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The Right E-mail Tactics Can Make Holidays Merry for Retailers

The holiday buying season is around the corner, and e-mail is more important than ever in the retail marketing mix for both existing customer lists and prospecting e-mail lists. Marketers planning for fourth quarter success may want to check plans against the “Ultimate Guide to Holiday E-mail Marketing” post offered by Campaign Monitor for some basic strategies and examples.

Leverage Online Buying, Mobile and Personalization Trends

Targeted e-mail marketing is positioned to capitalize on three big retail marketing trends: online buying, mobile commerce, and personalization. Four out of five Americans are now online shoppers, per Pew Research, so marketers will want to join the 41% of retailers that use “Buy Now” buttons in their e-mail marketing to link shoppers directly and quickly to online purchase pages. Mobile-optimized e-mails (linked to mobile-optimized landing pages) will also deliver more dollars because half of those online buyers make purchases using a mobile device. Sales on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2018 surpassed $2 billion, breaking the previous record set in 2017, and, according to Movable Ink, 76% of Black Friday e-mails and 63% of Cyber Monday e-mails are opened on a mobile device.  Finally, now that personalization is demanded by consumers across channels, quality e-mail list data and segmentation can create the personalized e-mail messaging that delivers six times higher e-mail transaction rates, that converts 202% better than default e-mail calls to action (per HubSpot), and that generates a median e-mail ROI of 122% (per Instapage research). And don’t forget that personalized e-mail subject lines generate an average of 50% higher open rates (per Oberlo data)!

Start by Crafting Subject Lines that Get Opens

Indeed, the subject line is the first step in getting an e-mail noticed and opened. And on the subject of subject lines, Campaign Monitor has distilled some key tips. As noted above, personalize the subject line to boost open rates, using list data such as first name, for example, as well as relevant messaging based on purchase history, geography, gender, site actions/browsing, etc. Keep the subject line short but pack in “power words” that tap emotions and drive action, including sales-driven words (deal, promotion, discount, savings, free shipping); time-urgency words (order now, limited time, today only, last minute, exclusive); holiday references (12 Deals of Christmas, Season’s Greetings); and gratitude expressions (Thank you, appreciation, your support). Try engaging with a question (Need gift ideas?) or an eye-catching emoji. Brands using an emoji in their subject lines report a 45% increase in unique open rates, per Experian. Including an enticing offer in the subject line can help grab opens, too. For example, a mention of free shipping gains the interest of 74% of consumers, per UPS.

Use Holiday Messaging That Drives Action

Research shows e-mail creative earns more click-throughs and conversions by making the call-to-action prominent via an eye-catching button with short text (Buy Now, Save 40%). Make sure the button has a trackable link to a landing page where the recipient can buy the specific offer in the e-mail rather than a home page or generic purchase page where prospects must search for the offer. Overall, messaging can use holiday shopping fever to heat up response with tactics such as offering a gift buying guide, pumping a Cyber Monday or Black Friday sale, offering a special gift for referring a friend, incorporating a traditional or pop-culture holiday theme, or catering to panicked last-minute shoppers (In 2015, the average shopper had only completed a little over half their shopping list two weeks before Christmas). For inspiration from real e-mail examples, go to the Campaign Monitor article.


Targeted E-mail Expands Museums’ Direct Marketing Options

While previous AccuList posts focused on direct mail strategies for our museum marketing clients, e-mail marketing is also an area where our expertise can help museums reach new members, event participants, or donors, as well as improve the performance of existing e-mail databases.

Study Museum E-mail Benchmarks and Success Stories

Evidence that e-mail can be a successful player in museums’ multi-channel campaigns comes from Constant Contact’s March 2019 e-mail statistics for house databases in the arts, culture and entertainment vertical (including museums and galleries), which show overall e-mail open rates averaging 17.54%, and click-through rates averaging 6.81% for the vertical. Those results are better than the all-industries averages of 16.74% open rate and 7.43% click-through rate, plus ahead of all but 13 of the 34 verticals tracked, and far ahead of some verticals, such as technology (e.g. web developers), automotive services, salons, retail and consulting. Marketers can also use e-mail to prospect for new members, donors and event participants. For example, marketers report success with event audience building via a series of e-mails that start with a promotion linked to ticket purchase, RSVP and/or social-sharing request, then follow up with reminders prior to the event, and finish with a post-event thanks e-mail that includes a request for an online review. Other successful e-mail series reward loyalty or re-engage dormant supporters by offering special perks (such as discounts). E-mail automation can make contact strategy even easier with programmed triggers, such as a re-engagement e-mail automatically sent six months after a last visit. For some creative inspiration, check out this nonprofit e-mail gallery and Pinterest grouping of museum e-mails.

Invest in Clean, Targeted E-mail Lists

Earning response to a house database or prospect list requires a few e-mail basics: 1) personalized, targeted messaging; 2) a brief subject line that inspires opens and engaging CAN SPAM-compliant creative content that inspires click-throughs; 3) mobile optimization of the e-mail with a clear call-to-action linked to a mobile-optimized digital landing page; and 4) an updated, clean opt-in e-mail list to avoid spam filters. As data experts, AccuList’s services especially focus on the last point. For responsive, targeted prospects, AccuList’s proprietary research has identified the top choices among opt-in e-mail rental lists (plus telemarketing and direct mail lists), including lists of museum members/donors, lists of museum mail-order buyers, and lists by type of museum and collection (download our free compilation of top list datacards). For clean, targeted house lists, AccuList points marketers toward database enhancement and hygiene, including identification of recent e-mail address changes through Electronic Change of Address (ECOA) lists, enhanced targeting by adding demographics from outside lists, and expanded e-mail reach by appending opt-in e-mails to postal records.

Pair Mobile-Optimized E-mail and Landing Pages

Every e-mail—regardless of target audience—needs a clear call-to-action linked to an online page that makes that action easy to accomplish. For fundraising e-mails, check out these best practices suggested by online fundraising software provider DonorBox: 1) include a prominent Donate Now button in the e-mail with a link to an online landing page, either one page for general donations or a page per specific project; 2) include suggested donation amounts on the landing page and tie those amounts to outcomes that show how they will improve the museum and visitors’ experiences; 3) optimize the e-mail and landing page for desktop computers, mobile phones and tablets; 4) include recurring giving options on the online page for higher donor retention; 5) if appropriate include a donation “thermometer” or other graphic of progress on the donation page to encourage more donations; 6) allow for multiple secure payment gateways, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal in addition to credit cards; 7) and, finally, make sure the donation form and its processes are as simple, clear and quick as possible.

Combine Social Media Engagement With E-mail Targeting

E-mail can be a natural complement to social media campaigns, which is why social media networks themselves use e-mail marketing for customer retention. Museums can pair social media’s ability to engage and build brand, community and web traffic with e-mail’s advantage in delivering highly targeted and personalized messages, enhancing the power of both channels. Social media apps and forms can be used to capture new e-mail opt-in subscribers, for example. With platforms like Facebook, house e-mail data can be matched with the huge social audience to deliver demographics- and interest-targeted ads and promoted posts to existing names and lookalikes. Social media also is good at soliciting user-generated content (reviews, images, videos and posts), which can be used (with permission) in e-mails to boost response. And both social media and e-mail targets can be matched with direct mail for multi-channel power. Check out AccuList’s social media user lists, Facebook match and target options, and Digital2Direct programs combining direct mail with Facebook or e-mail lists.


Fundraising Challenges Include Gen Z, E-mail, AI

For AccuList USA’s nonprofit fundraising clients and fundraising consultants, 2019 will be another challenging year. Successful direct marketers will need to adapt to changes in demographics, technology and donor targeting, to name just a few trends recently cited by the Donorbox Nonprofit Blog.

Move Over Millennials; Here Comes Gen Z

Donorbox is sounding the alert ahead of the next demographic wave. While the Millennial generation is still the biggest cohort in the workforce, Gen Z is arriving. Born after 1996, they now make up an estimated 27% of the population and will account for 40% of all consumers by 2020. How are they different? The “2017 Global Trends in Giving Report” found that Gen Z members are interested in giving to many different causes, especially those involving youth, animals and human services. But to win the attention of these digital natives, messaging must be concise and engaging, offering an immediate experience that cuts through the marketing noise they routinely filter out. Gen Z is also the first mobile-only generation, so website, e-mail and donation forms must all be optimized for mobile. Plus, Gen Z likes visual-based platforms, so fundraising creative should use photos, videos and infographics to tell stories that grab attention.

Donors Expect Hyperpersonalized, Targeted Messaging

Accustomed to sophisticated digital technology that tailors messaging a la Amazon and Netflix, today’s donors expect a personalized, targeted approach that takes into account demographics, giving history and even psychographics. A generic appeal will fall flat. That means segmenting donor and prospect lists and using variable data printing to specialize messaging to account for generational differences and other demographics. It means tailoring the “ask” to the prospective donor’s income and giving history. It means refining giving/donation pages to highlight projects and wording that will resonate with the target donor group.

Donors Embrace E-mail Fundraising If Done Well

E-mail has gotten a bad rap recently because of crowded mailboxes, spam filtering and low response rates, but there is a lot to be said for revisiting e-mail strategy in 2019. For one, research shows that donors willing to donate through e-mail rose from just 6% in 2012 to 28% in 2018. Second, low-cost e-mail has an ROI of 122%, much higher than direct mail, social media and paid search. Finally, a backlash against social media abuses, including among the mobile-first generation, is improving e-mail’s digital appeal. But e-mail needs to be done well to deliver donors. Personalization and targeted messaging is expected, so, again, segment the audience by demographics, desired communication frequency, giving status, etc. Make sure there is a clear call to action, a compelling subject line, simple attractive visual design, and, most of all, impactful storytelling.

AI Can Help Turn Data Into Dollars

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on its way to becoming ubiquitous in our society, and that will include fundraising. AI broadly refers to programs, computers and machines that perform “intelligent” tasks such as planning, learning, problem-solving, communication and more. AI can help nonprofits gather more data and use it better to advance missions and marketing. For example, one of the simplest uses of AI is a chatbot that interacts via messaging services like Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, etc. A nonprofit can create a chatbot to handle donations, register members and distribute information about programs and services. AI also can be used to personalize donor journeys with tailored, personal messages based on real-time donor behavior and timed to encourage contributions. Finally, AI can weaponize data for more cost-effective donor development and marketing. For example, a donor’s giving and volunteering history, event attendance, affiliations, relationships, and data from wealth screening tools can all be analyzed to predict a potential donor’s likelihood to give a major gift.

See the complete list of eight fundraising trends identified by Donorbox.



fundraising trends for success

Digital Options Lead 2019 Insurance Marketing Trends

Digital marketing trends dominate professional advice for AccuList USA’s insurance marketing clients this year, from e-mail to social media to online search.

Trends Favor Personalized, Client-Focused Campaigns

Whether insurance marketing via digital or traditional channels such as direct mail, there are some general trends affecting success in 2019, per the American Agents Alliance. First comes the continued value of cultivating brand advocates with testimonials, referrals and word of mouth. Quoting Forbes magazine, “the top four most-trusted sources of advertising are people you know, branded sites, editorial sites, and reviews.” A myopic focus on impersonal advertising will miss these important lead drivers. The personal touch needs to extend into offering targeted, personalized digital and print content that is useful and engaging, as well as client interaction that is real and humanized, not generic and automated. Plus, marketers should take a longer view of prospecting and retention by continuing conversations via remarketing, the AAA advises. And finally, insurance marketers need to really listen during conversations with clients and prospects to understand pain points and how people shop online with search and voice queries in order to develop effective creative content and include key phrases for paid and organic search.

Tweak E-mail & Search to Retain Their Digital Clout

Insurance agency/broker marketing agencies like EaseCentral and OutboundEngine offer some advice on where to focus digital marketing energies more specifically in 2019. Start by revisiting e-mail strategy. With an average $32 return per $1 spent in 2018, e-mail remains an attractive direct marketing option not only because it is inexpensive, highly targeted, and an ROI leader, but because it also offers opportunities for the forwarding, social sharing, and referral business in line with the general trends noted above. However, be sure to check e-mail creative to make sure it is personalized and shares valued content, focusing less on promotion and more on audience needs. Another tried-and-true digital driver, paid and organic search engine ranking, still matters, but search strategy needs an important tweak this year to cater to the growth of voice searches. EaseCentral points out that ComScore forecasts close to 50% of all searches will be made through voice search by 2020. Plus, due to the increasing use of voice search, Google and other search engines are beginning to factor it into their algorithms. Mobile optimization will play a big role in effective leveraging of voice search since these searches occur mainly on mobile devices.

Leverage the Power of Social Media Marketing

Making the most of social media will be a challenge in 2019 as organic reach shrinks and promotional pricing rises, but social platforms offer some unique advantages for insurance marketers looking for a way to humanize and personalize services. For example, EaseCentral suggests using social media to implement a more personalized customer service, with client accessibility on Facebook and LinkedIn. OutboundEngine meanwhile urges more direct marketing via promoted posts and social ads, taking advantage of social media platforms’ increasing ability to target zip codes, professions and other demographics to hone response. In the social media sphere, blogs are the king of content creation, reminds EaseCentral, allowing an insurance marketer to prove expertise and build trust. But remember that a blog’s content-marketing success will require avoiding sales pitches in favor of engaging information of value to the audience.

Embrace Video As the New Must-Have Tool

Video is now a proven response driver in digital marketing for almost all industries, and with online video projected to account for 80% of all web traffic in 2019 per Cisco research, it is a must-have tool in insurance, too. It works for consumer and business prospecting; OutboundEngine cites a recent Forbes finding that an average of 40% of decision-makers call a vendor after watching a video. How to capitalize on the video wave? OutboundEngine suggests the following ideas for website and social media insurance-branding videos: Live stream (with permission) part of an event or fundraiser attended; record a 30-second clip once a week answering a frequently asked question; or post an Instagram story about volunteering in your local community.

Is Your E-mail Optimized for Best 2019 Performance?

E-mail marketing is constantly evolving, and AccuList USA tries to keep our e-mail list and e-mail marketing services clients up-to-date on the latest tactics and best practices. A good overview of trends for 2019 was recently supplied in a Business2Community post by Rohit Munipally.

Targeted, Segmented and Automated Marketing

The value of e-mail targeting and list segmentation is so clear that it will be a given for smart marketers in 2019. Munipally cites HubSpot research showing that e-mails that are relevantly segmented and targeted account for 58% of all e-mail earnings and increase profits up to 18 times more. When combined with automation, e-mail content power is further enhanced. Munipally gives examples of how e-mail marketers can track behavior to boost response and conversion. For example, if a contact hasn’t opened an e-mail for an extended period, the contact can be dropped from deployments, while a contact who has visited a web page several times or opened multiple e-mails can receive relevant automated e-mails prompting action. In fact, global automated e-mail marketing alone is expected to account for $2.7 billion in spending by 2025, Munipally reports.

Text-Only, Interactive & Story Content

Watch for acceleration of the trend away from graphics-heavy e-mail designs in 2019. Research shows e-mail users prefer plain text over HTML-style e-mails because plain text e-mails resemble a personal message that would be sent by a family member or friend. So marketers now use plain-text e-mails to create a more personable, sincere and less sales-oriented brand. Also expect to see interactivity dominate over product display and sales pitches in e-mails next year. Response data favors interactive e-mails that encourage engagement through quizzes, surveys, games, contests, GIFs, and call-to-action messaging that lets recipients shop, edit an order, update a wish list, send a shipping confirmation, etc. Story-telling also has proved itself as another content-engagement tool. E-mails that begin with a story that grabs the reader and then leads into the value and services/products offering have been shown to be highly influential–if delivered to a relevant audience (again underscoring the value of targeting and segmentation).

Focus on Mobile, Personalization and AI

Mobile optimization of e-mail will be essential for success in 2019, with 53% of e-mails opened via mobile devices and 75% of gmail users viewing accounts on mobile devices. Meanwhile, consumers demand content that is relevant and personalized whether they view it on a computer or mobile device, which means using data to go beyond the first name in the second paragraph to delivery of information unique to the reader’s account or buyer persona. Plus, next year should see growing use of AI for everything from targeting, subject line choice, image selection, unsubscribe prevention and more. To illustrate the power of AI, Munipally reports that Adobe recently developed an AI technology with a series of sophisticated algorithms based on e-mail campaigns and audience behaviors, resulting in e-mail users opening nearly 80% of work and 60% of personal e-mails.

For the complete post, see https://www.business2community.com/email-marketing/7-email-marketing-trends-for-2019-02120824

 

Want E-mail Marketing Success? Here Are Some Basics

E-mail is a key part of most omnichannel marketing strategies, and AccuList USA supplies data and support for a growing list of e-mail marketing clients. Yet dodging spam filters and reeling in responses from crowded inboxes is an ongoing challenge. A recent Direct Marketing News article laid out some basic tips on how to get the most out of e-mail marketing:

Data Is Key to Deliverability, Targeting

As a data broker, AccuList USA naturally stresses that data matters. The DM News article listed data last among its tips, but we’ll put it first. Even the most well-crafted e-mail will end up in spam folders if delivered to an e-mail list with too many duplicates, outdated addresses, missing permission hygiene, spam traps, etc. Quality e-mail data is essential to deliverability, which means regular cleaning and updating of house lists, or carefully vetted rental lists (sponsored e-mails) for prospecting. Quality data is also key to the targeting that maximizes response, using segmentation and personalization to tailor offers and messaging to specific audiences and individuals.

Make Good First and Last Impressions

Once an e-mail lands in the inbox, the subject line, a brand’s first impression, impacts open rates.  While there are few absolute guidelines, be aware that 50-70 characters in length is the “sweet spot” for readability, per the article. In those few characters, the subject line needs to quickly convey an offer/value and tone that intrigue the audience. Beyond avoiding words and symbols likely to trigger spam filters, A/B testing is usually the best way to find which subject line leads to higher open and click rates, as the article advises. While focusing on a first impression, too many e-mail marketers forget the importance of a closing impression. For example, after gaining response and conversion, marketers can use transactional e-mails (e-mails acknowledging a purchase, donation, sign-up, etc.) to expand customer/donor value by offering a reward (discount on next purchase as an example), a loyalty program, a newsletter, social links and more.

Design With Mobile in Mind

When it comes to design, the key to success today is the ability to translate across desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Remember, research shows that more than two-thirds of consumers access e-mail through their smartphones! Other common general guidelines include formatting within standard dimensions and fonts, creating a layout with quick-scan logic and clear call to action, optimally sized images with alt text in case of blocking, and personalized or even dynamic content.

Embrace Social Media and Sociability

E-mail isn’t usually the only method for connecting with an audience, or necessarily the channel preference of all recipients. That’s why e-mails also should highlight social media buttons, invite readers to share content, or urge them to visit appropriate social pages and profiles, notes the article. Meanwhile, with personalization, humanization and authenticity as benchmarks of today’s marketing, e-mail marketers should avoid generic messaging and deliver content in a tone that speaks to the target audience yet remains in line with a consistent brand voice across channels.

For more detail, see the complete article at https://www.dmnews.com/channel-marketing/email/article/13034539/6-email-marketing-tips-to-stand-out-in-the-inbox

Seeking E-mail Response, Marketers Face Text vs. HTML Choice

There’s an ongoing debate in e-mail marketing over which format option will optimize results: simple text-based e-mails or fancier html versions. For our e-mail list and marketing clients, AccuList USA offers some surprise findings on that point: Marketo reports that a recent analysis of e-mail effectiveness shows text-based e-mails perform significantly better than their more creative HTML counterparts. Although both formats have the same open rate, text-based e-mails have 21% higher unique click-to-open rates on the offer link and 17% higher unique click-through rates on the offer link, according to the Marketo study.

So should marketers dump their rich html creatives? Not so fast.

Text E-mail Is Personal & CTA-Focused, But…

Why did the text-based versions win more response? The Marketo study found that text-based e-mails’ fewer visual distractions focus response on the call-to-action link. In HTML versions, nearly 16% of clicks went to other links (such as logos) instead of the main call-to-action link, per Marketo. Other research shows that text e-mails are also viewed as more personal by recipients, who see the visually rich html e-mails as clearly commercial. Finally, text-based versions have a better chance of delivery since the messages are less likely to be caught in spam filters or to have mobile viewing issues. But there are clear disadvantages, too. The key drawback of plain text formats, with no html, is that there is no tracking of open rates or clicks. Plus, URLs included in the message must be fully typed out, which can create visual clutter. Text-based e-mails without any html design elements will lack engaging visual impact for branding or product promotion, will have less ability to break information into easy-to-read/scan sections or columns, and will have few tools, such as buttons and color, for directing CTA attention.

Marketers Still Like HTML Tracking & Branding

Despite general response findings, html e-mails continue to be used because of advantages that make them the right choice for campaigns relying on branding, richer messaging and detailed metrics. For example, html allows incorporation of branded images and logos that may yield higher conversion rates for some verticals. An html e-mail also can package more information in digestible, easy-to-read bites. It can direct action via color, clickable text and buttons. Most important, html offers tracking of opens and clicks for marketing metrics.

For a more extensive discussion of the marketing merits of text versus html e-mail formats, check out this helpful digitaldoughnut article: https://www.digitaldoughnut.com/articles/2016/december/choosing-between-plain-text-html-email