Email is one of the oldest and most established marketing channels, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still improvements to be made — or fresh opportunities to be found. While social platforms offer you fingertip access to vast audiences, email marketing enables businesses to target outreach with incredible precision, setting the stage for long-term relationship building and loyalty creation.
“It’s a channel and data that brands actually own,” said Andrea Wasserman, Chief Commercial Officer at European Wax Center and a former senior consumer executive at Nordstrom and Verizon. “We’ve seen, especially over the past couple of years, how any one social media platform can change their algorithm and [how] that really dramatically alters people’s businesses. So to be able to have something that you control, that is your audience that has opted in to hear from you, is very different and inherently valuable.”
Managing a great email campaign comes with its own set of challenges. Some of the biggest considerations marketers need to keep in mind include:
- Stay out of the spam filter: Even the world’s most creative marketing campaigns are useless if customers don’t even realize you sent it out. Properly segment, optimize and monitor campaigns to ensure their messages are being read;
- Leverage dynamic content and AMPs: Dynamic content fields can infuse new levels of personalization, while Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) carry the power of immersive app design into the customer’s inbox;
- Take personalization to the next level: Personalization is an important part of every marketing effort, but in a channel as well-established and competitive as email, campaigns need to be highly tailored to stand out; and
- Test, iterate and improve: There is no single winning email marketing strategy, companies must constantly test what is working and adjust accordingly to find the right content and schedule for both mobile and desktop users.
4 Reasons Email Remains Relevant in a Mobile World
The ubiquity of mobile phones can make email marketing seem almost outdated compared to push notifications, SMS text messaging and even social media. However, Nick Kramer, Leader of Applied Solutions at SSA & Company, laid out four reasons why email remains important:
- Wide Reach: Email still has a much broader reach than SMS — while almost everyone has an email address, there is still a significant demographic that either doesn’t have a mobile phone or doesn’t use SMS regularly;
- Personalization: Email marketing has the potential for more advanced personalization options than mobile-focused approaches due to the limited number of characters available for SMS messages;
- Better Tracking: Marketers can manage in-depth tracking of customer engagement, including open rates, click-through rates and other metrics through email, surpassing what’s available elsewhere; and
- Cost-Effective: Email marketing is generally more cost-effective than SMS since it doesn’t require the use of a mobile network or phone plan. This makes it an attractive option for businesses of all sizes.
Give Customers a Reason to Open Your Emails
Every person is flooded with emails from every business they’ve worked with. Even emails that aren’t marked as spam can be filtered into unfocused inbox categories. That fact makes ensuring that messages get opened, and hopefully read, a challenge, but Kramer noted that businesses can follow several strategies to improve their chances. One of the key elements is using segmented lists that enable sending targeted emails to specific groups of customers who are more interested in a given campaign or promotion, which in turn is more likely to generate engagement.
Additionally, content should be optimized for readability. Format them with short paragraphs and use bullet points and images that can break up text as well as a clear call-to-action. Continually test different subject lines, content formats and sending times to see what works best for your audience.
Finally, marketers need to keep an eye on the results to ensure all the above is actually working. “Use an email service provider that provides metrics on your email deliverability,” said Kramer. “Keep an eye on your bounce rates, spam complaints and unsubscribe rates to ensure that your messages are reaching your subscribers’ inboxes and not being filtered out.”
Make Emails Dynamic, Real-Time and Compelling
Electronic mediums have far more potential than static messages, and marketers should take advantage of AMP and dynamic content fields to ensure these possibilities are being utilized to their fullest. For instance, AMP can help emails feel like living documents rather than stale advertisements.
“It’s really an app-like dynamic experience for email, where brands are able to make the content much more personalized and feel really on-demand and real-time,” said Wasserman. “For ecommerce specifically, you could showcase what’s in stock right now — whether just that it’s in stock or including [available] quantities to create more urgency. You could include referral campaigns that actually feature information as of this moment, such as how many new customers somebody has referred. It gives them that real-time view into things.”
Other possibilities for AMP include loyalty program updates (such as tracking the number of points accumulated) or reminders to review a product the customer recently bought, according to Wasserman.
Kramer noted that marketers also can use AMP to add items like carousels, forms “and other interactive elements that allow customers to engage with your content directly within the email.” Boosting the interactivity of an email increases the chances that a customer will want to engage with it.
Dynamic content fields enable further personalization, such as changing email content based on factors such as location, past purchases or interests. “By combining dynamic content fields and AMP capabilities, you can create highly personalized and interactive email experiences that are tailored to each individual recipient,” said Kramer. “For example, you could use dynamic content to personalize product recommendations, and then use AMP to create an interactive carousel that allows users to browse those products directly within the email.”
Tailor Content to the Device While Keeping it Concise
Even the best content can fall short if it isn’t tailored to the right device. Wasserman suggested that marketers assume that their messages will be opened on mobile, which makes it important to test length early and often — an email that takes 12 scrolls to get through isn’t one that will resonate with busy customers.
Desktop also has its own best practices. More space is available, but scrolling should still be kept to a minimum, and marketers must ensure that the entirety of the content is available without needing to click through to a new window or tab. Wasserman noted that retailers should be familiar with how Gmail and other popular email providers display emails. Requiring just one extra click can be the difference between a promotion being seen and a customer deciding no discount is worth the bother.
Personalization Must Keep Pace with Technology
Advances in AI have raised the stakes for personalization, which means even promotional email messages should be tailored to respondents’ behaviors and needs. But modern email campaigns have to go above and beyond the baseline of targeting shoppers based on past purchases.
“While personalization has been a part of email marketing for a while, there are new technologies that allow for even more advanced personalization,” said Kramer. “For example, predictive personalization uses machine learning to anticipate the content that a user is most likely to engage with and present it to them proactively.”
Modern technology also means that no business should be going in completely “blind,” even when there’s only scant information about the recipient. In this case, the customer’s actions should determine the type of welcome email a business should send. Someone who just signed up to receive emails would get a different message than a customer who just made their first purchase — or even one who added an item to their cart but abandoned it.
“Emails can be tailored to whether you just bought something for the first time,” said Wasserman. “If you did, you probably know a little about the company. Or if you put your email address into a capture form, maybe you’d like a discount because you haven’t bought anything yet. Thinking about those as paths for personalization is really important.”
Managing Email’s Complexity Requires Constant Testing
The sheer number of possibilities available for any email, from compelling promotional offers to eye-catching use of AMP, makes this a very complex format. Add in the fact that every business will have multiple unique audiences, each with its own preferences, for everything from length to timing of messages, and it’s impossible to come up with a one-size-fits-all strategy for a great email campaign.
That’s why businesses must constantly test, measure and adapt their campaigns over time. “The most common and impactful misstep is not testing rigorously enough,” said Kramer. “Testing should be ongoing and built into the budget, plan and metrics. It is the only way to stay aligned to the shifting needs of the customer and value of each channel, each innovation.”
This article was adapted from a piece initially published on Retail TouchPoints by Bryan Wassel. We have adapted and updated the content for the small business audience.