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Digital Marketing Insights

Times Have Changed - and so Should Your Approach to Segmentation

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.

The Recap

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
Categories: segmentation, email, mobile, social, Advisor 62, Advisor, Advisor 2013

Cross-Channel Marketing Video Tip #5: Use Mobile to Get New Subscribers

How can SMS be used to increase your email subscribers. View this latest entry in StrongView's Top Tips video series to find out. 

 

Posted by: Jason Klein at 2:58 PM
Categories: email marketing, mobile

Consumers and Mobile Marketing – An Infographic

Earlier this year, StrongView commissioned a mobile marketing survey with Forrester Consulting that was designed to find out how consumers are interacting and reacting to mobile marketing. Not surprisingly, consumers with smart phones were much more receptive to mobile marketing messages than the users of so-called dumb "feature-phones." With smart phone adoption sailing past 50% with no signs of stopping anytime soon, this is good news for marketers. It also turns out that email is the preferred method to view promotional messages on mobile phones – and a third of smart phone users have made a purchase after viewing a promotional email message on their phone.

The following infographic outlines some of the key findings, or check out the press release here.

Mobile Marketing Survey

< Click Image to Enlarge >

Posted by: Jason Klein at 2:02 PM
Categories: mobile marketing, infographic

Text Messaging Can Be More Than Cool

Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:

Call me an optimist - I believe that direct marketing enriches our lives when executed properly. When done right, direct marketing brings brand information directly to me at just the right time. Email marketing has become such a successful way to reach me and when complemented with an appropriate direct mail piece I appreciate the continuity across channels. I also like brands that give me a choice on the way to reach me: email, mail…or text message.

The focus today is on my phone and text messaging. As marketers we know the great (and nearly unbelievable) text messaging statistic: 98 percent of all text messages are opened. I think you'll be hard-pressed to find another channel with that kind of open rate. Add that to the fact that there are 234 million mobile devices in use in the United States today.

However, we also know that text messaging is interruptive, limited to 160 characters, and doesn't offer the rich branding experience of other channels. Most importantly, only 14 percent of Americans prefer to receive promotions through text messages. But if you think about it, 14 percent of 234 million is still plenty large to implement a text messaging strategy. If that 14 percent stat still scares you, how about using SMS to provide valued alerts or reminders. You may not drive revenue, but you can go a long way to building brand affinity and loyalty.

When contemplating your text messaging approach, you need to consider your audience. Does your audience "get" text messaging? I don't mean do they have the device to receive it. I mean do they understand it and value it as a communication vehicle? Your demographic may provide a clue. Under 40, it's highly likely. Over 40, maybe less so. But if you don't know, you can always ask them in a standalone survey or as part of another communication. In addition to knowing if they get text messaging, you also need to understand the "mobility" of your customers. How do they consume information on mobile devices? What activities are they willing to engage in via their mobile device?

Once you've figured out how your customers interact with their mobile devices, you can then determine whether you have relevant information that can be shared via SMS to enhance your relationships with your customers. And you should think beyond simple "Text CHEAP to 123456 to receive crazy discounts" promotions. Try adding some value as well. Can you remind someone about an upcoming birthday of a friend or family member (which you can tie to an offer)? Can you alert someone to the start of an event or the expiration of a service?

Also, look at your programs holistically. When is it important to use text messaging in conjunction with email - whether promoting an email program via SMS or an SMS program via email? More to the point, is there an opportunity to use SMS to sign up subscribers to your email list?

Ultimately, a successful SMS program comes down to whether you're able to offer real value to your participants. By respecting your customers and engaging them in a two-way dialogue, you will have a new, successful channel for interacting with your best customers.

Posted by: Tal Nathan at 9:46 AM
Categories: email, SMS, mobile

The best way to capture email subscribers with SMS

Here's an article I wrote for iMediaConnection:

Ever since internet, email, and mobile access became the standard rather than the exception, the digital marketer has had a number of channels through which to reach consumers. Up until recently, a marketer could get by using a few channels well -- without considering the connections between channels.

Times have changed.

Consumers now expect you to intelligently use the channels available. They want the right information through the right channel at the right time. They want continuity throughout the channels -- continuity of brand on the abstract level and of promotion more specifically.

To meet this expectation, we as marketers must use cross-channel strategies. These strategies will do away with channel as a separation, and use channel instead as a preference. For example, we will no longer have SMS campaigns that are separate from social campaigns. We will simply have the "Christmas campaign," and some of our targets will receive some of the messaging within that campaign as a text message, some as an email, etc.

This article, and others to come, will address a few strategies for cross-channel marketing, starting with a strategy to capture email subscribers in remote situations (i.e., away from a computer).

Boosting email performance with SMS
Do you do business in more places than your website? Even if you're an e-tailer, the answer is probably yes. It's also likely that a portion of your target audience might only ever interact with you in these remote locations.

If your email campaigns are your primary loyalty-building tool, how do you capture those people who only touch your brand in remote locations? If you don't have an easy way for them to flow into your email list, you've lost the opportunity to build a relationship.

One way to bridge this gap is with an SMS-to-email campaign. You simply tell the consumer to text a short code (e.g., 606060) with a certain keyword and an email address (e.g., SUBSCRIBE rita@metermaid.com). You can then parse that email address and begin sending the person emails. It's that simple...sort of.

If you want to be successful, you'll need to create a good reason for someone to subscribe to your email updates. This could just be whatever you normally offer -- deals, updates, or however else you normally promote your emails.

A more strategic offer would be related to your consumer's location. For example, at the point of sale, you can have a text message offer that gives the consumer an instant 5-percent-off coupon when he or she signs up for your email alerts. (This coupon could be a text message sent once the user confirms the subscription.)

Scotts, the gardening and lawn care products company, offered to email a lawn-care guide to anyone who signed up for its emails via text. This promotion ran at baseball parks and other remote locations. The user received the guide in the email inbox after successfully opting in with a text message, and Scotts continued to build that relationship with email to continue promoting the product.

Of course, another method of capturing these people is a mobile app or a QR code. Both of these work, but they unnecessarily restrict the number of consumers who are capable of participating. An SMS-to-email campaign, however, allows you to capture a broader group, as it does not exclude those who do not have a smartphone. Also, sending an SMS is easier and requires less commitment than downloading an app or opening a specific app to scan a QR code.

Think about what consumers who see your brand in remote locations want, and try to capture them into your relationship-building channel by using the mobile-efficient SMS channel.

Posted by: Justin Williams at 3:00 PM
Categories: email, SMS, subscribers, mobile

3 Tips for Addressing Customer Demand for Mobile Experiences

Here's an article I wrote for MultiChannel Merchant:

By now, if you’re not tired of hearing about mobile, you will be soon. There is, however, good reason for all the buzz. A plethora of studies and surveys indicates three trends that should make you drop everything and make sure your mobile marketing strategy is up to snuff.

Trend 1: More consumers are shopping and purchasing on their mobile device, regardless of location
Your customers and prospects are shopping, comparing, downloading and redeeming coupons from their mobile device. They are doing this everywhere—in retail locations, on their couch, and anywhere else they use their mobile device.

Trend 2: Consumers are growing more responsive to SMS offers, and they are redeeming more email offers on mobile devices
26% of consumers receiving text message promotions say that the information has led them to take advantage of the promotion, according to a recent survey. Further, 25% say they at least buy something from the store that sent the promotion.

Text promotions, however, cannot thrive alone. Consumers trust emails and websites more than text messages. These tactics should not be viewed as separate silos of distribution. Rather, the consumer wants them to exist in a way that he or she can fluidly use any option.

Trend 3: More consumers are expecting that their shopping needs can be met on their mobile platform
Across the consumer lifecycle—from searching for a store and making a shopping list, to considering offers, to making a purchase, to sharing offers with friends, all the way to maintaining loyalty program accounts—shoppers want the flexibility to use their mobile devices.

The cost of not meeting these expectations can be higher than just a perceived inconvenience on the part of your shoppers. If you have brick and mortar locations, you should be well aware of the “showroom effect.” Other retailers are, and they’re looking to capitalize on your ignorance.

Even if you’re 100% online, the showroom effect applies. Imagine a man waiting in the airport, shopping on his mobile device for a gift for his daughter’s upcoming birthday. While reviewing built-up offers in his email inbox, he’s probably more likely to use one formatted for mobile which allows him to finish his purchases without squinting or breaking out his laptop. (Don’t forget that location really doesn’t matter anymore; replace ‘waiting at the airport’ with ‘sitting on the couch watching TV’, or ‘spending idle time at work’, and you’ll still find consumers using mobile devices more and more.)

So it’s obvious that mobile is going to become (if it isn’t already) mission critical to meeting your customers’ needs, and your revenue goals. Here are some tips on how to get started now so you’re not left in the dust:

1. Model success
Many retailers are getting mobile right. One that stands out is Home Depot.

Home Depot has covered almost all the mobile use cases. They have apps for the top mobile platforms, plus a mobile-optimized site that allows you to find a store, shop, and even buy items to pick up at a store.

Plus, Home Depot makes great use of text message marketing to notify consumers of current promotions.

Still, Home Depot could expand on their mobile offering by tying in their text message capabilities with a lifecycle marketing management program, allowing them to follow up with targeted email and SMS messaging, thus allowing the fluid experience consumers desire. Overall, they are a step ahead of many retailers in the mobile space.

2. Start small
After reviewing the robust offerings of a giant retailer like Home Depot, don’t try to build Rome in a day. Start small.

Build a responsive email template that is mobile-friendly so your subscribers see your offers, regardless of their device.

Build a mobile-optimized landing page for key offers and promotions. You don’t have to capture every feature of your full site. Think about what a consumer might want to accomplish when accessing your site with a mobile device (maybe the latest offers). Test to verify your assumptions.

Consider building a native mobile application. Perhaps the potential benefits of having an app in addition to a mobile-optimized site are minimal. But don’t rely on your intuition. Ask your customers what they would like to see.

3. Measure the impact (or potential impact)
Find out how many people are accessing your content with mobile devices, and measure the change over time. This may provide the necessary impetus to justify investment in mobile optimization.

Once you begin optimizing for mobile platforms, track the success or lift from the enhancements. For example, you can run A/B tests to see if a responsive email template leads to a better conversion rate for mobile users than a non-responsive one.

Don’t let your consumers brand you as mobile-unfriendly. Embrace the changing way that users access your content, and respond accordingly.

Posted by: Justin Williams at 9:39 AM
Categories: mobile, email marketing, email, tips

Marketing in the Mobile Email Revolution

Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:

Falling prices have made smartphones extremely common. According to the Pew Research Center, 46 percent of U.S. adults owned a smartphone as of February 2012. With those kinds of numbers, widespread smartphone and tablet adoption is undeniable. Unsurprisingly, smartphone ownership remains more common among young adults and those with high income and higher education. However, smartphone adoption does not have a gender bias, which is unusual for technology adoption. The smartphone adoption has been primarily on Android and Apple iOS devices, with 80 percent of the audience using those operating systems.

What are people actually doing with their mobile phones? Text messaging and taking pictures are still the most common uses. However, sending and receiving email is also being done commonly. And when people do engage with email on mobile, they engage at a much higher rate than people who engage with email on desktop.

What does this mean if you're trying to reach people via email? First, people are on the run. Consumers don't read emails the same way on phones as they do on desktops. Understanding these differences will inform your design. For example, mobile email users don't scan email, they prioritize it. They categorize their email into "read now," "read later," or "delete."

How do you make the cut to help ensure that your emails are read now or at least saved for later? First, start with the subject line and concentrate on the first 20 characters: keep it short and keep it recognizable. That means getting the offer in first and being mindful of the sender name. Secondly, make sure that your key information is visible above the fold (duh) and make the call to action clear and conspicuous.

Now, given that many of you are likely working with limited resources, here are some tools and tricks for understanding your eligible audience and optimizing your email template. Several engagement tools in the marketplace, including Pivotal Veracity Mailbox IQ, allow for the marketer to get row-level detail on the email rendering device. Knowing the size of your mobile audience will help you justify the budget to optimize your template for this on-the-go audience. Getting the template right should be left to the professionals; people who have learned from months of trial and error. If possible, you should consider outsourcing your first few templates and let somebody teach you the ropes.

Your current email template may be great for customers using Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook, but you're going to significantly reduce the potential of the impact of your campaigns by serving up the same template on a three-inch screen. If you're going to ask them to pay attention to your message, you should make it easy for them to read, interact, and respond to it.

Creating the right email experience based on the rendering device has always been a priority for the email marketer. Focusing a larger proportion of effort on the smartphone experience is money well spent. And there is no excuse for not getting started - smartphone adoption is only going to increase.

Posted by: Tal Nathan at 9:00 AM
Categories: mobile, email marketing, email

Time to Stop Optimizing for Big Browser?

I am in a shrinking majority.  I use my laptop and desktop as my primary screens for work productivity.  Therefore, I check the majority of my email, including marketing messages, on large monitors, giving me the ultimate big browser experience.  According to many reports, more people will view email on mobile devices over the big browser experience by the end of 2012… and I will fall into the minority.
 
Needless to say, mobile devices are changing how, where and when we view emails.  Now that Americans have a choice on viewing devices, behaviors are changing.  When your customers render your email on a mobile device and have a negative experience, they are more likely to delete and ignore the email rather than flag it for later use.  And you might be surprised to learn that only 2% of individuals who open on a mobile device go back and open again on big browser, according to a recent study.  That means that if you don't make an impression via a mobile screen, you may not have another opportunity to earn that click.

The mobile revolution is also affecting email consumption patterns. With the near 24/7 inbox access afforded by mobile devices, customers are now opening emails at different times.  Getting your email into the inbox “first thing in the morning” may not apply to the mobile viewership.  Evenings, weekends, or lunch time might become the new buying time.  Of course, that means it's more important than ever that you carefully review your open rates to look for patterns across multiple segments.  It’s time to question old assumptions and test into your mobile strategy.
 
So, are you prepared for the mobile movement? Do you know how many people are opening your emails on a mobile device – and on which ones? Do you know what your email looks on a 3 inch screen?  Have you created mobile landing pages that you link to from mobile versions of your template? Are your call-to-action buttons big enough for easy tapping on a touch screen? Do your images scale appropriately?

If you’re spending more time optimizing for big browser than mobile devices, than you may miss the revolution…and a lot of conversions.

Posted by: Tal Nathan at 2:59 PM
Categories: email marketing, optimization, optimizing, mobile

Email Marketing and the Rise of the Smart Phone

Falling prices have made smart phones extremely common.  According to the Pew Research Center, 46% of US adults owned a smart phone as of February 2012. With those kind of numbers, widespread smart phone and tablet adoption is undeniable. Unsurprisingly, smart phone ownership remains more common among young adults and those with high income, higher education.  However, smartphone adoption does not have a gender bias, which is unusual for technology adoption.  The smartphone adoption has been primarily on Android and Apple iOS devices, with 80% of the audience using those operating systems.
 
So, what are people actually doing with their mobile phones?  Text messaging and taking pictures are still the most common uses.  However sending and receiving email is also being done commonly.  And when people do engage with email on mobile, they engage at a much higher rate than people who engage with email on desktop.
 
So, what does this mean if you’re trying to reach people via email?  First, people are on the run.  Consumers don’t read emails the same way on phones as they do on desktops.  Understanding these differences will inform your design.  For example, mobile email users don’t scan email, they prioritize it.  They categorize their email into "read now," "read later" or "delete."
 
So, how do you make the cut to help ensure that your emails are read now or at least saved for later?  First, start with the subject line and concentrate on the first 20 characters:  keep it short and keep it recognizable.  That means getting the offer in first and being mindful of the sender name.  Secondly, make sure that your key information is visible above the fold (duh) and make the call to action clear and conspicuous.
 
Now, given that many of you are likely working with limited resources, here are some tools and tricks for understanding your eligible audience and optimizing your email template.  Several engagement tools in the marketplace, including StrongDelivery Tools for those using StrongView Message Studio and standalone solutions like Pivotal Veracity Mailbox IQ, allow for the marketer to get row-level detail on the email rendering device.  Knowing the size of your mobile audience will help you justify the budget to optimize your template for this on-the-go audience.  Getting the template right should be left to the professionals; people who have learned from months of trial and error.  If possible, you should consider outsourcing your first few templates and let somebody teach you the ropes.
 
Your current email template may be great for customers using Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook, but you're going to significant reduce the potential of your impact of your campaigns by serving up the same template on a 3" screen.  If you're going to ask them to pay attention to your message, you should make it easy for them to read, interact and respond to it.
 
Creating the right email experience based on the rendering device has always been a priority for the email marketer.  Focusing a larger proportion of effort on the smart phone experience is money well spent. And there is no excuse for getting started – smart phone adoption is only going to increase.

Posted by: Tal Nathan at 1:42 PM
Categories: email marketing, iphone, smart phone, mobile, mobile marketing

Are You On The Mobile Email Marketing Train?

Today, there are over 5 billion mobile subscribers worldwide (70% of the world’s population) – making it clear that mobile device technology is here to stay.  In fact, it’s going to change the way we market forever, especially when it comes to email marketing.

A recent “Email on the Move: The Future of Mobile Messaging” study found “an explosive 81% growth in mobile email viewership.” 

So if marketers want to have success in the years to come, they need to jump on the mobile email train and get up to speed on how this channel will affect messaging and design.

It isn’t as easy as taking online email templates and assuming they’ll fit into mobile screens. Email messaging needs to be formatted for a variety of mobile devices.

Add to that the growth in touch technology, which promises to add another twist to email design and you’ve got a host of new challenges on the email marketing horizon.

So in order to keep up with the changes in email marketing, consider the following points:

Not All Mobile Viewers Are Created Equal  

According to a recent comScore study, approximately 20% of your email list will read your emails via their mobile devices. 

More importantly, Morgan Stanley analysts concluded in a 2010 report that by 2015 mobile web access will be larger than desktop Internet use.  But not all mobile subscribers view the same way.

Inherent in tablet design is the fact that users will have a more relaxed approach to viewing.  They’ll most likely be sitting down and spending longer amounts of time.  Contrast that to folks viewing their emails via smart phones while on the go. 

As mobile email designs become more targeted (i.e., tablet, mobile phone), they’ll need to take into account not just mobile vs. desktop but device user profiles as well.

 Not All Mobile Viewers are Created Equal

Mobile Emails Must Fit The Medium

The task of designing for the variety of screens is a growing discipline of expertise.   You should incorporate these elements into your mobile email marketing design process:

  • Use headers and subject lines to let subscribers know what’s in your email.  If they have trouble opening your message, they’ll at least get a clue of your content.
  • Keep your clickable links clear of each other.  With varying mobile screen sizes, separating your links allows for cleaner clicks.


It’s clear that the answer to “if you should market via mobile,” is a resounding “YES”.  That train has already left the station.  Now it’s a matter of deciding how soon you will start. 

Want some more email marketing resources? Check out our white papers!

Posted by: Kara Trivunovic at 4:41 PM
Categories: tips, mobile marketing, email marketing tips