Category Archives: Sales & Marketing

Online, mobile sales prove key to early holiday shopping trends

Online, mobile sales prove key to early holiday shopping trends

The holiday shopping season presents a complex, dynamic challenge for email marketers. While the basic principles remain the same each year – people are out in droves shopping for gifts for their loved ones, and companies must take advantage of the rush by reaching their email marketing list contacts with alluring offers and promotions – many other factors create something of a moving target. For instance, what will the top purchasing trends be? Will consumers increase their spending on tech gadgets relative to clothing? And in an age defined in many ways by the prevalence of smartphones and tablets, will shopping prove more lucrative via digital or in-store channels?

Mobile, ecommerce hit record highs
Marketers who prepared for a shopping season defined by mobile and online sales may already be seeing their efforts pay off. Recent statistics revealed that the Thanksgiving shopping weekend was characterized by purchases made on electronic platforms.

In fact, online sales on Cyber Monday increased by 20.6 percent over last year, thereby setting a new record, according to IBM. Furthermore, the stretch between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday was the most active five-day period to date in terms of digital purchases.

Perhaps even more staggering, however, was the increase in mobile commerce. IBM reported that smartphone and tablet shopping grew at a year-over-year rate of 55.4 percent, accounting for more than 17 percent of all retail transactions.

"The mobile device has become the shopping companion of choice for consumers, driving record mobile sales with 55 percent growth over last year," remarked IBM Smarter Commerce Strategy Director Jay Henderson.

Adapt your holiday campaigns for mobile
In light of these statistics, email marketers simply can't afford not to optimize for mobile when they plan their holiday promotional campaigns. Companies that ignore mobile shoppers risk losing revenue to competitors, as many retailers are already learning to adapt to the smartphone generation. IBM noted that retailers upped their sending of push notifications – which send brief messages about sales or available products directly to customers' mobile devices – by 77 percent during Thanksgiving weekend, in comparison with the previous two months.

One of the key challenges that email marketers face in mobile optimization is how to design their messages' layouts for the different mobile operating systems used by customers on firms' targeted email lists. Android and iOS are the two most popular, of course, but Windows Phone is also the choice of a growing segment of consumers, and Blackberry hasn't totally fallen off the map, either.

To this end, responsive design can be a key asset. Leveraging the adaptability of HTML5 coding, this technique can create layouts that will change based on the specific parameters of each operating system – how large the mobile email viewing window is, for instance, and where images are placed.

If you'd rather focus on one mobile OS, however, consider targeting Apple product users. According to IBM, iOS accounted for 14.5 percent of online purchases compared to Android's 2.6 percent. iPhone and iPad users also seem to be higher spenders than those who prefer the Google platform. iOS purchases averaged $120.29 – considerably higher than Android's $106.70, especially when you take volume into account.

Consider video
Of course, you won't be the only marketer on the block who's set his or her sights on mobile shoppers. As such, you'll need to get creative if your marketing emails are going to stand out in consumers' mobile inboxes.

The holiday crunch might be a great time to consider video, a growing trend in email marketing. According to a study by Reel SEO, 82 percent of marketers found video effective, and 60 percent said it improved conversion rates. Of course, you'll also need to make sure the footage will look good on a mobile screen.

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B2B email marketing messages should continue to use custom content and segmentation.

B2B email marketing messages aren’t the same as B2C

Most individuals perceive email marketing lists to be the domain of business-to-consumer (B2C) companies. However, business-to-business (B2B) online communications are being increasingly leveraged by firms that offer other organizations professional services. And while some of the same marketing tips and tricks apply for these business emails, there are a few key differences in B2B and B2C best practices.

For example, a recent article in Business 2 Community pointed out the need to avoid "NoReply" emails. This term is common among B2C companies and marketers, and communicates to recipients upfront that the email they're receiving is purely informational or promotional, i.e. there's no need to start a dialogue. However, as the news source notes, this is precisely the opposite of what B2B firms should be striving to do.

"Allow the recipient to reply directly to the email to open a rapport with you," wrote Business 2 Community. "This can be accomplished by redirects on your server or by bootstrapping the mailer to an active account directly (the former usually being a better idea)."

Additionally, the news source added that B2B email marketing messages should contain simple and quick links that the recipient can click on to learn more about your company, its products and how to get in contact.

Some best practices are consistent across B2B and B2C, though. ClickZ pointed out that even in B2B email marketing messages, companies will want to use segmentation and personalization to connect with clients on a deeper level. By customizing the content potential and existing clients receive, B2B firms can potentially garner more customers, boost revenues and build stronger relationships that can last over the long term.

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Sales emails: You may be doing it wrong.

Avoid committing sales email sins

Writing a sales email and a marketing communication may seem to utilize the same components, yet the two forms of correspondence leverage email distribution lists in distinct ways. If sales associates fail to realize this when reaching out to leads, they could be greatly hampering their own efforts and those of their firms.

Fortunately, there are a few key strategies individuals can keep in mind when creating sales messages to avoid these missteps and realize success.

Depart from the prototype                   
According to a recent article from Business 2 Community, a vast majority of sales communications commit the same sins: They use a stereotypical introductory formula that has the individual state his or her name, the company he or she works for and the product being sold. However, nowhere within in this message is a personalized touch that shows the salesperson understands the prospect's problem or even how the product or service being sold can address this.

One of the first things a quality sales email will do is discuss the problem the lead is having, the news source explained. This will demonstrate expertise and encourage concerned individuals to continue reading. However, every problem needs a resolution. 

"In your second paragraph talk about how your service or product will solve the problem so that people understand you are the potential solution to their problem," Business 2 Community asserted. "Talk about your service or product in terms of the benefits rather than [its] features."

But this may not be enough to ensure recipients take the next step. With this in mind, sales associates should include instructions on what to do next. The news source suggested that firms avoid making this next step too complicated. All that needs to be provided is information on what happens next. If they call a certain phone number, will prospects receive more information? Will they be connected with a sales representative?

However, sales associates should avoid bombarding prospects with emails, according to Guru in a Bottle principal Ardi Kolah. According to Kolah, the over-use of this channel can create "cognitive overload," which inhibits decision-making capabilities by limiting the amount of information individuals can retain. Instead of reading through a message, recipients will skim the beginning and skip through the rest, diminishing the chances of succeeding with a sales email.

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Use a trade show to test out automated emails and expand targeted lists.

Automate email contact lists for stronger leads

The power of a strong email distribution list in producing quality leads, signups and, eventually, even sales cannot be played up enough. Imagine it as similar to being a realtor and approaching a roomful of individuals actively looking to buy a house versus throwing business cards at everyone on the street. The first scenario is much more likely to be successful.

Creating the content that appeals to members of a targeted email list can be a time-consuming and effort intense project, however. As a result, many marketers are investigating how automation can help them ensure their business communications make the biggest impact possible.

Automation allows marketers to choose the correct messages      
One task automation can make easier is determining which messages are most effective with a particular audience, Business 2 Community explained. Marketers can send a series of targeted messages, and using analytics can determine which ones were the most effective by looking at click and open rates. Additionally, this can help them clear out any bounced emails and see which messages spurred the least amount of traffic to a website.

Furthermore, by seeing which users clicked, companies have a much stronger set of leads with which to continue on to the next step – sales calls, according to the source.

This is demonstrated in an article from Marketing Magazine that recounts how automation can be used by sales teams and marketers to prepare for trade shows. According to the source, many professionals fail to even alert clients and prospects to their attendance at such events.

However, an automated email blast can do this for marketers, as well as let them know who's been clicking and, thus, whom they may expect to see, according to the magazine..

"Send out an email blast to a list of prospects who live near the site of the trade show so that they know that your company will be in the area," the news source explained. "Position the email as a friendly reminder that you're stopping by, and include a note that you'd love to see them at the conference."

Sales teams and marketers can't leave it here, though. Trade shows are key places to add to targeted email lists or learn tactics to better win over individuals through first-time emails.