Anyone in interactive marketing knows there’s no shortage of potential elements to focus on, but what are the key drivers of success in the current email marketing environment? Social is now an undeniable part of the interactive marketing mix — how does it best work with email? To answer these questions and more, and help marketers achieve as much as possible from their efforts in 2012, we tapped some well-respected email marketers for their thoughts. What follows are their insights on what will be most important in the coming year.
Andrew Kordek, Co-Founder And Chief Strategist At Trendline Interactive
Email is thriving and if you don’t believe me, go over and check out what your revenue per email sent was in 2011. Then, compare it with the other channels in your marketing arsenal and see which one had the highest ROI. Email marketing is the bread in the digital sandwich for most organizations, but yet it is often treated as a commodity both internally and externally to the subscriber. If 2011 was the year of mobile and social, then 2012 will present email marketers with quite a few exciting challenges to bring it all together.
A few key trends that I am seeing as we enter into 2012 are:
- Speed to action: The most critical time to the subscriber lifecycle is the first few emails. Email marketers need to have a plan to get the subscriber to do what they want them to do and quickly. The simple welcome email and then sticking them into the email rotation is not going to cut it anymore.
- Content and humanization: Email marketers need to find ways to incorporate a more human tone to their emails. The inclusion of user-generated content, social media, employees, customers, reviews and testimonials will add a more conversational tone to the content as opposed to the “buy now” approach.
- There is no such thing as “Mobile Email”: Email on a mobile device is essentially a duplication of a desktop/web-based inbox. Email marketers need to figure out how their subscribers are engaging with their email and then design the email and the experience for cross platforms.
- Don’t follow the herd on social icons: Marketers need to understand that their audience may not play in the social channel. Adding icons to emails because everyone else is doing it might be a recipe for disaster.
- Behavioral and Lifecycle email – Sending an email to a subscriber based on various elements is the secret weapon for email marketers. Pick 2 emails and implement them.
2012 is going to be a great year for email. Email marketers need to treat their subscriber base as a precious resource, which is in limited supply. They should focus on the experience and retention of the subscriber base and not worry about best practices. They should focus on identifying where best practices apply and where innovation is needed in their program. When companies follow best practice, they are merely redefining mediocrity.
Chad White, Research Director At Responsys
Designing for tablets will be much more impactful than designing for smartphones. While roughly 20% of emails are being read on mobile devices on average, marketers will start paying much more attention to their tablet readers because they convert about five times the rate that smartphone email readers do.
To make email more tablet-friendly, marketers will:
- reduce file sizes so emails load more quickly over slower Wi-Fi and cellular networks; and
- use call-to-action links and buttons that are at least 30 pixels large with 10-15 pixels of padding so they can be accurately tapped.
Optimizing emails for smartphones is considerably more difficult, so making emails tablet-friendly is a great intermediary step.
Marketers will finally get serious about managing inactive subscribers. A recent Responsys study found that the majority of top retailers still email subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked one of their emails in more than 40 months. With ISPs increasingly using engagement metrics in their delivery algorithms, marketers whose emails lists are more than half inactive are putting their deliverability in jeopardy.
Smart marketers will develop a programmatic approach to managing inactives that includes:
- frequency and content tactics to reengage subscribers who are at risk of becoming inactive and
- a triggered program for trying to re-permissioning chronically inactive subscribers before removing them from active lists.
Dave Walters, Product Evangelist At Silverpop
I believe 2012 will be the coming-of-age era for two critical (and related) issues many marketers face: the integration of social and taming data to create smarter campaigns. While everyone agrees the influence of social media has radically expanded reach beyond our own lists, it should also make us ask hard questions about each channel’s effectiveness. Very few organizations can dedicate equal resources to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc., etc. We have to make tough decisions, and they should be informed by quantitative metrics.
So plan to closely track attributes like lead source, and think deeply about creating a numeric engagement score for your customers. Double-down on programs and channels that work, and jettison those that don’t. But don’t remain completely self-focused on social topics: put yourself in the customer’s shoes, and consider which channel is best for specific types of content or if they’d prefer to opt-in using their social credentials from Facebook or Twitter.
On the data side, 2012 will continue the march from batch-and-blast to program-driven campaigns as automation continues to improve a marketer’s ability to deliver massively relevant, timely emails. A simple example is cart abandonment programs, which we’ve seen drive response rates of greater than 50%. Sure it takes more time and planning to build these automated programs, but as marketers understand the inherent power –- and direct revenue potential -– of these campaigns, we expect increasingly more converts.
Leveraging specific data points –- like items left in an ecommerce cart or abandoned forms –- will continue to be the behavior-based elements that elevate your campaigns to a new level of effectiveness in 2012. At the same time, we expect most marketers will be faced with even more available data points, which can become overwhelming very quickly.
Collect as much as makes sense for your organization, and don’t feel undue pressure to make huge changes. Oftentimes, an extraneous data point like anonymous site analytics will give you that tiny extra insight –- or help you recognize a user behavior not previously noticed.