Tag Archives: Email Marketing Insights

Email is Dead…Think Again!

You’ve heard it many times before – the claim that “email is dead.”  But that’s just not true.  In fact, TechCrunch says that email newsletters are hot right now.  They’ve seen a shift in websites encouraging readers from “liking” them on Facebook, to now getting them to sign-up for an email subscription.

So you keep hearing that email is dead, but why are publishers trying so hard to grow their eNewsletter subscription lists?  And why are readers continuing to invite email into their inboxes?  TechCrunch gives five reasons for this:

  • 1.  Email gives publishers more control: As opposed to social media where you are subject to Facebook’s algorithm or breaking through the noise of someone’s Twitter feed, email will get through to those that have made the conscious choice to sign up for your newsletter.
  • 2.  Readers pay more attention to email: Just do your own comparison.  How many email opens do you receive vs. clicks on a link you tweet about?
  • 3.  Email is cross platform: Email works on everything, even if you’re still on dial-up internet.
  • 4.  Email keeps all your clutter in one place: If you were given the choice to receive all your information in one place (your inbox) or search 12 different (social media) platforms for updates, which would you choose?  Case closed.
  • 5.  Email is the original social media: What social measurements really count when measuring engagement?  Comments and shares!  And wait, email has that too – they’re just called “reply” and “forward.”

Here you have it, email is very much alive and kicking and here to stay.  Now it’s time to be faster, smarter and more measurable about your email marketing.

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!

Real-Time Content and Re-Open Tracking Return to Gmail

Gmail image caching updateBack in December, Gmail made a major overhaul to the way it processes email. Images started being proxied through Gmail’s servers, which changed the way that images are cached. As a result, images could now be immediately displayed to recipients (no more “click here to view images from this sender”), but at the same time, marketers lost the ability to track email re-opens and the ability to serve relevant, real-time content upon re-open was limited.

What Happened at Gmail?

Image caching on the web and in email is controlled through headers, which are sent back with images. The header informs the web browser or email client how long and under which conditions the image should be re-used before making another request to the server. In its initial rollout in December, Gmail respected the caching headers sent from the original server, but always served images to the user with instructions to re-use the same image for 24 hours.

Due to the 24-hour caching header, web browsers would see real-time content initially but not on subsequent re-opens until one day later. Since open tracking also relies on images, the initial opens registered properly but re-opens were cached and could not be tracked. There were some reported workarounds for re-open tracking, but they involved sending malformed data to the Gmail proxy and were not guaranteed to work.

The Return of Real-Time Content and Re-Open Tracking

Last week, the Movable Ink team noticed that Gmail had begun deploying updates to address the issues caused by its 24-hour caching. The cache still exists, but it is now overridable if you pass a no-cache header (example below).

HTTP 200 OK
Content-Type: image/png
Cache-Control: no-cache, max-age=0

This means that re-open tracking now works as it did before December’s changes. In addition, these changes fix a long-standing issue of Gmail temporarily caching entire emails when navigating between emails in Gmail. When using Movable Ink, these updates mean that whenever you open an email in Gmail, you can be sure that you are seeing the most up-to-date, real-time content on every open and re-open.

Top Takeaways from the MarketingSherpa Email Summit – Day 1

MarketingSherpa Email Summit email marketing conference

The Movable Ink team headed out west to Las Vegas this week to join nearly 1,000 email marketers for the 2014 MarketingSherpa Email Summit. We’ve been surrounded by some of the brightest influencers in the industry—so it’s no surprise that our minds are jam-packed full of fresh, new ideas.

Below is a recap of our thoughts from the first day of sessions. We’ll continue to post updates as the summit goes on, so be sure to check back!

1.    Although the face of email continues to evolve, the core philosophy of marketing remains the same.
Marketing is driven by psychology, centered on the ability to appeal to unique aspects of human motivation. What exactly is it that makes us say “yes” and commit to a buying decision, especially when we’re faced with a number of competing options? In his keynote presentation, Dr. Dan Ariely, professor of Psychology & Behavioral Economics at Duke University and author of the bestseller “Predictably Irrational,” talked about the concept of “choice architecture” and how our environment determines the decisions we make every day.

So how does this relate to email marketing? Think of every email as an environment, and every click as a decision. In order to motivate someone to take that next step—such as clicking on a specific call to action—a marketer must not only make that choice crystal clear by minimizing any conflicting choices or distractions, but also by ensuring that each message is as relevant and valuable to every consumer as possible.

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New Research Shows Mobile Dominates Desktops with 65% of Total Email Opens in Q4 2013

Movable Ink US Consumer Device Preference Report Q4 2013Americans are ditching desktops, viewing marketing emails on their smartphones and tablets more than ever, according to Movable Ink’s latest research, the US Consumer Device Preference Report: Q4 2013. The data reveals that 65% of marketing emails were opened on a smartphone or tablet in the fourth quarter, up four percentage points from the previous quarter, while desktop opens slowed to a new low of 35%, down from 39% in the previous quarter.

The 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. This quarter’s report also include an exclusive look at device usage over the course of the critical 2013 holiday shopping season. Unlike other studies, this data set exclusively includes results from large, enterprise B2C marketers.

Key findings include:

  • Movable Ink Agile Email Marketing research mobile opensNearly two-thirds of all email opens took place on mobile devices. 65% of emails were opened on either
 a smartphone or tablet device, up from 61% in Q3 2013. Desktop accounted for just 35% of email opens, a decline from 39% in the previous quarter.
  • Tablet popularity continued to grow. Over 16% of emails were opened on a tablet, up from 15% in Q3 2013, and slightly under 14% in Q2 2013. Although Android tablets comprise only 1.8% of total email opens, this figure was twice as high as the previous quarter when they accounted for .9% of total email opens.
  • Android gained market share. Consistent with Q3, Apple smartphones and tablets accounted for 50% of total email opens. But Android smartphones and tablets represented 14% of all email opens, up from 10% in the previous quarter.
  • iPhone users spent the most time viewing emails. 38% of iPhone users spent 15 seconds or more viewing each message. Android smartphone users came in at a close second, with 35% spending 15 seconds or more viewing an email.
  • This is the first time that no US states were “heavy” desktop users. Texas remained the most smartphone friendly state, now with over 57% of emails opened on a smartphone (up from 53% last quarter). Although Maine and Vermont maintained their positions as the top two states for desktop use, the percentage of total emails opened on desktops in these states declined to under 50%, as smartphone popularity continued to spread across the nation.
  • Thanksgiving was the biggest day for smartphone use over the holiday season, whereas Cyber Monday was the biggest day for desktops. On Thanksgiving, nearly 60% of marketing email opens occurred on smartphones. While still beat by smartphone opens (45.5%), Cyber Monday showed the strongest showing for desktops, with 40% of all marketing email opens.

“This quarter’s report shows that we are in the midst of a mobile takeover,” said Vivek Sharma, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Movable Ink. “In the new year, we expect marketers to continue to place high priority on mobile optimization which will allow them to better engage consumers who are on-the-go with relevant, real-time offers.”

Download the free report here to access all of our findings and analysis.

Back to the Future: Gmail Turns on Images in Email

Gmail_ImagesOn

UPDATE: Since this post was originally published, real-time content and re-open tracking have returned to Gmail. Learn more in our latest post on how Gmail handles images.

If you’ve been an email marketer (or user) long enough, you might remember a time when you didn’t have to “click here to display images” in order to see images inside of an email. Several large email services began suppressing images by default in the mid 2000s as part of their efforts to protect users from the rampant, uncontrollable messaging abuse that was taking place back then.

Images in email were a primary mechanism for not only confirming live email addresses to spammers, but also for delivering fraudulent phishing emails and dropping viruses and other types of malicious code on users’ desktops. Anti-spam technology has come a long way since those dark days, and today most consumers rarely, if ever, see unwanted and harmful messages in their inbox.

Last Thursday, December 12, Google’s Gmail email service clarified the reasoning behind its recent image handling changes and announced that going forward, all images will be displayed by default in the Gmail inbox. Gmail openers will now immediately see your email with on-brand creative, offers, and clear calls to action. If you are using agile email marketing technology to personalize emails at the moment of open, then you’ve just been given a much greater opportunity to make the sale.

Auto-enabled images provide a better consumer email experience, and are an opportunity for marketers to present more relevant offers. The majority of what Movable Ink offers still works on Gmail (web crops, countdown timers, creative optimization, video) while others (geo-targeting, weather targeting) will work when passing in the location data you have on file. Device targeting is the one real lost opportunity on Gmail, although if Gmail continues to innovate and decides to support media queries, this could change.

Auto-enabling images will give agile email marketers a better opportunity to deliver creative, memorable, and engaging campaigns that stand out in the inbox, and in turn drive increased customer loyalty and conversions. The increase in the number of opens we can expect to see at Gmail is a net positive and, in the long run, a win for both marketers and their customers.

Texas is the Most Smartphone Friendly State: WFAA-TV Dallas/Fort Worth Broadcast Report

 

Texas is the most smartphone friendly state in the country, with over 53% of marketing emails opened on smartphones. WFAA-TV, the ABC affiliate station for the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, recently shared these findings from our US Consumer Device Preference Report, Q3 2013 in the above TV broadcast.

Do you live in a smartphone state or a desktop state? The chart below gives a look at the top 5 states for smartphone and desktop use, based on the percentage of email opens per device. Download the full report to see a detailed breakdown by state, as well as more device use findings based on Movable Ink’s aggregate email open data from over 100 enterprise B2C brands.

Email Opens by US State Movable Ink Q3 2013

Gmail’s Recent Image Handling Changes

Gmail image caching changes

UPDATE: Since this post was originally published, real-time content and re-open tracking have returned to Gmail. Learn more in our latest post on how Gmail handles images.

Last week, Gmail implemented changes that impact the way the email service renders images that will impact real-time content for a segment of Gmail users.

Below, we hope to clarify the Gmail changes, summarize their impact, and share what actions Movable Ink has taken and is continuing to pursue to address any concerns.

1. What changes were made in Gmail, and what is the impact to Movable Ink?
Traditionally, when a recipient views an email, images are downloaded from the server that hosts the images. This allows information to be communicated back to the image’s host source—such as the user’s current location, device, and time of day.

a.) Gmail is now requesting all images from proxy servers (googleusercontent.com), which incorrectly situates users in its headquarters in Mountain View, California when images are downloaded. This impacts the ability to geo-target image content for those Gmail users who are affected by the changes. (Note: Local Maps using zip codes appended as query parameters are unaffected.)

b.) Gmail is stripping the user-agent headers from the client request, which eliminates the ability to determine the Gmail user’s device and target image content appropriately.

c.) Gmail is removing the cache-control headers from the responses, which forces the user’s images to be stored in their browser’s cache for up to a day. This only impacts live image content if a Gmail user re-opens the email after the first open.

In summary, a limited set of Movable Ink features will not work within a segment of Gmail accounts and, in those cases, will be replaced with default content.

2. What email users are affected by the changes? How big is the impact to my list?
After analyzing our data since the changes were implemented late last week, 2% – 5% of the average enterprise B2C email marketer’s subscriber list is affected by Gmail’s changes, since they only affect recipients that open emails through the Gmail.com desktop client, the Android Gmail app, and the iOS Gmail app.

Not all Gmail users are impacted.

The changes have no impact on Gmail users who access their accounts through Mac Mail, the native Mail app on iOS devices, non-Gmail Android apps, non-Gmail Windows apps, Gmail via Outlook, etc. Additionally, all email domains that are not @gmail.com are not impacted. (Update: As of 12/12, Gmail has rolled out the changes to custom domains as well.)

More Gmail recipients open email on iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) than through any other email service — including web-based Gmail itself, which greatly mitigates the impact of the changes, and is the reason why they only affect 2% – 5% of most email marketers’ subscribers.

Below is a summary of who is affected by the changes:

Gmail Image Caching Impact

3. How is Movable Ink responding to the affected features?
a.) Geo-targeting: We have made it possible for marketers to show default content to users that have images hosted within the Gmail proxy domain. This eliminates any concerns about displaying incorrectly geo-targeted content when a user is falsely identified as being in Mountain View, California.

b.) Device targeting: If a user’s device cannot be detected for any reason, a default version of an email will be rendered and is configurable within the Movable Ink dashboard.

c.) All other real-time content: Other types of real-time content such as countdown timers, social feeds, web crops, and video will appear as intended on the first open of an email. Subsequent opens from an individual recipient will display the original image due to Google’s caching which can last for up to a day.

Our team is in contact with representatives at Google to recommend and discuss alternatives to last week’s changes. We will be sure to share updates as we have more information. If you have any questions in the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at contact@movableink.com.

For Email Marketers, Black Friday is the New Cyber Monday

Black Friday Cyber Monday email marketing

 38% more email opens took place on Black Friday as online retailers started the battle for consumers’ inboxes earlier than ever

Black Friday was the biggest day of the year for brand email marketers so far this holiday season, with marketers seeing 38% more email opens than they did on Cyber Monday, according to our research. With competition for consumers’ attention – and wallets – fiercer than ever, brands started their holiday email marketing programs early.

Our study also found substantial differences in the devices used to open email marketing messages throughout the holiday weekend:

  • Thanksgiving Day was the biggest day for smartphone opens. On Thanksgiving, 59.9 percent of marketing email opens occurred on smartphones; by comparison, 45.5 percent of all marketing email opens in Q3 2013 took place on smartphones. Black Friday was the second biggest smartphone day, with 57.5 percent.
  • Cyber Monday was the biggest day for desktops. While still beat by smartphone opens (45.5 percent), Cyber Monday showed the strongest showing for desktops, with 40.1 percent of all marketing email opens.
  • Tablet use surged over the weekend. 19.3 percent of Saturday’s opens and 18.7 percent of Sunday’s took place on iPads and Android-based tablets.

In total, the volume of Movable Ink-powered emails between Black Friday and Cyber Monday increased a whopping 3,085% year-over-year, as leading brands continue to embrace innovative Agile Email Marketing technology and strategies to cut through the clutter of the inbox.

“Black Friday is now officially the biggest day of the year for email marketers,” said Vivek Sharma, Co-Founder and CEO of Movable Ink. “It should come as no surprise that in a controversial year where many leading retailers opened their brick and mortar locations on Thanksgiving Day itself, that they’d be just as aggressive in starting their email marketing sales events ahead of Cyber Monday. The surge in mobile opens should also make marketers take notice – without mobile optimization in place, a lot of money could have been left on the table.”

About Movable Ink’s 2013 Black Friday/Cyber Monday Research:
The findings above are based on data collected through Movable Ink’s Agile Email Marketing platform between November 20 and December 2 2013. The data reflects aggregate statistics across Movable Ink’s customer base, which includes more than 100 enterprise B2C marketers from the retail, travel, financial, media, and telecommunications industries. Because determining email opens requires images to load, the percentages for some devices and platforms might be over or underrepresented.

Infographic: The 5 Coolest Email Campaigns You’ll See On Cyber Monday

When you check your inbox this Cyber Monday, get ready to discover a few surprises along the way. This holiday season, many of your favorite brands will be using Agile Email Marketing technology to deliver great deals in eye-catching, interactive, and innovative ways that you’ve never seen before.

Check out our infographic below to see the top 5 emails to look out for this coming Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday email marketing infographic

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