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The New Inbox: The Intersection of Email, Mobile & Social Marketing

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Mobile and social have been among the most talked-about subjects for the last couple of years. But did you know that email plays a very important role with both of those from an engagement, brand, and conversion perspective?

The New Inbox: The Intersection of Email, Mobile and Social Marketing session at SES New York 2013, moderated by Sundeep Kapur (@emailyogi), Digital Evangelist, NCR Corp., covered some very useful information around engaging with your customers at key touchpoints along their journey with your brand. The panel also discussed why it's more important than ever to optimize the customer experience with mobile in mind.

Understanding Who Your Customers Actually Are

Richard Fleck, Vice President, Strategic Services from Responsys, spoke about the importance of understanding who your customers actually are and how to engage them in different points of the customer lifecycle.

Fleck started off by saying that as you look at and think about email marketing, you really want to start with your audience. From there you figure out the message and how you get that out.

He cautioned that some consumers just don't just engage in email, but instead they're on social, mobile, search, on your website, etc. And so you should really understand your audience's behaviors and put the consumer first ‐ that will be key to building your strategy.

Fleck then went on to provide us with some key questions you should ask yourself when you think about your audience, which he divided into three main buckets:

  • Know me: How do you align your expectations with consumers if they're spending time in all of these online channels?
  • Engage me: How do you collect the information you need (i.e., the data and insights, and engage them with relevant messages in the right channels)?
  • Lead me: How do you begin to lead the consumer in that discussion? What's the next best thing or the next action you expect them to take and how do you make that clear?

How to Engage Your Customers in Different Points of the Customer Lifecycle

If you look at a traditional email response-rate report you might see trends for opens, clicks, actions, etc., but what you want to start to do is ask, "Who's engaging? Why are they engaging? How are they engaging? And then how are they engaging with other channels?" You might find that someone who engages with you in Social and then sees an email ultimately takes an action you want.

Fleck then went on to show an example of how they looked at some data for one of their clients, where they were able to take customer information and break it down into four segments based on their activity with email:

  • New: Defined as a new subscriber in the past 30 days
  • Active: Not new + opened or clicked an email in the past 30 days
  • At Risk: Not new + opened or clicked an email in the past 31 ‐ 90 days
  • Inactive: Never opened/clicked or did so more than 90 days ago

The same thing can be done with social, mobile, display, etc. So what his client wanted to find out was, "How do I measure who those people are for each of those segments? Who's at risk for churning? Who are the people that are inactive? etc."

When you put those segments together, you can begin to see who are your most valuable people, who are your at risk people and how are they trending over time, etc. This is an important thing to look at because you can figure out if you have a certain amount of people who are at risk from an email standpoint, but they might be engaged somewhere else (e.g., social). This allows you to connect the dots by using that other channel to get them to re-engage. Fleck recommended that you want to engage those at-risk customers before they become inactive, otherwise it's much more difficult to get them back.

As you build an integrated strategy, you should put the focus and discipline into looking at the numbers and move away from traditional response-rate data to data that's based on actual activity of the individual customer and understand their journey.

Fleck went into an example of a customer journey that, over time, would allow you to get to know your customers better. Say Melissa purchases one of your products in-store and that's the beginning of her journey from a lifecycle standpoint.

You then send a tailored welcome message to get her engaged and embrace this new relationship. As you build that relationship you might add a social component and ask her to share her experience with an incentive.

Fleck then asked, "How does something that builds a connected Like or connected Fan give us that data layer in Social that allows us to begin to target on things like categories, content segregation, social linking index, and so forth ‐ so that we can either engage with customers in Social or we can use that information to build a smart email program?" Something very interesting to ask yourself and try and figure out.

So then later down the line in your customers' journeys, Fleck went on to say you can start to have promotions from an email standpoint to lead them to content on your site and begin to measure their level of engagement to build custom segments.

This allows you to send targeted messages based on those past promotions and past engagements. So you provide a relevant message based on where the customer is in her journey. And then you can start to also introduce the concept of targeted display ads based on her past behavior.

So then along the journey say your customer is happy, she's buying, things are great ‐ you can use other options like SMS to integrate into your strategy, which can provide you with a targeted way to follow up and say, "Did you have a good experience?"

It's a simple way to use SMS in a timely fashion and make it easy for the consumer to engage so you can begin that journey from an SMS and Mobile perspective. This allows you to tie the loop and use her Mobile opt-in as a part of the overall journey.

So then the last point Fleck wanted to make about the customer journey was pushing her the promotional messages based on her engagement. And so the goal there would be to look long term and ask, "How do we get the right kind of social connections? How do we use Mobile effectively? How do we begin to stack the data, or put the data together, so we can send relevant messages?"

So what started as an in-store journey for Melissa became a cross-channel digital journey that would allow you to connect a bunch of dots. You should try and figure out what's the next thing to keep leading her through that journey, and if she strays from the optimal path, how you would get her to come back.

Fleck then provided 3 ideas to drive customer-led marketing:

  • Integrated Lifecycle Display: Leverage highly targeted display ads to sustain engagement and conversion.
  • Customer Churn Mitigation: Slow customer attrition with predictive churn mitigation programs.
  • Social | Email Integration: Leverage the voice of the customer to drive more personalized email programs.

Email Success Strategies for the Mobile Age

Next up was Simms Jenkins (@SimmsJenkins), CEO of BrightWave Marketing, with his information-packed session.

Jenkins jumped in by saying the first thing you should figure when it comes to email is understanding the purpose of your program. A lot of people usually skip this step or maybe they inherit an email program and they have no clue what the purpose of it is from a business standpoint. Jenkins offered these typical reasons companies have an email program in place from a 2012 survey from BtoB:

  • Customer retention
  • Customer acquisition
  • Transactional messaging
  • Brand awareness
  • Lead nurturing
  • Cost reduction

purpose-of-email-program

Jenkins went on to say that reducing costs is one area where companies typically don't utilize email but it surprisingly does very well.

Often a company's top email business objectives include increasing the following: revenue, website traffic, or leads. And what's interesting is that when you look at common Mobile marketing business objectives, they almost always mirror those of email.

Here's an interesting stat from Forrester: almost 1/3 of repeat customers are initiated from an email. The best way to generate more sales, said Jenkins, is to talk to your existing customers and prospects. Those people are already opted-in ‐ that's why email is so powerful and unique. Whereas acquisition presents a lot more challenges on the email side, there's gold in the database for people that are already existing customers and who are opted-in to your program.

Generally speaking, email generates far more revenue than mobile and social, but email is not getting as much investment. Jenkins quipped that it's largely because email is not the shiny, sexy toys that mobile and social are; let's see where we end up in the next five or 10 years, he said.

email-program-conundrum

So then if you look at current, typical email programs, most of them are not proactive or they're experiencing attrition; yet we all want deepening engagements with our customers. To that point, you have to think about your different audiences' needs, and use segmentation to reach them. You don't want to give one email to everyone, but rather identify different groups and establish different messaging for different sets of customers.

Jenkins said most email programs are at the current state in the graphic above because of two simple things:

  1. Most brands do not have huge teams of people working on email; rather, it's usually two or three people in a company and they're are also managing search, social, the website, etc.
  2. And a lot of times just getting email out regardless of how it looks still works to some extent for companies. So email never ends ‐ once you get that one message out the door you're working on the next one that's going out two days later, and the cycle continues.

So because of this, Jenkins lamented, it's preventing email from really going to the next level (i.e., to the desired state shown above).

So it's interesting that when we think about what does the "New Inbox" mean, it's not the antiquated email of what we've been using for the last 10-12 years. Jenkins mentioned he's been in email for the last 15 years, and it really didn't change until the last year or two.

Further, Jenkins feels that social and mobile have really pushed email forward. Mobile without a doubt is revolutionizing email whether email accepts that or not. But mobile, Jenkins believes, is the biggest game changer that'll happen for email. Your customers are completely reading your brand's email very differently than they ever have ‐ what was once, "I check my AOL account after my kids are in bed" or "I check my personal emails at work only once a day" is long gone. Mobile is the device that's always there, and it's revolutionizing how people respond to email and how the messaging really goes to that consumer.

So why should you care? Mobile means a lot of different things. People don't necessarily make a differentiating point to check their email, texts, get push notifications from their favorite games, etc.. Your phone has a lot more things going on so that means your email has to be that much better today.

One of the other important points Jenkins touched on is that email is the common identifier across all channels. For example, on Facebook if you log in or open an account, you have to use an email address. Just about anything that you do on the web today requires an email address.

And because of that, it just makes Email that much more important for things like notifications, e.g., when you get a tweet that mentions you, or when you're no longer the mayor of a restaurant on Foursquare. Those may not seem like a big deal, but they really are ‐ that's how Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare got a lot more usage out of their tools because of their automated email pushes.

Jenkins went on to discuss some potential uses of your email database with features like Facebook Custom Audiences. He briefly mentioned an example of a dentist who submitted his database of 2,000 opt-ins to Facebook, and Facebook came back with a 50% match rate that allowed him to target those people in their network. They know who they are because they supplied their email address, so the dentist sent them ads reminding them of their annual cleanings.

Jenkins' six golden rules of mobile:

  1. Smartphone owners are more likely to read emails than make calls.
  2. Consumers read more emails on Mobile.
  3. How your email looks on smartphones matters to consumers.
  4. You can't know what the right approach is without understanding how and where your subscribers read your emails.
  5. What you are trying to accomplish in your Mobile email impacts your approach.
  6. Device matters and behavior varies.

1. Smartphone Owners are More Likely to Read Emails Than Make Calls

Jenkins offered anecdotal evidence to support Adobe's findings by mentioning that in the previous 24 hours he hadn't made one phone call but was certainly on email 70% of the time that he'd had his smartphone.

2. Consumers Read More Emails on Mobile

Jenkins quickly went into his 2nd rule on how consumers read more emails on mobile. So they're not necessarily logging into Hotmail on their desktop ‐ certainly more activation and engagement is happening on mobile devices.

3. How Your Email Looks on Smartphones Matters to Consumers

This might sound like an obvious one, but you'd be surprised how most brands still send pre-packaged emails. As a result, consumers end up pulling up emails on their iPhones but end up having to pinch and scroll to read and interact with it. That tends to have a negative impact on engagement rates.

emails-not-optimized

Jenkins showed examples of three established brands with email programs and messages that weren't optimized for Mobile. The big red dots are where the thumb would be ‐ notice the calls-to-action are far too small, which forces customers to pinch and scroll before selecting the links in the email. Most of those customers simply don't do it, i.e., they delete those emails.

How do we know? Jenkins showed the results of a survey from BlueHornet where a staggering 80% of people delete emails that don't look good on their device! And that's a relatively significant increase from a year ago when about 70% said they deleted them. Notice the customers are not saying, "I don't think it's a good offer" or "I think you're sending too many emails so that's why I deleted them." They deleted them simply because the email didn't look good. So it's important that email gets more attention than it does today.

Jenkins went on to say that if the email looks bad, it can actually alter the perception of the brand. In another survey, almost 25% of people said that receiving an email that looks bad changed their perception to strongly negative of the brand. Jenkins gave the example of going into a Home Depot, not being able to find what you want, running into a rude sales person, and thinking, "I'm never going to Home Depot again, I'm going to Lowe's."

Fifty percent of people in the same survey said receiving an email that looks bad changed their perception to slightly negative. So basically, if your email doesn't look good, 75% of your audience will have a negative impression of your brand. That's something you should all want to avoid and certainly be aware of it if not fix it asap.

Another interesting stat Jenkins mentioned ‐ 1/3 of consumers said they have stopped doing business with a company altogether as a result of poor email practices. So if you think email is just one of those things that you just press a button and money flows in, you're wrong ‐ there's a huge lurking, dark cloud that can rain on your brand if you don't do email well.

Jenkins then showed two examples of brands he thought were doing mobile email pretty well (below). Both built their emails in a way that were thumb-friendly, allowing consumers to engage with them quickly

travel-emails-done-well

4. You Can't Know What the Right Approach is Without Understanding How and Where Your Subscribers Read Your Emails

How many folks on your email list are reading emails on their smart phones? If you don't know you should go back and to your team and find out. Most of Jenkins' clients have 50% of their emails opened on mobile devices, so that's huge.

5. What You're Trying to Accomplish in Your Mobile Email Impacts Your Approach

What are you trying to do with your email program? Are you trying to convert somebody, or is it purely for brand awareness, or are you trying to get somebody to engage with you in Social? All of these things are going to impact how you build your mobile emails and your overall mobile programs.

Another super interesting stat from Adobe ‐ 70% of people said mobile purchasing decisions are mostly influenced by email. Jenkins went on to say that the only thing that's more important than influencing consumers via email when it comes to purchasing on mobile devices is your friends.

6. Device Matters and Behavior Varies

In general, there's a lot of focus on the iPhone, no doubt about it. Jenkins mentioned a proprietary mobilized email technology at BrightWave that allows their clients or any ESP to create the right email for the right device. So a consumer could literally have an iPhone there and also have their laptop open, and they'll get different versions of the email.

Jenkins went on to say that this is not responsive design, but actually one step past that. What BrightWave does is build multiple versions of the email so the right version is delivered to the right device.

Here are the key features of the right email to the right device:

  1. Optimize by detecting the mobile device (not just screen width).
  2. Deliver multiple versions at the same time.
  3. Make sure there's simple implementation on any ESP platform.

Takeaways

Jenkins offered some final takeaways and tips for mobile email:

  1. Identify and target your mobile audience.
  2. Get serious about subject lines & preview text/pre-headers. On most mobile devices you now see this as essentially your 2nd subject line so make it count.
  3. Get smarter about content
  4. Design for Mobile now ‐ as time goes on, more and more people will be reading your messages on Mobile.
  5. Use mobile landing pages to drive conversions. Even if your site isn't designed for Mobile yet, landing pages do very well as a bridge for any marketing campaign to drive conversions on your website.
  6. Segment your audiences. According to TailoredMail, women click 10 percent more often on mobile mail.
  7. "Live" emails have staying power. Forty-three percent of mobile email users check email four or more times per day.

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