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Six Ways to Win at Email

4/1/14

By Daniel Flamberg

Email is the strike force medium for online and offline retailers because 95 percent of online users get it and receive an average of 416 commercial messages per month. 91 percent check their email at least once a day and 70 percent say they always open emails from their favorite companies and 84 percent say it’s their preferred channel for engaging with retailers. Don’t let the social/mobile crowd fool you. Social media gets the buzz, but email delivers the traffic.

Nearly one in every three emails gets opened. More than half open on mobile devices and as much as a third of openers act on the offers. In general, for every dollar spent on email marketing, retailers get $44.25 in return.

The big tactical decisions are about frequency or cadence and offers. Some form of free shipping and a minimum of a 10 percent discount are table stakes. And at least weekly for most of the year, except for holidays seems to be the norm.

Six email marketing best practices separate the winners from the losers:

Write Telegraphic Subject Lines. For one-third of recipients, the subject line is the only criteria for opening. Put the offer and the CTA in the SUBJ line but understand that less is better. Subject lines with fewer than 10 characters have a 58 percent open rate and better than a 2.5 percent CTR. Shorter is always better. If you can work in the customer’s name and/or location, you can spike open rates. Everybody immediately responds to his or her own name.

Short & Sweet Content. Focus on the offer. Aim for 4 paragraphs maximum. Limit the possible CTAs. Click rate degrades with the number of links, so focus your customers on seeing a single powerful offer and direct them to click on a big colorful link or button or two. Avoid the urge to load up on logos and taglines. Present the product or service clearly. Find a stand-alone illustration or image to make your point and ask for the order.

Like a letter, adding a personal signature, evidence of human interaction, can increase opens by 5 times and clicks by 3.5 times.

Since everyone already knows the potent proven retail words your offer has to pay it off in a differentiating and motivating way to deliver a decent CTA or CTOA.

Time Your Send. Most email is opened during business hours (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) and the majority of response happens in the first hour after delivery. More than half of mobile email is opened from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. Consider these cycles and what people normally do during these time periods as you craft content and offers.

Open rates peak mid week, on Tuesdays and Wednesday, though the highest click through rates are on Sunday. The most email is sent on Wednesday so the burden to stand out midweek is greatest. Saturdays draw the lowest volume, maybe an opportunity to flank the competition.

There is a lot of click through action early in the AM.  That’s why so many retailers transmit overnight to catch consumers when they check their email first thing in the morning. Open rates generally peak at 10 a.m. and then gently slope downward throughout the business day.

Be Transparent on the FROM line. Twenty-four percent of recipients only open email from names they recognize. Transparency works best. Use your brand name. The higher your brand awareness; the better your open rate.

Optimize for Mobile. More than half of all email is opened on mobile devices. Too many render badly and drive customers away. Design for smartphones with clear calls-to-action and big buttons for fat fingers. Aim for more elegant rendering on tablets, but expect buying actions to take place from home in the evenings.

Keep Sending. Consumers want options and choices. They are not bothered by hundreds of emails in their inboxes because, for the most part, they’ve asked for them. The more email they get, the more control they have. High email volume generally doesn’t annoy opted-in customers and prospects.

They won’t open or read everything you send. But they don’t want to miss out on a great deal. Consumers are expecting lots of offers and will eagerly sort them out and cull the ones that are most attractive. This is one instance where more is more.

Daniel Flamberg is executive vice president, managing director digital & CRM, Publicis Kaplan Thaler. He is also a long-time email marketing veteran.

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