Category Archives: Marketing/Communications

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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Consumers reading more emails on tablets

Consumers reading more emails on tablets

By now, email marketers know they need to adapt to mobile to keep pace with the competition, as the contacts on their email marketing lists increasingly go to their smartphones not only to read email, but also to check social media, surf the Web and scope out new brands and products. 

Of course, smartphones aren't the only mobile devices on the market: The acclaim and attention that Apple's recent release of the iPad Air garnered demonstrates just how popular tablets have become in recent years. Since these bigger devices resemble small laptops arguably more than their smartphone cousins, many users are going to tablets to perform many of the activities that were previously reserved for desktop computers – and email is no exception.

iPads lead the tablet trend for email
There's no denying the impressive rate at which consumers are turning to their tablets when it comes time to read emails. Movable Ink's recent U.S. Consumer Device Preference Report found more than 15 percent of all email opens occurred on a tablet in the third quarter of 2013, a marked quarter-over-quarter increase from Q2, when tablets made up less than 13 percent of total email reading.

The device that has seen the greatest portion of the growth of tablet-based email reading is the iPad. Apple's popular devices accounted for a stunning 14.29 percent of all email opens, leaving just 0.9 percent to Android tablets, the Movable Ink study found. That dominance stands to reason: iPad use alone grew by 10 percent between the second and third quarters of 2013.

With these statistics in mind, marketers can better focus their efforts. One of the difficulties of crafting mobile-friendly email campaigns is creating layouts that will look good across operating systems. When designing with the tablet in mind, however, prioritizing iOS over Android and other platforms may be an effective strategy.

Emails read on tablets create more conversions
Furthermore, considering how your emails will look on tablets offers rewards that are too great to overlook, as return on investment is particularly high among tablet-based email reads. 

Email marketing solutions provider Yesmail Interactive recently performed a study that revealed 56 percent of all mobile Web-based sales initiated by a marketing email were carried out on an iPad. Compare that to the iPhone's 26 percent and Android's 18 percent of mobile email-driven purchases, and the need for greater focus on how emails look on tablets becomes even clearer. Furthermore, iPads accounted for 25 percent of all mobile click-throughs and email opens, the study found, suggesting that customers may be much more responsive on tablets.

As such, marketers must begin to consider how they are going to take advantage of the convenience and pleasure the devices offer consumers.

"Emails opened on mobile have a better chance of reaching consumers at the right place and right time during the busy holiday shopping season," Yesmail President Michael Fisher noted. "Marketers should recognize that 'mobile' doesn't always equal 'smartphone.'"

Using tablets to increase your exposure
In a post for Tab Times, Softweb Solutions Senior SEO Executive Jagadish Thaker highlighted how marketers can take advantage of tablet technology to generate customers.

"The increased use of tablet devices has greatly transformed the way businesses interact with their customers and with each other. It is necessary to know how consumers leverage their devices in order to deliver a better customer experience," he wrote.

Thaker recommended firms strengthen their mobile presence to make themselves more visible, engaging social media and creating apps. He also pointed out that it's essential for firms to make sure their websites look good on mobile.

Given the high click-through rate among users who read email on tablets, it's particularly important to make sure that the landing pages to which your emails link are mobile-ready.

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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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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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