The Future of Email is Interactive

    752 470 Charlene Hixon

    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 + database 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.

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    AUTHOR

    Charlene Hixon

    Charlene is an CRM + database marketing expert at smart panda labs, where she advises on email marketing strategy and tactics as well as designs, develops and tests all email campaigns for current clients. She is an accomplished marketing professional with a broad range of digital experience, including online marketing, project management, content management, digital design, email marketing, user experience and ecommerce. Charlene has worked across numerous industries including litigation, luxury hotels, and leisure/travel and tourism, providing expertise in Sparklist email marketing software, Litmus Testing, SalesForce Marketing Cloud/ExactTarget and Adobe Creative Suite. Prior to joining the team at smart panda labs, she worked as Email Marketing/CRM Associate for Universal Orlando and Project Manager for Marriott Vacations Worldwide. She is a Certified Email Specialist in Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

    All stories by: Charlene Hixon

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