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Digital Marketing Insights

Customer Data And The Power Of Now

Here's an article I wrote for MediaPost:

If a fly on the wall of most marketing departments took notes, it would know there is a massive amount of data out there. It would also know that, of all the data that’s available, not much of it is being put into action. During the past few years I’ve heard many of the biggest brands express the same lament: We have a lot of data we’re not even using, so do we really need more?Time For Action

The answer is yes, with the caveat that you need it to be the right kind of data. And the right kind of data means fresh and immediately actionable. You need it NOW and you need to use it VERY SOON. The data of NOW is what is needed to support better customer experiences, drive engagement and generate conversions from your email and cross-channel marketing campaigns.

To date, customer data has typically been managed in a very linear way. Data is generated via email opt-ins, account set-ups and preference or profile pages. It’s neatly housed and stored away for future use. But, just like many a “life altering” nifty gadget purchased via late-night infomercials, often the data never gets used.

So how can marketers tap into the NOW factor when it comes to customer data? Here are four key steps:

  1. Understand your customer lifecycle
  2. Define key consumer engagement and action points
  3. Capitalize on data gathering mapped to these key points
  4. Put the data into action, NOW!

When you take a closer look at the customer lifecycle and key action points, opportunities to trade value for data will begin to emerge. The following scenarios provide a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  • New subscribers opting into email -- Prompt consumers with a few key questions post sign-up to gather preference information. Then put this data into action by providing an email welcome campaign that caters to their stated product or service interests.
  • Setting up an account -- Why not provide a streamlined, fast track to account set-up, including a social login option to harness valuable social data attributes? And, from there, prompt subscribers with optional, incremental preference questions? This data can fuel site and email personalization.
  • Opening and clicking on an email -- Gather data via email in the form of polls, surveys and content click-throughs. For example, a home furnishings retailer might ask customers if their area of focus is the living room, kitchen, bedroom, bath or office. With this data immediately in hand, the retailer can tailor subsequent messages with information and offers specific to the customer’s immediate decorating plans.
  • Adding to a Wish List -- Ask Wish List users what their motivation is: are they planning for a move, going to college or retiring? Questions like these gain insight into customer areas of interest. Use this data to drive personalization and messaging relevance across channels.
  • Making a purchase -- When a customer has just made a purchase, prompt them post-purchase to use social login, thus harnessing social data to derive brand affinity and other actionable data attributes.
  • Returning a product -- Even when something has been returned, reach out to gather more details on the customer’s preference. Ask which sites they prefer to shop on, what brands they prefer and what their key motivators for buying are, such as convenience, price, quality, etc.
  • Opting into SMS alerts -- With consumers engaged on mobile, send a quick, one-click survey link to ask them questions that will help cater to their needs in the here and now. For example, a restaurant could ask what foods customers are craving this week and then send corresponding SMS messages that feature that food category, or even let them vote on a menu item to come and try at the restaurant.

Consumers will share rich data when it translates into more meaningful and contextually relevant experiences. The key is actually delivering those enhanced consumer experiences. And that requires gathering fresh, immediately actionable data NOW, then turning right around and applying those insights VERY SOON.

How are you tapping into the data of NOW and putting it into action to drive better customer experiences?

Posted by: Catherine Magoffin at 12:00 AM
Categories: customer data, data, big data

Image Is Everything

More and more every day, I see evidence that image is everything. We all know that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” According to Wikipedia, this term was first used back in 1911, when webs were only for spiders. Fast-forward 103 years or so and the move from text-based to visual experiences is still going strong.

Just in the past five years, social and visual experiences like Pinterest and Instagram have amassed significant user volume. And mobile devices are certainly driving the trend towards images that are much easier to see and click than teensy, tiny text on a mobile device.

Last week, I learned that images are making their way into the email inbox in a bigger way, at least for Gmail users. Think about your unopened inbox. It’s basically a bunch of one-liners trying to entice you to open a message, with a preview pane that may deliver a sliver of some visual content. Google is now piloting a different experience where the promo tab is a photo grid of images for unopened emails.

As a marketer, I think this makes sense. Most promotional email includes a lot of visuals, and consumers are interacting with these emails more and more on mobile. Give the consumer a better experience whenever, wherever and on whatever device they may be using. This seems like a step in the right direction. Thank you, Google.

What the new Google promo tab will look like:

Google Tabs

We also learned this week that Pinterest is planning to offer promoted pins soon. These visual-driven ads have already been tested by Wayfair and Four Seasons Hotels. According to the Wall Street Journal, Four Seasons promoted a $70,000 hotel package with a private jet trip to Bora Bora. The sponsored pin was repinned over 9,000 times and over 500 brochure requests were received. Bora Bora here we come!

At this point, a picture may be worth far more than a thousand words. With the visual web and email getting more visual by the day, how is your organization using images to drive action?

Posted by: Catherine Magoffin at 10:13 AM
Categories: social, images, google tabs, google promo tab

Are Your Marketing Analytics Holding You Back?

In today’s big data world, analytics tools are supposed to help marketers decipher the trail of digital interaction data that their customers leave behind at every touch point, transforming these digital footprints into customer insights that marketers can act on in real-time to improve campaign performance.  However, as the volume, velocity and variety of relevant customer data continues to increase, it’s becoming clear that traditional business intelligence (BI) systems aren’t meeting the analytic needs of modern marketers.

Big Data  

Do you find yourself looking to your IT department for help at every stage in the analytic process, from extracting customer data to integrating and analyzing it? If so, that’s a red flag.  Do you ever find yourself importing data from your BI and analytics software into a spreadsheet to analyze it? If so, that’s another red flag.  Chances are your current tools lack the intuitive user interface, flexibility and agility that is required to understand and respond to your customers needs in real-time.

Traditional data warehouses and analytic systems that many marketers are using today use a set of pre-defined customer attributes to paint the state of the customer at a particular point in time.  These systems are not structured to be updated frequently, let alone accommodate customer data changes in real-time.  These legacy analytic applications become outdated as soon as there is a change in the way the customer data needs to be analyzed, which now happens regularly. In our new digital reality, where customers’ states change continuously, marketers need an analytics platform that empowers them – without help from the IT department -- to analyze customer data based on any relevant attribute and ask new questions of their data to gain deeper insights.

These are just a few of the ways that traditional analytics tools are holding marketers back from the ability to better understand and respond to customers’ needs in real-time. If you want to find out more about the challenges that traditional BI systems pose, and the new analytics platforms that are enabling marketer to take on today’s constantly connected consumer in this big data era, download our Success Guide 10 Warning Signs You Need Better Marketing Analytics.  

Are you currently facing any challenges with your existing marketing analytics system? What is your company doing to leverage the deluge of digital interaction data that your customers are leaving behind? Let us know in the comments below.

Posted by: Syed Mahmood at 10:32 AM
Categories: marketing analytics, big data, data, analytics

Is There A Future for Digital Marketing Within Wearables?

Here's an article I wrote for MediaPost:

Keep your eyes peeled, kids, a new screen is coming to town.  While a bit down the road, 2015 may be the year that wearable technology marks a commanding presence, with products like Nike FuelBand, Google Glass and Samsung Galaxy Gear paving the way for more development within the wearables market.  And given the much-rumored Apple iWatch, it seems that all the big dogs are looking to capitalize on this technology.
 
How Do Wearables Work?
 
Quite simply, wearables are sensor devices that are worn on the body.  In many cases the wearable is incorporated into the very fabric of one’s life – a computer in constant communication with its owner, an extension of the wearer’s own body.  Many wearables operate using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, which is a way to wirelessly transfer data between computing devices. RFID tags are already used in several ways, such as animal microchips and toll road EZ passes, and “human” wearables are being used in specialized cases right now, such as in surgical rooms so that doctors don’t have to take their eyes off the operating table to view things like blood pressure and temperature readings.

Where there’s a screen, the digital marketer will come. Early use cases for consumer wearables include fitness tracking, mobile payments and service scheduling. Consider entering a shopping complex – with the wave of your hand, you can book an appointment at the spa, reserve a table at the restaurant, buy a pair of jeans at the store and purchase movie tickets and popcorn for later.
 
Marketing responsively. Oh, the possibilities! Wearables will offer marketers previously unattainable insight into the user’s past and current behavior. Retailers may know what stores the consumer previously shopped at, and which aisles the consumer is browsing in their own stores.  Armed with this data, marketers can predict what products the consumer is likely looking for – serving up product recommendations and offering a way to pay on the spot. Has someone been out shopping for the past three hours? Send them a coffee promotion to drive traffic into your coffee shop! The possibilities are endless.
 
Choosing the right vehicle. While wearables can be considered another screen to design for, it’s unlikely that people will effectively consume lots of information on such a small screen. But because wearables typically sync with apps, brands can push timely app, SMS or email content to the individual.  By avoiding the wearable, a brand can enact present-tense marketing without invading someone’s “personal space.”
 
Extending the experience socially. Marketers in certain industries can use their wearables to drive deeper engagement with their brand and extend the voice of their customer across channels.  Take the Basis sleep tracker, which on its website encourages users to share "war stories online to create a support system and foster a healthy sense of competition.”
These devices and their related apps could potentially store previously unknown details about a person – anything from medical conditions to driving patterns to daily routines. Will brands effectively leverage this data to target users with relevant offers, content and information? Is there an ethical debate? Or do the positives of enhancing the consumer experience outweigh the negatives?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 12:00 AM
Categories: digital marketing, wearables

The Five A’s of Social Integration with Email (and Beyond!)

I’m not going to waste your time. After all, you may be a marketer, but you’re also a consumer, so I know you’re busier than ever.  You’re out there communicating cross-channel, juggling that mobile device with a Starbucks in your other hand, catching bits and bytes of the barrage of business and consumer information like a true cape-wearing superhero on espresso.
Masked
So, let’s get right down to why you’re reading this.  Your email program is working well, for the most part.  All email and web systems are go (or at least in motion). But even with everything aiming for the sky, there’s always that competitor (or, villain, if you really want to embrace the superhero analogy) out there doing something that keeps you awake at night. There’s that voice in your head that asks, how do we save Gotham and put more life into our consumer lifecycle?

So, let’s adjust that cape and explore how social integration offers five key ways to strengthen your email and cross-channel strategies across owned, earned and even paid media.

Acquisition
The journey begins with the acquisition of a consumer opting in to an ongoing relationship. That can mean setting up an account, opting into email, signing up for SMS communications or even catalogs and direct mail. How can social help? A lot.

Start by integrating your call-to-action for acquisition across social channels. Have a Facebook page? Integrate a tab for email sign-up. But don’t stop there. Let consumers know about the value of your email program within social stream content. Expand the message across your social networks to reach different segments. Use Pinterest contests as an acquisition channel. Post to Twitter feeds about the exclusive email content you have available. Start with a strategic direction that supports your key goals and cross-promote to acquire interested parties.

When you have the consumer at your doorstep ready to opt-in, consider providing social login as one option – and be sure to reinforce the consumer value, i.e. that it’s an easy, fast-track method of registering for a program that will bring them defined benefits.

The value of adding social data to your marketing efforts can be mighty. Social login harnesses a validated email address used in a social channel, meaning better data and list hygiene, which translates into stronger deliverability on day one. Sites like TripAdvisor, ShopYourWay and AirBNB have made social login the standard, lifting consumer expectations for streamlined, integrated experiences.

Amplification
Social can also amplify and build on key messaging, as well as generate new content to leverage across channels. Today, consumers are empowered to contribute and share a treasure trove of user-generated content. TripAdvisor recently reported that one-third of their 150 million reviews were written in 2013.  The study also found that more than half of respondents worldwide want to look at reviews before booking hotels, with 80 percent of respondents reading 6 to 12 reviews prior to booking.

User-generated content, such as reviews and social commentary, and the sharing of this content, provides a halo of messaging amplification with minimal effort and cost.  Sharing is soaring. Marketers that enable consumers to share messaging across the journey are amplifying messaging with valuable and trusted earned media impressions.

A very straightforward tactic is making a share function available to post content (products, promotions review content) directly to social networks. Amazon and many others enable sharing post-purchase and at other key points. Discover Card’s long running influencer referral campaign, tapping StrongView’s Influencer Marketing solution, amplifies program messaging via referrals to generate qualified acquisitions. Sharing is a natural extension of good content – people want to pass it on.

Activation
At the end of the day, it’s all about activation – getting the consumer to convert and take action. This can mean clicking to purchase the tights to go with a favorite cape, submitting review content, voting for a favorite look, opening or clicking on an email, participating in a Pinterest promotion and more.

Social integration across the lifecycle provides a boost to ongoing consumer engagement and activation. Think about TripAdvisor and the emails they send telling me my friend likes a certain resort. I most certainly open those emails, since they’re relevant to me and related to my personal network, ultimately peaking my interest in similar vacation experiences. And, when my superhero friends share the latest cape styles on Facebook and Pinterest, of course I want to take a closer look.

Advocacy
Key influencer segments are active in the social sphere sharing their input on products, services and experiences. These valued consumers are stepping up to be a voice for the brand, delivering incredible value, relevancy and credibility. Tapping social sentiment provides an opportunity to drive segmentation strategies focused on advocates, encouraging them to share their enthusiasm. For example, Yelp is in the business of reviews and the Yelp Elite program targets key contributors and influencers to cultivate ongoing relationships. Many brands focus on influencer segments that will help amplify positive messaging and contribute powerful user-generated content.


To encourage advocates, many marketers are identifying loyalists and advocates and offering them unique experiences and incentives to engage in key actions. Online reviews is one content area where advocates (and non-advocates) have a strong voice, and boosting the advocate voice is crucial. Blogs are another channel to encourage advocates to help promote your brand. Identifying and cultivating advocates fuels positive, highly relevant user-generated content.

Attribution
Last, but not least, superheroes need to quantify their results. How many buildings did you leap over? How are social efforts adding value? What is the impact across channels? The key is to stay nimble and continue to look at social impact as new initiatives are deployed and the space continues to evolve.

A starting point is assessing all the data points you can reign in across all channels. Next, determine measurable goals to drive towards and begin to measure against them. Put a stake in the ground and learn as you go, since social channels are ever-evolving.  Social may not be as predictable as email performance, but it can be used in tandem to enhance aggregate cross-channel results.

Flying with the Five As
So, cape or no cape, marketers today need to take a leap and determine strategies to integrate social tactics across the customer lifecycle. Social integration can make your consumers heroes.   So put a jet pack on your cross-channel marketing by following these five As of social integration:

  • Acquisition – Gain access to more customers and valuable data attributes
  • Amplification – Boost message reach via social amplification
  • Activation –- Drive conversion action!
  • Advocacy – Identify and cultivate strong advocates and influencers
  • Attribution – Give credit where credit is due by outlining goals and measuring channel contribution

Let us know if you are considering any new initiatives that fall into the five As of social integration – or if your marketing program has already taken flight, share your success stories and lessons learned!

Posted by: Catherine Magoffin at 9:53 AM
Categories: social, social integration, email

Custom Email Marketing Reports: A Huge Step Toward Better Results

Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:

The challenge for email marketers has always been to send the most effective message at the most effective time to the right group of people.

For most of the past two decades, the limiting factor in this optimization was technology. It was simply too difficult to create content, segment lists, send messages at key times, and report on the numerous variations that resulted. The tools have, of course, progressed over that time, but the marketer's vision exceeded the tool's capability - until about four years ago.

That's changing. Today's leading email service providers allow more personalization and reporting capabilities than an email marketing team could possibly exhaust.

For example, most leading email service providers (ESPs) have a method of sending triggered emails based on lifecycle events on an ongoing basis that can accommodate thousands if not tens of thousands of content variations.

Traditional email marketing teams and reporting methods cannot handle this level of complexity - and they shouldn't try to. Eighty percent of the benefit to be gained from such personalization can be achieved with 20 percent of the effort.

So, the challenge for today's email marketer is not how much can my software handle, but rather how much can my team handle and what efforts will result in the maximum return?

In other words, I believe email marketers know what types of changes will drive better performance, but they don't know which segments to focus on and apply those changes to.

The answer to that question comes (in part) from the skilled application of custom reporting. Knowing where to apply your efforts requires you to know where the opportunities lie.

I believe that email marketers have been able to get away with generic, high-level reporting for a long time for a few reasons:

  1. The set of things that can be directly measured from an email are limited: delivery, opens, clicks, complaints, unsubscribes, and forwards. These interactions are easily measured, so it's easy to focus on them.
  2. Email performs better in return on investment (ROI) terms when compared to other channels. This could be because an email is usually given full attribution of any conversion it generates, or it could be because emails actually perform better - it's tough to tell for sure. Because it performs better, however, email marketers haven't traditionally been challenged to create better reports.
  3. Email marketers don't have the skills to report at a more detailed level, historically due to the limitations mentioned above. As a result, the custom report simply wouldn't get made, or the email marketer would rely on a separate team (business intelligence, analytics) to manage the process.

The problem with traditional reports is that it is difficult - if not impossible - to identify opportunities with a report that has only email metrics, is based on single sends, or templates and is unsegmented.

Here is an extremely simple framework to build and use a custom report that will help identify opportunities in your current programs:

1. Identify the Question to Be Answered
What additional information would help you identify a specific segment that is being underserved or a trend that is hidden in the aggregate? Would it help to know how previous purchasers respond compared to those who have not purchased yet? How about whether the people that joined in December were more likely to convert from email than those who joined in January?

Traditional email marketing reports fail to be helpful, I believe, because they don't answer any specific question.

One thing to remember: Your experience with your company will help guide you to a question that helps, but you may not get something valuable the first time. That's fine. Keep trying until you do find something interesting.

2. Build a Report That Answers the Question or a Similar Question
Be quick. Leverage the new reporting capabilities available to you. Learn how to use them.

If you can't answer the question you're asking because you don't have the skill level, find someone who does, or increase your skill. As an email marketer, you'll need to be able to use these kinds of reports regularly.

If you can't answer the questions because of the technology, answer a similar question. For example, say you're question is "Do men convert more often than women leading up to Valentine's Day?" but you don't have access to conversion data. Instead, find out which segment has more clicks, and use that as a substitute, albeit a poor one (it's better than nothing). Also, follow up and find out what needs to happen to get conversion data.

3. Implement a Change, Test It, and Iterate
Don't just report. Once you've identified an opportunity, act on it. Create a test to show whether the change improves performance.

Don't let history, mindset, and lack of skills prevent your team from finding those hidden email marketing wins. Start building custom reports that answer better questions and drive results.

The challenge for email marketers has always been to send the most effective message at the most effective time to the right group of people.

For most of the past two decades, the limiting factor in this optimization was technology. It was simply too difficult to create content, segment lists, send messages at key times, and report on the numerous variations that resulted. The tools have, of course, progressed over that time, but the marketer's vision exceeded the tool's capability - until about four years ago.

That's changing. Today's leading email service providers allow more personalization and reporting capabilities than an email marketing team could possibly exhaust.

For example, most leading email service providers (ESPs) have a method of sending triggered emails based on lifecycle events on an ongoing basis that can accommodate thousands if not tens of thousands of content variations.

Traditional email marketing teams and reporting methods cannot handle this level of complexity - and they shouldn't try to. Eighty percent of the benefit to be gained from such personalization can be achieved with 20 percent of the effort.

So, the challenge for today's email marketer is not how much can my software handle, but rather how much can my team handle and what efforts will result in the maximum return?

In other words, I believe email marketers know what types of changes will drive better performance, but they don't know which segments to focus on and apply those changes to.

The answer to that question comes (in part) from the skilled application of custom reporting. Knowing where to apply your efforts requires you to know where the opportunities lie.

I believe that email marketers have been able to get away with generic, high-level reporting for a long time for a few reasons:
The set of things that can be directly measured from an email are limited: delivery, opens, clicks, complaints, unsubscribes, and forwards. These interactions are easily measured, so it's easy to focus on them.
Email performs better in return on investment (ROI) terms when compared to other channels. This could be because an email is usually given full attribution of any conversion it generates, or it could be because emails actually perform better - it's tough to tell for sure. Because it performs better, however, email marketers haven't traditionally been challenged to create better reports.
Email marketers don't have the skills to report at a more detailed level, historically due to the limitations mentioned above. As a result, the custom report simply wouldn't get made, or the email marketer would rely on a separate team (business intelligence, analytics) to manage the process.
The problem with traditional reports is that it is difficult - if not impossible - to identify opportunities with a report that has only email metrics, is based on single sends, or templates and is unsegmented.
 
Here is an extremely simple framework to build and use a custom report that will help identify opportunities in your current programs:
 
1. Identify the Question to Be Answered
What additional information would help you identify a specific segment that is being underserved or a trend that is hidden in the aggregate? Would it help to know how previous purchasers respond compared to those who have not purchased yet? How about whether the people that joined in December were more likely to convert from email than those who joined in January?
 
Traditional email marketing reports fail to be helpful, I believe, because they don't answer any specific question.
 
One thing to remember: Your experience with your company will help guide you to a question that helps, but you may not get something valuable the first time. That's fine. Keep trying until you do find something interesting.
 
2. Build a Report That Answers the Question or a Similar Question
Be quick. Leverage the new reporting capabilities available to you. Learn how to use them.
 
If you can't answer the question you're asking because you don't have the skill level, find someone who does, or increase your skill. As an email marketer, you'll need to be able to use these kinds of reports regularly.
 
If you can't answer the questions because of the technology, answer a similar question. For example, say you're question is "Do men convert more often than women leading up to Valentine's Day?" but you don't have access to conversion data. Instead, find out which segment has more clicks, and use that as a substitute, albeit a poor one (it's better than nothing). Also, follow up and find out what needs to happen to get conversion data.
 
3. Implement a Change, Test It, and Iterate
Don't just report. Once you've identified an opportunity, act on it. Create a test to show whether the change improves performance.
 
Don't let history, mindset, and lack of skills prevent your team from finding those hidden email marketing wins. Start building custom reports that answer better questions and drive results.

Posted by: Justin Williams at 12:00 AM
Categories: email, email marketing reports, results

How To Prospect The Gold Mine Of Transactional Messaging

Here's an article I wrote for MediaPost:

Email marketers are so focused on explicitly revenue-generating campaigns that we often forget about the little guys: program enrollment confirmations, lost PIN requests, invoices, account update notifications and the good ol’ password reset.  But transactional messages such as these are some of the most highly opened and read messages -- and as such, have huge potential to drive incremental revenue with the inclusion of promotional messaging.  As we position ourselves for a profitable 2014, it’s time to give our transactional emails a once-over.
 
Many organizations are actively incorporating promotional marketing into their transactional emails.  As with all tactics, this one comes with some pros and cons.
 
The Pros:

  • Potential to make a positive revenue impact.
  • Enhances a “standard” transactional message with more targeted, relevant 1:1 messaging.
  • Puts more content in front of the customer, reinforcing brand and value propositions.

 
The Cons:

  • May defy recipient expectations of a transactional vs. marketing message, which could have a negative impact on total email engagement.
  • May require additional review from your legal teams to ensure it complies with CAN-SPAM regulations.

 
With that said, the following are some tips on how to avoid the cons so you can sit back and bask in the pros of your promotion-infused transactional email messaging.
 
Ensure Your Message is Legally Compliant
 
When adding marketing messaging to a transactional email, you should review the email in conjunction with the CAN-SPAM requirements focusing on the contextual make-up of a transactional email communication. This can add time to your email development process, but it’s important.
 
The CAN-SPAM Act defines commercial messaging as “any electronic mail message, the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.”  But how does one categorize an email with both transactional and commercial content?
 
The primary purpose of the message is the deciding factor. It’s considered commercial, and the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act apply, if:

  • A recipient reasonably interpreting the subject line would likely conclude that the message advertises or promotes a commercial product or service; and
  • A recipient reasonably interpreting the body of the message would likely conclude that the primary purpose of the message is to advertise or promote a product or service(CAN-SPAM Act of 2003).

 
Factors relevant to that interpretation include the location of the commercial content (the message’s transactional or relationship content must appear mainly at the beginning of the message), how much of the message is dedicated to commercial content, and how color, graphics, type size and style are used to highlight the commercial content.
 
Bottom line: keep the written and visual focus on your transactional message, and conduct a careful review before hitting send to ensure that your promotion-infused transactional emails remain within the bounds of CAN-SPAM.
 
Zero in on Recipient’s Contextual State
 
To make sure your message is well-received, you need to, at a minimum, meet recipient expectations that this is a transactional email in response to a request she made. Stick to the purpose and keep it clear.  The majority of real estate and content should relate to the transaction at hand.  However, marketing messages can round out the consumer experience.
 
With that said, the moment a consumer transacts, you have a unique opportunity to draw some conclusions about customer intentions. Is she requesting her password? There must be a reason to do so -- find out what it is and enhance your “lost password” email accordingly.  Did someone just update her shipping address?  Send a transactional message to confirm the update, and include value-add content specific to her “new” location.
 
The goal is to capitalize on this golden messaging opportunity by using what we can surmise about the customer’s current intent.  Make it as personalized as possible. Consider moving away from generic advertisements (e.g., free shipping on your next order) and veer towards content directly tied to that customer’s recent transaction (e.g., check out these Floridian flip-flops to complement your new shorts).
 
Integrate Experience Across Devices
 
Over the past few years, your website, social media forums, even your conversion-focused emails have likely gone through some sort of creative refresh.  But how long has it been since your transactional emails were rejuvenated? Ensure that you’re building trust across the transactional experience through creative and content uniformity, regardless of which channel the consumer happens to be engaging with at any given moment.
 
Transactional emails contain a gold mine of opportunities to include marketing messaging that will increase engagement, drive revenue and enhance brand perception.

Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 12:00 AM
Categories: transactional, transactional messaging, can-spam

Gmail Pulls Back the Curtain on New Unsubscribe Function

Gmail UnsubscribeWhile I was attending a M3AAWG event in San Francisco last week, Google announced that it has made it much easier for its Gmail customers to unsubscribe from marketing emails. While Gmail had offered an unsubscribe button in the past, it was buried within the user interface (UI).  Now, Google is rolling out brand new functionality to all of its users that is activated by one click on an “Unsubscribe” link beside the sender’s name in the mailbox UI.

Now, email marketers can use the “List-Unsubscribe” header to enable recipients to unsubscribe via this new function.  Google rolling out this functionality is particularly important because Gmail is one of the only major mailbox providers that does not offer a traditional Feedback Loop (FBL). Gmail also announced that it is testing a new FBL for ESPs, which seems to be aggregate data as opposed to individual complaints received by customers in traditional FBLs. Regardless of whether it adopts a FBL, Gmail’s new unsubscribe link finally gives recipients an opportunity to indicate they no longer want to receive a message from a brand without having to report it as spam.  

One important thing to note – even though a sender may include the List-Unsubscribe header in their emails, there is no guarantee that the “unsubscribe” link will appear. As has been the case in the past, the sender’s reputation will determine whether or not the link will appear. Taking the time to occasionally review Gmail’s Bulk Sender Guidelines can help improve your sender reputation.

While some marketers may see this negatively due to the fact that Gmail is making it easier to unsubscribe, it should also be seen positively as fewer recipients should report unwanted messages as spam, which affects future deliverability.

As always, the best way to ensure that your recipients do not unsubscribe or report your messages as spam is to continually monitor your engagement and react accordingly. Sending relevant messages to customers who want to continue to receive them will lead to a happier, more engaged audience.

StrongView clients can learn more about configuring the List-Unsubscribe header in via this article in Spark, StrongView’s online user community.  

Posted by: Sean Wirt at 5:35 PM
Categories:

Why Your Cross-Channel Marketing Needs to Live in the Present…Tense

Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:

Consumers live in the now. They have constantly changing needs and they expect instant gratification regardless of the engagement channel. If you're not aware of your customers' present-tense context, here's what you're missing:

1. Reaching your customer at the moment they are most inclined to take action, on the channel they are using at that moment.

Imagine a consumer who has previously purchased from you - you know the what, where, and how of their purchase. You also know how they prefer to engage with your brand, whether it's online, in-store, via mobile app, or even through your social sites. This answers the "where" should I engage them part of the contextual equation. Now, you have to understand the "what," or the purpose of their engagement, which can always be identified (or at a minimum, inferred) by their behavior. Were they browsing certain products or information, comparing features, functionality, or pricing, or reviewing terms of service or support information? Each of these behaviors answers or indicates the "what" or their goal. The key here is the where and what are dynamic, sometimes changing moment by moment. You need to respond to your customer's present tense context in the here and now, in real-time before it changes.

2. Providing them with additional information that syncs with who they are and what motivates them.

Who are you messaging? Are they a returning customer or potential new one? What do you know?
What does their profile tell you? Just because the police aren't allowed to do it doesn't mean we can't and shouldn't. Customers expect us to know what they want and need.

A current profile tells who you are engaging with and what they want. Figure out who they are, what makes them tick, what their pain points are, what problems they need solved, what they've tried but hasn't worked, what they value, how they spend, how and where they purchase, what will motivate the desired action.

If you understand "who" they are and "what" will motivate them to take action, this insight will drive the right messaging and create an action-based experience. If you truly listen to your customers, they'll listen back and thank you by taking the desired action.

3. Understanding your customers' buying stage and providing information to help them take the next step.

Decision and buying cycles are being compressed. The attention span of a customer has decreased dramatically, and any brand loyalty is being challenged by competitors offering the right information to provide ease of use and convenience. A successful company needs to reinforce the value it provides to its customers on a continuous basis and during all stages of any buying cycle - from research to comparison to trial and finally purchase.

In addition, the time between when a customer has a new desire and when they expect companies to meet that desire is also shrinking. If you don't react quickly enough, the customer will find someone who will. Have you ever been in the situation where there were so many options or you didn't have enough information to make a good decision? Sure, we all have, but what was the one thing that made you take action, or go in one direction vs. another? Typically, it comes back to ease of use and availability of information and convenience to take that next step.

Most marketers understand the value of collecting customer data, but they also realize the challenges of leveraging this knowledge to create intelligent, proactive pathways back to the customer. Applying a present-tense marketing strategy addresses consumers' high expectations, including the immediacy of information and service. However, it requires a real-time view of the contextual data to understand the when, where and what to provide in response to the customer's need. Recognizing and tracking patterns within data helps businesses sift through layers of seemingly unrelated data for meaningful context, where they can anticipate, rather than simply react to, customer needs.

Your customers are living in the present tense. Your marketing must meet them there.

Posted by: Katrina Conn at 12:00 AM
Categories: cross_channel, marketing

Meeting The Challenge Of Today's One-Eyed, Flying Consumers

Here's an article I wrote for MediaPost:

Today, the true challenge for marketers is driving engagement and conversion across every imaginable variety of consumer, including the one-eyed, flying shopper. The common theme with consumers is that they’re incredibly distracted, moving fast and looking for a clear, very personal, present-tense value proposition to inspire action.

As one of these distracted, on-the-go consumers, I can share personal examples of one-eyed, flying conversions. These experiences with Amazon.com happened months before Jeff Bezos announced Prime Air back in December, conjuring up visions of delivery drones aimed at my doorstep. Even before that act of sheer marketing genius, I was an Amazon one-eyed, flying shopper. Cue the science fiction music . . .

One-eyed shoe shopping

Like many humans, most days when I wake up the first thing I do is access my mobile phone or iPad to tune into the world’s happenings. This past winter, during one pre-caffeine session and before I had even inserted my contact lenses (and was thus legally blind in my left eye), I happened upon an email from Amazon.com with an array of shoes that enticed me.

Before I knew it, I was searching, selecting and buying boots on my mobile -- all with just my one good right eye and before I had even made it into the kitchen for some caffeine. I had become an early morning, one-eyed shopper.

Flying and buying

Another early a.m., I boarded a plane to spend a day in the sky, aiming east. Shopping from my mobile device via airplane WiFi, I searched the Web for backyard fire pits, headed to Amazon, and quickly found a great option at a great price, with star-filled reviews. I purchased right then and there in the air. I had arrived at a new shopping height, literally and figuratively. Two days later, the fire pit arrived and has since provided some quality marshmallow-melting time.

Consumer demand at new heights

Recent stats show 65% of emails are opened on a mobile device. And, while a small subset of consumers may actually be shopping without their contact lenses or from an airplane, the majority of mobile consumers are flying through their days at faster paces and with more distractions than ever.

As marketers, the opportunity and challenge at hand is offering consumers cross-channel experiences that are positive, fast and frictionless. Amazon sets the consumer bar higher every day by doing three things incredibly well and consistently:

Make it about me: Deliver personalized communications that lead me down the conversion path more quickly. Paying attention to clear consumer value and WIIFM (what’s in it for me?), tuned to my precise needs and wants, is the only way to drive action with most consumers. And it has to happen in the here and now -- mobile-centric interaction is driving the need for hyper-relevant messaging and impeccable timing. This speaks to data that fuels interactions meaningful to every “me” out there, in whatever their present tense may be.

Make it fast and easy: Once I’m heading down a path to action, make it fast and easy for me to access the information I need, complete my transaction and move on. This speaks to the need for optimized content and experiences across all channels. Data and automation enable an understanding of the state individual consumers are in, delivering value by getting them closer to what they want when they want it -- and of course they want it now.

Lead and exceed: Setting expectations high and delivering on them is key. With the rapid improvements on user experiences, consumers expect organizations to keep innovating to improve on consumer experiences they may not even imagine yet, such as delivery drones and mind-reading (in the form of predictive shipping that anticipates what I may purchase before I hit the “buy” button, as Amazon recently announced).

As Amazon pushes consumer expectations to new heights, is your organization tuning into the needs of your one-eyed, flying shoppers in the present tense? We’d love to hear more in the comments.

Posted by: Catherine Magoffin at 12:00 AM
Categories: consumers, engagement, email