The holiday season always manages to sneak up without warning. Halloween is fast approaching in just two months and Thanksgiving and Christmas follow right behind it.
Marketers: don’t let this time of year stress you out! We’ll be releasing a five part holiday content series aimed at making marketers’ lives much easier.
To start, we created an infographic to show what we learned over Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2014, and how you can apply these learnings to 2015. The data speaks for itself:
Key takeaways: send out deals early and make sure your emails are responsive.
Curious for more? Stay tuned for further holiday updates from Movable Ink!
When it comes to marketing technology, we have more choice than ever! There are an abundance of new solutions, all promising to make our lives easier and drive results for our brands.
At the same time, we have more budget to spend on these technologies. According to Econsultancy, 77% of companies will be increasing their digital marketing budgets in 2015 – the highest rate since their Marketing Budgets survey began. However, deciding which solution to purchase can be tricky.
We recently shared the five questions marketers should ask when selecting a new email marketing technology. Now, we’ll share five additional questions that will ensure you pick the solution that fits your brand the best.
- Is it scalable?
While a product may be right for your company today, will it still be suitable once your brand has expanded? If your team size increases or if you grow into new regions, can the technology support more users who might be located globally with different native languages? Does the technology have the ability to scale, or will it need to be replaced in 12 months?
- Is it future-proofed?
What is the roadmap for the product? Is the company investing in research and development in order to innovate and stay ahead? Marketing technology evolves at a rapid pace. If a product is not being developed, it can be obsolete within a year. You don’t want to spend time and resource implementing a solution only to reinvest in a different one in 2-3 years.
- Is it flexible/customizable?
Does the technology allow you to focus on the things that are important to your brand? With the number of solutions available, there is no need to ‘make do’ with a product that doesn’t completely address your needs. In addition, can the technology be customised to reflect your company? Choose a solution that is consistent with your image and doesn’t sacrifice the look and feel of your brand.
- How robust are the reporting capabilities?
Budget for digital marketing is increasing because it is easily measurable and accountable. The majority of solutions will come with some level of reporting. In addition to the types of data captured, find out about more robust reporting capabilities. Are the reports available in real-time? How is the data visualized so you can make sense of it? Advanced features like this will enable you to make more accurate insights and better decisions.
- Is the platform tech agnostic?
Marketers typically do not have the same technology skills as an IT professional. For easy setup and ongoing maintenance, choose a solution that comes with ‘out-of-the-box’ APIs, or is platform agnostic. In addition, find out what data flows between the platforms and how easy it is going to be to use.
The marketing technology landscape is continually evolving. A successful technology investment will scale with your company, address your needs, integrate seamlessly and continue to innovate with new features. By choosing a solution with these attributes, you will avoid the costly process of having to re-invest in a new solution down the line.
Want to learn more about what email marketing technology solutions can do today? Download our eBook, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Contextual Marketing.”
This is a guest post from Aleksandr Peterson, Technology Analyst at TechnologyAdvice.
Recruiting is tough. Unless you’re on the Fortune 500 list, you probably don’t have hundreds of applications streaming in every week for a single opening, especially if it’s a high-level position with unique skill requirements (such as a front-end web developer).
But that shouldn’t be surprising. More experienced job-seekers know they’re valuable, so they tend to be choosy about where they apply and what kind of offers they consider. By the time you discuss compensation and benefits, they might be talking to three other companies.
Recruiters Double As Marketers
According to a recent study by Jobvite, 69 percent of HR professionals expect recruitment to be more competitive this year. Seventy-three percent are considering increasing their budget for social media, 63 percent for referral programs, and 51 percent for mobile recruitment.
The way recruiters are hunting for qualified candidates in many ways resembles the tactics marketers use to attract business. Email marketing, which consistently yields the highest engagement and some of the most qualified leads, is one of those tactics. So, if recruiters can use marketing tactics to attract and engage job candidates, and one of the most successful marketing channels is email, then recruiters need to get up to speed on it.
Why Email Marketing?
Email marketing can target specific candidates and groups of candidates based on their demographics and behavior. And it doesn’t just engage them once or twice when they happen upon your site; it delivers content to their inbox and “nurtures” them, step-by-step, towards building a relationship with your company. Angela Zener, marketing VP at Findly, explains it this way: “As marketers build lead databases, target and re-engage customers, and work to make the sale, recruiters build talent pipelines, seek to continually engage talent, and encourage them to apply.”
The direct parallels between marketing and recruiting make email a smart choice for both.
How to Get Started
First, make sure you have the right technology in place to set up lists and automation rules. Some HR software for recruiters offers built-in email features, but the functionality can be somewhat limited compared to dedicated email marketing solutions.
Most systems are priced either by the number of contacts or number of emails you send. You probably won’t have a contact list as extensive as most users, or need to email them as frequently, so try to find a solution that provides the features you need (autoresponders, segmentation, analytics, etc.) but doesn’t blow your budget.
Next, create an email marketing strategy that supports your hiring needs: decide who you’ll email, how you’ll get their contact information, and what kind of emails you’ll send. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Careers page: Use your careers page as a hub for capturing contact information. Placing calls-to-action (CTAs) in the right places will give visitors a chance to subscribe to the mailing list. The CTAs should link to a web form that asks the job seeker for their contact information and area of expertise. You can use this information to send relevant email content.
- Welcome email: Once a visitor subscribes to job updates, you can send them an initial welcome email (personalized, of course) to let them know you appreciate their interest, and confirm their job preferences (We’ll send you regular updates about IT jobs at ACME). If you choose, you can also use the welcome email as part of a double opt in process (which is a general best-practice).
- Job Postings: Now that candidates are plugged in, you can send them updates about new job postings related to their area of interest. This demonstrates your brand is actively pursuing talent, and gives job seekers a chance to be the first applicants. It’s not always immediately rewarding, but if you build a targeted list of contacts, you’ll be one step ahead when you do have an opening.
- Newsletter/Updates: If your subscribers opt in to receive company updates or a newsletter, you can send them educational or informative content about the general job market, company changes, or topics relating to their field (of course, this means you’ll need to create content). Although this isn’t connected to specific positions, it keeps your employer brand top of mind.
- Transactional Emails: Transactional emails are usually associated with financial transactions (e.g. purchase confirmation, shipping update, etc.). But they can also be a powerful tool for recruiters when triggered by the flow of information between applicant and recruiter. For example, send an email to confirm you received their application, and provide a list of next steps. Transactional emails add transparency to recruiting, hiring, and onboarding and help the process flow smoothly. They also have higher open rates (above 100 percent, in some cases) than any other kind of marketing email.
Recruiters can be the next in a long line of professionals who use email marketing to stay engaged with their audience. Start simple — with welcome emails and a “job alert” feature — and see where that takes you. There’s a good chance you’ll see more applications from the right candidates and a smoother overall hiring process. The best part? You’ll never have to interview a stranger again.
This year has seen a lot of marketing trends come and go, but one of the most important ones has been context. When we’re talking about customer context, we’re actually talking about the new reality of email marketing: customers could be anywhere and doing anything when they’re checking their email.
That puts a big burden on your email campaigns. To remain relevant, emails need to be able to adapt to the constantly changing context of your customer.
A loyalty email could display a real-time balance right after a purchase and a rewards email could offer a live, geo-targeted map showing the closest locations where customers can redeem their rewards.
The possibilities for contextual marketing in email are endless. Here are five ways that you can leverage the power of a contextual marketing platform to revolutionize the inbox:
When your emails can detect the weather, you can target content more effectively. If the morning is rainy but the afternoon gets humid, a sale for rain boots should change – even after it’s sent – to a sale for shorts and t-shirt. You can also create more relevant content for customers who are experiencing different weather events.
- Device Detection
The user experience on different devices should be different. That means emails have to adapt to the current device on which they’re being viewed. In this way, brands can create responsive emails that can actually react to the exact device – like an iPad or an Android phone – and offer the right content to prompt app downloads and other mobile-specific engagement.
Offering live maps in emails can help make the content in the email a lot more relevant. Rewards programs can display the nearest locations where customers can use their points or a sales email can drive traffic to the nearest brick-and-mortar store.
- Real-Time A/B Testing
Context means that you have to offer the best possible customer experience… and to do that, you need to test what resonates the most with your audience. Real-time A/B testing allows marketers to split their audiences, test content, and then change the losing creative in real-time.
Even after you’ve sent out both Email A and B, you can switch the content so that all the emails show the winning creative and copy.
- Real-Time Inventory & Reservations
By pulling relevant data from API integrations and microsites, your email can become a hub for the latest information. You can display live Instagram or Twitter feeds, interactive seating charts, or available appointments and reservations. The same goes for product and inventory details.
Tapping into a third-party database allows you to create a seamless experience for the customer by offering the latest available products and services every time they open the email.
Context = Real-Time
The foundation of contextual marketing is personalization. And to personalize for a customer’s mobile experience, you have to be able to change messages, creative, and campaign dynamically.
As the number one digital marketing channel for ROI and one of the best ways to keep in touch with customers, email is a great place to start experimenting with context.
Boden, a popular British retailer, has seen tremendous growth since it embraced eCommerce in the late 1990s. As a global brand – selling online in over 50 countries – the challenge has always been to personalize without sacrificing too much time and energy.
Specifically, the Boden marketing team wanted to engage high-value customers with no recent sales activity in a very personal way. Inspiration came in the form of a print campaign that had run in the past.
Using their customers’ purchase data, and then pulling live details from their website in real time, Boden created a unique story for each recipient. To be precise, the campaign told 19,977 unique stories in email for 19,977 individuals.
The campaign produced unprecedented results. In addition to a 2000% increase in revenue per email – with 1 in 10 customers going on to make a purchase – the Boden team was honored with the Real-Time Contextual Marketing Award. This award, presented at the Experian Client Summit on July 31 in Las Vegas, celebrates innovation in contextual email marketing.
They say ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’. But last week, the Movable Ink team returned to New York City from the Experian Client Summit with some news worth sharing.
One of the conference highlights was the 2015 #SuiteLife Awards ceremony, which was live streamed from the main stage on the last day of the conference. The awards showcased brands whose email campaigns stood out for creativity, innovation and most importantly – delivering results.
Out of a large field of contenders from the Experian client base, we were excited to see that a resounding 6 out of 9 SuiteLife Award Winners were also valued Movable Ink clients!
While we were directly involved in powering the campaigns for some of the winners, including Boden (who won for Real-Time Contextual Marketing), we salute and celebrate alongside all of the winners.
Movable Ink is proud to be working with the following clients that won a SuiteLife Award in various contest categories for email marketing innovation and excellence:
- Boden / Real-time Contextual Marketing
- Bass Pro Shops / Insight to Interaction
- American Eagle Outfitters / Cross Channel
- Foot Locker / Mobile
- SiriusXM / Creative
- Finish Line / People’s Choice
We also want to congratulate the other SuiteLife Award winners for their noteworthy, award-winning campaigns:
- Modi Media / Data for Good
- Neiman Marcus / Innovation
- DirecTV / Acquisition
While the conference was a blast, these 6 clients give the Movable Ink team a reason to celebrate after returning home. Hats off once again to our clients for pushing the boundaries of email marketing and to all of the winners!
Every startup has a story. Some are longer than others, but at their core they all contain a ‘lightbulb’ idea, lots of hard work, and a dynamic individual (or individuals) who keep the dream alive.
Our co-founder and CEO, Vivek Sharma, has long been active in the Lean Startups Meetup (which has now become the Founder Stories Meetup). This Meetup group is dedicated to sharing what makes startup founders ‘tick’ and how they overcame challenges to succeed.
Tonight, Vivek will share his story. Come learn with us!
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.
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