Category Archives: Email List Trends

Gmail update means email marketers must rethink design, segmentation

Gmail update means email marketers must rethink design, segmentation

Google's introduction of the Promotions tab to the layout of Gmail earlier this year has elicited grumbles of frustration from email marketers across the globe, who are concerned that the new design of the inbox will result in their email contact lists reading marketing messages much less frequently.

The tabbed Gmail design, however, isn't the only update that Google has made this year to the way its email service works. The firm has introduced another change that problematizes both email layouts and list segmentation practices: image caching.

Google's image display protocol disrupts email marketing
In a recent column for ClickZ, Innovyx CEO and founder Derek Harding discussed the impact that Gmail's switch to caching the visual components of emails will have on long-standing marketing practices. The basic principle of the change is that now, instead of downloading the images every time a user opens an email, the graphic files are downloaded once per recipient and stored in the browser.

It may not seem like a major update – but it has important repercussions for several aspects of email marketing, Harding noted. First, and perhaps most expected, are the effects the Gmail change will have on email design itself. Image caching takes some of the sophistication out of what marketing teams can do with email graphics. Specifically, timed image downloads will become impossible to execute for recipients who use Gmail.

"Tools that deliver images dynamically based on time (think time-limited offers) will be negatively impacted. Once the recipient sees the image, it will not be downloaded again and so will not be able to change," Harding wrote.

Another set of impacts that Gmail image caching has on email marketing falls under the umbrella of data collection practices. Harding pointed out that companies will no longer be able to determine the locations of their email list contacts, as the cache hides IP addresses. The update also makes it more difficult for marketers to synchronize cookies, a practice that helps them process reader information for more relevant email content in the future. And email marketing solutions that monitor campaign performance through data analytics won't be able to detect multiple opens by a single user through number of image downloads.

Since image caching limits the data that marketers have access to, it makes it more difficult for them to segment their email marketing lists based on relevant consumer information. Firms can't simply ignore this change in Gmail, one of the most popular email platforms. It's key to find ways to work around the update rather than resign oneself to the negative effects.

When in doubt, return to best practices
Given the reduction in image responsiveness caused by caching, making your written email copy as clean, effective and dynamic as possible is paramount. In an interview with The Next Web, Forward Push Media's Chief Strategist Marc Apple emphasized the importance of content in the current marketing landscape, especially for companies that target millennials.

"Content by far is what a millennial is looking for when a business reaches out to them via email," Apple told the news source. "It's just not any content; it must be relevant and relatable content."

Furthermore, while Gmail image caching may make it more difficult to use the most sophisticated data collection techniques, marketers can return to tried-and-true methods like simple A/B list testing, sending different versions of the same campaign to two customer segments to see how the messages perform. Apple insisted that running basic tests is crucial no matter what other methods a marketer uses.

"Every brand's audience is different, which is why I am a big believer in testing, and then testing again," the Forward Push Media executive remarked, according to The Next Web.

Perhaps the update offers marketers an opportunity for a refreshing return to basics.

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Black Friday, Cyber Monday statistics highlight the importance of mobile marketing

Black Friday, Cyber Monday statistics highlight the importance of mobile marketing

Long before Thanksgiving weekend hit, industry experts were predicting that Black Friday and Cyber Monday would be landmark days for mobile purchases. Now that the kick-off to the holiday shopping season is in the rearview, the statistics have begun to flood in from a variety of sources. And although some of the results vary across different reports, one thing is for certain: The uptick in mobile shopping not only met but exceeded expectations. The trend is so widespread, in fact, that marketers simply can't ignore the need to reach their email marketing list contacts on their mobile devices.

Smartphones, tablets beat out desktop shopping
A recent report by Moveable Ink revealed that mobile devices were more popular than desktops for shoppers who took advantage of this year's Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales. In fact, only 26.5 percent of consumers made their purchases on personal computers the day after Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, smartphones were the device of choice for 57.5 percent, and 16 percent opted to shop on their tablets. 

Perhaps in reflection of the inherently rushed nature of Black Friday, Cyber Monday shopping saw more desktop-based purchases than its counterpart, Moveable Ink found. Yet PCs still didn't account for the majority of transactions, claiming only 40.2 percent. With 45.5 percent of online retail activity, smartphones still beat out laptops and home computers, while 14.3 percent of Cyber Monday shoppers chose tablets to carry out their shopping.

Mobile also won out over personal computers in terms of email opens during the retail-centric holiday. On Thanksgiving Day, smartphones accounted for nearly 60 percent of all opens, according to Moveable Ink. Black Friday wasn't far behind, as 57.5 percent of emails were opened on a smartphone. The weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw a surge of tablet activity, with slates accounting for 19.3 percent Saturday's email opens and 18.7 percent on Sunday.

Know the mobile marketing best practices
In light of such figures, it's only natural that marketers will want to embrace smartphone and tablet email reading. In an interview with Biz Report, iContact Senior Product Manager Eddie Howard insisted that the mobile craze is great news for those who engineer email campaigns.

"No longer are emails only consumed in front of a computer screen during certain hours. Now consumers are reading emails during the day, when in bed, at bars, while commuting and while watching TV," Howard told the news source.

Of course, marketers have to tailor their strategies to the trend. Howard went on to tell Biz Report that he believes emails have to be able to adapt to different types of viewing environments. As mobile marketing means reaching consumers on the go, firms should also use analytics and take a look at their customers' habits in an effort to create more targeted email lists.

Ride the wave of responsive design
Creating emails that will look good no matter what device a customer opens them on can be tricky, not only because of the variety of mobile operating systems, but also because marketers can't simply ignore desktop viewers, either. Mashable recently highlighted the importance of responsive design as a way of crafting email layouts that can adjust themselves based on the parameters of a variety of screens.

"Understanding devices and associated technology features is necessary for design purposes. We determine what our sites and our emails need to be designed for from a size, browser and operating perspective," Cathy Gribble, TeamOne's associate director of digital analytics, told the news source.

Mashable went on to note that responsive design is particularly vital for firms that use image-heavy layouts. If visuals are a key part of your branding strategy, deploying adaptive design may prove key to your mobile efforts.

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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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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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