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Email Personalization At Scale Is A Reality

Personalized Email

A few weeks ago we wrote about the need for better email.  According to the e-tailing group, 3/4 of consumers want personalized emails across the shopper lifecycle, and Harris Interactive found that 4/5 of them will buy more because of personalization.  However, until recently there have not been many advancements in email personalization technologies like there have been for the web.

Before we go any further what is personalization anyway?

In short order, personalization is the ability to deliver a 1:1 experience in digital marketing, tailoring all interactions to the individual consumer who is engaging with you. Amazon.com jumpstarted the advancements in personalization technologies by making great product recommendations to their shoppers based on what they were looking at and what they searched for. They delivered recommendations on their site and in their emails too. But this was just the beginning.

Companies have sprung up and pushed the boundaries of personalization and behavioral targeting to the mass market.  It’s a great start but true personalization isn’t just about making product recommendations or putting the recipients name in the subject line or in the body of the email. It’s about delivering everyone a boutique type experience, where the store clerk knows who you are and helps you find what you are looking for. Email is finally moving toward delivering unique 1:1 experiences at massive scale, integrating your digital billboards with the personal experience that you are trying to provide, that consumers want and crave.

You can deliver this utopian email experience today. There are three types of data you’ll need to deliver fully personalized email. Starting with one or two will improve email performance. Utilizing all three will deliver an unparalleled experience for your consumers, not only personalizing your email, but will make your messages stand out in the inbox.

First is “what consumers tell you.” When a consumer opts in to email, they are telling you that they interested in what you have to say or certain products or services you provide. They have a connection to your brand and give you basic information about who they are and what they like. This forms the foundation to making messages matter to them.

Second is “what you learn” about them as they interact with your brand. By understanding a consumers browse behavior, the channels they engage in, and how often they respond, you can get a deeper understanding of each consumers preferences and the type of shopper they are. This will help inform offers to give them, frequency of communication, and what types of emails to send to get them to engage and buy.

Third is an area of hyper-growth for email. It’s “what’s happening in the moment of engagement.” By understanding device type, location, time of day, even the weather outside, you can adapt the message in real-time as consumers open to further tailor the email they received. Increasing relevancy with live context will further personalize the message and increase response rates, performance, and email revenue.

Next week, we’ll kick off our “Holiday Hit List” series of webinars and eBooks with a webinar that dives into The Current State of Email Personalization with our partners at Acxiom.  We will share what is happening in the industry today, what consumers want, and examples of how you can deliver personalized email right now. Click here to register for the webinar, or feel free to reach out directly to us at contact@movableink.com to learn more too.

The Inkredible Five Summer 2014 Is Here!

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Summer is heating up and consumer inboxes are too. The brand new Summer 2014 Inkredible Five was released last week and features five of the most inspiring examples of agile email marketing yet! In The Summer 2014 Inkredible Five, you can see how:

  • Ebay connected live content from their site to their consumers inbox for seamless consumer engagement.
  • Auto Trader UK targeted their subscribers by location to give driving tips based on the weather outside their window.
  • Best Western optimized creative based on location and device to maximize click-through’s and revenue.

Click here to get your copy today to see how these top brands and others combined their ingenuity with Movable Ink’s technology to create memorable and engaging email experiences that stood out in the inbox.

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Emails We Love: Bass Pro Shops #REELTHANKS

Tweet #REELTHANKS

Through July 4, 2014, Bass Pro Shops is running an integrated digital campaign to increase social engagement and give back to the community through AMVETS.  Dalie Hand and Ashley Sims from Bass Pro Shops sat down with us to share how the #REELTHANKS campaign is going so far, and what their goals were from the initiative.

Movable Ink: Can you tell us about the #REELTHANKS campaign and what your goals were from it?

Bass Pro Shops: Our customers are patriotic and we are a patriotic company.  We wanted to do something that would engage them with our brand across channels and give back to the community at the same time.  So we came up with an idea to partner with AMVETS, an organization that works with American Military Veterans, to leverage our email and social media properties to do it.  This campaign gives our customers the chance to to say thank you to American Veterans by tweeting #REELTHANKS or by sharing through Bass Pro Shops Facebook page.  For every 10 tweets or Facebook shares, we’ll donate one rod and reel combo to AMVETS.  In total, we expect to donate 1,000 combos by the 4th of july through the #REELTHANKS campaign.

MI: That’s inspiring!  How has agileEMAIL helped you achieve your goal for #REELTHANKS?

BPS:  We used Movable Ink to stream live social feeds into the message that utilized the #REELTHANKS hash tag.  Furthermore, we deep-linked pre-populated tweets so with one click our subscriber could tweet and participate.  So far, the email is responsible for 50% of the campaign’s overall engagement and success!

BassProMessageMI:   Wonderful!  Given its success, do you have future plans for cross-channel promotions?

BPS: We are going to use Movable Ink to launch instagram sweepstakes and to further promote our social properties.  We have gotten good responses to streaming hash tags in email and will do more promotions with that capability too.

MI:  Thank you Dalie and Ashley!  To participate in #REELTHANKS, tweet #REELTHANKS or share it from Bass Pro Shops Facebook page through July 4, 2014.  You can follow Bass Pro Shops on twitter @Bass_Pro_Shops.

Why A/B Test When You Can Optimize In Real-Time?

We got a great response to the Best Western International case study posted on the blog a few weeks ago, and many of you have asked us the same question about it: “How can I avoid sending a ‘loser’ message to half my list?”  We’re excited to share how you can test, optimize, and get results, from your email on the fly.

Stop us if this testing scenario sounds familiar.  ClassicTestingMethodFirst, you have to segment your list according to the number of creative variations.  Next, you deploy your campaign, and then wait as much as 2-3 weeks to determine a winner.  As you know, this methodology comes with a potentially hefty price.  You might sacrifice up to 50% of your total population with a dreaded ‘loser message’ in this testing format.

We’ve figured out a better way, enabling real-time testing and optimization of emails.  With agileEMAIL’s creative optimizer – you send only one version of your campaign to the entire audience and Movable Ink will handle the rest!  We’ll serve each of your creative variations at random, and then select a winner once we’re confident that the results are statistically significant.  From there, everyone on your list will see that winning variation and have an opportunity to interact with your most engaging content.

Want to test more than one element or piece of content within the same message?  No problem!  The creative optimizer can test multiple creative sets within a single campaign, always making sure the email is optimized for performance in real-time.  If you want to get really fancy (or, dare we say, agile), you can even optimize content that is powered by Movable Ink.  Have you ever wondered if mobile-targeted content might motivate iPhone users to transact?  Or, maybe you’re curious to know whether overlaying your recipients’ names onto an image will really inspire them to click through to your webpage.  Simply reference your content within the creative optimizer, and we’ll show you just how powerful real-time content can be!

Additionally, the creative optimizer enables you to run more traditional tests by setting it to “learning” mode, giving you the flexibility to always achieve your testing and optimization goals.  This way you can still compare the performance of your variations without actually selecting a winner.  Once you’ve reviewed your results, maybe you’ll want to optimize as a next step.

Why does this all matter? You can never really predict how your audience will react at any given moment.  That alone makes constant testing a best practice.  A/B testing can be time consuming and doesn’t optimize messages for consumers when they open.  This is where agileEMAIL’s creative optimizer really shines.  We make it easy to continue to test, to ensure that you’re always sending your entire audience the best email possible.

Are Tablets The New Household PC of Record?

Surface Pro 3 Launch Event in New York City on May 20, 2014

On the subway ride into work this morning, I read about Microsoft’s unveiling of its latest tablet, the Surface Pro 3. What caught my attention most was the revelation that Microsoft execs aren’t positioning the device as an alternative to Apple’s iPad, but rather, against its most popular laptop, the MacBook Air.

The timing of Microsoft’s product launch couldn’t be better: with our upcoming webinar on “The Mobile Takeover,” our team has been poring over the underlying numbers from our latest US Consumer Device Preference Report, and the data suggests that tablets are, indeed, becoming the new go-to household PC of record.

How so?

First, because over the last year, smartphone email opens have been relatively stable at slightly under 50%, while desktop opens have steadily declined, and tablet opens have steadily risen. You can easily see these trends in the chart below:

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Second, from a day-parting perspective, we’re seeing that tablet email opens peak in the evening hours, when people get home from work (and when they’d be more likely to do their web browsing on a luxurious large screen instead of their smartphone’s small screen). And, in fact, tablet and desktop opens are currently nearly even between 8 and 11pm.

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From an email opens market share perspective, look for tablets to continue making the largest percentage gains quarter over quarter. There is still a lot of room left for tablets to grow.

Desktops and laptops may never completely disappear from the face of our planet, but tablets may someday soon replace them entirely from our living rooms.

*For more information on the latest trends in consumer device adoption and usage, make sure to attend next week’s “The Mobile Takeover” webinar, Thursday, May 29th at 1pm EDT.

[WEBINAR] The Mobile Takeover: It’s Real. It’s Here. Get Used to It.

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Mobile email opens have grown consistently for the 4 quarters that Movable Ink has been releasing the US Consumer Device Preference Report, and it’s a relentless trend that we don’t see abating anytime soon. Our latest study, the US Consumer Device Preference Report: Q1 2014 found that two-thirds of big brand marketers’ email opens now take place on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets), and today, even more email is opened on iPhones than all desktops combined.

The age old “click-through rate” has been replaced by the “tap-through rate” and email marketers must evolve their strategies and tactics to effectively engage with consumers in the mobile inbox. This involves everything from changing how emails are designed, to adopting deep linking technology, to re-thinking the way that conversion data is captured and attributed to email marketing campaigns.

To help marketers rise to the challenge of the mobile takeover, we’re excited to announce our next webinar “The Mobile Takeover: It’s Real. It’s Here. Get Used to It.” Taking place on Thursday, May 29th at 1pm EDT, speakers will include yours truly and my brilliant industry colleague and friend Bonnie Malone, Director of Response Consulting at Return Path. (You can watch the two of us teaming up to take on the email append dark side at the MediaPost Email Insider Summit two years ago here).

Bonnie and I are working hard to put together an informative and educational webinar that will include:

  • An in-depth analysis of the latest findings from Movable Ink’s “US Consumer Device Preference Report: Q1, 2014”
  • Innovative approaches for creating winning omni-screen email designs
  • Examples of leading brands who are using agile email marketing technology and best practices to optimize the mobile email experience in real-time

We hope to see you on the line next Thursday. Space is limited, so click here to register today!

The Problem with Predictive Analytics

Truman

Though some might object, most marketers would likely agree that relevance is an important factor in driving optimal email program performance and revenue.  Marketers are frenetically capturing, then filtering terabytes of customer data in an attempt to find that needle in the haystack that will tell them where/why/how each individual is most interested.  The difficulty is that there are an almost infinite number of data sources, and much of it is only relevant at the point in space and time at which it is captured.  Given the time it takes to structure and filter the data, then trigger or launch a campaign, the opportunity to most effectively leverage it is often long passed.

Typically, marketers do not use their email database as their Database Of Record (DBOR).  Instead, customer data are captured from various points (web clicks, views, purchases, forms, social, apps, 3rd parties, etc.) and stored in a DBOR, while email interaction data (opens, clicks) are stored within a separate email database.  It isn’t until all these data are merged that we can begin to tell a story of the individual customer.  Though some claim a “real-time” connection between the two, most email platforms only merge the data once every 24 hours.  In our era of perpetual motion and continual connectivity, 24 hours, or even 2-4 hours is sooo 2000-LATE.  Static and historical data certainly has value, but it is often out of context to the present moment.

Marketers understand this challenge, and many have turned to predictive analytics to optimize relevance.  While this often does bring some lift, one quickly reaches the ceiling because the practice still largely relies on static or aging data points, continual data refreshes, and a big fat guess.  So much time, effort, and budget is expended in trying to control the data, and usually it’s a losing fight.  Marketers can’t control data any more than we can control the individual customer.  Truthfully, the only one controlling customer data is the customer.  The customer has ultimate control over when the email is opened, where it is opened, or on what device, and such contexts are some of the most important factors to relevance.  If you believe that, then you probably also have to believe that the most critical moment occurs not when the email is sent, but rather when it is opened.

Evolution

Marketing is a continual evolution, and those at the front of the March of Progress have grown beyond Predictive and have begun using Agile email solutions, such as Movable Ink, that detect and leverage “time-of-open” data, such as time, location, device, even the weather to render contextually-personalized experiences.  For the uninitiated, I’ll explain by way of example… In the average database, my profile would tell you that I’m male, 38, live in the Bay Area, where it is often cool (I don’t mean in a hipster way…grrr) and foggy, and past purchases indicate a penchant for outerwear.  It might seem a reasonable assumption for a retailer to send me an email compelling me to take advantage of a remnant inventory sale on Member’s Only windbreakers, and if I download and purchase via their super-slick mobile app, I can celebrate an additional 15% off!  I’d be powerless to resist, right?

But remember, only the customer controls the data.  It just so happens that I’m writing this blog post on my laptop, while visiting clients…in Chicago…where it’s presently 86F with 90% humidity.  Given my current disposition, what would I want with a jacket…or an app download?  (I mean, I would want that Member’s Only jacket, but sure as hell not right now.)  Time-of-open data would have told the marketer that I’m not home, it’s hot where I am, and that I’m reading it on a laptop rather than an app-enabled device.  What I really want right now was the t-shirt/shorts email, linked to the specific product page. Predictive Analytics can’t predict such vagaries and variables.  Open-time optimization can.

Thank You

Thanks to all of our friends and supporters who have checked in with us these past few difficult days.

Not everyone on the team has power yet, and some of our loved ones have had to leave their homes and may not be able to return anytime soon, but the most important thing is that we are all accounted for, and are safe and sound.

Our hearts go out to all who have been affected by this week’s horrible storm. Wishing everyone a speedy recovery, and a return to “normal” as soon as possible.

- The Movable Ink Team

New Technology Offers Glimpses Into Inbox Of Future

“The inbox of the future is a consumer’s dream — and also a marketer’s,” writes George Bilbrey, president of Return Path, in MediaPost today. “In some ways it won’t be so different: Email marketers will still need to focus on creating a positive user experience, getting permission, demonstrating relevance, and delivering value. But there are also specific, technical innovations — some already in use — that promise to revolutionize the inbox and make consumers fall in love with email all over again”…

…”the messages of the future will be at least a little more interactive and customized. Some early indicators of the interactive inbox come from: Movable Ink (makes email more dynamic), Rapportive (displays social data for your contacts), Google Voice via Google Talk (allows you to make phone calls from Gmail), LiveClicker (video in emails) and TripIt (builds and manages your travel itinerary from email forwards).”