.

Why mobile email matters:

  • Smartphone owners are more likely to read emails than make calls.
  • Consumers care how your email looks on a smartphone.
  • You can’t know the right approach without understanding how and where subscribers read your emails.
  • Your approach will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish in your mobile email.
  • Mobile purchasing decisions are most influenced by emails from companies.
  • Device matters and behavior varies.

Jennifer Bunner
Ph.D., Director of insight, Outsell

Marketers are not keeping in mind the importance of optimizing for a cross-device experience. As consumers shop they use several devices throughout the process, whichever device is most convenient to them. Marketers must optimize their communications so that they render seamlessly across devices. Otherwise, consumer engagement will suffer. Worse yet, consumers will delete or opt out of your email communication altogether. If you aren’t optimizing your communications for a cross-device experience, you’re missing out on engaging with consumers on that communication, and you’re impacting the effectiveness of your future communications with that consumer. How? When a consumer deletes your email because it doesn’t render properly on her device, you’re missing out on the capture of all that engagement data. This consumer click behavior or engagement data is one of the most valuable sources of data in understanding consumer intentions and crafting future relevant, targeted marketing communications.

Jeff Adee
SVP, B2B List Services Group, Infogroup Targeting Solutions

There’s more to your customers than their email addresses and ZIP codes. A customer’s age, gender, household composition, and purchase history all count when it comes to future purchasing decisions. Failing to profile the individuals behind your email list will lead to highly ineffective email marketing campaigns.

For consumers to engage in email marketing material and respond to calls-to-action, it’s important that the information they receive is tailored to their demographics and personalities. Men and women respond differently to marketing tactics, just as teenagers interact differently from adults with spouses or children. It’s important to supplement email addresses with data that offers clues to what will spark a reaction from a customer, and to craft messages accordingly.

Big Data is everywhere, so relying on an incomplete customer profile is unacceptable in today’s marketing world. Messages need to be tailored specifically to individual customer segments, and simple email addresses do not offer enough insight on your customers. Supplement your email lists with more detailed data and your messages will go a long way.

Seamas Egan
Corporate sales manager, Campaigner

Email marketers should remember that email marketing is about getting a click and not necessarily a sale. It’s important to develop an email persona, because when targeted audiences feel they’re connected to a brand or feel they have a relationship with it, they’ll be more inclined to dig through the clutter in their inbox to find your email, read it, and, ultimately, take action. Personalization in email marketing can’t be understated. It goes beyond simply adding images or catchy buzzwords. This common mistake often leads to a swift deletion. Using buzzwords and inserting gimmicks may be trendy, but it’s the slow-and-steady marketers who truly know their audience who win the race. Small brands are able to captivate large audiences by taking this approach, and many have built their businesses on creative, outside-the-box email marketing campaigns that are engaging and compelling.

Take a look at your inbox—does your most recent marketing email look like everyone else’s? If so, there’s a problem. If you’re an email-marketing manager, you’re surely subscribed to all of your competitors’ lists. Make sure you differentiate your brand and learn from how others are either failing or succeeding.

Kate Nowrouzi
Director of product policy, Message Systems

The issue is mobile. Email marketers are thinking about mobile, just not broadly enough. Most approach mobile as a design challenge, and focus on buttons versus links and small images that load fast. Although this is important, what many marketers are missing is that mobile devices are inherently multichannel. SMS text and push notifications must be part of the mobile mix. It can’t just be all about email anymore.

Smartphones and tablets provide a different online experience. Time and location are more important dimensions or variables with mobile, meaning marketers have new capabilities to target and reach out when and where a customer is ready to interact. These capabilities didn’t exist with desktop email. Using digital messaging in all its various forms—text, email, push—is key to engaging customers through mobile devices. This is the issue that email marketers should be thinking about right now.

Kevin Mabley
SVP of strategic consulting, Epsilon

Lifetime value of a subscriber. The daily flurry of activity running through today’s email marketing teams can easily cause us to become myopically focused on individual campaign results, but it’s more important to consider the longitudinal impact we have on our relationships with subscribers to evaluate program effectiveness.

Individual campaigns will continue to achieve dramatic results, but too often we forget to evaluate whether we’re sacrificing long-term value for short-term gains with a particular promotion. In other channels, we use cost models to design targeted list selection, but in email, with the low cost of incremental sends, it becomes too easy to send campaigns to broader audiences, whether or not we think subscribers are interested. The result is subscriber fatigue, disengagement, or opting out.

I call this the “opportunity cost of irrelevance,” where oversaturation of a list leads to real long-term losses in the full lifetime of a subscriber.

When evaluating the targeting criteria for your next campaign, make sure the audience is the right one, not just the one that’s easy to reach. Consider the lifetime of your program and the long-term value of every subscriber on your list. The benefits will pay out over time.


Michael Fisher
President, Yesmail Interactive

Marketers continue to rely on legacy marketing tactics and struggle to incorporate critical cross-channel data to inform customer messaging and offers. Hence, customers become frustrated with irrelevant or poorly customized messages and tune out, which leads to lost revenue.

According to a recent study of executive-level marketers from B2C companies, 86% of responding marketers said that having a more complete customer profile would increase company revenue. But only two of 10 B2C organizations incorporate channel-preference data, household-composition data, propensity scores, and behavioral data in targeted customer communications. Research has consistently proven that email relevance drives revenue.

Big Data is at our fingertips—it’s imperative for marketers to reply on insights to drive their email-campaign strategy to deliver hyper-targeted, relevant, personalized messages across customer- defined communications channels. If marketers don’t rely on insight, they should be prepared for consumer-engagement levels to drop significantly.

Greg Grdodian
Partner, Reach Marketing

It’s the preference page. As we continue to evolve into a digital nation our expectations of email-marketing relevancy have heightened. Since relevance is king, it remains the key component to a successful campaign and low attrition rates. Simply put, when a company’s relevance to the recipient’s professional or personal needs are met, the chance for success is high and the likelihood of an opt-out is low. Using preference pages for each customer or prospect who has provided his or her address can attain high relevancy.

Along with a product or service upsell, in your welcome message you should direct the individual to a preference page that highlights all of your company’s different business or product lines. This will allow the recipient to establish his or her own preferences, which improves the likelihood of engagement between you and the recipient. Increase your relevancy by deploying preference pages and you’ll increase your ROI.

Ross Kramer
CEO, Listrak

Most marketers are not thinking about how to integrate shopper-intent insights into their batch-and-blast campaigns. Some marketers have capitalized on the opportunity and have deployed standalone shopping-cart abandonment campaigns to much success. A few marketers have taken the concept farther and have enhanced their email marketing programs by running browse-and-abandon campaigns.

A lonely handful of innovative marketers are using shopper intent to further bolster the performance and customer experience of their traditional daily or weekly promotional emails. These savvy marketers are merchandising abandoned, browsed, and searched products into their batch and blast campaigns. Those marketers are seeing large increases in engagement and conversion thanks to increased relevancy of the products offered within traditional batch-and-blast campaigns.

Rich Fleck
VP, strategic services, Responsys

Email marketers often overlook their inactive subscribers and, in turn, miss an opportunity to engage a large segment of their subscriber file and improve overall email ROI. Thanks to Big Data and the power of predictive analytics, a marketer today can identify customers who are losing interest early, and can take immediate steps to recapture customer attention before it’s gone for good. For example, marketers should be leveraging analytics to understand the signals that customers send when they are becoming less active, and can see whom the best engagers are and what drove their action. With this information marketers can then design churn-mitigation programs; can create more effective contact strategies that keep more subscribers engaged and reduce the size of the inactive segment; and can develop a more effective email-acquisition strategy that targets prospects who look more like the high engagers currently on file.

Rama Ramakrishnan
Founder and CEO, CQuotient

Email remains one of the best ways to effectively communicate with customers. For many retailers, it is the top revenue producing marketing channel. But all too often, consumers are being bombarded with emails that have no relevance to them. According to a recent Forrester Research report, 41% of consumers say that most emails they receive from brands or companies don’t contain anything that interests them.

Emails must become more relevant, but how? Email marketers have to start leveraging the plethora of consumer data at their fingertips: purchase data, browsing behavior, social media interests, and the like. With the help of technology, mining this data to develop a comprehensive view of each customer is now possible. These insights can be used to create hyper-personalized emails tailored to each customer’s tastes and preferences. This is proven to generate more engagement and revenue. Marketers who act quickly on this trend will get the jump on their competitors in 2014.

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