Category: email marketing
Shamir Duverseau

2019 Panda Predictions

The new year is upon us and, if 2018 is any indication, we will likely see the world transform in ways big and small, including disruptions in culture, technology, and business. While we may not have a crystal ball, our smart pandas most certainly have some predictions for the world of digital marketing in 2019. Here are a few of our forecasts.

It’s all about voice. Voice search (“Hey Siri, where should I go for brunch today?”) will gain even more ground, becoming 60% of mobile searches. (Heads up digital marketers: optimizing your content for voice search requires creating content around long-tail keywords, focusing on knowledge-based content, and writing in a way that people commonly speak.) And, get ready to listen more as well. Our cars, for example, will recite not only our text messages but our emails, too. For better or worse, we’ll be “replying all” while merging into traffic.

Facebook will buy Twitter. TWTR has been a buyout target for the past two years, and it might finally deliver on its promise to its shareholders. Facebook’s political problems have come home to roost; acquiring Twitter might be just what it needs to sort it all out. The social media behemoth can encourage more users to head to Twitter for the best news and political coverage, while those suffering news burnout can focus their Facebook streams on personal updates and pics of their perfect nacho plate (#hungry #nachoenvy).

Creativity will set competition apart. Consumers have lost faith in some forms of digital advertising; they are exhausted by and wary of sales pitches and clickbait. Brands will need to become increasingly creative in their pursuit of views and clicks and think about advertising as high-concept, high-engagement campaigns. Look for an increase in multimedia, motion graphics, and augmented reality.

Green consumerism will finally take off. We’ve heard a lot of talk about the rise of the “green consumer” in recent years, but there has been a disconnect between the intention to buy sustainable and actually doing it. Decades of polling has shown that a large majority of Americans say that they would gladly buy a green or ethical product, but less than 10 percent of them actually do. We think 2019 will move the needle. Not only is evidence of the damage caused by our throwaway culture impossible to ignore, millennials—who are driving the green shift—are expected to outnumber baby boomers officially in the coming year.

Email will get high-touch. We’ve said it before on this blog, and we’ll say it again: the future of email is interactive. New features are making it possible to highlight contextual content and capture key behavioral points for a more data-driven experience. For example, it is now possible to infuse email templates with unique components such as profile options, local store info, and prioritized navigation. Consumers can tap, expand, and reveal particular items—in other words, emails that function more like an interactive web page. In turn, this interactively enables brands to capture useful consumer data for future segmentation and personalization. Get ready to finally see more of this in action.

Email will also get real-time. Expect to see your inbox get smarter, using data to shift more pertinent emails to the top. For example, if it’s noon on Sunday and your favorite team is playing, the first email in your inbox might be from ESPN and related to your team. But, once you leave your house to go shopping, that Target coupon email will take the top spot.

Push notifications will get pushier. Not necessarily a bad thing, more brands will experiment with shorter email notifications that can be displayed on devices beyond the phone, such as the Apple watch or your smart refrigerator.

Consumers will be heard. The rise of design thinking and inclusive design means that brands are making an effort to empathize with consumers, achieve a deeper understanding of users, and design better solutions that actually meet their needs. In 2019, more and more companies will make design thinking, experimentation and testing part of their DNA. As a result, we’ll see an uptick in helpful, authentic solutions and digital experiences that resonate with consumers.

These are just a few of our panda prognostications. We promise to stay ahead of the curve on all these topics and more, reporting back from conferences throughout the year and sharing key findings as they arise. Keep your eye on this blog for more!

Key Takeaways

  1. Voice search will gain even more ground. Have you optimized your content for voice?
  2. Look for an increase in multimedia, motion graphics, and augmented reality.
  3. 2019 will move the needle on green consumerism.
  4. Email will get more high touch, more interactive.
  5. Email will get real0time—and your inbox will be smarter.

Category: email marketing
Charlene Hixon

Digital Marketing: What’s Now + What’s Next

It seems like with every passing day our digital world is exponentially more exciting — and more personal. Google knows when it’s cold in my house, Apple knows when and where I go for my run and Amazon knows what I bought for my grandmother last month. Personalization is happening at our fingertips, on our wrists and by command (“Alexa, make my life easier.”) And as a digital marketer, I know that customers – both B2B and B2C – now look beyond product, rewarding businesses that can deliver a more convenient, personalized experience.

Several of us recently attended the 2018 Salesforce Connections Conference in Chicago to learn how technological advances, including Salesforce product innovations, will help our clients succeed in this goal. Here are a few of my takeaways from the three-day conference.

Prepare for Voice

From Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana to Google’s Assistant suite and Amazon’s Alexa, these smart personal assistants are getting better at using artificial intelligence and natural language processing to interpret and fulfill our commands. By 2020, ComScore predicts that 50% of all search will be voice generated. These software/hardware combinations are also becoming more personalized. Last month, Amazon launched the Echo Dot Kids Edition, and currently in development is an Echo that caters to an elder population.

During a session presented by digital strategist Lisa Graves, “Alexa, How Can Marketers Prepare to Utilize Voice Assistants,” Graves discussed the importance of leveraging the opportunity of voice by keeping it simple. “Unfortunately, voice can be difficult if a multi-step process is required to get the result you want.” Brands interested in leveraging voice must offer customers a process for solving problems with smart speakers that offers more convenience than alternative solutions.

Optimize for the Wrist

During “Designing Email for Apple Watch Attention Spans,” Heidi Robbins of Salesforce discussed how the ways in which consumers read and interact with email are changing—constantly. Not only should we be thinking about designing communications for multiple desktop browsers and mobile users, we must now take devices like the Apple Watch into account. That means subject lines (the extent of what fits on a watch face) are the new email. Interesting to note, 141 million Apple Watch wearers are forecasted for 2018, up from 75 million last year.

Wearables market share is rising.

Get Into the AR Game

Since its inception, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have been most closely associated with gaming. That is no longer the case, as brands and companies everywhere seek to add augmentation to their arsenal. Ikea recently launched their AR app that allows customers to view IKEA furniture in their own home before purchase. Jeep’s new AR experience lets you interact with a car that isn’t actually there. And last year Toll Brothers introduced a virtual reality program for personalized kitchen design. According to Penny Gillespie from Gardner, immersive commerce is “enhancing the customer’s interaction with products, thereby increasing conversion and loyalty.”

Go Live to Get Personal

Facebook Live gives anyone with a phone the power to broadcast to anyone, anywhere in the world. Mobile streaming through social media is like live theatre, giving all participants a feeling of personal connection. According to Facebook Product Manager Vibhi Kant, the latest figures suggest that “people spend three times longer watching live video compared to video that is pre-recorded.” Whether through live interviews and events or sharing behind-the-scenes footage, live streaming presents a real opportunity for businesses to connect with their audience.

Be Customized — Not Creepy

Mike Davidson of Lyonscg articulated the growing feeling of “ick” around the omniscience of social networks, especially Facebook—it’s like they’re listening to us right now. During his session, Davidson discussed when tailored experiences start to feel like stalking and shared that the key to personalization is combining it with customization. Give the consumer control of what data they would like to share in order to start the conversation.

Why it feels like Facebook is listening through your mic

Offer Seamless Mobile Experiences

During his keynote address, Salesforce president and chief product officer Bret Taylor touted the virtues of mobile data stream. He gave an example of his Marriott hotel experience during the conference, where his phone was the room key and he could order a toothbrush via the app even prior to arriving. “Mobile is the greatest opportunity brands have ever had to connect with customers,” he said. Other examples of customer-centric mobile apps of course include Uber and Lyft, which provide instant gratification and demonstrate the power of straight-through processing.

Changes in technology are constantly forcing businesses to find more innovative, impactful and exciting ways to talk to their audiences. In an increasingly digital world where the average person spends nearly nine hours per day on digital devices, it’s essential for businesses to not only have an effective digital strategy, but to also regularly review and update how they market themselves to their audience.

A key point for brands looking to jump on the bandwagon of any digital trend is to make sure that it’s an opportunity to add value to the customer experience. Don’t do something just for the sake of doing it, otherwise you risk making a huge investment only to annoy—or even creep out—your customers.

Key Takeaways

  • Prepare for voice. Smart personal assistants are getting smarter, and by 2020, ComScore predicts that 50% of all search will be voice generated. Brands interested in leveraging voice must offer customers a process for solving problems with smart speakers that offers more convenience than alternative solutions.
  • Optimize for the wrist. When creating digital experiences and crafting communications we must now take devices like the Apple Watch into account. That means subject lines are the new email.
  • Get into the AR game. Immersive commerce by way of virtual and augmented reality is enhancing the customer’s interaction with products, thereby increasing conversion and loyalty.
  • Go live to get personal. Whether through live interviews and events or sharing behind-the-scenes footage, live streaming presents a real opportunity for businesses to connect with their audience.
  • Be customized — not creepy. Tailored digital experiences can go too far. Give the consumer control of what data they would like to share in order to start the conversation.
  • Offer seamless mobile experiences. From turning mobile phones into hotel room key cards to the seamless, customer-centric experiences of Uber and Lyft, mobile is the best opportunity brands have ever had to connect with customers.
  • Before you jump on the bandwagon of any digital trend, make sure that it’s an opportunity to add value for your customers.
Category: email marketing
Alex Corzo

5 Components to an Email Apology

Don’t worry, it’s happened to the best of us.

You sent a marketing email too soon and left placeholder copy in the subject line—you know, the dreaded “Subject Line Goes Here.” Your invitations had the wrong date on them. Your team sent a members-only promotion—to non-members. Your automation went haywire and sent seven simultaneous, identical emails to everyone on your list (yes, it’s happened). The deals you sent your subscribers expired last week. Every single email was addressed to “Dear [First Name].”

The horror!

Even the best laid email plans can come undone at the click of a button. Email is dynamic, complex, and fast—it’s nearly impossible to avoid mistakes completely. Truthfully, the results of most misfired emails are rarely catastrophic. Sometimes, these mistakes can even be an opportunity for a real connection with your customers. Regardless, your regret will be palpable. Nothing like a good reminder to stick to an email marketing checklist and protocol before every send. Download a copy of our email marketing checklist below!

When to Send an Apology

Saying you’re sorry can go a long way toward winning back trust. In addition to an apology, sometimes a correction is urgently required. You might even feel so badly about the rogue email that you want to offer your customers a short-term discount on your products or services, just to ease the pain.

However, not every flub warrants an apology. Drawing too much attention to the error might only frustrate your subscribers more. If your error is quite clearly a mistake—e.g., you left [Test] in the subject line, or your image caption read “image caption here”—definitely move on. Your subscribers already did.

But if the possible ramifications have you weak in the knees, then you probably need to craft a follow-up. Send an apology email (within 24 hours, if possible!) when:

  • You need to correct an important fact
  • Your customers may have concerns about security
  • Something about the email impedes a user to act (expired coupons, bad links, etc.)
  • Mistaken content might make subscribers think they signed up for the wrong list
  • The glitch may construe the email as spam
  • Your recipients are possibly offended by the content

In these cases, your subscribers definitely deserve some reassurances.

5 Components of a Well-Crafted Apology

From my work with marketers to my experiences as a consumer, I’ve seen lots of occasions for apologies as well as both superb and awful executions. Here are my suggestions for a crafting a thoughtful follow-up to an errant email:

  1. Admit the mistake. Address the fact that your consumer may have received an email from you that was sent in or contains an error. Use a tone that is in keeping with your brand voice. If that means humor is appropriate, by all means keep the tone light. “Our server had a rough day” or, “Oops, let’s pretend that didn’t happen.” Laughing at yourself gives subscribers a reason to forgive you. If your brand voice is more serious, or the mistake caused inconvenience of offense, don’t make light of it. Use good judgment here so you’re not adding gasoline to the fire.
  2. Take responsibility for the mistake and reassure your audience. “We care about our customers above all else and are taking steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again.” If the error might have consumers concerned that their data was compromised in any way, be sure to address that right away.
  3. Remind them why they have opted in. You may want to take this opportunity to remind your customers why they are on your mailing list in the first place, and what they should expect to receive in the future. “We hope you’ll continue to enjoy our newsletters and receive the latest product updates, promotions and more.” This will help mitigate opt-outs.
  4. One more apology. Round out your letter with a little more humility. “Again, we’re sorry for this inconvenience.”
  5. Close with sincerity. Anything you can do to make the letter feel genuine and less like another mass email that started the problem to begin with, the better. Customize and personalize to a degree that makes sense but without missing the window. Again, try to send this apology within 24-hours to help prevent further confusion and attrition.

You may be pleasantly delighted by the results; your apology will likely be met with strong open rates. After all, who doesn’t love reading an apology or (sadly) delight in the mistakes of others! But don’t get greedy and start planning small mistakes for the sole purpose of apologizing for them. Some brands fabricate disasters just for the bump in response, and obviously that’s a little too sketchy for us pandas. As is true with many marketing tactics, the ends don’t always justify the means.

While it’s hard to avoid all possible marketing mistakes, you can do your best to prepare for and address them thoughtfully when they happen. There’s nothing like a good (and embarrassing) mistake to remind you to enlist a professional proofreader, to test and scan every email and to double check your lists and campaigns. When it comes to marketing blunders, prevention is the best medicine.

Key Takeaways

  • Even the best laid email plans can come undone at the click of a button. Email is dynamic, complex, and fast—it’s nearly impossible to avoid mistakes completely.
  • Sometimes, these mistakes can even be an opportunity for a real connection with your customers.
  • Apology emails are always warranted—or even a good idea. Don’t call out harmless mistakes that don’t effect subscribers action.
  • Time is of the essence: Send an apology email within 24 hours, if possible
  • In your email, admit the mistake, offer necessary reassurances, remind your audience why they subscribed in the first place, fall on your sword and close with sincerity.

Category: email marketing
Jessica Porges

What Digital Marketers Can Learn from Amazon’s Purchase of Whole Foods Market

My kids are back in school, and Amazon just closed their deal to buy Whole Foods Market. What do these events have to do with one another, you ask? A lot.

As with all things Amazon, their focus is on me—the customer—and my experience. The more they know about me, the more relevant my experience with them becomes. To that end, enter Whole Foods Market.

The tech giant’s $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods has sent shock waves through the grocery industry and suspicions among Whole Foods loyalists who have concern about how their shopping experience—or the quality of the products they love—might change. But so far, the takeover has been all upside for consumers.

According to Bloomberg.com, Amazon spent its first day as the owner of a brick-and-mortar grocery chain cutting prices as much as 43 percent. In the coming weeks, the Whole Foods rewards program will be rolled into Amazon Prime for added savings and in-store benefits. This affords Prime a valuable new perk to attract subscribers and will encourage Whole Foods shoppers to buy more—according to a survey by Morgan Stanley, 62% already have a Prime account. And 1010data found that Prime members have deeper pockets at Whole Foods than non-members, spending an average of $306 more over a 12-month period.

Of course, as I eluded to, the strategic implications of Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods go much deeper—the acquisition offers its buyer a lot more value than the margins on organic avocados and rotisserie chicken. I’m talking about data.

Take an (Amazon) journey with me

Amazon already knows that I’m likely a mom of young children based on the diapers I order, the shows and movies we stream, and the parenting books I buy through my Prime membership. They also know I’m busy and seek ways to make my life more efficient, e.g. the Instant Pot pressure cooker I purchased. And now, if I shop at Whole Foods and use my Prime membership to get in-store perks and discounts, they will also be able to track my offline grocery store behavior and tie it all together. With massive amounts of data from Whole Foods shoppers, Amazon will ultimately be able to tailor the grocery shopping experience—and much more—to the individual.

Let’s pretend for a moment I didn’t own that Instant Pot just yet. Maybe I had just stalked it a few times online (since everyone is talking about them). Amazon might send me one of their high-converting emails promoting the Instant Pot, maybe with same day delivery (in some areas). They might kick in some trending one-pot recipes for beginners, with a list of ingredients I could also order and have delivered to my doorstep by upgrading to AmazonFresh.

The Amazon email I received after checking out the Instant Pot.  You can easily see how it would make sense to include recipes. 

Amazon’s goal is to make it so easy for me to get my groceries from them that I continue to do so (as opposed to shopping at the other grocer to which I’ve been loyal my entire life). They can send me weekly emails with Instant Pot recipes and links to order the ingredients. Maybe they’ll even upsell me on some Instant Pot accessories, like silicone fingertip mitts and that popular glass lid.

But they’ll also be able to learn what perishables I buy each week (because we never seem to have enough yogurt drinks or string cheese for my kids), automate it for me so I don’t have to even think about writing out a long grocery list, and deliver the food to my door (or have it ready and waiting for me in a locker at Whole Foods).

Amazon is a master of the upsell, using a highly sophisticated algorithm to recommend the right products to the right customers, at just the right times. Their treasure trove of data enables them to analyze behavior from customers and use this information to recommend products to those shoppers as well as other shoppers with similar profiles. The company has integrated recommendations into nearly every part of the purchasing process from product discovery to checkout.

They also dole out recommendations through email. Did you know that Amazon’s email marketing program analyzes the success of various campaigns and drives only the highest performing emails to a customer’s inbox? Smart. And now, whether shopping on Amazon.com or in Whole Foods retail locations, shoppers’ unique Prime identifiers are keeping track of all their activity, adding them to specific customer segments that can trigger personalized emails, messages on the website, retargeting ads and a multitude perks and offers.

How to think like Amazon

What can marketers learn from this tech behemoth with the potential to know everything there is to know about my movie preferences, lifestyle choices, kids’ snacking habits and my grocery aisle behavior? Regardless of the industry you’re in, your customers are engaged in a journey, and it’s your job to optimize the key decision points along their route with Amazon’s ninja-like precision. Here’s how to do it.

Map it out. List the key decision points along your customer’s journey and the steps necessary to take your desired actions. In my Amazon/Instant Pot example, that could include:

  1. Getting me to add the Instant Pot to my cart—ideally with add-ons
  2. Purchasing the Instant Pot
  3. Opening an email with groceries to buy from Whole Foods to make my first Instant Pot meal
  4. Adding those groceries to my cart
  5. Purchasing those groceries (either for delivery with the upsell to AmazonFresh or pick-up at Whole Foods)
  6. Subscribing to an auto-ship or weekly auto-order to pick up at Whole Foods
  7. Referring friends/family to Amazon Prime, AmazonFresh, etc.

Think about the metrics. Use analytics tools to determine a baseline for your online and offline metrics at the conversion points currently implemented.

Implement technology. You have data and you have a lot you want to do with it. Now you need the right technology to make it happen. Most of us don’t work for a company with the resources of Amazon, with several dozen people to build and optimize internal systems to power their customer experience. But, you can do the same with the right tool at the heart of your customer experiences.

For example, let’s talk about Tealium. Tealium has a suite of tools that allows you to gather data from various online and offline sources (Tealium IQ Tag Manager), slice and dice your consumers into segmented groups, and then share that with other systems both for action and analysis (Tealium Universal Data Hub). (You can learn more about tag management in our earlier post, 3 Tag Management Systems To Make Your Life Easier.)

Tealium allows you to ingest multiple data sources, stitch them together, and then push meaningful data into other systems to trigger actions or to analyze for insights.

If I’m looking at the Instant Pot but haven’t yet pulled the trigger, I’m placed in a group that will be encouraged to make the purchase via remarketing and retargeting tactics.

If I decide to walk into Whole Foods and pick out my groceries the old-fashioned way, I’m incentivized by perks to reveal my Amazon Prime membership and, when I do, my website activity and in-store purchases become tied to the same member number and united in Tealium.

From there, I can be put into another segment of customers, which may trigger certain personalization on the website that prompts me to share my experiences, sign up for perks and more.

It’s likely I fall under a few different marketing categories: “high disposable income”, “young children”, “healthy lifestyle”, “tech gadget lover”. Because Amazon doesn’t want to flood my inbox, they will choose the most successful of the emails that are relevant to me that week, e.g. “top toys for children” or “best newly released workout videos” to increase the odds of me opening it, clicking through and potentially converting.

Applying Tealium to your customers’ journey

No matter your industry, multi-channel analytics, personalization and re-marketing are your best digital marketing tools for driving conversions. Using a tool like Tealium enables you to tie customer data together and activate next steps. Let’s look at a few examples.

Hospitality

If available, I tend to stay at Ritz-Carlton hotels when I travel. When I book my room online, I log into my existing account and enter my member number to earn rewards. That gives Ritz-Carlton at least two unique identifiers to analyze my behavior and market to me in a more personalized way. Using a tool like Tealium, they can tie me to the types of rooms I’ve booked or upgraded to in the past from their CRM and tailor an “upgrade now and save” message to me.

Tealium then tells their email service provider (ESP), such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC), to send me that message as part of my confirmation email, or it tells a personalization tool like Optimizely to give me this message on the confirmation page. Or, both—it can serve up the upgrade message on the confirmation page and, if I don’t react, include it in the confirmation email. Perhaps the message comes to me before I even book the room. If Tealium sees that I didn’t choose the upgrade in the booking funnel, it could tell a tool like Yieldify to inject a targeted message in the booking process. It could also learn from the CRM that I’ve dined at their hotel restaurants and tell SFMC to send me a pre-arrival email with available dinner times during my stay.

By targeting messages at key points in the conversion process, such as after a room type is selected, you can improve the customer experience and better meet your business goals.

Real Estate

Opendoor.com is a relatively new company that buys and sells homes in a streamlined fashion– they supply a seller with a firm offer within 24 hours that the seller either accepts or rejects. After Opendoor owns the home, they make any necessary updates or renovations and then list the home in their inventory online. Anyone interested in viewing the property can gain access instructions through their mobile app.

Let’s say I’m in the market for a new home, so I download the Opendoor app and set my search criteria. I go visit a few of the homes on my list, but none of them are the perfect combination of the features I want. As I leave each home, the app detects I’m leaving the area and sends a push notification to complete a short survey providing feedback on the home, perhaps using a tool like ForeSee. ForeSee then sends that information to Tealium. Did I love it, was it missing something? Tealium sends this data to Opendoor’s recommendations engine, to help make better recommendations to me (and others like me) to view other properties. At the same time, the data could even be combined with other data and sent to Domo, to help Opendoor analyze and select the appropriate features to look for in (or add to) the subsequent homes they invest in, getting close to a “just-in-time” model within the pre-existing real estate market.

Healthcare

As a mom of two kids, I’m a frequenter of Urgent Care. Perhaps at my most recent visit, I opted in to receive newsletter communications from the health system. These emails may contain general tips on staying healthy, but Tealium can help connect the ESP to the CRM so that the email could also be personalized based on what the medical center knows about my previous visits (being careful to mention that I’m simply an anonymous patient ID, not a name, by simply grouping me into a segment). If I click through one of these emails to the site, perhaps to read about yoga exercises I can do at home, Tealium can connect my urgent care visit to my website visit and to the content I viewed, all in the CRM. Perhaps after reading about yoga, I read about primary care physicians before leaving the site. Tealium can now tell the ESP to personalize a section of my next email with information about choosing a PCP, maybe even including a short list of physicians near my home.

Pressure cook your personalization

It’s been estimated that more than 80 million people are Amazon Prime members. With this data, it is capable of building analytic models which can predict what these consumers will want, how much they will want, and when they will want it. Now that Amazon can collect and connect data from offline purchases as well, the power of their customer insights is unrivaled.

Ok, so we can’t all be Amazon. But every digital marketer can optimize their business’s key performance indicators by understanding the customer journey and getting ahead of questions or roadblocks at each micro-conversion point. From there, you can use a toolbox of technologies and strategies to optimize the journey from consideration to purchase, and then help them to keep coming back for more.

Remember, it’s personal. Customers care more about themselves than they care about you. Use data to make your communications as customer-centric as possible. That’s what Amazon does best and a key reason for purchasing Whole Foods. Follow their lead and make the best possible use of the data at your fingertips.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The strategic implications of Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods is less about brick-and-mortar retail or the margins on groceries. It’s about the data.
  2. No matter what industry you’re in, every digital marketer can and should optimize their business’s key performance indicators by understanding the customer journey and getting ahead of questions or roadblocks at each micro-conversion point.
  3. Tools like Tealium can help digital marketers gather data from various online and offline sources, slice and dice consumers into segmented groups, and share that data with other systems both for action and analysis.
  4. Remember, it’s personal. Use data to make your digital experiences as customer-centric as possible.
Category: email marketing
Shamir Duverseau

4 Methods for Improving Conversion Rates

Conversion rate optimization— it’s a mouthful. It’s also a science and an art … and frankly, a lot of work. But few aspects of your digital marketing strategy are more important than this cumbersome term.

Our crowd of friends at Wikipedia define conversion rate optimization (CRO) as, “a system for increasing the percentage of visitors to a website that convert into customers, or more generally, take any desired action on a webpage.”  If you just totally zoned out, or assumed this was just a fancy way of talking about split testing, we understand. At Smart Panda Labs, we define CRO a little differently—it’s a way of thinking about all the digital experiences you offer.

As with any strategy, the first step is defining a goal. Are you trying to sell more of a particular product, book more hotel rooms, register more participants, increase the number of leads or increase the quality of those leads? Once you have a clear goal in mind, you can work backwards from that destination, thinking through the various touchpoints along the route. And then the fun begins.

Here are four of our favorite methods for increasing engagement and conversion rates across your digital channels.

#1: A/B Testing

I’m sure you guessed we were going to say this—if you know anything about us, you know testing is a panda’s best friend (as we like to say, Always Be Testing). To determine the optimal experience for your consumers, you must constantly and repeatedly test every element, measuring and analyzing the results and leveraging those insights to inform your next test or segmentation. Testing should play a role in everything related to CRO.

Really, you can’t test too much. From entire web pages to a series of pages (like a checkout process) to specific sections (like the navigation) to page elements (headlines, images, and buttons), testing them against alternate versions will keep you busy …  forever. You can test one or more version against your current baseline, and you can show that test to all your visitors, a percentage of them, or even just select audiences (like consumers coming to your site straight from paid media). These tests should help you find pain points and roadblocks on your site—touchpoints where you can improve the experience, remove anxiety and influence people towards a specific action.

Tools tip: A key to testing success is to arm yourself with the proper tools. A free tool like Google Optimize is a great way to get started if you are new to this, or if you’re trying to get leaders to buy into a testing strategy. However, if you really want to do some fancy and exciting stuff, investing in an enterprise tool like Optimizely will enable you to generate insights capable of truly transforming your business.

#2: Targeted Messaging

People don’t often associate targeted messaging with CRO, but special promotions or social proof (such as a testimonial from an industry expert, or a message to the effect of “5000 people are looking at this hotel right now”) are designed to nudge people toward making a decision, right? These are tactics are intended to optimize your conversion rates.

The key here is to use the method that best aligns with your goals. For example, if your goal is to sell more products, book more rooms or generate more leads, then perhaps a cart or form-abandonment message would be best. When someone is about to leave the site without converting, try injecting a message that offers a special discount or gift for completing the process then and there.

However, if your end goal is to increase average order value, total revenue or lead quality, try testing the abandon message against showing social proof, like the number of people who bought in the last month or how many people have this item in their shopping cart at this very moment. While this may not get as many conversions as the promotion, it may be better for your bottom line. Again, it goes back to starting with your goal and working backwards.

Tools tip: A great tool for this method is Yieldify. Their platform offers a number of options, from overlays with forms to message bars with counters, and allows you to test them. You can also use tools like Optimizely to run these tests, but their experimentation platform is not designed to run targeted messaging 24/7/365.  So, if you don’t want to invest in another robust tool, use Optimizely to test what works and then a simpler tool to inject the winning messaging.

It’s also important that your tool allows you to show different messages to different audiences. While promos may work great on returning visitors, social proof may be the key for people coming via paid search. Test your messages to determine what works best for whom. Then get crazy and further target your messages. This is when the fun really begins.

#3: Personalization

The more you know about the people on your site, the more you can surface the content, products or services they most want. Remember, we live in a world of instant gratification, so the more you can reduce their effort, the more likely they are to convert.

Start by segmenting the people on your site, landing pages or mobile app into different audiences. For example, you can split users up by metropolitan area if you’re in real estate or by new vs. returning customers if you’re in the retail industry. The more information you have, the more personalization you can perform—and the more personal, the better. (As general rule, make sure your segments don’t get too small for what you’re able to manage and analyze.)

Once you have performance data for these segments, try to discern what the different drivers are for these audiences. Also be sure to review past A/B tests and parse them by those same audiences. Insights from these steps should drive your ongoing personalization campaigns.

As you continue to create and customize these campaigns, think about ways to personalize headlines, homepage messaging, navigation. And remember to Always Be Testing. Even once you know this personalization campaign works, you’ll want to continue to test against a control group to ensure you’re getting optimal results.

Tools tip: Optimizely has a specific platform designed for personalization. It can be fed data from a number of different sources, including the data it’s able to collect on its own. However, if it were up to me, I would use something like Tealium in conjunction with Optimizely for my personalization efforts. Tealium will gather mounds of data for your analytics, ad tracking, CRM, ESP, etc. It can be easily configured to send whatever data is needed to a personalization platform like Optimizely.

If you’re getting a flood of traffic and want to try personalizing to some very small audiences, Qubit is also a great tool to consider. If you’re in an industry like gaming, or you’re a large retailer, this may be a good way to go.

#4: Triggered Emails

People don’t often think of emails as an optimization tool, but they should. There are a number of industries, both B2C and B2B, in which people need time to make decisions. These decisions may involve multiple visits to your site or perhaps an online conversion that leads to an offline sales process. So how do you continue to influence your audience when they aren’t on your site or in your mobile app? Emails.

By determining proper trigger points, you can send targeted messages that help move people toward online and/or offline conversions, surfacing relevant information. Emails are a great way to remove anxiety, focusing on one singular goal with each communication. These communications start knocking down barriers at each touchpoint, giving a person the chance to make a decision and convert.

And, of course, test. Split test your messages, email designs and imagery, the points at which they trigger, frequency of the communications, subject lines, headlines and more. Remember, this is not a light switch, this is a journey. You have to help your audience in the right way, at the right time. If you were on a road trip, you care about the location of the closest gas station only when you’re low on gas. If you just filled up, a gas station is irrelevant to you. Figure out when your prospects need to fill up, and be there with the gas.

Tools tip: There are a lot of good email service providers out there that enable triggered emails, from Salesforce Marketing Cloud to Adobe Campaign. The key here is to use your ESP to do the triggering, not a third-party tool. Keep all things email-related in one place across the enterprise. You won’t believe how much easier this will make your life!

All together now

All of the above methods work great in and of themselves. But, if you really want to provide the best possible digital experience, do them all—and do them in concert with one another! Sync your A/B testing with your targeted messaging as part of a personalization campaign that includes triggered communications. Boom. Make every facet of your customers’ journey feel like it’s all about them.

To accomplish this, you need to understand who the person is—or at least which audience they are a part of—across multiple digital assets. Here again is where something like Tealium comes into play, serving as a central hub for all this information. Then, the data can be segmented and pushed to Optimizely and Yieldify and Salesforce Marketing Cloud, enabling these powerful tools to perform in harmony.

The methods above will help you provide a digital experience that removes barrier after barrier at every single touchpoint, reducing and removing one anxiety after another and significantly increasing conversions. If done properly, you won’t just have a one-time customer, you’ll have created a loyal fan who keeps coming back and brings others will them. And that is what true CRO is really about.

Category: email marketing
Charlene Hixon

The Future of Email is Interactive

It’s been 46 years since Ray Tomlinson sent the first ever email. The history of email itself is a fascinating evolution, and the progress in email marketing, especially of late, has been exponential. As a CRM marketing expert at Smart Panda Labs, it’s my job to keep up with these rapid changes.

With that goal in mind, earlier this month I attended the Experian Marketing Services Client Summit in Las Vegas, themed “Rev’17” (Revive, Reveal, Revolutionize). This was my first time attending this conference, and it did not disappoint. Speakers included thought leaders like entrepreneur Josh Linkner and Forrester’s Joe Stanhope to Olympic athletes and celebrities, including undefeated boxing champion Laila Ali and Emmy-award winning host Andy Cohen. There were also informative breakout sessions, user workshops and networking opportunities with digital marketing experts from around the country.

To kick things off, Experian’s Cross Channel Marketing Services (CCM) announced its launch as an independent marketing technology company, Cheetah Digital.

“Today we become a new company and a new brand,” said Matt Seeley, formerly CCM’s Global President and now Chief Operating Officer of the new, independent marketing technology company. Cheetah Digital’s offerings include the first-gen email marketing platform, CheetahMail (from which their name is derived), Mail Publisher and the Experian Marketing Suite. The company’s focus, explained Seeley, is on the innovative spirit that was the basis of Cheetah’s original success in the marketplace. Cheetah Digital will seek to modernize and redefine the solutions offered to contemporary marketers.

Continuous Engagement—Meet Your Consumers Exactly Where They’re At

As part of their mission to lead and define these digital solutions, the summit took a deep dive into the latest technology trends. One of my favorite talks at the event was by Joe Stanhope, lead analyst at Forrester, titled “Transform the Customer Experience with Continuous Engagement.” Stanhope presented the view that marketing teams are being asked to move beyond the single customer view and understand their customers at specific moments in their lives. This means meeting them at every touch point in their personal journey. This level of engagement boosts digital intelligence practices and enables continuous optimization. It’s also essential to keep pace with the shift in customers’ expectations of their digital experiences.

According to Stanhope, continuous engagement requires brands to make most of every interaction with each customer. It means finding the marketing moments depending on where the customers are in their lives: are they buying a new home? Are they having their first child? And instead of ignoring a poor customer experience, continuous engagement means connecting with the customer at the point of aggravation. These are all opportunities to build loyalty and a renewed allegiance to the retailer.

As part of this conversation, William Sonoma presented how they have successfully targeted these large life moments through a cross-brand touch. From a new baby registry to crib-building assistance to a meal provided to the family, they provided special touches. What a way to stay relevant with your customers!

Critical to the success of this high-touch approach is data quality. Enrichment—the use of custom logic to transform an attribute from a static value to a dynamic one—can provide real-time audience data to help marketers understand who the customer is, where they are in their journey, and what moment they may be experiencing. Rapid progress in new technology is enabling this next-generation marketing approach.

Email Trends for 2017: Interactivity, Animation, and Real-Time Communications

A particularly exciting breakout session, “Email Evolution: The Rise of Interactive and Real-Time Communications,” homed in on email trends for 2017. Presented by David Kepets, Creative Director, and Jim Kelley, Senior Art Director at Experian Marketing Services, the talk demonstrated tactics and approaches that exemplify the summit’s theme words: Revive, Reveal, and Revolutionize. Why the drama? Now that responsive design is commonplace, it’s going to take more than a clean, functional template to command attention. New, interactive features in email are making it possible to highlight contextual content and capture key behavioral points for a more data-driven experience. (Music to this panda’s ears.) And some of these interactive elements are super cool.

For example, it is now possible to infuse email templates with unique components, such as profile options, local store info and prioritized navigation. A library of options enable consumers to tap, expand, and reveal particular items—in other words, emails that function more like an interactive web page. The speakers gave the specific example of an email from Bass Pro Shops that asked consumers, “What would you like to do this weekend?” The audience could choose their preference, and the email content populated accordingly. Another example was Future Solution LX and their interactive email for night and day cleanser. They asked the consumer to “Tap Night or Day to explore”.  The audience could choose their product preference within the email itself and the email content populated accordingly. Their selection was then captured as useful consumer data for future segmentation and personalization.

These interactive features can also be a lot of fun for consumers, who can now use their cursor to “scratch” an image to reveal a discount or special offer beneath it. It’s your birthday? Pop the balloons to reveal your offer! These interactive elements are a clever way to keep consumers engaged.

And finally, brace yourself, because everything is going to start moving. Animation will be everywhere, but with the capacity for interaction. The New York Times recently included an interactive crossword search within the email creative itself. Users would find words through interactive play, triggering animated, on-screen offers

Times They Are a-Changin’

Change and growth in digital is constant, exciting and seemingly infinite. Personalized, interactive experiences are clearly the present and future of email marketing, and a brand’s hyper awareness of their audience is becoming essential. Consumers are now expecting customized, personalized messaging and experiences, and new technology is fueling and then meeting those demands. The amount and specificity of data we can now collect means endless possibilities for engagement—and ROI.

The conference hosts were acutely aware of the rapid pace at which digital has evolved, and they perfectly demonstrated that growth with an interactive element of their own. One on one side of the conference room sat two typists and their 1960’s typewriters, on which they typed out personalized haikus for participants. On the other side was a booth where you could instantly create your own animated gif, share it via social channels and even print it out. A clever illustration of how fast our communication channels have changed.

Back at Smart Panda Labs, we’re excited to see what the first year will look like in Cheetah Digital’s new history, as well as the exciting opportunities with this valued partner moving forward. For now though, here are two haiku’s about pandas!

Key Takeaways

  • Marketing teams are being asked to move beyond the single customer view and understand their customers at specific moments in their lives. This means meeting them at every touch point in their personal journey
  • A brand’s continuous engagement with their consumers boosts digital intelligence practices and enables continuous optimization. It’s also essential to keep pace with the shift in customers’ expectations of their digital experiences.
  • Critical to the success of a high-touch approach is data quality. Enrichment can provide real-time audience data to help marketers understand who the customer is and what they are currently experiencing in their life.
  • New, interactive features in email are making it possible to highlight contextual content and capture key behavioral points for a more data-driven experience.
Category: email marketing
Alex Corzo

Email, We’re Gonna Party Like it’s Our Birthday

I’ll come right out and say it—today is my birthday. Send the cake and presents this way! If you need more reason to celebrate, I recently discovered that I share my birth month with another mover and shaker. Last week email turned 46—older than the Internet itself—and it’s still looking great.

In fact, of all the digital marketing channels, including search engine marketing and social media, email marketing remains the no. 1 driver of revenue and conversions. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, email is nearly 40 times more effective at acquiring and converting customers than Facebook and Twitter combined.

If I were throwing email a birthday party, instead of my own, I might craft a toast to honor the invention that unquestionably revolutionized the way we communicate. That toast would quite possibly recap email’s exciting and wondrous journey to 2017, and it would most certainly include some of these notable milestones.

email’s first steps

The first email was sent in 1971, by Ray Tomlinson a pioneering American computer programmer at the Boston firm of Bolt, Beranek and Newman (known today as BBN Technologies.) He’d been asked to figure out something interesting to do with ARPANET, the newborn computer network that was the predecessor of the modern Internet.

Tomlinson had been tinkering with two programs called SNDMSG and READMAIL, which allowed users to leave messages for one another on the same machine. He applied the idea behind these programs to a third program called CYPNET, which enabled users to transmit files between computers. He famously chose the @ symbol to separate the names of senders and recipients from the names of their machines. Email as we know it was born. Now, more than a billion people around the world type that @ sign every day.

The first email standard was proposed in 1973 at Darpa and finalized within Arpanet in 1977, including common things such as the to and from fields, and the ability to forward emails to others who were not initially a recipient.

But when did we start calling email email? It’s up for debate, but Indian-born American scientist and entrepreneur Shiva Ayyadurai takes the credit. At the age of 14, Ayyadurai wrote a program called EMAIL for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which sent electronic messages within the university, later copyrighting the term in 1982. (What else happened in 1982? Me!)

email takes hold

There is a first for everything, including the original marketing email. And as it turns out, the first documented commercial email for marketing purposes was a total winner. Sent in 1978 by a Gary Thuerk, Marketing Manager at Digital Equipment Corp., this inaugural email marketing campaign promoted his company’s machines to 400 users via Arpanet. The ROI on that mass email? $13M in sales (with inflation, the equivalent of $78M today).

There were, of course, doubters along the way. In 1989, experts predicted that other technologies like the fax machine would soon replace email. But who could blame them—at the time, it was hard to conceive of the innovations in hardware and particularly software that would make email the undeniable leader in communication worldwide.

The first version of Microsoft Mail was released in 1988 for Mac OS, allowing users of Apple’s AppleTalk Networks to send messages to each other. In 1991, a second version was released for other platforms including DOS and Windows, which laid the groundwork for Microsoft’s later Outlook and Exchange email systems.

But it wasn’t until 1991 that the Internet become widely available to the public, begetting new systems of communication. Enter Hotmail. It was one of the first email services not tied to a particular ISP and adopted new HTML-based email formatting (hence the initial stylizing of the brand name as “HoTMaiL”. Oh so clever.) And who doesn’t remember the sound (and recoil at the thought) of AOL dial up? The sound of email arriving was the cornerstone of the 1998 Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan romantic comedy, You’ve Got Mail, by which time the Internet and email had become part of everyday life.

email overload

Marketers, of course, were catching on. Inboxes inundated with clutter and junk emails resulted in the introduction of the Data Protection Act in 1998, which required all email marketers to include an opt-out option. And the years that followed were a battleground among email marketers (particularly pharmaceutical companies), virus laden spam and consumers. I’ll spare you the details you’ve happily since forgotten, but mark 2004 as the real beginning of recipient focused anti-spam strategy that continues today.

In 2003, for better or worse, BlackBerry brought work email to the palm of employees’ hands. Four years later, Apple’s first iPhone was released, and suddenly mobile email became a part of daily life for the consuming masses. Fast forward to today, and we’re sitting squarely in a mobile era. Email marketing trends have closely followed the web, with the percentage of B2C brands using mobile-friendly email designs growing 88% over the past two years, according to Litmus. In fact, mobile-unfriendliness is a major cause of both spam complaints and opt-outs. According to Litmus, 51% of consumers have unsubscribed from a brand’s emails because their emails or website didn’t display or work well on their smartphone.

the brave new world of email

Despite email’s decades-long existence, we’re still striving to design emails that people want to open, craft content that people want to read and offer consumers something of value.

It seems like every day we’re finding new ways to leverage the data we now have access to, thanks to the hundreds of email service providers available. At Smart Panda Labs, we use this data to measure and optimize our client’s digital strategy and database marketing efforts. We also leverage tools like Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics to aggregate those insights and better understand campaigns and customers.

The past couple of years in email’s evolution have been nothing short of awesome. Companies can use automation, segmentation and triggered emails to deliver highly personalized emails that nurture, engage and reengage their consumers. As Charlene writes in her post, personalization helps customers feel like they are relevant and being “heard.” Now you can send a personalized email based on specific user behavior on your website or social media pages automatically. Automating the more mundane aspects of email creation allow you to deliver a high performing email experience—and a consistently great brand experience—for every subscriber.

So cheers to you, email, my fellow Aries—the pioneer and trailblazer of the horoscope wheel. You’ve had an amazing journey, defied all odds and continue to shape communication around the world. I’m proud to share my cake with you.

key takeaways

  1. The first email was sent in 1971, by Ray Tomlinson a pioneering American computer programmer at the Boston firm of Bolt, Beranek and Newman (known today as BBN Technologies.) He famously chose the @ symbol to separate the names of senders and recipients from the names of their machines. Email as we know it was born.
  2. The first documented commercial email for marketing purposes was sent in 1978 by a Gary Thuerk, Marketing Manager at Digital Equipment Corp., and promoted his company’s machines to 400 users via Arpanet. That first mass email resulted in $13M in sales.
  3. In 1991 the Internet became widely available to the public and beget new systems of communication, from Hotmail to AOL dial-up and Yahoo.
  4. Inboxes inundated with clutter and junk emails resulted in the introduction of the Data Protection Act in 1998, which required all email marketers to include an opt-out option. But 2004 marks the real beginning of recipient focused anti-spam strategy that continues today.
  5. The hundreds of email service providers available provide nothing short of awesome metrics and data that can be leveraged to optimize digital marketing campaigns.
  6. These tools and others can be leveraged to create personalized, automated communications that are relevant to a customer’s specific behavior and even delightful to read.