Today’s customers want highly personalized, contextually relevant, real-time experiences, or they are happy to swipe away your offer and go to your competitor – who is only a single tap away. You have precious little time to capture their attention.

“Batch and blast” — the email-marketing approach used for so many years — has diminishing returns. You can send an email blast to make your end-of-the-month revenue goals, but you’ll lose a lot of customers (via the unsubscribe button) in the process. To acquire and nurture new customers, email marketing must acknowledge the full customer experience and become a more strategic part of the marketing mix.

So, is there a better way? How can we start to evolve our methods to ensure email remains the “cash cow” it has earned the right to be called, without driving away customers through unsubscribes? Here are a few ideas.

The Right Welcome Is Important

When new customers sign up to receive your emails, they’re expressing interest in your brand. Use a welcome series to capitalize on their intrigue and keep them warm. It is crucial, however, that you always remember — you only get one chance to make a good first impression. You can start out on the right path with customers by:

  • Defining the Voice for Your Brand: Use terms, language and phrases that will resonate with your customers and embody your brand. For example, if you are a family brand, welcome the customer to the family.
  • Setting Expectations:What type of content will they be receiving and at what frequency?
  • Pointing Out Other Options:Direct customers to your other channels, other brands and customer service.
  • Providing Special Offers:Give customers a reason to stay subscribed and engaged.
  • Directing Them to a Preference Center:Collect valuable explicit data and allow customers to control what type of content they receive and how often.

Businesses who carefully orchestrate this welcome phase have seen increased lifecycle revenue. In fact, research shows that segmented and targeted emails generate 58 percent of all email revenue.

Personalization Rules

Email personalization has gone way beyond inserting a name in the “hello” field, which some customers see as superficial and mostly meaningless.  Today’s customers — many of whom use three to five devices in their everyday lives — demand personalization at every level. They expect you to know who they are and what they want.

To create truly meaningful personalization that will engage your customers, you first have to map out your customers’ complete journeys with your brand at every touchpoint and for every channel. Only when you understand the whole customer journey will you be able to create amazing personal experiences.

One way you can go beyond the “insert name” personalization is to message your customer on a deeper level. According a Harvard Business Review study, 64 percent of consumers who feel they have a relationship with a brand say it is because of shared values. Leverage messages, offers, events, etc. that speak to your customers’ interests, lifestyles and values and help convert.

Dates, events and holidays are another good way to advance personalization in your email programs. Start with data that you already have. For example, leverage data on loyalty members, such as birthdays and the anniversaries of when they first subscribed to your emails and offer something exclusive on those dates.

Design Appropriate Reminder Emails

Email reminders for abandoned shopping carts or webpages, unfinished videos or unused apps can be very powerful, driving 40 to 50 percent open rates and 20 to 25 percent conversion rates. If you don’t remind users about cart abandonment or form drop off, you are leaving money on the table. You need to:

  • Understand why customers are abandoning their carts. On average, 10 percent abandon carts because they are missing payment information; 33 percent are shopping around for the best price; and 50 percent are concerned about shipping costs.
  • Personalize the reminder. Personalized reminders bring a 29 percent increase in open rates and a 41 percent increase in click rates.
  • Initially, try a soft sell like: “Did you find what you were looking for?” or “Hey, did you forget? Was everything okay?”
  • And, while not always necessary on the first reminder, you can also consider giving a small discount for finishing the process on a second or third reminder.

Reminders across all verticals — not just retail cart abandonments. For example, at Adobe, we often remind people to complete downloads of various reports or whitepapers. If you’re in the travel industry, encourage your traveler to complete booking a hotel room or their dream getaway with a deal alert.

Context and Timing Are Everything

A key to maturing your email marketing program is to start thinking of how you can change your program’s status quo. Yes, email is tried-and-true and many of the tactics you are currently using probably work. But if you blast more emails at the end of a month to try to meet revenue goals, you may be losing just as many customers to unsubscribe or the spam folder.

Ensure that the content you are sending is relevant and sent a timely manner. Always send with context in mind— is this the right message, at the right time, to the right device and relevant at the time it is opened?   If you offer a customer a discount for an abandoned cart, that offer should be good when the email is opened, not timed to expire within your timeframe. Also, your offers should be geographically relevant based on where the email was opened, not necessarily on the customer’s address alone.

Don’t worry if you can’t do all of these things right away. The point is to get started with what you can, learning as much as you can about your customers’ journeys with your brand and embracing the new world where personalization and experiences rule.

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