Email Works…But We Can Do Better

The Case For Better Email

These are exciting times for digital marketing. The rules of the game are changing, giving marketers more agility, and our customers have a higher expectation of us because of it. They want better, more engaging experiences with your company no matter if they are in the store, or using their computer or phone to browse your website, read email, or surf the web. The “connected consumer” wants you to know them and cater to them, but also wants to strike a balance between what you know about them and making it personal for them. A lot of advancements have been made in website and advertising technology to take advantage of behavioral targeting and such, but what about email?

Email is the only channel where consumers raise their hand and say “yes, please market to me.” But only one in five will open promotional email. What gives? We know that when we send more email, we make more money. But is that the answer? According to the 2013 edition of an annual consumer insights study conducted by the e-tailing group, only 22% of consumers are willing to be contacted by email more than four times during the month after visiting your site. Yet 74% say they want to receive email during that time. In April 2014, Redshift Research discovered that 39% of consumers will opt-out if they are sent email too frequently. Yikes!

Keep sending email, but it’s time to send better messages. Email needs to adapt and respond to what is happening in the moment, where a consumer is, and what device they are on. The same e-tailing group study shows that that 3 out of 4 consumers want to receive personalized messages that do just that, and not just in newsletters, but across the buying lifecycle, especially in abandonment and transactional email. This notion is further supported by Harris Interactive’s 2014 work that shows that 81% of US Consumers shop more frequently in the store and online as a result of targeted emails. The answer is to strike a good balance between what you want to say and how often you want to say it.

Email Tactics Used By Marketing Professionals Worldwide Feb 2014

It’s clear that consumers want “better email” from you.  How can you provide it? eMarketer recently released the top email marketing tactics used today in our industry. Over the next few weeks, we will provide you new and innovative ways to address them including content development, real-time testing and targeting, social integrations, mobile optimization, streaming live content into email, and overall creating better email at scale. Keep coming back to the Movable Ink blog to learn more about how you can market in the moment, keep email fresh by responding in real-time to your consumer, and ultimately drive more sales throughout the year.

 

New Research! The UK Consumer Device Preference Report: Q1 2014

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We’re delighted to announce the release of our first-ever UK Consumer Device Preference Report, which looked at aggregate data across all of our UK-based clients in Q1 2014.

What we’ve been calling “The Mobile Takeover” is in full effect across the Atlantic — in fact, even more so than here in the United States. 72 percent of all email opens took place on mobile devices in the UK in Q1, compared to 66 percent in the US.

Strikingly, tablet opens in the UK are already at near parity with desktop opens (26 percent and 28 percent, respectively). This mirrors the trend we’re seeing in the US, and confirms our view that tablets are on their way to becoming the “household PC of record” for consumers’ personal computing needs.

Some other key findings from the “UK Consumer Device Preference Report: Q1 2014″ include:

• Apple asserts its dominance over Android. iPhones and iPads accounted for 62% of all opens
in Q1 compared to just 9% for Android devices. And iPads had a share of opens more than 14 times greater than Android tablets.

• The South East & North West regions of the UK are email marketing hotspots. When it came to opening emails, London, the South East of England, and the North West of England were this quarter’s regional winners with around 50% of all the UK’s measured opens coming from those locations.

• Tablets own the night. Smartphones rule the roost during the early hours and throughout the
middle of the day. As the afternoon turns to evening, tablet usage explodes taking share from
the smartphone and desktop pie.

For an in-depth look at all of the report’s findings, please enjoy your complimentary download of the UK Consumer Device Preference Report.

3 Tips for Boosting Email Marketing Tap-Through Rates

With 66 percent of email opens now taking place on smartphones and tablets, the age-old click-through rate should be taking second fiddle to the “tap-through rate” as email marketing’s most coveted KPI. With that said, we still see too many marketers optimizing for desktop clicks while ignoring mobile taps. This results in poor user experiences and lost opportunities.

Here’s a prime example from LinkedIn (sorry to pick on you LinkedIn, but this needs to be said.) I’d wager to say that LinkedIn enjoys a high mobile app download rate among its business users, but its mobile email experience is completely broken. LinkedIn sends a ton of email trying to drive engagement — from connection requests, to “who’s viewed your profile” notices, to notifications when your connections get new jobs or post something interesting. But clicking through on a mobile device opens a web browser instead of your already-installed app, forcing you to enter your login credentials and undoubtedly leading to incremental drop off.

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Which leads us to… Tip #1: Deep Link to Mobile Apps Deep linking removes friction from the mobile email experience by enabling consumers to launch installed mobile apps and specific pages within apps. This makes it easier to complete actions — and transactions — on mobile devices. Here’s an example from eBay where one tap on an image of a sandal in an email leads to firing up the eBay mobile app and the product that the user wants to see.  With one more tap the item can be added to the user’s shopping cart and one tap later, purchased and shipped since the user’s billing information and address are already stored securely within the app.

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Tip #2: Let Users Tap to Call Users who are on the go and have questions about your products or services that might be easier to answer over the phone than via a mobile app or m-site can be given the option to tap to call via real-time device targeting.  It’s as simple as adding a tap-to-call banner to the smartphone version of your email template.  Here’s an example from TheKnot showing the desktop version adjacent to the smartphone version with the tap to call banner at the top of the message.

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Tip #3: Get Users Social Sometimes your most desired next tap might be getting users to spread the love about your brand or products on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other popular social networking apps, which account for some of the most widely downloaded apps in the world and can be counted on to be installed on their smartphones and tablets even when your own app isn’t. Deep linking technology can be used to launch third party applications, and you can even include a pre-populated message for users to share. Here’s an example from Comedy Central that got thousands of its subscribers tweeting to promote a new show — and it only took two taps for them to do so.

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Mobile email opens keep rising as a percentage of total opens each quarter, and while smartphone opens may be stabilizing at a little under 50%, tablets continue to eat away at desktop market share and aren’t showing any signs of relenting.  The time to optimize for tapping through instead of clicking through is now.

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*For more tips and case studies featuring mobile email tap-through rate optimization, check out the recording of our recent webinar, “The Mobile Takeover“.

Clients Corner: Best Western Increases App Downloads 143% With Deep Linking and Device Targeting

The Worlds Largest Hotel FamilyBased in Phoenix, Arizona, Best Western International Inc. was founded in 1946 by California-based hotelier M.K. Guertin as an informal referral system among its member hotels. Since then, Best Western has become the world’s largest hotel chain and a familiar presence in more than 100 countries. Each of its 4,000+ hotels is independently owned and operated, further engraining the spirit of good service throughout the company. Cassie Spillner, Kelly Saffo, and Ryun Lambson of the Best Western Marketing team shared with us how they are using Movable Ink to achieve their goals and deliver highly relevant and engaging campaigns at scale.

Movable Ink: Why did you decide to partner with Movable Ink?

Best Western: Every month we send over 20 million emails to our opt-in list and that’s a mix of newsletters, promotions, and lifecycle emails. We want to make our emails as relevant and interesting as possible but our systems have technological limitations. The partnership with Movable Ink has helped us overcome them and now we can send dynamic real-time content in email.

For Example, before agileEMAIL, we couldn’t do a real A/B test without conducting a full 50/50 split. Now we can figure out which creative performs best in real time, ultimately increasing engagement and revenue. Knowing we don’t have to send a “loser” message to half the database ever again is awesome.”

MI: How has it been working with Movable Ink so far?

BW: The Client Experience team is on top of everything and they are quick to respond. We had one campaign where we needed some help writing HTML.  We sent a note over to CX and they responded quickly, helping us properly write the HTML.  They even included notes so we can do it right the next time. Franki Silverman and Elizabeth Ray have been great to work with!

MI: We’ve been partnered for a few months now, what has been your favorite use of agileEMAIL so far?Best Western Used agileEMAIL's Deep Linking To Increase Mobile App Downloads

BW: There are two that stand out for us. First, we wanted to increase downloads of our mobile app and had identified an opportunity to promote it to subscribers in our welcome emails and reservation confirmation messages. We tested agileEMAIL’s deep linking and device targeting capabilities on a list of over 1 million Rewards Members and found that they drove a 100% increase in downloads. It worked even better for non-Rewards Members, increasing downloads by 143%. Because of the success, we decided to permanently add app download promotions to our welcome and reservation emails.

MI: That’s a great idea. What was the other you had mentioned?

BW: The other was when we wanted to test which offer would drive greater engagement, an offer for rewards points, or a discount code to buy flowers from one of our partners for Mother’s Day. Movable Ink’s creative optimization feature let us do this in real time, allowing us to show the majority of recipients the discount code, which was driving higher engagement. Then we paired creative optimization with geo-targeting to show recipients localized offers in our destination specific campaigns. There were 21-targeted regions in the campaign, and it lead to a 12% click-through rate improvement from our rewards members and a 10% improvement from our non-rewards members.

MI: What are your future plans for agileEMAIL?

BW: So far, Movable Ink has helped us increase our revenue per message by 20%. The solution works so we want to incorporate agileEMAIL’s features and functionality into more campaigns across the customer lifecycle to further increase the performance of our email programs. Data from agileEMAIL’s Insight module has helped us understand who is using bestwestern.com, the devices they are using to interact with us, and how to target them for better results. Next on our list is integrating real-time content from our site and social media channels into our email programs.

MI: Thank you Cassie, Kelly, and Ryun for your time!

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.

Clients Corner: Auto Trader UK Increased Engagement By Sending Real-Time Weather-Based Driving Tips

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 4.20.56 PMEvery month, Auto Trader UK sees over 11.5 million unique users carry out over 140 million searches of more than 400,000 new and used vehicles across mobile, tablet, and desktop devices. Matt Dyson from Auto Trader UK sat down with us to share how they are using agileEMAIL to further provide value to their users beyond their core buying/selling vehicles business:

Movable Ink: Why did you decide to partner with Movable Ink?

Matt Dyson: We wanted to create an end-to-end email experience that is really engaging. agileEMAIL lets us add personalized content to our messages that our back-end systems couldn’t provide in real-time. We also wanted to stream content from our website into email, and do it in a stylized and attractive manner. Movable Ink allows us to do just that.

MI: What has been your favorite use of agileEMAIL so far?

Auto Trader UK Weather TipsMD: We had an idea to geo-locate where our subscribers were opening our newsletters, and then serve them relevant driving tips in those messages based on their current weather conditions. The aim of introducing real-time weather-based driving tips into our email was to retain longer-term brand engagement by providing our subscribers something innovative, genuinely useful, and something original that our competitors aren’t doing. Our editorial team came up with driving tips for many weather conditions and time of day, so that if it was raining outside, our reader received 3 tips for safe driving in the rain.

MI: That sounds great. How long did it take to launch and what were the results?

MD: It took Movable Ink and our agency Chalk & Pixel four days to launch it from idea to execution to over 300,000 people. agileEMAIL drove a 93% increase in click-throughs for us on this one.

MI: How has it been working with Movable Ink so far?

MD: It’s been really good. The Client Experience Team is really accommodating to our requests and quickly figures out how to create elements that are custom when they are not straight out of the box. I never get a “No,” and always get a “let’s figure out how to do that for you.” Then it’s simply copy and paste of HTML into our ESP.

MI: What are your future plans for agileEMAIL?

MD: We are going to increase the use of the web crop feature and make it a staple of our newsletters and welcome campaigns. Our next step is to completely automate a motorbike newsletter with agileEMAIL comprising up to 80% of the content. I wanted to do a bike email for a while, but we don’t have resources to do it in a timely manner. With Movable Ink I can set it up, schedule it in our ESP, and the rest works on it’s own. Our company is looking to do more work with video and on-the-fly self-optimizing content this year too.

MI: Thank you Matt for your time and insights!

[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

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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.

Are Email Opens on Smartphones Smart for Business?

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With more and more email opens taking place on mobile devices – but not necessarily purchases – many email marketers have been faced with a new uphill battle to prove the impact of their efforts on revenue. The question they keep getting from management goes something like this: “smartphones are smart, but are they smart for our email marketing business?”

Looking at aggregate data from leading retailers who are currently using Movable Ink’s Insight module within our new agileEMAIL platform, it’s clear that email marketing to mobile users is a critical driver of sales, even if the final sale occurs somewhere other than on smartphones themselves. Here are some of our preliminary findings:

  • A little over 60% of consumers who initially open their email on a smartphone end up purchasing through desktops, with another 25% purchasing through tablets. Only 15% of smartphone-first openers complete transactions on their smartphones.
  • Consumers who open email on a smartphone or tablet first, and then convert on a desktop, have a 14% higher average order value (AOV) than desktop-only purchasers.
  • iOS device users outspend Android device users by more than 20%. This is consistent with other studies we’ve seen tracking the differences in mobile shopping behaviors between iOS and Android users. With Movable Ink, you’ll now have the ability to unearth the precise AOV of your email subscribers based on the devices they are using.

We’re excited to see how these trends take shape across different verticals, different geo-locations, time of day, etc., and how the numbers will evolve over time.

Please let us know what you think about these early findings by posting a comment below. Are you surprised? What other data would you like to uncover?

Lastly, if you’d like to know more about Movable Ink’s agileEMAIL platform and our Insight module, request a demo and one of our product specialists will get back to you shortly.