This year’s Hitting the Mark showcased the email and customer experience tactics of 100 global ecommerce brands. The report revealed both the triumphs and pitfalls of marketers as they bid to foster everlasting relationships from the inbox to the shop counter.
We’ve dissected the report and drawn 5 key tactics to help you optimize your email program ahead of the holiday season.
1. Focus on best practice
If you’re to wow the 3.82 billion email users worldwide, you’ve at least got to nail the basics.
Many brands in this year’s report consistently fell down on best practice. Even those who exhibited the strongest data-driven tactics and most compelling content missed the mark.
5 tips to make the grade in best practice:
Don’t overlook the ‘view in browser’ link
Why? Email clients such as Gmail and Hotmail won’t always render emails correctly – a common challenge for marketers. Continuous system updates can compromise the HTML code, corrupting the look and feel of emails as they land in the inbox.
A VIB link mitigates the effect of a broken email (a poor experience) as it incentivizes contacts to view a version optimized for URL. This maximizes click-throughs from those readers who would otherwise ignore a messy looking email with no VIB link.
Rather than the basic ‘View in browser’, why not try something more conversational: ‘Having trouble viewing this email? See it here.’
Populate the preheader space
Neglecting to use the preview text is a missed opportunity. It’s a useful space for inspirational copy and acts as a bridge between the subject line and email content.
When not used, the preheader space is populated by the next readable bit of text. This tends to be markup code; it means nothing to the reader and looks plain messy.
A blunder like this can cause confusion in the inbox, damage the credibility of your emails, and weaken your open rates.
To avoid this, add some commentary in the preheader space that:
- supports the subject line
- entices the reader to open
- adds context to the email
Optimize the unsubscribe
The unsubscribe belongs in the footer of the email. Yes, the link should be visible, but it shouldn’t be blatantly obvious.
It’s much more important what you do after someone clicks through; shout about what they’re going to miss out on and ask for feedback on how to improve the email experience.
Balance imagery and copy
Not every email client (Outlook is one) will automatically download your email’s images. A sexy looking email that’s a full-length image, with copy placed on top, will lose its context if imagery is switched off. The message will be lost.
This runs the risk of:
- subscribers closing the email automatically
- the email looking like spam
- recipients being unable to identify information quickly enough
To lock in engagement, you need to pair imagery with content so that relevance is always communicated.
The age of being mobile-friendly is waning. Doing the bare minimum is no longer good enough for consumers who interact with brands exclusively on a handheld device.
60% of ecommerce site visits will start on mobile. Plus, by 2019, consumers will spend over 2 hours per day on their smartphones. So, brands need to start their design concepts on mobile first, and then scale up to other devices such as tablets and desktops.
For tips on how to design email for mobile, grab our guide here.
2. Unlock the inbox using preferences
If you’d like to forge meaningful long-term relationships with your subscribers, then getting to know them should be top on the agenda. They won’t buy from you if you don’t serve up relevant content – so ask for preferences.
- Think about what data your brand needs
- Ask for the right amount of information (too much can put people off)
- Offer an incentive in exchange for details
Explicit data like location, date of birth and product preferences allow you to quickly build a profile of who your subscribers are. This information empowers you to tailor your newsletters so that they’re super-relevant.
You can do this in dotdigital Engagement Cloud through the use of dynamic content in our email tool, which is populated based on individual contact data.
Bulk Powders, winner of Hitting the Mark 2018, uses its preference center to customize email content.
3. Use insight to contextualize your message
The top performers in Hitting the Mark combined their implicit and explicit customer data to build powerful segments and create personalized messages.
Implicit data communicates context:
- Browse behavior
- Order history
- Email activity
Explicit information conveys relevance:
- Product preferences
Combining both enables you to devise a pretty compelling message. This is because content is conceptualized on the basis of the individual, maximizing their propensity to act. Positive actions might be clicks, downloads or purchases.
The bottom line is that these types of hyper-targeted messages are proven to drive lead generation, boost ecommerce and lift ROI.
4. Curate quality content
The best copywriters can’t inspire readers if their content draws no relevance to the audience. Winning content should inspire readers to do something. Always ask yourself: why am I writing this copy, and what’s the point of it?
A little inspiration goes a long way; at dotdigital we like to say ‘sell the sizzle, not the sausage’ – i.e. focus on the benefits rather than the tangible product.
- your tone of voice reflects your brand’s personality
- content is personable, conversational and not ‘hard-selling’
In this year’s Hitting the Mark, many brands showcased exceptional copywriting skills. A great example was IKEA, whose tone of voice was warm and inviting – like the home. Skillfully crafting content that comforts the reader enables the brand to position itself as the home-lover’s choice: there’s no place like IKEA…right?
5. Be customer-obsessed
Welcome new customers with open arms
14% of brands still fail to meet subscribers’ expectations: to receive a welcome message in real time. Making the right first impression is what counts, so brands need to step up to the plate.
Introduce yourself and get to know your subscribers. They won’t buy from you if you don’t. The welcome series is the most important time to get the messaging right – Bulk Powders stated (when we interviewed the brand) that it all boils down to the welcome program.
Nurture – and then nurture some more
The age of anonymity is over. As customers, we expect personalized experiences. Successful brands will use personalization as a nurture tactic to turn indifferent consumers into loyal customers.
When creating your newsletters and nurture programs, think about:
- what subscribers actually want to receive over the products you want to sell
- how you can use data to underscore your offering and garner real interest
Say thanks to customers for their purchase
A simple thank you is bound to make customers smile. An aftersales program that delivers how-to tips and advice transforms the shopping experience from a mere transaction into a personal conversation.
In our customer-centric world, asking for a review after purchase is a must; yet 53% of brands fail to do so. By taking an active interest in feedback, you’re showing your online shoppers that you care about customer satisfaction and product improvement. It’s a win-win.
Re-engage at-risk customers
Make it clear that a customer lapsing is a big deal – a real loss for your brand. This makes the customer feel valued. Go on a charm offensive to win them back.
Your re-engagement program could include:
- a special offer that tempts a repeat purchase
- a survey to find out more about the subscriber
- some inspirational content to incentivize a browse
Optimize your emails to lift ROI
Below is a tidy summary of key takeaways that’ll help you drive up returns from email:
- Following best practice helps you deliver an optimized email experience and facilitates a seamless customer journey from inbox to store.
- Preferences and insight will help you maximize conversions; if your brand wants to stand out in the crowd, your messaging needs to be driven from data.
- Content is how you transform data into relevant and contextual communication.
The last piece of the puzzle is embracing a customer-first philosophy. Translate everything you’ve built up into lifecycle marketing automation programs; bring something meaningful to the table that inspires customers to act.
For our favorite marketing automation examples from Hitting the Mark, download our bitesize guide here.