Author Archives: Alec Wilcox

How email marketers can best address tabbed inboxes

How email marketers can best address tabbed inboxes

When Gmail introduced multiple tabs for user inboxes, email marketers shared their anxieties about how the change would effect their marketing campaigns. Would recipients fail to see promotional emails because the messages would not arrive in their main boxes? Would online conversions decline now that consumers had the option to avoid emails from brands altogether? While these concerns are indeed legitimate, marketers should not toss their business email lists quite yet. Consumers are still looking for promotional emails and there are ways to keep campaigns from fizzling out. Here is what email marketers need to know about the tabbed inbox and how best to handle it. 

How recipients responded initially
There is no doubt that tabbed inboxes have changed the way that consumers find and open promotional emails from businesses. Just as email marketers feared, fewer and fewer of their messages made it to primary inboxes after Google implemented the tabbed system with a dedicated 'promotions' box, according to a study from Return Path. Of the commercial messages tracked in the report, 90 percent went directly to the promotions box while only 0.3 percent found their way into the Primary tab. Nine percent of these emails landed in the social inbox and the remaining 0.7 percent were delivered to other, customized tabs.

Gmail was undoubtedly successful in its efforts to channel commercial emails into tabs other than the primary inbox, but what did this mean for marketing efforts? At first, strategists actively resisted the change with "move-me" campaigns encouraging consumers to move their promotional messages back to the Primary tab. Return Path noted that these efforts were largely ignored, failing to make an impact on Google and quickly forgotten. Of the 65,507 emails sent with the purpose of being sent to the Primary inbox, only 61 actually made it there. At less than 0.1 percent, it was clear that consumers had made the choice to accept this change – marketers would simply have to adjust accordingly. 

Where does this leave marketers?
While the primary inbox was effectively rendered a no-fly zone for commercial messages, this shift actually benefited email marketing campaigns in a way that many strategists did not expect. Return Path explained that consumers are now clicking on their promotions tab with the sole intention of looking for offers from their favorite brands. This kind of deliberate search puts recipients in a more receptive position in which they are actively seeking the benefits of marketing campaigns rather than trying to avoid them in their normal inboxes. In addition, the rate of This is Spam (TIS) reports dropped significantly in the Promotions tab as only 0.12 percent of those emails resulted in a complaint. Primary inbox messages saw TIS reports at a rate of 0.26 percent while the Social tab had the most with 0.87 percent.

Spam filters were also less discerning when it came to the Promotional inbox, according to Return Path. An impressive 93 percent of commercial messages managed to avoid the spam folder on their way to recipients while only 77 percent of messages headed for the Primary inbox made it to their destinations. This means that email marketers are actually more likely to reach their intended audiences with the help of the Promotional inbox as it allows more emails to make it through unscathed. Of course, campaigns will meet more competition when they arrive, which is why Business Day reminded strategists to keep messages engaging, interesting and relevant to user preferences. Social media should also play a major role in beefing up email marketing lists.

Optimizing email marketing campaigns for recipients on the go

Optimizing email marketing campaigns for recipients on the go

Smartphones have changed how people interact with one another in many ways, and email remains one of the most powerful features on mobile devices today. Not only are individuals better able to communicate with one another for personal and business-related matters, but brands are seeing much more success with their email marketing campaigns now that people are more likely to open their inboxes anywhere and at any time. An email database is now more powerful than ever due to more responsive and available consumers. This trend has made it imperative for email marketers to make their campaigns more mobile-friendly, what are the best ways to go about doing this?

Short yet specific messages are best
Part of the appeal of checking email on mobile devices is that consumers can check their messages constantly and without delay. However, this presents a challenge for marketers, who need to create emails that are concise and to the point if they want to capture the attention of an easily distracted readership. PowerSports Business recently explained that keeping messages short is one of the best strategies that businesses can employ to make their emails stand out among lengthy newsletters and updates. Because mobile devices have much smaller screens than their desktop counterparts, recipients prefer when they can scroll once or twice and finish a message without getting bored. 

Calls-to-action are also main features of the best email marketing campaigns, especially ones that present a clear path for the reader to follow. On a mobile device, readers need to be compelled before they open up an Internet window and are led away from their inbox. A recent article from ClickZ also reminded marketing strategists that not all smartphones are created equal. The best calls-to-action work well across all of the major devices on the market and must have a large enough click box for people with touch-screen phones to easily press. This will require a bit more research on the part of marketers when they craft their campaigns but the results will be well worth it when they see conversion rates spike. 

Subject lines must adapt to mobile platforms
One of the most important elements of an email marketing campaign is engineering a subject line that will make recipients want to click instantly without a second thought. When using a mobile device, readers are much more likely to be distracted by the world around them, as well as the many applications and features of their smartphones. ClickZ urged companies to make their intentions clear from the start by making subject lines direct and brief, ensuring that recipients know what they're getting into before they click. Companies that give their subject lines an exclusive, exciting tone are more likely to get a better response from readers on the go, especially if the line is fewer than 60 characters. 

Optimizing email subject lines to coincide with seasons and holidays will also keep customers intrigued and make recipients feel that they need to act now so they don't miss an important update. Marketers should create a calendar to follow throughout the year so that they can prepare the best subject lines for a given occasion. ClickZ also recommended that marketers will see more success when they target their readership based on location and shopping history. Consumers appreciate when their favorite brands remind them that their preferred products are on sale or are about to see an update. Providing these inside tips can keep a buyer loyal to a company for years to come. 

Driving customer engagement through email marketing

Driving customer engagement through email marketing

Optimizing marketing strategies to drive customer engagement is one of the greatest challenges facing businesses today. While decision-makers cannot deny the effectiveness of online marketing as a key tool in exposing customers to new products and keeping them updated on industry news, the digital age has also overwhelmed companies with options. Instead of being frozen in place by the sheer variety of methods used to engage buyers, business leaders need to look to the experts to find which techniques work best to keep customers happy and inspire them to continue remaining loyal to their preferred brands.

Why is email still so effective?
Many digital platforms are dedicated to social networking, personal messaging and other matters that individuals want to keep separate from their engagement with businesses. This trend was reflected in a recent ExactTarget report examining the direction of digital marketing for the coming year. Among the top priorities for businesses across the board were driving conversion rates, increasing and improving brand awareness and collecting user-based data to analyze and measure customer behavior with regard to marketing campaigns. These initiatives were then linked to the fact that 98 percent of marketers are planning to increase or maintain their level of spending in 2014.

Marketers know that they have limitless options when it comes to allocating their funds for marketing efforts, so where is all of this money going over the next 12 months? ExactTarget revealed that behind data, analytics and marketing automation, 58 percent of the companies they analyzed were set on increasing spending on email marketing. This area was prioritized over both social media and content management, which were each set to see more expenditure from 57 percent of surveyed marketers. Although these trends are becoming increasingly important in the arena of digital marketing, email will certainly not be going anywhere according to the data from this report.

Most people check their email several times a day, which is why it is not surprising that ExactTarget said 68 percent of marketers believe that email is core to their businesses as a whole. Social media on the other hand was revealed to be essential to only 46 percent of businesses. This reflects today's mindset that social media is a better supplementary method of engagement than email in the hierarchy of digital marketing initiatives. In fact, one of the main ways that companies utilize social media platforms is to pique the interest of consumers enough to get them to sign up for email newsletter subscriptions. Mastering this transition from social to email is going to be a defining marker of success in 2014 as companies try to best blend these two powerful tools.

Avoiding the dreaded spam box
After months of content creation, building email marketing lists and A/B testing over a variety of different segments, it can be crushing for email marketers to discover that most of the messages they sent out ended up scrapped by spam filters in consumer inboxes. According to Business 2 Community, billions of emails are sent out per year from companies hoping to reach their customer bases, but some industry analysts estimate only 20 percent of these messages make it to their intended destinations. The source recommended that simplicity on both desktop and mobile devices is key to ensuring that emails get to where they are supposed to be.

Besides making emails clear and easy to read, marketers need to also remember to make the content is relevant they want to make an impact on their subscriber base. This means that messages need calls-to-action, industry news that may affect customers and even a bit of humor to keep the mood light.  

Email marketing strategists must run split tests to get results

Email marketing strategists must run split tests to get results

To get the most out of an email contact list, marketing strategists need to take advantage of the technology available to them. Analysis software gives companies a wealth of information that can reveal patterns, customer click rates and content that is most likely to lead to conversions. Every bit of data needs to be taken into account when crafting a marketing campaign that yields the desired effects. A great way to begin cultivating good habits with regard to data utilization is the A/B test, determining the customer's preferred email message when given two options to choose from. 

Consumer feedback should never be underestimated
Despite temptation to adopt new channels of communication and stay ahead of competitors technologically, companies need to listen to their customer first and foremost if they want to see the best results. According to Mobile Marketing Watch, email is still the go-to method for reaching out to customers with promotional content or educational newsletters. Supplementing campaigns with consumer testing makes it easier to track results compared to platforms such as social media and text messaging.

Businesses are acknowledging the importance of email as a pillar of consistency in digital marketing campaigns that tend to follow constantly-changing consumer trends. In fact, Mobile Marketing Watch pointed to companies increasing their email expenditure in 2013 to cash in on the steady returns that email marketing offers. The importance of optimizing email with tests is especially true when it comes to mobile devices. The news source mentioned that 90 percent of today's consumers prefer to read their email on a smartphone or tablet.

A/B tests provide quality feedback fast
No strategist can deny that consumer behavior can provide more insight to a marketing campaign than any product or trend that claims to bring results. A/B tests are one technique that marketers use to avoid flipping a coin when it comes to determining the better message between their two best options. While the message choices in a test might seem nearly identical to the untrained eye, minor changes in calls-to-action, subject line phrasing, design and visual content can all have a substantial impact on whether a campaign will be a success or a flop.

Many strategists optimize their marketing initiatives perfectly, building a quality email database, crafting excellent content and providing plenty of opportunities for recipients to find out more about products and services. Nevertheless, these painstaking efforts can fall flat if sufficient testing is not incorporated before launch. According to Business 2 Community, A/B testing is often overlooked, resulting in missed opportunities for many businesses to attract and convert more customers. The source gave marketers a primer on how to conduct the tests properly.

Engineering an effective test for more results
Like any element of a successful email marketing campaign, A/B tests need to be well planned and executed. Business 2 Community suggested that strategists take a small portion of an email contact list, send the 'A' messages to the control group and 'B' messages to the variant group and wait until they are delivered. In the following days, marketers should analyze which message sees higher click-through rates and conversions to decide which email will be sent to the entirety of the database. 

Business 2 Community also mentioned that factors such as personalization and using specific words can make a significant impact on the results of an A/B test. The news source found that in trial tests, recipients preferred that subject lines include the word "you" and an urgent message that inspired individuals to take action. Shorter subject lines were also more successful, likely due to the rise of mobile platforms and their smaller screens. 

Are your email campaigns ready for 2014?

Are your email campaigns ready for 2014?

Now that we're a few weeks into the new year and the post-holiday haze has begun to wear off, it's an ideal time for marketers to reassess the strategies they use to drive sales and create conversions from their email marketing lists. But because consumer trends are constantly shifting and the modes by which people check and read email are more numerous now than ever, evaluating your email campaigns' readiness for 2014 may not be a simple, feel-good proposition but one that requires you to rethink your tactics and get them in line with your customers' habits and preferences.

Here are four strategies that can help you turn over a new leaf this year by revamping your emails and revitalizing brand image.

1. Keep it brief
For better or worse, consumers' attention spans aren't what they used to be, and marketers can't forget to bear this fact in mind when crafting their email copy. In a column for Business2Community, Dianne Dixon of email marketing solutions firm Elite Email pointed out that when it comes to subject lines, less really is more.

"As it turns out, subjects longer than 70 characters don't help with response or awareness. In fact, it's known as an email line 'dead zone' where nothing really happens," Dixon wrote.

2. Opt for clean layouts
The principle that minimal, meaningful email content is best has a visual component, too. Busy email designs that distract the viewer with an abundance of flashy, difficult-to-read images only contribute to the crowdedness of the inbox – and your customers are unlikely to want to linger with such messages long enough that they'll follow to your landing pages, let alone convert and make a purchase. Make your designs clean and simple, but still memorable.

3. Make emails adaptable to devices 
One of the key benefits to uncluttered email layouts is that they translate much better to mobile screens – and in the current consumer climate, ignoring device preferences simply isn't an option. Email software provider StreamSend noted that more than half of emails are now opened on a smartphone or tablet.  The firm recommended using mobile-responsive templates when laying out your marketing emails.

4. Integrate with social media
Consumers want to be able to find the brands they love on their Twitter, Facebook and other pages easily and without hassle. If you're not yet linking your emails to your social media channels, the time to consider this tactic is now.

Armed with these strategies, you may find your emails are creating broader customer engagement than ever this year.

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Most online shoppers prefer email from their favorite brands

Most online shoppers prefer email from their favorite brands

Few digital marketing techniques are as powerful as personalized email when it comes to engaging consumers at a one-on-one level. Online shoppers love when they receive messages from their favorite brands tailored to their purchase history and product preferences. According to a recent Harris Interactive survey sponsored by Listrak, most customers are willing to provide businesses with more personal information if it means that their buying experience will be improved by personalized email. 

Email marketers allow buyers to guide themselves
Instead of promoting products to customers who may not be interested, marketing strategists will benefit from taking into account the browsing histories and shopping preferences of online consumers when crafting email campaigns. The Harris Interactive survey, which addressed over 2,000 American men and women 18 and older who shop online more than twice a month, found compelling results that should convince businesses to put a more personal spin on using their email marketing lists.  

Creating plenty of opportunities for online and in-store visitors to sign up for newsletter subscriptions is the first key to expanding an email distribution list. Marketers should provide opt-ins on most company Web pages to ensure that shoppers can decide to give their email information whenever the feeling strikes. Harris Interactive's findings showed that by simply being in an email database, customers are more likely to make future purchases online.

This is especially true for brands that incorporate personalized shopping information into their email marketing campaigns. In fact, the survey revealed that 77 percent of promotional email recipients said they were more likely to buy when their messages gave specific suggestions based on past purchases. Online shoppers who know that signing up for an email list that will be based on personalized shopping information will also be more likely to give their addresses in the first place. 82 percent of survey respondents said they would even be willing to receive additional emails if they provided specialized content to help them make selections. 

Consumers like to be reminded about sales
Companies get better responses when they send emails to customers that allow them to save money on products in which they had previously expressed interest. The Harris Interactive survey revealed that 90 percent of online shoppers said they find it helpful to receive email alerts that let them know their favorite items are or will soon be on sale. This creates a stronger relationship with a customer base because it builds trust and makes shoppers feel like they are receiving exclusive treatment from a brand. 

"Online retailers should find the results of this study thrilling," Listrak CEO Ross Kramer commented. "It not only definitively shows the effectiveness of email in driving conversions, but also that online shoppers find personalized recommendations helpful enough to make them more likely to purchase more - so much so that they are willing to share preferences with retailers and receive more emails from them if the merchandise featured is customized to their shopping behaviors and past purchases and helps them in their shopping journey."

Marketing strategists reevaluate their fundamentals
It is clear that great email marketing campaigns feature personalized content to drive sales, but many companies are limited by the appearance of their email messages when they arrive in recipient inboxes. According to Business 2 Community, certain email marketing practices are becoming outdated as customers grow skeptical of scams and cyberattacks. This means that marketers should focus less on details such as including customer names in emails, timing the delivery of their messages with traditional business hours and making subject lines too long. Companies will find that creating quality personalized recommendations will pay off more than any of these gimmicks.

Marketers optimize image use in email campaigns

Marketers optimize image use in email campaigns

The rise of mobile applications such as Instagram and SnapChat has confirmed that digital culture is becoming increasingly visual. Across social media platforms, search engines and email, marketers are looking for ways to incorporate compelling, quality imagery that will drive consumer interest and convert online visitors to returning customers. A recent report from WishPond explored the reasons why focusing on the visual appearance of Web content will pay off for businesses in the long run.

People respond to the power and simplicity of images
Wading through paragraphs of text can be tedious, and many of today's email recipients have little patience for long-winded messages. WishPond revealed the science behind this trend, explaining that visuals account for 90 percent of all information transmitted to the brain. Images are also a fast way to get important ideas across to recipients, as visuals are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text. While marketers should not forget about including written content in their messages, visual elements are not to be overlooked.

WishPond also mentioned video as an effective online marketing technique that can help convert interested consumers. According to the news source, conversion rates on landing pages increased by 86 percent when a video was included among text. A similar increase was seen when marketers implemented photographs, but companies with the extra budget room should try including links in their emails that lead browsers directly to a video. 

Crossover potential with social media platforms
Nearly every successful marketing campaign these days incorporates some element of social media into its strategy. Thankfully, much of the visual content used on social networks can be recycled in email newsletters and vice versa. WishPond stated that online posts featuring a visual component receive 94 percent more views and better rates of engagement than their image-less counterparts. This figure should be taken to heart by any marketer who wants to fully capitalize on an email distribution list. 

Implementing visual elements into email marketing campaigns doesn't have to be expensive or complicated, but according to The Next Web there are ways that strategists can better optimize their imagery to maximize consumer engagement. Marketers must first understand their demographics and segment email marketing lists to make sure they are sending the best possible images to their audience. Rigorous testing is also necessary to discover which visuals are most successful in drawing people in. Remaining adaptable and creative is the key to perfecting the art of compelling visual implementation in email newsletters.

Mobile email marketing can help to bolster brand identity

Mobile email marketing can help to bolster brand identity

Creating a strong, lasting brand is essential to the long-term success of any business venture. When it comes to marketing strategies meant to cultivate a specific brand image, email marketing remains one of the most effective tools in a company's arsenal. A recent report from Econsultancy revealed that of 1,000 businesses, 24 percent stated that more than half of their emails are opened on mobile devices by recipients. Around 42 percent of those companies believed that mobile email was important to their digital marketing strategies.

Why aren't more businesses implementing mobile email marketing techniques
With so many recent cultural obsessions revolving around mobile innovations in social media and applications, it would appear that businesses need to adapt as quickly as they can to reach the mobile market. Still, Econsultancy's survey showed that only 41 percent of respondents were actively implementing mobile email marketing strategies during the past year. Businesses that want to stay ahead of their competition will shift their marketing focus to mobile in an effort to reach the increasing number of consumers who make their decisions on the go.

The world of marketing is also requiring strategists to be more concise and aggressive when it comes to email marketing campaigns. A recent Business 2 Community article cited an ExactTarget report showing that 77 percent of consumers prefer email contact over any other channel of communication with regard to marketing efforts. While many companies are balancing their budgets between social media and text messages, customers have made it clear that they want to hear from their favorite brands via email rather than by these more personal platforms.

Companies should not overlook the importance of social in the broader context of digital marketing, but they should continue to prioritize email marketing in the years to come.

Businesses look to start 2014 with revamped email marketing campaigns

Businesses look to start 2014 with revamped email marketing campaigns

The new year is a time for fresh starts, and companies are taking the opportunity to evaluate their marketing strategies for the next twelve months. With the holiday rush already a distant memory of 2013, businesses want customers to stay interested as the year progresses. Now more than ever, strategists are looking for ways to attract subscribers to websites and grow their email contact lists, especially as they try to gain momentum through the of the first quarter of the year.   

How do businesses keep a hold on consumers' attention?
The holidays invariably bring lots of revenue to companies across industries, but what is the secret to getting those seasonal shoppers to return to stores once the lights are taken down? A Responsys blog post recently examined successful email marketing campaigns focused on offering exclusive material available only to subscribers. Kitchen supply chain Sur La Table drew aspiring chefs to its stores by offering cooking classes while charity : water gave subscribers a video overview of their year.

The common thread between these emails was that they were not explicitly promotion, instead serving to simply remind subscribers that their favorite brands are active and engaging at the beginning of the year. Some effective campaigns also take advantage of the residual excitement of the holidays. Responsys looked at a Barnes & Noble message that went out to individuals who received an e-reader for the holidays, offering additional software and accessories to new adopters looking to customize their gifts.

Marketers fear that the new year leads recipients to unsubscribe
Many customers vowing to cut down on clutter and distractions will unsubscribe from email message chains and leave marketers at a loss. A recent eConsultancy report revealed which kinds of services tend to be left behind around new years and which see a surge of new subscribers.

Social media networks had the highest subscription sign-up rates around new year's. 70 percent of new Facebook users signed up to receive email notifications. Entertainment sources such as Netflix also have an expansive email database serving those who want updates and news about their favorite shows and movies. Platforms such as Twitter play a large role in corporate communication and see high subscriber numbers as well. 

EConsultancy noted that services that don't keep their readerships up to date are more likely to get the boot, so email marketers should focus on consistency as the year moves forward.

Businesses increase budgets for email marketing campaigns

Businesses increase budgets for email marketing campaigns

It is no secret that email marketing is still one of the best ways to stay in touch with customers and promote new products. When crafting the perfect campaign, marketing strategists do whatever they can to keep customers interested and engaged. This means that marketers analyze the elements of successful past campaigns down to every detail, determining which emails resulted in clicks back to landing pages, which opt-ins were most effective to get new subscribers and which messages ultimately led to the most converted customers. 

Where is the increased expenditure going?
Taking all of this data into account can be a tedious process requiring time and resources, which is why more companies are beefing up digital marketing budgets for the new year. According to Marketing Profs, an ExactTarget study recently revealed that 98 percent of marketers intend to increase or maintain their online expenditure in an effort to build larger email marketing lists and convert more visitors into paying customers. With more money going into these initiatives, what will strategists be doing to get the most out of their marketing dollar?

Among the top digital marketing priorities the report detailed for 2014 were data and analytics, marketing automation, social media marketing and content management. In addition, 58 percent of decision-makers said that they would be increasing their email marketing budgets. Marketing Profs also noted that close to half of strategists will seek to drive increased conversion rates and increase brand awareness among new site visitors. With well-timed, personal messages, email is without a doubt a great way to do both of these things.

Email marketing remains a top priority for strategists
With most marketers putting more resources into email marketing this year, business leaders are feeling confident that the method brings real results. Marketing Profs mentioned that 68 percent of marketers stated that email is a core element of their business while 88 percent believed that it produces returns on investment. Despite a great deal of industry focus on social media platforms, the survey revealed that only 34 percent of marketers using social tools have seen significant ROI for their efforts.

While Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are crucial elements in any successful digital marketing campaign, businesses need to remember that social media platforms should not be a primary focus in light of data regarding email marketing. Campaigns that lean too heavy on social are prone to missing opportunities to segment their audiences and provide personal details in messages that will drive traffic back to company websites. Social media can get people excited about brands but do not convert as many visitors as email. 

Understanding where, when and how people are using email
Marketers know that nearly everybody has an email address, but uncovering more information about the details of consumer email use can be the difference between a successful campaign and a flop. Marketing Profs revealed that mobile platforms are quickly becoming the standard way that people check email. 41 percent of survey respondents said that 31 to 50 percent of their email subscribers use mobile devices to open their messages, which should convince marketers that formatting for smartphones and tablets is a key part of any strategy.

Mobile Marketing Watch recently provided an infographic exploring the details of consumer email habits. Unsurprisingly, 61 percent of email users open their messages on mobile devices such as iPhones, Android-based phones and tablets. Desktop and web browser platforms seem to be fading away as consumers use them at rates of 17 and 22 percent respectively. Smart marketing strategists will make efforts to optimize their email campaigns for mobile in the years to come.