Quizzes and Context

[Webinar] Quizzes and Context: Generating Leads and Turning Them into Customers

Are You More Mary Poppins Or Maria Von Trapp? Can We Guess Your Zodiac Sign Based On Your Favorite TV Show?

These are both real Buzzfeed quizzes (you can take them here and here, respectively), and while you may not know your results (yet), you probably do know that online quizzes have made a major comeback.

Don’t believe us? The numbers speak for themselves. 2013’s most popular story on NYTimes.com – posted two weeks before the new year – wasn’t actually an article, it was a quiz about, “How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk.” “What City Should You Actually Live In?” has been viewed more than 20.5 million times as of today.

However, quizzes aren’t just fun and games – they’re great tools for generating leads. But how? And what do you do with these leads once you have them?

Boombox and Movable Ink are hosting a webinar, Quizzes and Context: Generating Leads and Turning Them Into Customers, on Thursday, August 20 at 1pm EST. We’ll go through how to use quizzes to meet your lead generation goals and nurture those leads with contextually relevant email. We’ll even take a look into how you can progressively profile your leads without leaving the inbox.

Register today to save your spot!

via NOAA's Geodesy Collection

Serving Files: S3 and High Availability

At Movable Ink we heavily use Amazon S3 for storing millions of files and serving them to hundreds of millions of users. It has a number of very compelling qualities: it has great performance characteristics and durability guarantees of a blistering eleven 9’s—they replicate our data in such a way that in theory there is 99.999999999% object retention.

However, durability and uptime are not one and the same, as many S3 customers found out when an internal configuration issue impacted services on Monday morning. The problem affected buckets in the US Standard S3 region, the most commonly used US S3 region.

We’re pretty conscious about potential single points of failure, and tend to have redundancy at multiple tiers: each layer is spread across multiple hosts which are interconnected at multiple points to the layers above and below it. This manifests as multiple load balancers, app servers, and availability zones, with the entire setup replicated across geographically separate datacenters thousands of miles apart. With all of that redundancy, of course we want our S3 serving to also be redundant.

S3 buckets are tied to a geographical location, and most correspond to one of Amazon’s datacenters. However, US Standard stores data on both the east coast and west coast. Given that it can be accessed from either coast, my first concern was around consistency: what would happen if you were to write data on one side and then immediately try to read it from the other? We tested it and it was oddly consistent, which seemed strange since it was serving from two different regions.

It turns out there is no replication happening. It actually only writes to the region of the endpoint you use while writing:

Amazon S3 automatically routes requests to facilities in Northern Virginia or the Pacific Northwest using network maps. Amazon S3 stores object data only in the facility that received the request.

Given this, we should really be treating US Standard as a single point of failure. So how can we make it redundant?

The strategy we take is to store data in different S3 regions, then come up with a way to point users and our backend services at whichever region is currently active. AWS actually has a couple of tools to facilitate the former. S3 supports file creation notifications to SNS or SQS, and you could set up AWS Lambda to automatically copy files to a different region. But even better than that, a few months ago Amazon released Cross-Region Replication to do exactly what we want. Setup is simple:

  • Turn on versioning on the source bucket. This comes at an extra cost since you pay for all previous versions of your files, but since we’ve already decided that this data is very important it’s worth it. After all, we’re talking about doubling our storage costs here.
  • Turn on cross-region replication. As part of the setup, you’ll create another versioned bucket in the destination datacenter and an IAM policy to allow data transfer between the two.
  • Do a one-time manual copy of all of your files from the source bucket to the destination bucket. Replication only copies files that are added or changed after replication is enabled. Make sure the permissions are identical.


Now every time we add a file to the source bucket, it is (eventually) replicated to the destination bucket. If all of our access is through our backend services, this may be good enough since failing over is a simple configuration change. But many of the references to our S3 buckets are buried in HTML documents or managed by third parties. How can we make it easy to switch between the buckets?

Our initial idea was to just set up a subdomain entry on a domain we control to CNAME to our S3 bucket, then do failover with DNS. S3 allows this, with one big caveat: your bucket must be named exactly the same as the domain. If you want to reference your S3 bucket as foo.example.com, your S3 bucket needs to be named foo.example.com.s3.amazonaws.com. Combined with S3’s restriction that every bucket name must be unique across regions, only one bucket can ever be referenced from foo.example.com so this doesn’t work.

Amazon has a CDN service, Cloudfront, which allows us to set an S3 bucket as an origin for our CDN distribution. We can then CNAME our subdomain to our Cloudfront distribution’s endpoint. In the event of a regional S3 failure, we can update Cloudfront to point to our backup S3 bucket. And you can either turn on caching and reap some latency benefits, or set the time-to-live cache setting to zero to act as a pass-through.

We would have preferred to set up two Cloudfront distributions and switch between them with DNS, but Amazon has similar restrictions disallowing two distributions from having the same CNAME. Still, this setup still lets us respond to an S3 outage in minutes, routing traffic to an unaffected region. In our tests, the failover can fully complete in between 5-10 minutes.

Building applications in the cloud means expecting failure, but it’s not always straightforward, especially when using third-party services like S3. Even with our final setup, it’s not completely clear what Cloudfront’s dependencies and failure modes are. But importantly, we control the DNS so we can implement our own fixes rather than waiting for Amazon.

If you’re interested in working on challenging problems like this, check out Movable Ink’s careers page.

– Michael Nutt, CTO

Most Important Thing to Optimize in Email Marketing

The Most Important Thing to Optimize in Email Marketing

Subject lines. Time of day. Mobile Calls-to-action. Colors, layout, headers, columns. If you’re an email marketer, this is a pretty standard optimization laundry list. There’s always something that can be improved and optimization is a perpetual process, not a goal.

That said, many email marketers seem to be forgetting one of the most important things to optimize in their email campaigns. In 2015, it might be the most important thing: content.

Despite the hype surrounding content marketing, few brands seem willing to venture into uncharted territory and create compelling content within their emails. But as inboxes keep overflowing and personalization becomes a prerequisite for an open, email marketers are in the perfect position to start optimizing content as well.

Here are three different content strategies you can try when optimizing your campaign:

  1. The Magazine 

B2C brands like GoPro and Redbull are on the cutting-edge of content marketing as they create full-blown media experiences for customers.

You might not have the same marketing budget as these brands, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. Interview an interesting customer, offer some tips that your audience might find useful, and focus on a pressing pain point or issue that’s on your average customer’s mind.

Then, mock up a magazine cover and make it an experience. By presenting the content as something premium, customers are more likely to get interested in reading it (especially if you target this content by personas).

  1. The Curation Engine

If you really know what interests your audience, try gathering three articles a week and emailing it to them. The more personalized the content, the better. Make these emails totally content-driven, rather than sales-driven, and include your own thoughts on the developments you’ve included.

When customers feel that you’re offering them something valuable every week, they’ll look for your email and, consequently, open and click in much higher numbers.

  1. The Multimedia Experience

Want to really make your email content pop? Try using multimedia content to spice things up. Including photos or GIFs within the email can create a much more compelling experience than just text.

When it comes to visual content, don’t only think about products. Include behind-the-scenes office photos, interesting pictures from your industry, and shots of your product in action.

Optimum Content = Click-Throughs

Marketers are always trying to increase their click-through rates. With creative and entertaining content, you can do just that – and keep customers coming back for more every time they find a new email from your brand in their inbox.

Q2 2015 Consumer Device Preference Report

[RESEARCH] Desktop Conversions Rebound in Q2 2015

Earlier this year, we conducted our first-ever analysis of conversions driven by email on mobile devices. Our latest edition of the US Consumer Device Preference Report continues this analysis to see to see how online consumers were purchasing products today.

To our surprise, it seems that desktop conversions are making a rebound after last quarter. In our analysis of 267,000 conversions, we discovered that desktops made up 52.57% of all conversions (an increase from Q1).

We also looked at email opens on a device level, read length on different types of devices, and when people are opening their emails during the day.

Download the full report here!

Future of Email Hyperlocal

Why the Future of Email Marketing is Hyperlocal

Think about how many times you checked your email in the past twenty-four hours. How many times were you on your computer? How many times were you scrolling through your inbox on your phone?

If you’re like most people, you’re probably accessing the majority of your emails on mobile devices. In our most recent US Consumer Device Preference Report, we found that more than two-thirds of emails are now being opened on mobile devices.

While we’ve previously talked a lot about why it’s important to build responsive emails, it’s important to think beyond building an email that looks good on a small screen.

Mobile email marketing isn’t just about responsive technology; it’s about consumer behavior. Marketers know that they need to create more relevant messages and one of the best ways to start is to make emails that are hyperlocal.

As the mobile inbox becomes the predominant way that consumers experience email, marketers have to ensure that emails can react to changing locations. By geo-targeting your email campaigns, you can make them much more relevant – and help drive traffic to retail stores.

Defying the Digital Myth

It’s easy to think that the brick-and-mortar experience is dying off, but research shows this isn’t true. One recent survey found that 65% of consumers still want the traditional retail experience. And, to help with that, email marketers should test out campaigns that drive consumers to retail stores, instead of websites.

That’s why geo-targeting in email can have such a big impact on campaign results. An email for a sale at a shoe store is much more effective if there’s a dynamic map included that shows the location of the nearest store. The same goes for rewards/loyalty programs, reservations, and appointments.

Mobile is more of a state-of-being than a channel. If you’re sending out a major deal, someone who’s at the office and checks their phone should see a different map than someone who’s at home. That same email should show different locations once the subscriber goes to a new location or returns home.

By continually updating the email content in real-time, marketers can create hyperlocal sales that will see higher click-through rates and engagement, and ultimately higher retail sales.

The truth is that most consumers, when given the option, will still try to find a store and try out the items before buying. When marketers give them that option, customers will be more loyal to the brand and have a much more memorable experience that just pointing and clicking.

Want to learn more about how brands can use geo-targeting to drive in-store traffic? Download our case study to see how Allen Edmonds used geo-targeting and the amazing results they saw.

A/B Test Real Time Video

[Video] How to A/B Test in Real Time

Email marketers know that to really have success in email, you have to optimize, optimize, optimize. That means experimenting with subject lines, format, time of send, and more. Of course, to test effectively, you have to split up your audience – which means that half of them receive less compelling creative. When Email A outperforms Email B by 50%, that can be a big problem.

With contextual marketing technology, it’s possible to overcome that challenge. Real-time A/B testing allows marketers to test two different sets of creative (or multiple sets of creative with multiple different elements) and then, when one set of creative outperforms another, to automatically switch out the losing creative with the winner.

This ensures that everyone on your email list gets the best possible experience and maximizes your email marketing ROI.

Want to learn more? Watch this video from our product marketing strategist, Steven Joya, about how to use Movable Ink’s platform to set up a real-time A/B test for your email campaign:


Want Better Email Engagement? Start Emailing More.

Email personalization is one of the most important things today. If you send people campaigns that aren’t relevant to what they want at that moment, there’s a good chance they’ll delete your email – and either unsubscribe or just never open future emails again.

In general, marketers have been wary of sending too many emails every week. More targeting means better return. But does more frequency mean more unsubscribes?

Return Path recently ran a study to find out. The brand analyzed more than 600,000 email account holders and discovered that, if you target the right subscribers, you could increase email opens by as much as 43%.

Spamming Like It’s 1999

No one wants to get categorized as spam. That damages overall email deliverability and risks permanently ruining your relationship with your customers. But marketers might be overly cautious, too. With new innovations like personalization and Gmail’s Promotions tab, email inboxes are a far cleaner, more trustworthy place than back in the day when email marketing began.

The people most loyal to the brand (and the brand’s emails) may also be interested in engaging on a more frequent basis. Return Path’s research showed that account holders that send three weekly emails instead of two to the top 24% of email recipients (“primary subscribers”) who account for 83% of opens, there’s increased revenue and increased opens.

That said, this means segmenting based on email open rates. “Secondary subscribers” made up 65% of users, but only 16% of reads.

“With the secondary group, you have to measure the value of the types of emails you’re sending them,” Tom Sather, senior director of research at Return Path, told Direct Marketing News. “You may want to look at their activity beyond mere click-through. What are they looking at on your website when they get there?”

Experiments in Frequency

What this research really shows is that marketers need to rethink every step when optimizing email campaigns. If you increase email send volume by about 33%, you can’t necessarily send the same email campaigns over and over. Instead, you need to focus on content.

Sather said as much. As long as people are already “fans of your products,” then they won’t always be looking for sales. Instead, create content in your emails that is engaging and relevant to their interests.

By experimenting not only with frequency but with content and targeting, companies can increase opens and revenue while building better relationships with customers.

API Integrations for Email CampaignsBuilding engaging emails means making them interactive and seamless, too. In our eBook, “7 Ways to Use API Integrations In Your Email Campaigns,” we show how Dunkin’ Donuts uses API integrations to pull in Instagram photos and tweets into emails, how EZLinks used the technology to offer real-time reservations for golf courses across the country, and more.

Download the eBook today!

3 Reasons We're Excited for the Experian Client Summit Las Vegas

3 Reasons We’re Excited for the Experian Client Summit

In a little under a week, the Movable Ink team will head out to Las Vegas for Experian’s Client Summit. As we’re packing our bags and getting ready to travel, we thought we’d let you in on three reasons we’re especially excited about this year’s conference:

1. We’re speaking about our passion

We’ll always jump at the chance to share our love of contextual marketing. On Thursday at 1pm – during the breakout sessions – we’ll be presenting on why context is crucial in email marketing and how you can drive real ROI with your data. Specifically, we’re talking about why predefined widgets aren’t enough for your contextual marketing needs and how to solve that problem. The full event schedule is available here.

2. There’s a chance to win big

With two raffles going on – one run by Experian, one by our team – there’s a unique opportunity to win big (and that doesn’t include the allure of Las Vegas’ famous casinos!). If you’re one of the first eight people to sign up for a strategy session with the Movable Ink team, you’re automatically entered into a raffle for a surprise Las Vegas experience. Not only are those great odds, but you’ll have solo time with an expert to discuss custom apps in email.

3. It’s the perfect place to connect

With a theme like Utopia, we can’t imagine a more perfect place to connect with our clients and friends. See you there!

What are you looking forward to at the Experian Client Summit? Let us know and be sure to stop by our booth in the Partner Square to say hello and get some swag!


[WEBINAR] How to Supercharge Email Campaigns with the Power of Social Media Data

We recently ran a survey about how marketers are currently integrating social media and email marketing campaigns. While we’re still analyzing the results and preparing it for release, we can give you a hint about the findings – things aren’t looking too good.

We discovered that about 40% of respondents said they “rarely or never” integrate social and email campaigns; more than 80% said that campaigns “always” or “sometimes” run without involving one another.

A lot of this has to do with the challenge that data presents. To combine email and social, you need to get customer data from social channels and pull real-time data into the inbox.

So how do you do that? Movable Ink and ShortStack are hosting a webinar on Thursday, July 23 at 1pm EST where you’ll learn how to turn fans and followers into leads!

Register for “How to Supercharge Email Campaigns with the Power of Social Media Data” to learn how you can integrate email and social in new ways and build relationships with followers and fans in the inbox.

Email signups need to get more exciting

“Please Email Me”

A few weeks ago, I went to see a band. I didn’t really know what to expect. I hadn’t been to the venue, I had only heard the band once before, and it was a Wednesday night – not exactly prime time.

But the band was really, really good and the live performance was spectacular. When they had finished their set, the singer came off the stage with a clipboard and tried to get just about every single person to sign up for the band’s email list.

“Do you want to sign up for our email list?” she asked me.

“Yes, please email me,” I said.

When, I wondered, was the last time anyone ever said that?

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