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.

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.

New Research from Movable Ink Shows Surging Tablet Use by US Consumers

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More and more Americans are turning to tablets when it comes to interacting with consumer brands, according to a new research report from Movable Ink. The data reveals that 18.5% of marketing emails were opened on a tablet in the first quarter, up from 16.5% from the previous quarter, and from 13.8% when Movable Ink first started reporting on device usage statistics in Q2 2013.

The Movable Ink “US Consumer Device Preference Report: Q1 2014” also shows that there are only 13 states remaining where desktop email opens exceed smartphone opens. By comparison, the country was evenly split just nine months ago, when Movable Ink issued its Q2 2013 report, underscoring how rapidly the mobile takeover is occurring.

“Mobile adoption continues to grow, and tablets are playing a bigger role in the mix,” said Vivek Sharma, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Movable Ink. “Marketers should be laser focused on what we call “next tap optimization,” which is all about making it easy for consumers to engage with brands and shop when using their smartphones and tablets.”

The quarterly report provides deep insight into the popularity of various devices, examines differences in consumer engagement based on the devices they use, and shows how device preferences vary across the nation. Unlike other studies, this data set exclusively includes results from large, enterprise B2C marketers.

Key findings include:

  • Two-thirds of all email opens took place on mobile devices. 66 percent of emails were opened on either a smartphone or tablet device, up from 65% in Q4 2013 and 62% when Movable Ink issued its first report in Q2 2013. Desktop accounted for a new low of 34% of email opens, a decline from 35% in the previous quarter.
  • Tablets stole time-share from desktops – and from smartphones. This quarter’s study marks the first time that tablet didn’t just chip away at desktop time-share, but at smartphones as well (smartphones accounted for 47.2% of opens in Q1 2014, versus 48.2% in Q4 2013).
  • Apple asserted its dominance over Android. iPhones and iPads accounted for 54.5% of all opens in Q1, compared to 49.9% in Q4. Meanwhile, Android devices combined for 10.8% of opens, down from 14.4% in Q4.
  • Android and Apple traded places when it came to time spent viewing emails. Slightly more than 40% of Android smartphone users viewed emails for 15 seconds or longer, compared to 35% of iPhone users. In Q4, 38% of iPhone users lingered the longest on messages, compared to 35% of Android smartphone users.
  • Smartphone usage peaks in the early morning, tablets in the evening. New data revealed how device usage varies by time of day.

The full report is available as a free download here.

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About the Movable Ink “US Consumer Device Preference Report: Q1 2014”

Charts are based on data collected through Movable Ink’s agileEMAIL platform between January 1 – March 31, 2014. They reflect aggregate statistics across Movable Ink’s customer base, which includes more than 150 enterprise B2C marketers from the retail, travel, financial, media, and telecommunication industries. Because determining email opens requires images to load, the percentages for some devices might be over or underrepresented.

The Electoral College Map of Email Opens: Q1, 2014

CDPR_MapChartsBlog

We’ve been hard at work poring over billions of data points to prepare our soon-to-be-released “US Consumer Device Preference Report: Q1 2014″, and wanted to share a sneak peak of one of the charts we’ll be sharing examining how device preferences vary by geography.

Our state-by-state analysis reveals the continued trend towards smartphone dominance. New additions to the smartphone state club in Q1 2014 included Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wyoming. Also, new in Q1, Mississippi overtook Texas as the nation’s top smartphone state, approaching 60% of all opens.

This map has gotten progressively pinker over the 4 quarters that we’ve been issuing the report, and now only 13 desktop states are left standing. For a bit of perspective, when we issued our first US Consumer Device Preference Report just 8 months ago (which looked at Q2 2013), 23 states were either heavy or leaning desktop, so the landscape is shifting towards mobile at an amazingly fast pace, and the “Electoral College of Email Opens” can now safely be described as a landslide for smartphones.

To download our past research reports, visit our Resource Center.

Methodology

The map is based on data collected through Movable Ink’s agileEMAIL platform between January 1 – March 31, 2014. It reflects aggregate statistics across Movable Ink’s customer base, which includes more than 150 enterprise B2C marketers from the retail, travel, financial, media, and telecommunication industries. Because determining email opens requires images to load, the percentages for some devices might be over or underrepresented.

The Inkredible Five, Spring 2014: Five Exceptional Examples of Agile Email Marketing


Spring is finally here, and with it comes a brand new edition of The Inkredible Five, featuring some of the most inspiring examples of agile email marketing yet!

  • 7 For All Mankind’s gorgeous and immersive “Dreaming in Blue” campaign
  • The Wall Street Journal’s magic email that always displayed the latest news
  • Lilly Pulitzer’s “Lunch at Lilly” campaign that made purchasing online or over the phone easier than ever

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.

Ready to be inspired?

See Our Top Five

Movable Ink Enables Marketers to Optimize Email Campaigns for Gmail’s New Promotions Folder “Grid View”

VisualPromotionsTab

Movable Ink today announced the industry’s first solution for boosting open rates in Gmail’s new Promotions tab “grid view”.  New features within the agileEMAIL platform will enable marketers to auto-optimize and personalize featured images on every open of the Promotions tab with the visual grid view enabled, resulting in higher open rates and more conversion opportunities.

Key features include:

  • Automated A/B testing. Test multiple versions of featured grid view images on the fly, and automatically set campaigns to display the best performing images to the majority of recipients.
  • Image personalization. Include a recipient’s name, birthday, anniversary, or other personalized content into the featured image to make messages stand out from other promotional emails. (This information cannot be viewed in grid view images as plain system text – it must be embedded in the image itself).
  • Contextually relevant content. Display featured images that are contextually relevant to a recipient’s time, location, device, or local weather conditions.
  • Countdown clocks. Display time remaining to take advantage of special sales.

Gmail’s elegant new ‘grid view’ format presents email marketers with an unprecedented opportunity to engage with recipients, and the new features we are announcing today will give them the ability to move the needle on boosting open rates in a way that was never before possible!

To learn more about Movable Ink’s agileEMAIL platform and our new Gmail grid view optimization capabilities, visit www.movableink.com/request-demo.

Making the Most Out of Gmail’s Visual Promotions Tab: 5 Things Marketers Need to Know

Gmail Visual Promotions Tab

Contributed by Eric Szuhany, Senior Account Manager, Movable Ink

With the dust still settling from Gmail’s recent image proxy changes, and last summer’s roll-out of the Promotions tab not yet forgotten, Google has done it again. Last week, Gmail announced on its blog the launch of “a new grid view [which] will bring to the top of your inbox key images from deals, offers, and other marketing emails if you have the Promotions tab enabled.” The update is still in beta, and requires users to opt-in to take part, but it is sure to shake up the email marketing world if and when it is rolled out to all users. To help marketers prepare for the changes, we have put together a list of 5 things you need to know.

1.   You can (and should) choose the image to display as the featured image
If you are like most marketers, you meticulously craft and test your subject lines in hopes of optimizing open rates. Would you let Gmail use an algorithm to choose one line from your email to use as the subject line (while cutting out a few words from each end)? Don’t leave it up to chance—you may end up with no image, an off-centered image, or a visually unappealing one (some examples below):

Gmail New Visual Promotions Tab Example

Ensure your recipients have the best experience by defining which image Gmail should feature image. The recommended size is 580 x 400 pixels. To ease the demand on your creative resources, consider cropping and resizing your hero image to fit the recommended dimensions. Check Gmail’s developer resources for more information on implementation. While you’re there, also check out the section on Google+ verification to include your brand’s logo as your sender image – otherwise Gmail will default to display the first letter of your brand’s name.

2.   Use live content to power the featured image
Don’t go changing up your entire email template just to fit in a 580 x 400 hero image – the featured image does NOT need to be a part of the actual email. This gives you greater freedom to design specifically for the Promotions tab without sacrificing the designs and templates you have created. The creative that works best in your emails may not be optimized for the Promotions tab. Consider going bigger and bolder to stand out and get your message read by using Movable Ink content in the featured image, such as image personalization, countdown timers (non-animated), time-sensitive content, and more.

3.   Subject lines are now second (or third) in the email open formula
In the new grid view, the subject line is dropped all the way to the bottom of the section, and is also below your sender name which is displayed in a bigger, more prominent font. The subject line now becomes a caption for the featured image – read only when a user’s attention is first grabbed by the image. Ensure these two elements are working in tandem to create a cohesive, relevant experience for your consumers.

Gmail New Visual Promotions Tab Overview

4.   You don’t have to guess if your email landed in Gmail’s spam folder or if recipients saw, but passed over your email
With new functionality comes new reporting. Movable Ink provides the unique ability to measure opens on any image. As a result, we can track how many users saw your email in their Promotions tab, even if they didn’t open it. Use this data to update your sending habits:

  • Change the way you message those who view but don’t open
  • Determine the best time to send emails to avoid being buried in the inbox
  • Get a better sense of when an email address is truly inactive (and not just ignoring you)

 5.   Testing and optimizing are critical
This one doesn’t come as a surprise to any email marketer, but it is always worth reinforcing how important it is to test. According to a Fall 2012 study by MarketingSherpa, 72% of marketers test subject lines – making it the most popular email element to test.  With the diminished importance of the subject line in Gmail’s new grid view, the focus of testing should shift to the featured image. Take what you have learned from your subject line tests to begin optimizing your featured image to improve open rates. Keep an eye out for new Movable Ink features allowing you to make the most of your image testing and optimization in real-time!

Four Tips for Better Video Emails

Vince PeGan, self-proclaimed “email magician” and senior account manager at Movable Ink, works with dozens of leading brands to develop and execute agile email marketing programs that cut through the clutter and stand out in the inbox. One increasingly used technique is leveraging embedded video in email to breath life into the inbox. Below are Vince’s top 4 tips for making the most out of video in email campaigns.

1. Have a Clear CTA. “Include a clear CTA so subscribers have an action to take besides viewing the video.”

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2. Use a “View Online” Link. “Including a link to an online version of the video so those not receiving the full video experience have a way to engage.”

3. Consider a Teaser Video. “Use a teaser version of the video to entice subscribers to click through to view full video on the web so your click through rates aren’t cannibalized.”

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4. Use a Secondary CTA. “Engage subscribers with a supporting CTA that gives further context to the video and allows them to engage online.”

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Interested in learning more about video-in-email? Download our fact sheet, or give us a shout at contact@movableink.com.

Campaign of the Week: 7 For All Mankind “Dreaming in Blue” Email with Video and Real-Time Instagram Feed

7 For All Mankind Dreaming in Blue Spring Collection 2014 Email with Video and Instagram

Click image to experience how the video plays within the email and to see how the latest Instagram photos using #DreamingInBlue are displayed.

One of our favorite examples of Agile Email Marketing we’ve seen recently comes from 7 For All Mankind, the international fashion brand best known for its premium denim jeans, popularly referred to as “Sevens.” This email tied into the company’s current broader marketing initiative around the spring line of denim, “Dreaming in Blue,” and used video and a real-time Instagram feed to create an eye-catching email experience.

The development and execution of this email campaign was a collaborative effort between the marketing team at 7 For All Mankind, their e-commerce partners at OneStop, and our Client Experience team at Movable Ink.

I caught up with Lyanne Loriz, E-commerce Analyst for 7 For All Mankind, to get more info on this “dreamy” campaign.

Brooke Burdge, Marketing Manager, Movable Ink: What was the main goal of this email?
Lyanne Loriz, E-commerce Analyst, 7 For All Mankind: We recently launched a new marketing initiative to promote our spring collection, “Dreaming in Blue,” which is now live on 7forallmankind.com. This email was an opportunity for us not only to increase awareness of the new spring collection, but also to broaden the reach of assets we’ve already developed, like the “Dreaming in Blue” video. (You can check out the video here).

BB: How were you sharing videos through email before using Movable Ink’s technology?
LL: Previously, we used a static video still with a “faux” play button in the center that linked over to YouTube when clicked. Using Movable Ink, we were able to power the full video and audio to play directly in the inbox. If subscribers opened the email on any clients that did not support HTML5, they saw either an animated gif which still offered a video-like experience, or in few cases, a static image that linked over to the full video. We were easily able to deliver the best video experience possible to each of our email subscribers, and simultaneously increase the ROI of the “Dreaming in Blue” video that we had already produced for other purposes.

BB: What inspired the use of a live Instagram feed in this email? Did you see any increase in your followers as a result of this campaign?
LL: We’re always looking out for opportunities to tie social media into email, and new ways to integrate all of our marketing channels. Our social media team has been busy publishing beautiful blue-themed photos on our Instagram channel, @7FAM, using the hashtag #DreamingInBlue and so have many of our fans. We felt the ability to add a real-time feed of the latest posts with that hashtag into the email was a great way to share those images, and also to hopefully increase our social media followers.

Typically, our Instagram followers increase by about 40 or so each day. In just the two-day period after this email campaign was launched, we gained 335 new Instagram followers, so our average daily increase in followers grew 320% immediately following the launch of this email.

Have questions about this campaign, or interested in learning more about the possibilities of Agile Email Marketing technology? Reach out to us at contact@movableink.com or request a demo of our platform.