Digital Marketing Insights
November 14, 2013 | Amanda Hinkle
Here's an article I wrote for MediaPost:
Lately I’ve been noticing more and more examples of poor cross-channel marketing and just downright bad customer service when it comes to digital transactional messaging.
For example, this week I signed up for a membership to an online personal training/ fitness organization, where I get paired with a personal trainer who develops an exercise and meal plan for me and provides encouragement. Getting started on a fitness regimen before the holidays sounded like a good plan to me!
To begin, I completed a questionnaire asking about dietary and workout preferences. A triggered email stated that my trainer would review the information and deliver my personalized plan within 48 hours. Exciting! In the meantime, I downloaded the company’s application to my smartphone. When I tried to log in, I was met with an error message: password invalid. Thwarted! Okay, I ditched the app and went to log into the website. Same error. What was going on? I tried resetting my password, but kept getting the message “Error: Reset code invalid.” I couldn’t find a phone number on the website, so I was relegated to emailing the company for help.
What I got back was an auto-responder saying that they were looking into my issue. In the meantime, I also received an email that my meal plan and workout program had arrived. Ooh, the temptation! It was like dangling a carrot. The plan had arrived but I couldn’t access it. I was more anxious than before!
One day later, I got an email saying that I needed to follow up my request for help at a specific link -- which led to a page where I needed to log in with my username and password. I emailed back to tell them that I couldn’t log in, and they finally replied with a password reset link. Eureka!
The techie in me wanted to know why the reset link originating from their support desk worked while I couldn’t reset the password myself, but I let it go -- and instead focused on the personalized plan in front of me. I also wanted to learn more about the personal trainer with whom I’d been paired, so I clicked on the link to her bio. "Oops something went wrong. We're looking into the issue and will have a fix soon." Sigh.
After clicking the only button on the error page, "Return Home," I was transferred to the website home page and noticed I had been automatically logged out. I tried to log in again, and you guessed it: my password was invalid. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Marketers have to satisfy the consumer’s demand for precisely targeted and relevant messaging. Taking in factors such as the consumer’s context and motivators are becoming more important to doing this effectively. So where should you start?
Know the Present Tense Context of Your Customer
Your customer is poised to interact with your brand in a variety of ways, via a variety of channels. As in the example above, the customer’s next interaction can change moment to moment based on a number of factors. This is the present-tense context of the customer.
Being aware of this context enables you to respond precisely. It requires listening (taking in interaction and context data) and understanding (modeling the customer state). You must augment prior static models of the customer lifecycle with dynamic processes that continually reassess the customer state.
Act in the Now
A marketer’s understanding of customer context should not be static, but continually evolving. In my case, the brand should not ask me to log in to view my meal and workout plan when my password isn’t working.
In addition to customer data, marketing and technology systems -- as well as external contextual data -- will be necessary to execute programs that can truly meet a customer where she is.
Create Messages that Address a Customer’s Movement and Growth
Acknowledge and address the customer’s current state – but don’t stop there. Plan to send messages in accordance with the natural progression a recipient takes through the customer journey. What should and/or will she do next? This will create a true 1:1 relationship and is the key to a “fully baked” marketing program.
Food for Thought
At the time of writing, I still cannot click to find out more about my trainer, for fear it will invalidate my password. And I am unable to log into the smartphone application, which would make calorie-counting during the day much easier to manage.
This is an excellent example of why marketers should strive to meet a customer exactly where she is in the present moment. Take this as “food for thought” that can seriously impact your bottom line.
Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 12:45 AM
November 11, 2013 | Justin Williams
As we enter the busy holiday season, email marketers will ramp up send volume, experiment with different offers and push the limits of their databases in an effort to earn a bigger share of the lucrative holiday consumer spend.
Marketers are justified in increasing send volume and varying content in order to drive more purchases during the holiday season. Most shopping occurs during this period of time, so it makes sense that your customers are more likely to buy more often. But this extra effort must be tempered by the threat of spam complaints, unsubscribes and ISP bulking.
Here are six ways to make sure your increased holiday effort doesn’t go too far and have negative consequences.
Respect Volume Limits
ISPs will block and bulk brands that send too many emails, especially if they start sending much more than the ISP is accustomed to seeing from that brand. It's OK to increase your volume, but try not to increase it more than 30% over your normal volume. (For example, if you normally send 4 times a week, don’t increase to more than 5-6 times per week for the same number of recipients).
Practice Good Email List Hygiene
Make sure your feedback loops on unsubscribes and complaints are solid. Make sure it’s easy for someone to unsubscribe from your list. Monitor the messages that cause the most unsubscribes, and adjust your content to make sure you are maintaining relevance for your subscribers. Quickly respond to any issues from any ISP.
Also, investigate suppressing contacts from your mailings if they have not engaged in a certain period of time with your emails. If possible, investigate limiting volume for those users (e.g. once a week instead of 4 times a week, or high-priority emails only, such as Black Friday, instead of all your emails).
Be Careful with Subject Lines
Avoid automatic blocking and user complaints by creating compelling subject lines. Don't fall back on tactics like using all caps, inappropriate punctuation (e.g. ten exclamation points) or trigger words or phrases (e.g. Click here now! Free, free FREE!!!).
Remember that if your subject line doesn’t get an open, your emails become more likely to be bulked. Also remember that a subject line that doesn’t match the content inside the email is more likely to cause complaints.
Mind Your Creative
Make sure you have a good balance of images to text. An email that is all image and no text will raise the wrong kind of attention from ISPs. Also, make sure your code is clean of unnecessary attributes and HTML tags. If you normally create your emails in Word, that's bad. Word adds a lot of unnecessary junk to the code, and spam filters look for that.
Leverage and Respect Your Reputation
You'll find that the best defense against the spam filter in the holiday season is the reputation you've built up over the year. A sender with low complaints can send many times a day with no problem if they've been doing so all year round. Also, be sure you are using one of the many sender authentication methods available (e.g. SPF, DKIM, DMARC, etc.).
Measure Your Deliverability
Last but not least, invest in a tool that allows you to measure inbox deliverability and bulking. Pivotal Veracity and Return Path are two options. These will allow you to proactively identify and react to any issues that arise before they become much larger issues.
Staying out of the spam folder is essential to a successful holiday campaign. If your emails aren’t seen, it doesn’t matter how good your subject line, offer and creative are, since your recipients won’t have the opportunity to respond. The tips above apply to any time of year, but it’s especially important during the holiday season when volume rises and success or failure is amplified.
Posted by: Justin Williams at 2:25 PM
November 07, 2013 | Justin Williams
Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:
Like it or not, the 2013 holiday season is here. Whether this is good news or bad news for your holiday email campaigns depends on your ability to deal with two trends in email marketing: increased volume and inbox foldering.
Not only has annual email volume increased year over year, but each holiday season, there is an additional increase of about 20 percent in the number of marketing emails sent. This means more and more messages are competing for recipient attention in the inbox, especially in November and December.
With the rollout of Gmail Inbox Tabs--the largest implementation of automatic inbox foldering to date--you may be competing for limited attention in a purely promotional inbox. Even if Gmail users represent a small percentage of your list, the inbox foldering trend is only going to grow, so if you're not feeling a need to adjust your strategy now, you will soon.
I laid out a framework for getting email opens in two previous articles: first, get attention; then, drive action. To get attention, you'll need to stand out among the other messages competing for your recipients' eyes and mind.
Getting Attention in a Crowded Email Inbox Tab
Attention is concentration on one item while excluding other items. In cognitive science (the study of the brain and thought processes), the brain grants concentration in one of two ways. Understanding these two different mechanisms by which the brain gives focus to things will help inform how your subject lines can stand out, especially in highly competitive environments.
- While using the first mechanism, the brain is searching for a specific thing, and those items that are noticed match in some way the mental concept that is being searched for. This mechanism is known as goal-directed or top-down.
- In the second mechanism, called exploratory, the brain is running on automatic, searching for sets of stimuli to trigger a goal-oriented search or other information that could be important about the environment (ie.: the sudden appearance of a spider).
When looking at an inbox, most brains will be in goal-oriented mode, looking for important items that require their attention. In goal-oriented mode, the more similar other stimuli (subject lines and from names) are to the target object (your subject line), the less likely your target object is to stand out and get attention. You want to make your subject line stand out visually from the other subject lines as much as possible. This will increase the chances that it will be the subject line that captures your recipients' attention.
Tips for Stand-Out Subject Lines
How can you make your subject lines stand out? Here are a few suggestions:
- Many brands highlight offers in their subject lines. Be different and tease something else in your email to get the open, and then highlight the offer inside the email.
- Subject lines average about 50 characters. Try going shorter. True, some studies indicate longer subject lines receive higher open rates, but several other studies show no correlation. The point here is not to be long or short, but different than everyone else so that your subject line stands out.
- Icons in subject lines may help. Just don't forget that once you get the email open, you need a click through to make the open valuable, so don't be ridiculous. (Also, don't do this every time. Read on to the end to find out why.)
As inbox foldering becomes more common, strategies to increase the salience of your subject line compared to others become even more important, since the context in which your subject is viewed (i.e. a tab specifically for marketing emails) means that the neighboring subject lines are more similar than they would be in a general inbox.
Standing Out to Recipients in Exploratory Mode
Now, the exploratory mechanism is a little less related to our case, but still somewhat relevant. The exploratory mechanism--literally localized in a different part of the brain than the goal-oriented mechanism--has the job of discarding a lot of stimuli and only granting attention to the stimuli it deems most important to survival and success.
In order to do it's job effectively, this part of the brain must efficiently filter out things it recognizes as being inconsequential (i.e.: the familiar).
Remember the first time you went into a new building or moved into a new place, and every little thing caught your attention? That old nail on the wall, the color of the paint, the way the door opened. At first, your brain doesn't know what's important and what's not in this new environment, so it pays attention to all of it. Once you've gained some familiarity, you don't pay attention to all those little things, unless someone calls your attention to it and you go into the goal-oriented mode.
In a similar way, recipients become habituated to your emails over time. If your from name is consistent (good) and your subject line always has the same structure (not as good), your recipient is less likely to even grant attention to your email much less engage with it. That's why using icons in your email subject lines might result in great open rates initially, but if you use icons consistently, recipients will become familiarized to this style of subject line, causing inbox attention (and thus open rates) to decline.
To stand out to recipients browsing in the exploratory mode, you need to continuously switch it up:
- If you've always sent short subject lines, next time send long ones, or vice versa.
- If your subject lines always include a "10% off" or some other offer, try excluding that next time.
- If your subject lines always start with the same phrase, exclude that phrase.
The above suggestions are but a few ways in which you can go about garnering recipient attention in the competitive holiday inbox.
Remember: in order to stand out, your email subject lines need to be both visually different from your competitors and from your own previous subject lines. So this holiday season, take a chance on something different-you may find it's more effective than you expected.
Posted by: Justin Williams at 9:04 AM
October 09, 2013 | Justin Williams
Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:
Savvy email marketers now have the ability to rapidly send precisely targeted, relevant campaigns, driven by a wealth of customer data collected from different sources.
Organizations are investing in making even more customer data available to marketers, based on the premise that more data will improve marketing results.
Faced with so many possible improvements, how do we identify the best opportunities to pursue - those we can accomplish quickly and count on to actually improve our marketing performance? We want to uncover the most impactful avenues to pursue first.
Start by making a list of potential projects and evaluate each opportunity against the following criteria:
• Which are most likely to improve KPIs?
• Which are most feasible given our timeline and budget?
• Which is easiest to accomplish and will produce measureable results?
Let us imagine a fictional company: Cappos.com, a casual clothing retailer for men, women and children. The marketers at Cappos.com now have access to on-site analytics data by user, cart status, shopping history and certain demographic information. Currently, they are only using cart status to drive a rudimentary abandoned cart program, which simply sends customers a reminder that they have abandoned their cart. It does not identify which products have been abandoned.
Let's examine Cappos.com's options using the three criteria above, to identify which program changes they should make first, given their new abilities.
1. Which Are Most Likely to Improve KPIs?
It may seem odd to ask this question before understanding what is feasible, but you can often get much better results by having an end goal in mind before gauging feasibility. You may be able to find or reallocate resources once there is a compelling vision to work toward.
Cappos.com now has easy access to the following new data:
• On-site usage data by user
• Cart status and shopping history
• Some demographic data
Here are just a few of the potential improvements they can pursue:
Cappos.com could use the new cart status and shopping history data to improve their abandoned cart program with more relevant content, including the actual products abandoned and relevant promotions based on past purchase history.
They could combine on-site usage and shopping history data to identify and leverage a customer's affinity for certain products and categories on their site, then use that insight to personalize future promotional and service messages.
They could take demographic data and make assumptions about which products to highlight, based on informed assumptions about the preferences of particular demographic groups.
After Cappos.com compiles this list of possibilities, they evaluate which option will provide the greatest improvement to their KPIs. Of the three options above, the marketers decide that Option 3 is a gamble, while Options 1 and 2 show strong potential as campaign improvements.
2. Which is Most Feasible Given Our Timeline and Budget?
Next, Cappos.com does a deep-dive assessment of Options 1 and 2, to determine the requirements to make each option a reality.
Option 1 Requirements
In order to create an enhanced abandoned cart campaign, the marketing team would need to create new templates that dynamically populate messages listing the products in the user's cart, as well as the price the user originally saw. They would also need to build some sort of rule about that user's adoption rate of certain promotions, to decide whether to offer free shipping or a percentage discount.
Finally, the marketers would need to have a near real-time feed of user data, so they could avoid sending the abandoned cart program to users who had since purchased.
Option 2 Requirements
In order to personalize promotions based on on-site behavior, the marketing team would have to build several rules to associate behavior metrics with affinity (ie.: time spent in different categories, products in a single category purchased as percentage of total purchases, etc.). These rules could be basic or more complex, but something would need to translate what the customer did into a specific message that the customer would receive. Cappos.com would also need to remake some of their templates, adding the ability to insert dynamic content based on customer record. They would need to plan for multiple versions moving forward, making sure they curate the content for all possible variations.
In this step, the marketers at Cappos.com are beginning to create a project plan around implementing new data insight into their programs, while simultaneously evaluating whether or not the required investment will be worth the potential gains. After considering the requirements for the two options above, Cappos.com decides that both campaigns will require some investment, but both are feasible given their current access to data and ability to create and manage new content.
3. Which is Easiest to Accomplish and Will Produce Measureable Results?
Cappos.com must now identify which option - Option 1 or Option 2 - is easiest to accomplish and measure improvements. Note that this is effective only after they have thought through the aspects of possibility, benefits and which capabilities and resources are required. Beginning your option evaluation on this last step is a mistake; if the marketers at Cappos.com had started here, they would likely have rejected several viable options as too difficult, unfeasible or unlikely to deliver results.
Reviewing the remaining options, Cappos.com decides that Option 2 will be easier to accomplish since it does not require the real-time link that Option 1 requires, to avoid emailing people who have completed their cart. They also decided that Option 2 is more likely to show results quickly, since the reach of all promotions and service messages that will change is greater than the reach of the abandoned cart campaign. They decide to pursue Option 2.
Get Over Analysis Paralysis with Methodical Opportunity Evaluation
This theoretical situation faced by the fictional company Cappos.com is similar to the situation faced by many email marketers today. The abundance of potential customer data insights that marketers can pursue to improve their campaign performance is overwhelming - so much is possible, and it can be difficult to decide which options to invest in first.
By analyzing opportunities in a structure similar to the example shown above, however, marketers can overcome 'analysis paralysis' and focus on making the promised benefits of big data become a reality.
Posted by: Justin Williams at 9:40 AM
October 04, 2013 | Syed Mahmood
Acxiom Corporation, a kingpin of the consumer database marketing industry, caused quite a stir this past month with their launch of AboutTheData.com. The website lets consumers view (and correct or suppress) some of the profile information that Acxiom collects and sells about them. Acxiom’s objective in launching this service appears to be two-fold: first, to act proactively in the face of proposed legislation by the Federal Trade Commission that would require data brokers like Acxiom to give consumers access to information collected about them. Second, to provide an avenue for consumers to correct inaccuracies or holes in their records, thereby increasing the value of this data to marketers who purchase from Acxiom.
So far the site's beta launch has been plagued with technical issues. Many visitors have been unable to log in or have found significant inaccuracies in their profile data. According to Scott Howe, Acxiom’s CEO, these challenges stem from the fact that the company’s consumer profiles are generated by gathering and integrating data from a number of disparate sources. Further complicating matters, some customers were unable to view their full profiles due to connection failures between Aboutthedata.com and the disparate sources that the website pulls consumer data points from (a technical complication that was likened to dealing with a clogged water pipe).
The fields of big data, analytics, decision sciences and the technologies supporting them are costly, complicated and new – the kinks are still getting worked out. Acxiom’s launch of AboutTheData.com has shone the media spotlight on the technical big data challenges that marketers have been dealing with for a while now.
For example, it’s common across industries for customer data to reside in disparate, disconnected sources, often resulting in data that contains duplicate and/or inaccurate information. Enterprises have invested millions of dollars in building enterprise data warehouses and implementing CRM and marketing automation systems. Despite massive investments and promises of integrated, real-time cross-channel marketing campaigns, industry analysts concede that marketers have largely been unable to progress beyond single-channel solutions. This is due in part to inadequate technologies that make marketers dependent on IT resources and technical staff to gain access to the data and extract the insights hidden within - which can be a slow and cumbersome process, as anyone who has used such systems knows. By the time marketers get the desired customer data from IT, it’s likely that the opportunity to execute timely customer engagements based on those interest, trend or life event insights will have already passed.
So is big data really the key to the holy grail of modern marketing – the ability to engage customers based on a real-time understanding of their individual interests and needs? The short answer is yes. One main reason is that big data offers marketers access to a new and dynamic source of customer data: customer interactions (think web searches, email opens, Facebook likes, etc.). Customer interactions can be used to enhance static profile data consisting mostly of demographic attributes to create a more state-aware profile of the customer. However, this requires profile and interaction data to be brought together, reconciled and analyzed. Which again brings us to the same sort of “clogged water pipe” technical challenges that AboutTheData.com has been facing.
So what are today’s marketers to do? How can they keep up with customers who are constantly connected, channel agnostic, demand instant gratification and have ever-increasing expectations from their favorite companies? (Other than continue to shoot arrows in the dark and hope that some of them find their target).
Stay tuned to find out. In my next post, I'll share the attributes of an effective analytics platform that marketers can use to overcome these shortcomings and get closer than ever to that holy grail of real-time marketing.
Posted by: Syed Mahmood at 2:14 PM
October 04, 2013 | Amanda Hinkle
Here's a blog I wrote for MediaPost:
Recently, a colleague forwarded a product recommendation email that left me in stitches! The message was sent seven days after he purchased a Wet/Dry Vac, thanking him for patronizing the local establishment. It provided five layers of recommended items. Some were right-on, some were totally wrong, and some were just downright funny.
The first and “hero” layer included offers picked “just for him:"
Why would someone who just purchased a Wet/Dry Vac need another one? How about three additional Wet/Dry Vacs? This is a case of automated product recommendations gone awry, ending up in a humorous display of Wet/Dry Vacs layered across the screen.
The next row of recommended items was suggested because of his most recent purchase. These recommendations are reasonable – they complement the Wet/Dry Vac and could conceivably be add-ons someone might consider a week after having the item in their possession.
The final three additional rows of product recommendations that were included in the email – which consisted of “Picks to pair with what you recently bought,” “Finds by other customers in the same market” and “Hits among shoppers like you” – were repetitive, did little to add value and made the email scroll too long.
Sometimes in your attempt to drive more revenue from the email channel, efforts can get out of hand. Let this be an example of mistakes to be sure to avoid when incorporating automated product recommendations into your email marketing campaigns.
So what specific actions can you take to avoid automation embarrassment? The following are a few suggestions:
Tip 1: Create different experiences based on what you know about your consumer. You can start by segmenting your audience based on whether they are a new customer or a customer who has purchased previously. If you have both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce stores, also look at whether someone purchased in-store or online.
In this case, my colleague purchased his Wet/Dry Vac at his local store and subsequently signed up for its loyalty program. It’s likely all three “hero” recommendations ended up as Wet/Dry Vacs because the retailer did not have any other past purchase data to go on. For new email subscribers/customers, consider how the experience should be modified. In this case, when recommendations were automatically generated from a single past purchase, the system generated a repetitive display that recommended the same product over and over. Make sure you understand all the scenarios that can drive recommendations and have processes in place to display relevant information.
Tip 2: Organize messages in a consumer-friendly format. Not only were the recommendations in the email pictured above repetitive, the message was also too long. How can a consumer differentiate between the many sections: "picked just for you," "suggested by your last purchase," "picks to pair with your recent purchase," "finds by other customers in the same market," and "hits among shoppers like you"? Likely, he doesn’t. The consumer is not going to think in those terms. This schema is organization-centric, as the algorithm driving the recommendations are likely different for each section. It’s nice to provide options, but be sure to stay away from organizing consumer emails based on technology functionality. Rather, test to find the consumer preference sweet spot in terms of number and type of recommendations. Keep it consumer-friendly!
Tip 3: Put yourself in the consumer's shoes -- go through the experience to see what it’s like. Automation/product recommendation engines can significantly decrease the level of effort required to produce compelling messaging. With that said, someone should periodically be “checking your work” to ensure a good customer experience. It should be easy to make purchases under different profiles to see what the customer experience is like, and doing so will help uncover opportunities to fine-tune your efforts.
Sending out emails that recommend related products or services based on the most recent or historical purchase (or search) behavior demonstrate that you really know your customer. Automation and recommendation engines can serve up an even more relevant experience across the customer lifecycle at a fraction of the cost. A sophisticated automated program can create brand awareness, prompt (repeat) purchases and create stickiness with your customer, driving significant ROI. Just be sure to develop customer-centric programs and double check your work to ensure the message your brand delivers is being presented in a favorable way.
Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 8:17 AM
Categories: email automation
September 20, 2013 | Katrina Conn
Here's an article I wrote for MediaPost:
As one of the biggest topics of discussion in 2013, real-time marketing has been given several definitions -- among them providing “dynamic personalized content across channels” to “developing quick response to mainstream event" to "offer[ing] management,” according to a recent DMA and Neolane survey.
Regardless of which definition of real-time marketing is adopted, many marketers are still struggling to determine how or where to get started. Understanding that this strategy should be leveraged across all channels and media, email is one channel in which marketers can begin deploying real-time marketing messages. Here are three tactics to avoid:
1) Assuming Real-Time is the Right Time. There are times when some real-time responses can be extremely creepy and may cause privacy concerns. Consider the man who just bought a new suit and immediately receives an offer for new shoes and a belt. Even though the offer is relevant to his purchase, it’s too soon to try to convert him again. Tactics like this can raise customer concern over how much and what types of personal data brands are capturing and leveraging in their marketing campaigns.
On the other hand, reactive, real-time marketing is extremely effective when a customer needs immediate service or information. Consumers who engage with a brand directly are seeking assistance and expect real-time responses. In such situations, it is vitally important to respond in real-time to provide a higher level of service to improve the consumer experience.
2) Failing to Integrate Real-Time Responses with Existing Lifecycle Messaging. It's very important to balance real-time messaging against any automated or customer lifecycle messaging that is currently in place. Failure to do so may cause confusion and demonstrate an obvious disconnect. Marketers need to design a balance of reactive vs. proactive messaging at specific points in the customer lifecycle to support and influence the next step in the customer journey. For example, if you have a current email win-back campaign in place to reach out to customers who haven't engaged within the past six months, you will want to make sure you have controls in place to suppress the program should a purchase be registered via any channel. If your win-back program is only keying off email or single channel data, you may find yourself trying to win back a customer who you already won back.
3) Not Using the Contextual Data You Have. Data availability and latency are two of the biggest challenges to harnessing real-time marketing. However, at a minimum, marketers still have basic customer, Web and purchase information that could and should be leveraged. Consider the customer who just bought a new light fixture for her bathroom at a local store and then subsequently receives a promotional campaign with an offer on lighting. This happens because the store didn't recognize her latest purchase to either suppress the promotional message completely, or send content with cross-sell opportunities to accessorize the customer's most recent purchase. In this scenario, the store could have known that this subscriber was a customer, not prospect, that she was interested in home improvement, and that she has a preference to purchase in a specific store and location. By leveraging this contextual data, marketers can determine the next best message and inform content versioning to drive this customer back to her preferred purchase channel, which is her local store.
Context is Key to Real-Time Marketing
Real-time marketing has become synonymous with generating new creative content very quickly, based on the context of a customer situation to ensure relevance.
What are you doing today to capitalize on the consumers' context to meet their demand of relevance with real-time marketing?
Posted by: Katrina Conn at 8:51 AM
September 05, 2013 | Jason Klein
There's been a lot of buzz within the marketing industry lately about the new Gmail Inbox Tabs, which isn't too surprising given the potential influence Google has in changing how consumers interact with email.
There have also been a number of studies to date about the impact of Gmail Tabs on engagement metrics (with varying and sometimes conflicting results), but none yet have focused on how consumers feel about them – until now.
Today, StrongView announced the results of its August Gmail Inbox Tabs Survey, which used Google Consumers Surveys to poll US consumers on their reactions to Gmail's new tabbed inbox interface and how it is changing their email behaviors.
The Infographic below summarizes some of the key findings, including how young millennials are most welcoming of the change. (View full size.)
You can also drill down on the findings in more depth by accessing the full results here:
Also, be sure to check out our latest Success Guide, "The New Gmail Inbox Tabs" for marketing advice on how to measure impact and respond accordingly.
We welcome your feedback in the comments, including any impact you've seen since the roll out of Gmail Tabs in July.
Posted by: Jason Klein at 12:00 AM
Categories: email_marketing gmail
July 30, 2013 | Katrina Conn
Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:
As marketers, we've aptly armed our consumer base with an unlimited amount of options when considering how each varying audience group might choose to receive our communications and related marketing information.
As we look beyond some of the most humble beginnings of direct marketing and to what's now become commonplace for other channels, the usual suspects (i.e., the strategies that have led to the marketing efforts behind them) are driven by the fact that from one recipient to the next, the desired method of receipt is more times than not - different. One might have a preference for receiving communications via email, SMS messaging, or deals that can be shared with friends and family across a wider social platform. When thinking about communicating across any of these mentioned channels to an audience, how are brands handling segmentation?
Segmentation for Email
Segmentation for email as a channel across industries still continues to grow leaps and bounds. As consumers, we have demanded and come to expect our marketers to segment and create better message experiences based on things like brand affinity and registration activity down to our account details (e.g., balance statement summaries, member level exclusivity messaging, etc.).
One great achievement with segmentation in email stems from the beauty of progressive profiling. It's not entirely a new concept, but definitely gaining traction more and more. Providing the sensibility to allow any subsequent pushes to recipients based on a previous consumer-instigated action is not only reasonable, it's logical, as well as expected by your consumers. This focus helps the next iteration of communications seem more personalized and less like an unsolicited marketing effort.
Segmentation for Mobile
Quick, easy access is undeniably hot right now. Even those of us who are historically slow to catch up with technology bank on the fact that we have access to email, financial accounts, and other information at the touch of our fingertips. It's just convenient.
Companies are no longer denying the fact that more and more users are accessing their information via their mobile devices, and in turn have begun taking steps to make the user experience more readily accessible by optimizing creative and marketing communications for mobile devices.
Much like email, in the future, as more thought is being placed into segmentation for mobile, consumers can look to communication preferences being explicitly mapped to the following areas (if not already taking place): area code, country, region, geo-location, carrier, brand, model, OS, etc.
Segmentation for Social
Which social networks are your active audience segments currently a part of? Does your brand have a social presence of any kind? Do you care about social marketing and what value has your organization placed on it? What vested interest has your company placed on social marketing and to what degree does that level of interest play into the overall goals across channels? OK, now that we've gotten the "first date" questions out of the way...
Do you currently capture data values from your audience segments that give any visibility into their preferred social networks? Some may not see or feel there is a need in doing this well - if at all. However, there are those who have made concerted efforts in this regard. They've gone further than simply regurgitating marketing or promotional email messages onto distinctive brand social pages. The more progressive marketers have even begun to think more intuitively. Questions about segmenting - socially - are posed among the decision-makers of the organization. Which segments have an affinity for LinkedIn? Which brand loyalists are merely communicating via Facebook or Twitter? How can we make note of our followers' "interests" or "likes," and message more appropriately to them?
Socially, it is reasonably understandable that for any audience segment, a company's social presence has to make sense. An even better strategy is to look at building a segment of a company's top influencers, making an effort to incentivize those loyalists, and giving them reason(s) to be the quintessential brand advocate. Realistically though, this might not be so wise if an overwhelming majority of a database has no social activity at all. Reiterating that first point, it has to make sense to even play in the social sandbox.
At the very least, creating a holistic experience for any particular market requires a segmentation strategy that if done well (and deemed appropriate) would provide overarching, cross-channel direction that is explicit and tailored in nature. In our efforts to learn more about our consumers, we've gone to such great lengths to capture various data points, and yet so few are actually pausing to take a step back and look at the obvious: to see if there's a propensity for one channel over another or what the preferred format might be. The more intuitive stance to take would be to interact with our associated audiences based on data-driven activities and preferences. What harm could come from that?
Posted by: Katrina Conn at 12:30 AM
July 01, 2013 | Amanda Hinkle
Here's an article I wrote for MediaPost:
In the wake of Edward Snowden’s revealing a government surveillance program that monitors data through multiple sources including telephone records, email exchanges, social media and the Web at large, consumers currently have a heightened awareness about online privacy and how their information is handled.
For some, the idea of marketers capturing their online behavior conjures up memories of a certain Hall & Oates song: “Private eyes, they’re watching you/ They see your every move. “This has many digital marketers preparing for a bit of backlash, in the form of consumers not providing as much self-reported information as they did previously (at least temporarily), customers being more reticent to make online purchases, or consumers opting out of your email program altogether.
A Little Bit of Feel-Good Goes a Long Way (Putting Consumers at Ease)
While many people are talking about the right and wrong of this type of government surveillance, the recent exposure undoubtedly has given businesses a reason to look at their current privacy policies and how they disclose them to consumers. Digital marketers in general can take steps to thwart consumer concerns that their data will be mishandled by following common practices that marketers have been executing for some time. Many of these practices are documented in The White House Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights (Feb. 2012).
Make Your Privacy Policies Easily Accessible
Accessibility can be defined in many ways: making your policies clear during email sign-up, posting your privacy policies online, and using clear language, so consumers can understand your collection, use, dissemination, maintenance and security practices of their personally identifiable information. Make it clear how you store and share information -- and use plain language, will ya!
All data you collect should be leveraged as part of the B2B/B2C relationship. When collecting profile information, if you are not using specific data to segment or provide additional relevance, limit your storage of such data.
This issue becomes particularly obvious during the email sign-up process, when most individuals are first getting to know and trust your brand. If it isn’t clearly obvious why you are requesting required fields on your sign-up form (or preference center), you may get people abandoning their subscription altogether.
Give Customers Control over Their Data
Companies should offer consumers mechanisms to access, update and remove their personal information. Offer clear and simple choices – such as an easy email unsubscribe, a preference center linked prominently from your website, and periodic requests for customers to update their information. Providing that individual control gives customers more peace of mind.
Build Trust over Time
A brand promise is what you say you’re going to deliver, and the expectations you create in the customer’s mind. Whether we provide goods or services to consumers or other businesses, delivering on the brand promise is one of the most critical staples for business growth.
Trust between a consumer and a brand does not happen overnight. It can start with your subscription process – a promise not only to provide the information for which they are signing up, but to provide content that is specific to that individual. If you are able to deliver on that promise in your email messaging, recipients will extend their trust of your brand beyond their inbox.
Evaluate your business from the customer’s perspective. What promises are you making --- and do you deliver? How can you reduce reluctance to buy and increase confidence in what you sell? How could you go above and beyond to create permanent relationships with customers and prospects?
Consumer trust builds as marketers continue to use personal data in a way that respects the context in which it’s being used. As such, marketers should be committed to examining, sharing and delivering on their privacy policies. Doing so will buttress the trust that is necessary to build profitable, long-lasting relationships with customers.
Until next time, keep humming that Hall & Oates tune.