The WhatCounts Blog
Everything you need to know about smart, personalized email marketing.
The numbers don’t lie: Personalized emails increase open rates by 72 percent and click rates by 81 percent. Email is there for you as a marketing channel: Driving the most ROI, engaging with customers, giving you measurable results.
Times are changing, though. Consumers are smarter than ever before. They want to see relevant, personal, timely emails. You need to send the right message at the right time to the right person, and email is the only marketing channel up to the challenge.
Batch-and-blast strategy isn’t effective anymore – sending one email to everyone on your list. You don’t need to send more emails; you need to send better email.
Here are some key items to understand about email marketing:
- Email is the undisputed leader in digital marketing ROI, but it’s a constantly evolving channel. It’s important to understand what email marketing is now and think about what it might look like a few years away. In this way, you anticipate trends in the industry before they happen, and can proactively enhance your email marketing.
- When you aren’t breaking, testing, and dreaming about doing email better, you’re obsolete. And when you’re not marketing smarter using deep segmentation, your messages are irrelevant. Segment emails based on subscribers’ behaviors, and you’ll be an email winner for sure.
- Best practices are the cornerstone of email marketing. Know the basics of what works in email and what doesn’t. Understand creative, list-building, deliverability and other email marketing best practices to stay at the top of your game.
- Measure. Consistently gather analytics about the emails you send and your subscribers. Good metrics to keep track of are click, open, click-to-open and bounce rate. Keep month-over-month and year-over-year reports so you can measure how your program improves. Once in a while, consider comparing your metrics to those in an industry standards report. However, understand each business – even within the same industry – differs from each other. Your metrics are your own, and measuring against yourself should take priority.
- Follow what leaders in email marketing are doing and saying. Keep track of what they say and what their clients are doing with email marketing. Use the information to improve your own email program.
When you understand and follow these guidelines, your email marketing will succeed. If we’ve whetted your appetite for email, join us on March 27th at the W Hotel in City Center, Chicago for our free We Love Email Innovation Tour. We’ll be covering all of these strategies in depth!
Over the years, we’ve showcased our clients – whether in examples or authorship – on our blog, eBooks and other resources. We’re proud they share our goals: Dream Big, Work Hard, Learn Constantly, Enjoy Life. We’ve been honored to help our clients, but even more honored to learn from them through these case studies, eBooks and guest blog posts.
In this blog post, see how our clients Golf Etail and Red Heart yarn used lightboxes on their websites to get people to sign up for their emails. This strategy increased open rates for both companies, and it may do the same for you.
No matter what industry you’re in, lifecycle email marketing is a must. It can be difficult to accomplish, though. Don’t worry – this MiniGuide provides practical examples of campaigns our client True Citrus is using right now and you can, too.
Cookies by Design, the original cookie bouquet company, uses email as an important piece of their marketing mix. When they started struggling with stale click rates and engagement, they wanted to do something about it. Learn how they engaged our Strategic Services team to fix it.
It’s the middle of winter. It’s hard to make your emails stand out. Fight the stir-crazy with these ideas from client Hall Internet Marketing.
The convergence between social and email is already underway. Creating content that works for your emails campaigns and also complements your social media outlets is a must. This blog post by client Prime Visibility has some tips and tricks.
Crafting email subject lines can be a trying experience. So how do you get more eyeballs on your emails? In this blog post, our client Quality Logo Products covers a few quick tips that should get you more clicks!
If the above does not make sense maybe this layman’s definition will, as it relates to digital marketing. A lightbox is a popup on a webpage asking visitors to fill out a form. This form allows the company to gather more data about its customers. Note existing WhatCounts client Golf Etail’s lightbox.
You may find lightboxes annoying as a user, but they can be quite effective for the brand trying to gather consumer data. Take for instance WhatCounts client Red Heart yarns and the lightbox it implemented right before Christmas. This pop up was one of the most effective list-gathering techniques the company has ever used.
The lightbox was implemented for 60 days. During the 60-day period, 2,207,901 unique visitors came to the website and 58,280 filled out the lightbox data. Of those visitors, 44,559 were new subscribers.
You may not think much of a two percent boost to your list, but think again. During a time when organic growth is hard to come by, Red Heart was able to accomplish it fairly easily.
It worked so well they are using a new version to see how it will perform.
Test using lightboxes. One item to note, however, is when setting these up on your website, make sure you enable the setting that only shows the lightbox to new visitors. Returning visitors may become overly annoyed if they encounter the lightbox every time they visit your site.
We encourage you to set up a lightbox. See if you get the same results and let us know. We’d love to hear!
This is an excerpt from the eBook “Busted: Debunking Six Email Marketing Myths within the Financial Services Industry.”
Myth: You can win by blasting your communication.
The Direct Marketing Association has long touted the value of email marketing, noting on average, for every dollar spent marketers see a return of more than $40. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most important one is no other marketing channel allows you to not only reach a vast number of people, but also to send segmented, personalized messages to those people, ensuring the right subscriber is getting the right communication at the right time.
If you aren’t segmenting, you aren’t trying.
For the financial services industry, the best way to segment your email list is to break it down by various characteristics, which can then allow you to place customers who have similar behavioral profiles into their own segmentations.
By being able to send more targeted communication to your customers, you’ll ensure no one is receiving a message with little-to-no value: The one question every person asks when he or she receives an email is, “What’s in it for me?” As a result, your job as a marketer is never to send an email with no value.
An effective segmentation tactic is by geographic locations, which is particularly important for a financial institution with a presence in multiple states. Let’s go back to our earlier example of the Global World Bank. Using geographic segmentation – such as grouping ZIP codes into specific regions — the Global World Bank can send targeted emails to customers informing them of news specific to where they live: The opening or closing of a branch or an ATM location, for example, or a change in hours for holidays.
Going beyond that, you can then drill down into a deeper profile of your customers based upon their behavior and their level of engagement with your institution.
Break down your customer database by the type of account they have with you. People with personal checking accounts should not be receiving the same communication as people with commercial or wealth management accounts, for example. Another field of segmentation would be additional value-added products a customer may have tied into his or her account: A home mortgage or re-financing agreement, or a car loan, debit cards with fees associated with them and the like. And, of course, you should be segmenting by the total account size: How much is he or she engaged with you in terms of total dollars and cents?
You can also develop segmentations based upon affinity: Noting whether customers have registered for your online banking offerings, downloaded your mobile app (and noting which platform they downloaded it on, assuming your app is available on more than one operating system), engaged with you on social media, shared your emails with their social networks or forwarded to friends / family. Note how long they’ve been a customer, as well: While it’s hard to put a dollar value upon loyalty, it’s still important to measure how long someone has decided to make your financial institution his or her partner.
The demographic side of segmentation cannot be ignored, either. A recent college graduate will have a different behavioral profile — and a different level of financial engagement with you — than a suburban family of four with two cars and a home loan.
Once you have done this work of segmentation, it’s time to begin assigning specific campaigns to specific areas of your list. The best way to do this is to analyze and then assign values to those segments: Segment A contains subscribers who have data indicating they have a personal account size greater than $10,000 (or whatever number qualifies as “high-value” for your institution, keeping in mind that you’re doing things differently from everyone else in the financial industry), have downloaded your mobile app and have worked with your loan department.
Segment A should be getting different communications from people in Segment B, who have a small checking account but have interacted with you all over social media and often tweet about the fantastic customer service they receive from you. Both of those list segments have some degree of value to you, and they should be receiving communications from you. As a marketer, it’s your job to assign that value and determine who gets what.
This is the true power of email marketing.
By implementing all of these segmentations and data fields into your customer database, you might think now you’re going to have entirely too much data. With an effective email marketing tool such as the WhatCounts Smart Marketing Engine, relational database tables allow you to get deep and detailed with all of this information, storing it in a “one-to-many” environment, as opposed to a flat one-to-one database. Effective data management allows for effective communication.
Whew! That all sounds like a lot of work, and your job still isn’t done. But we assure you, the work of the heavy lifting at the beginning of evaluating and crafting your email marketing program will pay off in the end (remember that $40 ROI we talked about). Of course, there’s one question you’re surely asking yourself: All of that information is great, but how do I get it?
The truth is, batch and blast is dead. Deep segmentation is the key to sending smart, personalized messages to the right people at the right time. Email is the one channel allowing you to do this.
Every so often on our blog, we like to bring you a sprinkling of digital marketing resources from experts in the industry. Although we love email, we know when all your marketing channels are performing at their best, you win. So we’ve gathered the articles we’ve found most interesting from the past week or two to share with you here. Enjoy!
This is one for all of our readers in the travel, hotel or tourism industry. The results of this survey give a snapshot of where you stand among your peers. It also helps you measure how you fit into the mix of respondents, and see you’re not alone in dealing with some common challenges.
How do you know if a certain amount of clicks is good or bad? Analytics by themselves don’t mean much unless you can give meaning to the numbers. Fight metrics boredom by asking three important questions about your analytics. Find out what those questions are in this article!
We’ve often touted the benefits of promoting the unsubscribe option in your emails. It should be viewed as a win-win scenario when subscribers choose to leave your mailing list. In fact, analyzing unsubscribes can help you plan better emails suited to what your subscribers truly desire.
Keeping track of your social media metrics can be difficult. What to measure and how to measure it are always challenges. But you don’t actually need a fancy piece of software or the latest app to figure out the ROI of your social media. Learn how the basic Excel spreadsheet will do the trick.
You’re probably aware more emails are now opened on mobile browsers than desktops. You probably know a lot of other marketing-related mobile metrics, which is good. But have you ever considered the people and behaviors behind those numbers? This article is just that.
What did you think of these articles? Agree or disagree? Tell us in the comments below.
Everyone in the retail industry knows their business depends on the whims of consumers, especially when it comes to online shopping. People often browse a website, load their digital shopping carts with goodies, and then disappear. Retailers are left with a pile of potential purchases, but no actual revenue. This trend is known as shopping cart abandonment.
The average shopping cart abandonment rate is over 65 percent, the average value of an online order is $116.58, and average online conversion rate is 2.13 percent (Smarter Remarketer).
Regaining this lost revenue is a must. There is one channel retailers can leverage to woo customers into reclaiming their online abandoned carts: email. To create optimal, personalized shopping cart abandonment emails, email marketers should follow best practices through content, automation, testing and responsive design.
Understanding the reasons people don’t follow through on the checkout process is essential to crafting shopping cart abandonment messages that convert. The top reasons buyers leave their online carts is because of high shipping costs, high product prices, and no checkout option. Other top reasons: not ready to purchase or the checkout process is too complex.
These are all roadblocks for people to finish their transactions on your website. Knock these barriers down, and you’re more than likely to get customers to come back.
The content of your shopping cart abandonment emails needs to be persuasive enough to entice customers to finish their shopping. With a touch of personalization and the right message at the right time, you’ll be able to save customers lost to abandoned shopping carts. Here’s a list to get started:
- Give the customer an incentive to come back and make the purchase. For example, offer free shipping or a discount.
- If you promote a discount, coupon or other offer, make it for a short time only. This will motivate customers to complete their purchases immediately.
- Remind customers of the products in their shopping carts.
- Use the data you collected about the items in their online shopping carts to personalize the product name or names in your message.
- Cross sell or up sell items similar to the ones the customers is purchasing.
- Include photos of customers’ unpurchased products.
- Make it simple for customers to pick up where they left off: Provide direct links back to the customer’s shopping cart on your website.
Many people believe automation is the arch enemy of personalization. Not so; it actually helps you send personalized emails efficiently. Automate shopping cart abandonment emails by creating a behavioral trigger when a customer takes the action of leaving his or her online shopping cart. Connect your email creative to this behavioral trigger and specify how long after customers abandon their carts.
Don’t schedule the triggered campaign to go out almost immediately after customers leave their shopping carts – they may have accidentally closed their browsers or navigated away. The time to send this email campaign varies depending what type of product you sell and what your specific shopping experience is.
Consider sending a series of campaigns that deploy at different times after the abandonment event: for example, three hours, 24 hours and one week.
The campaign can easily be automated through an application such as Smarter Remarketer. Since this company is a WhatCounts partner, our clients already have access to create automated shopping cart abandonment campaigns using the software. This app gathers information about customers who visit your website and start the checkout process. You can set up specific triggers based on unique customer actions to personalize the shopping cart abandonment re-engagement.
Testing is one of the most foolishly underestimated and underused tools in email marketing. Marketers long for a pointing finger showing what they should do with their email marketing to engage subscribers. What these marketers refuse to realize is testing is the best indicator of that very idea. It’s no different with shopping cart abandonment emails. You should constantly test different parts of this email campaign to understand what converts the best.
Here’s what you should test when it comes to shopping cart abandonment emails:
- Subject line: Short, long, fun, to-the-point, symbol
- Timing: Test the timing of your emails – two hours, 12 hours, one day
- The call to action: Change up your call to action when you test
- Layout: Should the items be displayed on the top and the call to action on the bottom? Or vice versa?
Testing provides specific insight into your company’s unique shopping cart abandonment campaigns and customers that will help you market smarter.
Here’s your wake-up call – according to a recent study, over 50 percent of people are reading emails on their mobile devices. More and more people are also making purchases from these devices. It’s safe to assume if people are shopping your website and reading your emails on their mobile devices, they’ll also read your shopping cart abandonment emails on their mobile devices and possibly make purchases from there.
According to these consumer actions, responsive email design converts the most.
That means everything you design and send must be optimized for a mobile device. Responsive design re-configures your email to fit on whatever size screen it’s being viewed: desktop, mobile phone, or tablet. Here’s the same email from above, but optimized for mobile.
What Not to Do
Making customers re-enter all their information or requiring unnecessary information. When a customer clicks the call-to-action in your shopping cart abandonment email, don’t make them fill out their shipping, billing and credit card information all over again. Save and display that information upon their return. Otherwise, they’ll be sure to say good-bye.
Laying out and designing emails that conflict with natural eye flow. The designs of emails are important, an idea we touched on in the responsive design section. When placed oddly, images and text confuse readers. Make sure the layout of text, images and calls-to-action are logical and please the eye.
Using multiple call-to-action buttons with the same design and in close proximity. This is a big no-no. Pick one action you want subscribers to take, and use only that one in your shopping cart abandonment email.
We love email. It produces the most ROI out of any other marketing channel. And it’s the best way to get online customers who abandoned their shopping carts to come back and seal the deal. If you don’t have a shopping cart abandonment series in place, let us help you get started with this smattering of resources. Don’t let another abandoned shopping cart roll away.
Stop losing sales because of shopping cart abandoners. With the right message, email design and timing, your emails could make loyal customers out of these subscribers. Here are four tips to do just that.
When you create and send shopping cart abandonment emails, it’s important to test specific parts. Subject line, creative, from address – test them all to optimize for the best engagement. No matter how small the difference between the original and the test email, it might make a difference to your subscribers.
Whether the customer was merely window shopping, comparing prices, or just got distracted, online shopping carts are abandoned more often than not . How does a retailer combat this issue? How do you reel the customer back in? With email, of course.
In late 2008, Costco used an abandoned shopping cart campaign to drive an additional 2.5 percent in revenue. One of the things the company did was create a reminder email to drive conversion. Results? The campaign had tremendous response and performed above expectations. Download this case study to learn more about this retailer’s strategy.
You know who does an excellent job of providing retailers with shopping cart abandonment tools? Our most recent partner, Smarter Remarketer. From strategy, to logistics, to setting up the behavior-based actions, these guys know how to execute effective shopping cart abandonment campaigns. Keep up with our events – soon we’ll be hosting a webinar with Smarter Remarketer. Hope you can come!
Are your emails campaigns falling short either in open, click or click-through rates? Perhaps you’re at the end of your creative limits, trying every trick in the book to get subscribers to interact with your emails. No matter how hard you try to please your subscribers, you can’t win. It’s time to reverse your order of thinking: Give subscribers the content they want. How to do this? Test different from addresses, subject lines and creative to see which ones subscribers engage with most. If you’re a Professional Edition user, our A/B testing feature is one of the best in the industry and just received a facelift along with the rest of the platform.
In a few steps, we’re going to walk through a typical subject line A/B test in Professional Edition.
Create A/B Test Definition
Under the Tasks menu, select View A/B Test Definitions. In the top right corner, click Add A/B Test Definition. Enter a distinctive name for the test, as well as a description. From the next dropdown menu, decide the maximum time the test should run. Depending on your list size, this time may vary. Since this is a subject line test, the most appropriate metric off of which to base our winning email is unique open rate – the action we’re primarily trying to get subscribers to take with this A/B test is opening it.
Next, decide how you want a winner to be determined and when the platform should stop collecting data for the test. Select the list you want to use, and a segmentation and/or suppression list if you so desire. Drag the bar to the percent of the list you want to test. This is a simple split test with two samples, so 20 percent is a good metric. However, you can test up to 10 different samples.
Next, check the box marked Subject line. Select the template you want to send, and enter the different subject lines. Save the A/B Test Definition.
Deploy A/B Samples
Once you’ve set up the A/B Test Definitions, starting the actual test is simple. In fact, it’s done in the same way as deploying a regular campaign. However, choose A/B Test instead of Normal on the Deploy Campaign screen.
Choose the A/B Test Definition you created from the next dropdown menu. Then follow all the other steps you normally take when deploying a campaign. On the following screen, you’ll see the two subject lines and you’ll be able to confirm the send.
You have three options to determine the winner of an A/B test:
- Automatically, and the platform sends the winning email to the rest of the list
- Automatically, but the platform sends an email and lets you decide what to do next
- Manually. The platform will send you an email at the end of the test and you decide what to do next
If you choose one of the latter options, once you deploy the A/B campaign, you’ll be responsible for reviewing the results and choosing which email version to send to the rest of your list.
So you’ve deployed you’re A/B campaign and you have the results in front of you. Now what? Maybe nothing happened. Perhaps your open rate doesn’t change, no matter how many different subject line tests you send. This can be frustrating, but don’t worry, help is on the way. Our Strategy team has helped clients think up unique testing strategies that move the needle for them. Just shoot us an email – we’d be happy to help you, too!
The Relevancy Group rigorously considered eight mid-market email service providers (ESPs), including WhatCounts, for The Relevancy Ring Client Satisfaction Awards. What were the results? WhatCounts was awarded a Gold distinction in Account Management Servicing, Integration, and Deliverability Tools & Services.
An excerpt from The Relevancy Ring report says WhatCounts works well for “mid-market senders that can embrace the vendor’s API tools, which are economical and flexible.”
Our team couldn’t be prouder. We’ve focused so largely on our customer service, believing great relationships with our clients are the key to our success. CEO and Founder Allen Nance described our enthusiasm for the results of The Relevancy Ring report when he said, “We love email, and we’ve always known that the people driving email marketing programs are what counts.”
Our company also won a silver medal in another category, but we don’t want to give everything away. Get the entire report on the Relevancy Group’s website or read a synopsis in the Marketer Quarterly.
Remember our post about creating a yearlong content calendar you can reference? We know it can be tough to fill it in. As February approaches, there’s less and less time to decide what campaigns you want to run that month. Let us help you fill in those gaps with ideas for common – and not so common – February holidays you can use to inspire email campaigns.
Groundhog Day (Sunday, Feb. 2)
Nothing says tradition like Punxsutawney Phil deciding the weather for the next few weeks. Take advantage of this event by creating a contest or giveaway based on whether the groundhog sees his shadow (six more weeks of winter) or whether he didn’t (spring is coming). Another option is to create an email based on Phil’s decision. For example, if it’s predicted there will be more winter, travel companies could promote warm destinations in an email campaign.
The Super Bowl (Sunday, Feb. 2)
Over 108 million people watch the Superbowl; you can’t deny a lot of people are interested in this sporting event. You don’t have to run a four million dollar TV ad to reach customers. Email brings in the most ROI and it’s also cost-effective. Create a promotion, offer historical or educational content about the event, and ask people to share photos on social media. The email possibilities are almost endless for this event – be creative!
Valentine’s Day (Friday, Feb. 14)
Sharing a little love. Sweet ideas. Happy Valentine’s Day! These are all subject lines of emails sent on past February 14th holidays. Take the opportunity to send gender-specific emails and consider sending a day or two before the holiday. This is especially helpful if you’re offering advice or discounts on products and services.
President’s Day (Monday, Feb. 17)
Officially celebrating George Washington’s birthday, this holiday presents an opportunity for email marketers. Travel companies, create an email with special deals to cities where presidents were born or lived, such as Washington D.C. Media and publishers have the opportunity to share educational content with subscribers.
Black History Month
February is designated as Black History Month in the United States. It celebrates achievements by black Americans and recognizes the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. Now is the chance to share how your company celebrates this month and supports community and nationwide events.
If you’re looking to create a unique email campaign in February, consider my personal favorite National Pancake Day (Wednesday, Feb. 5), as well the First Day of Chinese New Year (Monday, Feb. 10), and Random Acts of Kindness Day (Monday, Feb. 17). You can find even more off-beat holidays here.