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Top Marketing Trends in 2013

In December, we announced the results of our 2013 Marketing Trends survey, which provided some key insights into how marketers are allocating their budgets for the new year, as well as the challenges that they face, such as lack of resources and data integration.

In order to make the survey data even more digestible (and fun!), we've created the following infographic.  If this aligns or differs from your own experience, please let us know in the comments.  Enjoy.

StrongView Top Marketer Trends in 2013

 

Posted by: Jason Klein at 3:18 PM
Categories: marketing, trends 2013, infographic

Email Marketing Trends

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As we hit the halfway point in April, I thought it would be interesting to re-read some of “2011 Email Marketing Predictions” lists and then create a new list of what’s actually happening in the world of email marketing (with some examples from what we call “Breakthrough Emails,” or emails that show the rest of us how email marketing should be done):

1. Moving Away From “One Size Fits All” Emails. The explosion of digital technology has meant “cheap and easy distribution” for many email marketers. The result: the same email gets sent to new customers, old customers, and even disengaged customers. The best email marketing targets individuals or carefully selected customer or prospect segments. This makes simple marketing sense, but it does require some investment in time, resources and strategy. However, the end result is worth it – not only will you see your performance metrics jump, but it will also help you avoid the dreaded email filter. As one email marketing professional put it, today’s email user’s problem is not spam, but having too much to choose from in their inbox. His point: only the relevant emails will get noticed.

2. Integration with Social Media and Mobile Devices. Messages should complement each other across the communications spectrum. A piece of email marketing, in other words, shouldn't contradict the company’s latest Facebook post. Moreover, emails have to be readable, sharable, and “interactable” across viewing platforms. In addition to making your email engaging in typical email clients, you also need to consider the mobile experience. Imagine a subscriber opening up an email on her iPhone, then discovering that she has to scroll down or across to see relevant information, and then…you just lost her.

3. Video (and other Built-In Interaction). Increased processing power and bandwidth make downloading and watching videos easy, so people are beginning to expect to see them in their email. While many email clients still prevent video from playing straight from the email message, including a screenshot that links to a landing page can be an effective way to take advantage of the power of video while increasing clicks and creating a launch pad for exploring other content on your site. See this Fandango Breakthrough Email for an example of a multimedia email marketing strategy that works.

4. The Goal: Interaction and Conversation. Yes, email marketing is ultimately about selling products and services, but the way there is through engagement with the customer. In other words, email marketing should aim to build and maintain long-term relationships. This InterContinental Hotels Breakthrough Email never tries to sell anything, but it sure makes being a part of the InterContinental rewards program a lot of fun.

5. Ongoing Trends. Anti-spoofing and anti-phishing initiatives continue to evolve; no doubt because e-hooligans keep coming up with new ways to fool people. We also see more sophisticated attempts to secure consent before a piece of email marketing is sent, especially because some countries (like Canada) have passed legislation requiring such activity from email marketers. Email abuse, coupled with the meteoric rise of social media, have prompted some to cry the death of email; however, studies suggest otherwise. When you actually survey people, you find that email remains the primary way people interact with family, friends, and businesses over the Internet.

One other trend is, we think, rather obvious: email marketers keep experimenting, which pretty much guarantees that tomorrow’s email marketing trends may be quite different from today’s. Between our Breakthrough Reports and this blog, we’ll keep you up to date on this always-evolving industry.

Need more information about email marketing or social media marketing? Looking for email marketing solutions? Call us at 800-971-0380 or contact us.

Posted by: Kara Trivunovic at 8:17 AM
Categories: Email Marketing, Trends, Trends

Should Email Marketing Data Security Be Keeping You Awake?

You wake up at 4am - petrified - that tomorrow's email marketing campaign will contain typos, broken links or irrelevant messaging.

Should you be just as worried about your email marketing data security?

News broke this week that Epsilon, an email service provider that distributes more than 40 billion emails annually for 2,500 clients, was the victim of a massive email marketing data security breach. As such, the email marketers working with companies affected by this breach (including Best Buy, Target, TiVo, Capital One and JP Morgan Chase) began the week by sending delicately crafted messages to subscribers apologizing for this violation of trust.

But when the shock and anger fades, how will consumers feel about these brands?

In many cases, unless you work in a highly regulated industry like financial services or pharmaceuticals, data security usually isn’t a top priority in terms of email marketing program investment. However, marketers need to seriously weigh the value of a consumer’s trust in their brand when evaluating their email marketing data security policies…because as we all know, trust is a fragile, challenging and uniquely important thing to earn for an email marketer. In a world already plagued by spam, consumers are all too ready to opt-out of an email program if they feel like it in any way will compromise the sanctity of their inbox.

To help email marketers evaluate their options, StrongView has published a new whitepaper called "Email Marketing and Data Security." In it, we describe the factors that make your email list vulnerable - and four important guidelines that marketers can apply to protect your subscriber information.

Key topics addressed within this white paper include:

  • The importance of launching a risk management initiative
  • When to handle security audits internally and when to outsource
  • How security risks can be minimized with alternative deployment models such as an on-premise email solution

After what’s being dubbed as the “Epsilon Valdez” by Reuters, even the Wall Street Journal is questioning whether or not brands should be outsourcing their email marketing to a third party.

I am proud to say that many security-conscious Fortune 2000 brands have chosen to manage their email systems in-house using a commercially supported system provided by StrongView. What this means is that you can purchase an "ESP in a box," which provides you with the same features and functionality of an outsourced email service provider, complemented with a full range of award-winning agency strategic, creative and production services to ensure that your campaigns continue to perform at their highest possible levels. Our on-premise option eliminates the resource burden usually associated with managing an in-house email marketing system, while enabling the brand to keep their customer data secure behind their firewall.

Email marketing data security, and the protection of your subscriber information, should play just as key of a role in your email marketing success as the relevancy of your campaigns. In other words, if it's 4am and you do not have a security plan in place, you are probably right to wake up in a cold sweat.

If you are ready to talk to StrongView about email marketing data security, call us at 800-971-0380 or fill out our Contact Us Form.

Posted by: Kristin Hersant at 8:19 AM
Categories: Data Security, Email Marketing, Industry News, Trends

Email Marketing Design for Mobile Devices

When I attended OMMA Global in San Francisco a few weeks ago, I sat in on a great panel by Alex Williams of Trendline Interactive, Matthew Caldwell of Yesmail and Justine Jordan of Litmus on the topic of email marketing design for mobile devices. They presented some useful guidelines that I wanted to share with you here, along with a few tips from StrongView’s agency on this topic.

The Rapidly Shifting Mobile Landscape
Mobile usage is nearing its saturation point in the United States. According to CTIA and the Pew Foundation, 87% of US Consumers use a mobile phone, exceeding that of cable television, internet access and PC’s in the home. More importantly for email marketers, smart phone adoption is rapidly increasing, with 50% of the market as of 2011. Litmus reports that in 2008 only .25% of all email that they processed was opened on a smart phone. However by January of 2011, that number had jumped to as high as 15% for some of their clients. Litmus predicts that by the end of 2011, as much as 1/3 of your list could be reading your email on a smart phone.

As adoption continues to skyrocket, it is becoming increasingly important for email marketers to factor mobile rendering into their email marketing design. (Side note: If you would like to know exactly what percentage of your audience is reading your email on what type of mobile devices, I encourage you to check out Litmus’s service.)

How to Ensure Your Email Marketing Design Renders on Mobile Devices
Conventional wisdom says that the standard layout width for an email is 600 pixels wide. In order for your email creative to render properly on a smart phone, you will need to design your layouts at approximately 480 pixels wide, or 80% of your original layout size. In order to be readable on a regular cell phone screen, your email will need to scale down to 50% of its original size, which is a tall order. According to the panel, 85% of the email delivered today is not readable when it’s scaled down to 50% of its size.

This requires a significant shift in how you are designing your email layouts. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a large production budget and can afford to produce multiple versions of the same email marketing design layout, this usually means rethinking your existing templates. The email marketing design you ultimately use should be just as effective when it appears in the Inbox as it is when it renders on a mobile device.

Here are a few guidelines to consider:

1. Use a Grid System. First, you should make sure that you’re designing your emails using a grid system. This means that you need to layout your content in vertically and horizontally aligned blocks, with “streets and alleyways” in-between them. This will enable your design to shrink down without losing its integrity.

2. Use Bigger Text. Make sure that your text is readable on a mobile device. Think about larger headlines and body size copy and use short, direct calls to action. According to stylecampaign.com, buttons need to be 44 pixels tall in order to render properly on a mobile device.

3. Consider a Single Column Layout. According to some experts, multiple columns will break up the content and make it hard to view on a mobile device. If you have “must read” content in a right column, move it to the bottom or consider sending that content in its own email. If after evaluating your email marketing design options you choose to stick with a multi-column layout, ensure that critical content is featured on the left and that the columns are narrow enough to be readable when zoomed on a iOS device or Blackberry.

4. Use a Mobile Rendering Testing Tool. Always test rendering on mobile devices when creating master templates to ensure they accomplish your readability goals. Litmus, Unica’s Pivotal Veracity and Return Path all have good tools for this.

5. Use Grouping Sections. This is a tip from Apple’s developer menu that has recently gained popularity. This design style uses background colors to visually separate topics instead of horizontal rules, and generally presents content in sections with rounded edges.

6.
Consider a Less Wide Page Layout. Instead of designing at 600 pixels wide, try reducing your layout to 450, 500 or 525 pixels. The panelists reported that the sweet spot is 480 – 500 pixels wide based on their tests.

7. Use Variable Content. This is an email marketing design best practice in general, but it applies to mobile rendering as well. Make sure that your email isn’t one big image map. Instead, use an effective combination of images and HTML so that your point is conveyed with or without images enabled.

8. Use a Viewport Meta Tag. Using this piece of code will make email render properly on the iPhone, rather than shrinking the full email. It also makes the email render more quickly.

<meta name="“viewport”" content="“width=320”">

By following these guidelines, you can start to design emails that will be just as effective, regardless of the device that they’re ultimately viewed on.

Posted by: Kristin Hersant at 12:06 PM
Categories: Email Creative, Email Marketing, Tips, Trends,

Digital Marketing in a Facebook Messages World

By now, everyone in marketing is aware of Facebook Messages. The rumored "Project Titan" Facebook messaging system is now a reality, having been announced to the world during a press conference on November 15 and also via the Facebook blog. While it will be rolled out gradually (similar to Gmail), the pundits are already trying to figure out what it means for consumers, marketers and the world at large. Fortunately for those worried about how Facebook Messages will impact email marketing, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated, "This is not an email killer."

In essence, the blandly named service is an integrated message platform consisting of three components: Seamless Messaging, Conversation History and Social Inbox.

Seamless Messaging
The concept behind Seamless Messaging is that now when a Facebook user writes a message to a friend, it is sent to them via the channel that is most convenient for them – whether email, SMS, chat or a Facebook "Message."  Just as you do now, you select the recipient, type a message, add any attachments (links, pictures, videos, etc.) and hit send. The format also enables real-time conversations, as well as facilitates the next main component: Conversation History.

Conversation History
The concept of conversation threading is not new. Gmail launched that way, and Outlook 2010 lets you group messages in a similar fashion. Facebook just takes it to the next natural state of evolution – threading across channels. Facebook users will now be able to view all conversations with an individual irrespective of how the messages were sent. So, from one view you can see all the Facebook Messages, email, IM and SMS messages you've sent to a particular individual.

Social Inbox
Like the latest Yahoo! Mail Beta and Google Priority Inbox, Facebook's Social Inbox makes it possible to prioritize the messages you see by whether or not they come from someone in your network. In this way, a message sent from a Facebook friend (or one of their friends) will go to your Inbox, while all other messages go into an "Other" folder – which includes those not on Facebook, as well as all other unknown senders. Facebook hasn't detailed how it will identify spam messages, other than they will be "hidden from view automatically." Finally, Facebook will be rolling out @facebook.com email addresses to users, which will make the inclusion of email possible within the "Seamless Messaging" and "Conversation History" components.

What It Means for Digital Marketing

At this point, marketers have lots of questions. Repeatedly watching the video of the press conference for additional clues is probably not the best use of your time. The bottom line is that like Google Wave, a lot of the impact will be determined by how and to what extent it is adopted. Of course, with 550 million users around the globe, the service has a lot of potential to change user behavior and message consumption.

This doesn't mean that you should be sitting idle while everyone waits for it to be rolled out en masse. There are a number of things that you can do now that will benefit your digital marketing programs, regardless of how consumers ultimately respond to this new service.

Make Facebook Marketing a Priority – If you haven't already created a Facebook page for your business, there is now one more big reason to do so. In addition to creating a space for consumers to rally around your brand, actively getting your consumers to 'like' you on Facebook will help ensure that future messages make it to their inbox. If you already have a page set up but have an anemic following, develop a strategy for populating your feed with relevant content and then promote your page through other channels – email, website, in-store, advertising, etc.

Add Social Media to Your Cross-Channel Strategy - The advent of Facebook Messages is just another sign that marketing in the future will be defined by a brand’s ability to market across the growing number of proprietary communities. Given the likely complexities of each community, marketers will need to figure out how to understand and optimize their messages across and within these communities – or find the right partner who can do it for them.

Be Relevant, Now - At the end of the day both Facebook Messages and the Google Priority inbox seek to reward marketers who have developed meaningful relationships with recipients.  The days of mailing to large segments of unengaged subscribers are gone.  Marketers must look closely at how they create email marketing communications that are anticipated and expected.  By accomplishing this, you can expect these new “Social Inboxes” to benefit your programs by cutting down the signal-to-noise ratios between you and your best customers within the email channel.

No one knows yet how Facebook Messages will change digital marketing, but given Facebook's knowledge about users and expanding services like Facebook Places and Facebook Groups, it will be interesting to see how the messaging product, as well as targeting and advertising opportunities evolve. It would be naïve to think that Facebook doesn’t have a plan to monetize the inbox, especially given the success that Yahoo and MSN have had in leveraging display and text ads to drive a significant portion of their ad revenues.

It's also important to note that this is just the first phase, and Facebook will likely fine tune their efforts based on user feedback and competitive pressure. Unlike previous efforts from the likes of Google and Yahoo, Facebook is also basing Facebook Messages on universal protocols, which will facilitate changes, like making it possible to integrate non-Facebook emails into Social Inbox, which Zuckerberg has stated he would like to do.

While a lot is still uncertain, one thing is clear - sending relevant messages, giving consumers control over content and having a comprehensive social media marketing strategy are paramount to keeping pace and remaining effective.

For more information, download a complimentary copy of the StrongView whitepaper, Facebook Best Practices: Building Your Brand & Community

 

Posted by: Kristin Hersant at 8:14 AM
Categories: Facebook, Facebook Messages, email marketing, relevance, trends

Email Marketing is King with Optimization in 2009

Having just finished MediaPost’s Email Insider Summit in Park City, Utah, I can say that the email marketing industry is definitely being impacted by the recession. However, not in the way that traditional advertising and trade shows are… email marketing is rising. Apparently, senior management was listening when marketers touted email’s high ROI, because now everyone wants a piece of email – and they want more of it.

The marketers at this event were the heads of email for major brands, including Marriott International, Overstock.com and Turner Broadcasting/CNN. General consensus was that the demand for email marketing within their respective organizations is increasing, and they’re challenged with determining how to satisfy the sharp rise in demand from the various divisions and departments that they service, without burning out their list through increased volume.

As Aaron Smith of Smith-Harmon recently pointed out in MediaPost’s Email Insider Newsletter, email volumes have already skyrocketed, increasing competition for Inbox real-estate. In 2009, it will be more important than ever for email marketers to focus on optimizing their email marketing programs to achieve more with less. Keeping a close eye on contact frequency and email attrition rates will be paramount, as will clearly communicating the value of your email list in business terms order to manage internal expectations. Bob Frady of Live Nation gave an excellent presentation on this topic. By communicating the aggregate purchasing power of their opt-in list to senior management instead of what resulted from email click-throughs, he was able to raise email’s visibility and importance within his organization to a must have for every tour and a significant driver of revenue for his organization.

In addition to optimizing contact frequency and internal communication, marketers should look to Transactional Email inventory as a potential way to alleviate the demand for stand-alone promotions. Transactional Email is opened more than any other email communication, and that valuable real estate should be leveraged for targeted cross-sell and up-sell offers.

With a little creativity and a lot of elbow grease, we have the opportunity to prove email’s value in tough economic times and gain a seat at the marketing strategy table.

Posted by: Kristin Hersant at 3:39 PM
Categories: Email Insider Summit, MediaPost, contact frequency, email marketing, industry event, optimization, transactional email, trends

Email Marketing Resources: Enough of “Is Email Dead?”

This afternoon, I was busy preparing for my panel at this week's MediaPost Email Insider Summit. Travel was confirmed, conference calls were rescheduled, and I took a look at the event agenda to plan my attendance at a variety of rock solid sessions with the goal of gathering as many email marketing resources as I could. I did not get very far. I stopped at the first morning’s keynote: "Next Generation: Does Email Have a Future?"

Come on. Am I the only one who thinks this is a bit over dramatic? I know that at the end of the day this session is going to be an excellent opportunity for all of us to get a view into the new media channels that are redefining integrated marketing programs online, but do we need to go as far as to suggest that email is dying?

In recent weeks, I have been fortunate enough to see some exciting new programs that leverage social networks and experiential email marketing to drive compelling brand experiences. Of particular interest was Tim Collins’ presentation at the Canadian Marketing Association event in Toronto entitled "Navigating Toward Marketing Mastery; Guideposts for a New Marketing Era." Mr. Collins is Senior Vice President, Experiential Marketing and Social Media at Wells Fargo. Tim walked the audience through a variety of unique and exciting programs at Wells Fargo, from the online community StageCoach Island to blogs like The Student LoanDown. Instead of killing email, these innovative programs are actually creating additional mail streams that need to be designed, deployed and managed.

Sure, the role of email will change as it becomes less isolated and more integrated with the rest of the direct marketing mix and more email marketing resources appear on the scene, but I am confident that email has a real future. So please, enough with the death of email. The channel is alive and well.

Posted by: Ryan Deutsch at 3:01 PM
Categories: Email Insider Summit, Social Media, Web 2.0, email marketing, trends