Author Archives: Alec Wilcox

New study reveals value of video in email marketing

New study reveals value of video in email marketing

Today's digital culture is highly textual: Emails, text messages, Tweets and Facebook posts appear constantly on our computer screens and mobile devices. But the Web landscape is also extremely visual, whether through static images like those users post on Instagram, the short clips you can find on Vine or longer-form video as found on YouTube and Vimeo. Those last two platforms, in particular, have been used with high frequency and effectiveness by businesses looking to gain customers online. 

It stands to reason then that emails combining written and visual content in a more complete way can be extremely useful for grabbing the attention of your email marketing list and creating conversions.

Lessons from the monks of email marketing
Marketing email design firm Email Monks recently released a study that showed just how valuable video can be in promotional message campaigns.

According to the study, the return on investment (ROI) offered by emails that include video is 280 percent higher than the average ROI for email promotions. Furthermore, Web platforms and mobile email apps have a higher compatibility with sophisticated video than many marketers may realize. The majority – 52 percent – of email clients for Web and mobile operating systems support HTML5 video streaming.

Marketers, however, don't seem to be catching on to the possibilities of video. Only 25 percent of firms surveyed by Email Monks said that they had implemented email marketing video. Furthermore, while 25 percent said it was very likely that they'd employ the tool in the future and 55 percent said it was at least in the realm of possibility, a relatively substantial 20 percent said there was no chance they'd use video in their promotional messages.

Email: The last frontier for video?
The hesitancy to adopt video for email marketing purposes that Email Monks found among respondents is especially surprising because of how widespread the tool has become in promotional strategies executed through other online media.

The Web Video Marketing Council recently published a study, "Q4 2013 Video Marketing Survey Report," revealing that video is extremely popular as a marketing tool. According to the study, 93 percent of firms are doing at least some of their marketing communications through a video platform, and 84 percent feature video on their websites. 

Furthermore, marketing teams are devoting both careful consideration and cold, hard cash to the tool. The study showed that 70 percent of marketers have applied search engine optimization principles to their marketing videos, and another 70 percent plan to devote more money to video in the future.

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Marketers discover iOS 7 mobile email glitch

Marketers discover iOS 7 mobile email glitch

Mobile is now a top priority for email marketers, and firms want to control to the furthest extent possible how contacts on their email marketing list will interact with emails on a mobile screen.

In a post for iMedia Connection, mobile marketing firm TapSense's Vice President Gregory Kennedy suggested that the combination of email marketing and mobile devices is a proverbial match made in heaven, primarily because of just how powerful both technologies have been proven to be.

Pointing out that 44 percent of emails are read on smart devices and that the number of the world's email accounts is projected to hit 3.8 billion next year, Kennedy recommended that app developers take a lesson from marketers who've embraced mobile and bring the power of email marketing to their promotion strategies.

Trouble in paradise
However, it looks as though a glitch in Apple's latest mobile software update, iOS 7, has become a stumbling block for email marketers trying to optimize for the operating system.

Chad White, principal of marketing research at ExactTarget, recently told Internet Retailer that the new connection between the iPhone email app and iOS calendar is faulty.

According to the news source, White noticed that when he opened up his email app and checked his inbox, dates were now hyperlinked when they appeared in messages' subject lines. Users can tap the linked date and it will bring them to their iOS calendars, which will automatically create an event by pulling the information from the text of the email.

Of course, this could be a great tool for email marketers, allowing sales, promotions and the content of their messages to be seamlessly interwoven with their contacts' schedules.

But the iOS feature might not be the godsend marketers were hoping for. In fact, it seems that this new capability of the smartphone isn't all that smart.

White told Internet Retailer that iOS linked "Saturday 1" in an email with the subject line "Rain or Shine, Saturday 1 Day Sale Is On." Of course, the message was not promoting a sale on Saturday the first, but a one-day sale on Saturday. Furthermore, when White tapped the link, the calendar app created an event on November 1 – a Friday.

Meanwhile, another email White received, which contained the phrase "Oct. 27," did not create a link for what was obviously the date of the sale, the news source reported.

Rather than grow frustrated, perhaps firms can look at the glitch from a more positive angle: Mobile devices are still nowhere near as smart as marketers are.

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New study helps email marketers focus their efforts

New study helps email marketers focus their efforts

Marketers know how tough it can be to maximize return on investment for their email campaigns. Luckily, statistics recently published by marketing solutions provider GetResponse provide some guidance as to how and when promotional messages can be most effective.

According to the study, click-through rates are highest for emails sent during the fourth quarter of the year. This phenomenon is likely due to the holiday shopping period, the researchers suggested. The email open rate during Q4 averages 18.3 percent, which is slightly lower than Q1 2013's 19.1 percent, though this may be the case because of the high volume of promotions sent during the fall and winter months, which account for 29 percent of the year's marketing emails.

Furthermore, the study showed that emails sent on Friday have the highest click-through rate, at 19.6 percent. As firms send fewer messages on weekend days – Saturday and Sunday each accounted for less than 9 percent of all emails sent, in comparison with Tuesday's 17.93 percent - GetResponse suggested that recipients may be following up on Friday's promotions during their days off.

Perhaps the most impressive statistics revealed by the study surround promotions sent to recent email acquisitions. The research showed a 67 percent open rate and a 37 percent click-through rate among emails sent on the same day that new contacts sign up for an email list.

Strive for a higher open rate
While you can use these statistics to help plan campaigns, they shouldn't be seen as simply a series of tricks for better email performance. Rather, it's in marketers' hands to attract the attention of their email contact lists and achieve the open and click-through rates they've set as their goals.

Fourth Source suggested that creating catchy subject lines is an important strategy. In particular, consider promoting discounted items, as digital marketing firm Adestra's 2013 Subject Line Analysis Report showed that emails with subjects that offer products at a specific percentage reduction were more effective, according to the news source.

Optimizing for mobile is another key method. Research by Cisco showed that mobile Web traffic in 2012 was almost 12 times greater than laptop and desktop Internet activity in 2000.

In a post for Marketing Profs, Michael Linthorst suggested that it's essential for emails to be mobile-ready.

"Not preparing your emails for mobile is a mistake you can't allow yourself to make. Create your email templates using responsive design, which will adjust the email to, for example, screen size used or the orientation of your screen," Linthorst wrote.

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Automation tools help email marketers step up their game

Automation tools help email marketers step up their game

The devices with which the contacts on your email marketing list read messages are getting more powerful and multifaceted – and so are the tools available to marketers. New automation solutions, often leveraging the power of cloud computing, are changing the way email campaigns are put together.

Marketing solutions provider Marketo recently announced the release of Dialog Edition, a cloud-based service that enables firms to adopt automated email strategies. Like all of the products in Marketo's catalog, the new offering aims to help marketers increase customer engagement with emailed content, thereby nurturing companies' relationships with consumers. Increased click-through rates will drive up revenue as firms employ the new tool to adapt content to customer behaviors.

Marketo's CMO​, Sanjay Dholakia​, spoke about the necessity for firms to market in this more dynamic way.

"Marketers know they need to break through this noise, but their efforts to do so are often limited by email service providers, which force marketers into a world of impersonal, batch communications. The Dialog Edition offers a solution, empowering email marketers to build automated campaigns that create long-term, personal relationships," Dholakia commented.

At the core of the platform is an automation service that sends tailored marketing content to new customers immediately after their email addresses are acquired, the company said. The tool also monitors contacts' behaviors so as to move them between segmentation groups based on continually changing data. The built-in intelligence of the system means that no repeat emails will be sent to contacts.

Build an intelligent email database, focus on creative thinking
According to the company's product description for Digital Edition, the service helps marketers build smarter email databases that take on much of the labor usually done manually. The tool builds segmentation lists for you based on increasingly rich data by learning about your email contacts over time.

However, an intelligent automation tool like Digital Edition doesn't mean the role of the marketer becomes a cakewalk, let alone irrelevant. Rather, the investment in the technology allows firms to devote more manpower to creative thinking.

"A proper upgrade to a marketing automation solution requires an upfront commitment: time, money, and brainpower. You will be forced to think – long, hard, and strategically – about your marketing program," said DJ Waldow in a recent post for Business 2 Community.

Automation benefits marketers by enabling them to actually put their best email campaign strategies into effect.

Other firms address the need for automation
Innovative though Marketo's new platform may be, there are others vying for market space. According to CMS Wire, marketing solutions firm SalesForce recently acquired automation provider ExactTarget mere days after the latter company announced the upcoming release of the new ExactTarget Marketing Cloud platform. As its name implies, the new tool will use cloud technology to link analytics with email, social media, mobile and other data sources.

ExactTarget's platform is more hands-on than Marketo's but arguably just as sophisticated. Users can manage customer information and transition contacts between segmentation lists through a drag-and-drop feature, as well as edit content collaboratively in the cloud, CMS Wire reported.

Meanwhile, marketers only stand to gain from employing automation tools, as the email marketing industry is set to continue growing worldwide. A recent report by Econsultancy showed that in the United Kingdom, the sector brought in £438 million in 2012 and is projected to grow to £495 million this year.

Marketers who embrace solutions like automation and analytics sooner rather than later will still find themselves ahead of the curve, as the Econsultancy study also showed that only 31 percent of firms perform basic testing on their marketing emails' performance. 

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As open rates fall, two email marketing firms announce innovative offerings

As open rates fall, two email marketing firms announce innovative offerings

Crafting a successful email marketing campaign can feel like an uphill battle, and a recent study shows that the struggle isn't getting any easier.

According to MarketingProfs, Epsilon's newly released quarterly email trends showed an average email open rate of 28.5 percent in the second quarter of 2013, an 8.3 percent decrease from Q1. The average click-through rate – that is, the percentage of customers who click on the links provided in promotional emails – stood at 4.3 percent, the lowest on record in the past two years.

However, the report offered a few pieces of positive news that counterbalance these figures. Despite the quarter-over-quarter decline in the open rate, Q2 of 2013 saw 11.5 percent more email opens than the same quarter in 2012. Furthermore, the rate of emails returned as undelivered – called the average non-bounce rate – remained essentially consistent with previous quarters at 96.1 percent.

Rather than despair at the mixed bag of industry news provided in the Epsilon report, it might be best for marketers to remember that reaching their email marketing lists has never been easy – and this is precisely why companies have continued to offer software and other services to help them ensure customers are reading and acting upon their promotional messages.

This week, two such firms announced they were bolstering their product lines, helping email marketers achieve their goals and taking some of the sting out of the recent statistics.

Embarke adds depth to email analytics
​According to PandoDaily, San Diego, Calif.-based startup Embarke recently secured $1.25 million in funding from an investment team led by Social Leverage. The company plans to use the money to expand its offerings – which include sophisticated email list segmentation executed according to analytics-based behavior profiles – to more clients, with the goal of improving open and click-through rates.

The increased cash flow comes at an critical time of growth for the young company: Embarke's commercial product only went on the market two months ago and already it has created more than 5 million behavior profiles for its clients' email contacts, the news source noted.

Furthermore, the startup recently announced its partnership with email provider SendGrid, PandoDaily reported. Embarke has been able to optimize the delivery of 500,000 emails each day by working with only the top 2 percent of SendGrid's clients. The email analytics firm claims the partnership has produced improvements of between 5 and 20 percent in both click-through and open rates.

In a recent post on its official blog, Embarke asked marketers to reevaluate the effectiveness of their analytics.

"It's one thing to be able to track opens and clicks, but are those opens and clicks converting? Are they signing up? Are they turning into dollars, or actual customers?" the company asked.

The goal of Embarke, one might say, is to enable clients to answer "Yes" to those questions.

StreamSend brings email content to the social sphere
Sacramento, Calif.-based firm StreamSend provides solutions for email marketers, including StreamSend Share 2.0, a platform of social marketing tools. The company recently announced the release of Smart RSS, an automation tool that allows companies that frequently update their rich site summary (RSS) feeds to reach and impact more potential customers, the firm said.

"Automatic email automation and market automation drive a much greater ability to connect with customers through these syndicated live web feeds, sharing more effectively and delivering the attention that great content really deserves," commented StreamSend President Dan Forootan. 

According to StreamSend, Smart RSS allows marketers to use widgets that enable them to set up automatic publishing schedules. The solution also places sharing features on emailed RSS, so that customers on your email contact list can create engagement and potential new business for you by bringing your content to the attention of their social networks.

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