Email marketing needs to raise its game - here’s how

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What can be done to improve the reputation of email marketing?

I’m determined we all do a better job at email marketing. For a start, should we be calling it email marketing? This implies emails are something that have to be sent by brands to consumers, rather than what they should be: relevant, targeted and personal communications between brands and the people who keep them in business – their consumers.

Unfortunately, consumer perception of email is really poor. 60% don’t think any brands do email well, 59% agree that most emails are irrelevant and 41% would like to receive less (DMA – consumer email tracker 2017). I suspect this is because, if we are truthful, there aren’t many brands that can confidently say they are doing things better than before.

As 2018 revs up and we inch ever closer to GDPR, here are six simple changes brands can make to improve their email activities and be ever more relevant to our customers.

Make GDPR so easy for customers, they don’t even have to think about if you’re compliant

GDPR is imminent and trust is a key factor in a customer’s likelihood to want to hear from and engage with a brand. 2018 will see an obvious focus on GDPR and brands ticking the necessary boxes to be compliant. However, the brands that succeed will be the ones that embrace GDPR and use this as a catalyst to really think about who they’re talking to, how they talk to them and what people want to hear about – giving us customers more opportunities to be in control. Is it time to finally set up that preference centre?

Think about making your emails more interactive, when relevant

In 2018, we’ll continue to see an increasing use of interactive email features. More and more, I’m receiving emails with countdown timers, carousels and hide and reveal sections. I’m becoming increasingly excited at the prospect of receiving an email where I can interact, engage and buy without the need to leave the email. Just one word of caution on this. While an increasing number of email clients are enabled to display the interactive features, brands still need to have a fall back solution and use interactive features only when the email warrants it.

Let’s get personal

We all know we should be sending cleverly targeted emails, but sometimes we slip into bad habits and use ‘spray and pray’ tactics. Hopefully, GDPR will reduce these tactics as consumer expectation will grow and recipient’s ability to simply say they’ve ‘had enough’ will increase. Brands will need to get their data in order as part of GDPR and this is a fundamental requirement in achieving accurate personalisation. 75% of consumers say they are more likely to buy from retailers that personalise (Accenture: Personalisation Pulse Check Survey) and things have moved on from simply starting an email with ‘Hi Russ’. Product recommendations, live updates, notification buttons etc. should become the norm not the vision.

Make your subject line intriguing, interesting or exciting

We can debate long and hard about what makes a good subject line but what worked last year may now be different and what works for one brand may not work for another, so it’s a never-ending process. More than 50% of emails are opened on mobile devices so it’s no surprise that subject lines are getting shorter. Emoji’s are becoming more mainstream and can reduce character count and add a nice sprinkling of personality, when appropriate. Finally, advancements in ESP and AI technology will also significantly improve and automate subject line testing and provide a lot more capability to make this a continual process.

Write emails that make people smile

When was the last time an email really made you feel special, brought a smile to your face or was a real page scroller? I’ve already stressed how GDPR will ensure we deliver more targeted and relevant emails but brands should also consider how they write by thinking about their customer. Don’t be selfish, talk to your customer, not just about yourselves, by using more words like ‘you’ and ‘your’. And use relevant information that you hold on customer to give it that personal touch. But never lose sight of what the key customer call to action is and write your copy around this. Don’t overload the customer, three pieces of information is still the magic number and sometimes two emails may be better than one.

Make sending emails simpler so you have more time to focus on improving them

According to a Forrester study, trigger-based marketing can generate four times the revenue of standard emails. Even the most basic (and free) ESPs will offer some level of automation, so why are more brands not leveraging these powers? Automation can work really well in a number of areas - welcome, purchase, abandoned baskets etc. - but ensure that it is still personalised. Retailers do this well as do travel companies. The latter utilises information on you, your booking, your destination to really deliver an exciting and informative pre-holiday experience. It’s important to ensure you are continually analysing and testing any automated campaigns, but if they are automated, they are a lot easier to tweak and fine tune.

As I’ve said, three is the magic number, so here are three things to take away:

Embrace GDPR

Don’t just treat it as a box ticking exercise (excuse the pun). Instead see it as an opportunity to deliver more targeted, customer-focused emails.

Think customer

We’re all customers at the end of the day so think about what would make you feel special if you were receiving the email and try and achieve this through copy, creative, design or interactive features.

Automate and test

Leverage your tech to automate and improve performance and efficiency but always keep testing along the way.

Russ Groombridge is our director of CRM and analytics at Intermarketing

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