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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.


Avoid Segmentation Missteps to Boost List ROI

List segmentation is key in targeted direct marketing, which is why the AccuList team offers clients help in defining best-performing customer segments via predictive analytics services and data management services. Over the years, we’ve learned that the secret to success is as much a matter of strategic mindset as technical expertise. A recent MarketingProfs article by Mitch Markel, a partner in Benenson Strategy Group, makes that point by identifying some of the common strategic errors that can trip up a segmentation effort.

Obvious Parameters and Old Strategies Dig a Rut

Marketers need to be aware that segmentation models can slip into an ROI rut. Use of obvious profiling parameters and assumptions is one reason. Certainly, demographics (or firmographics), stated needs, and past purchase behavior are essential in grouping for likely response and lifetime value, but people don’t make decisions solely based on these factors. Markel urges research that also looks at fears, values, motivations and other psychographics in order to segment customers or prospects not just as lookalikes but also as “thinkalikes,” which can be especially helpful in crafting personalized content and messaging. Markel cites the examples of car buyers grouped by whether they value safety over performance, and food purchasers sorted for whether they stress healthy lifestyle or convenience. Past success is another reason segmentation can get stuck in a rut. Because segmentation requires an upfront investment, marketers tend to want to stick with proven targeting once the segmentation study is completed. But today’s hyper-personalized, digital environment has accelerated the pace of change in markets, perhaps shifting customer expectations and preferences away from an existing segmentation model. Markel advises an annual “look under the hood” of the segmentation engine to see if segments are still valid or need appending/updating. An annual audit can avoid the expense of a broader overhaul down the road.

Big Data Blindness Ignores Potential Audiences

One outcome of segmentation based on existing customers is blindness to potential audiences. Segmentation research often uses the existing customer base and surveys of people that marketers assume should be targeted. This can create marketing campaigns that miss groups that Markel calls “ghost segments,” people who could be among a brand’s best prospective customers. Markel suggests a periodic look at non-customers for conversion potential as one way to capture these “ghosts.” And, of course, if a new product or service is in the works, research should ask whether it will attract new groups differing from the existing customer profile. Another reason ghost segments are common is that marketers, overwhelmed by the task of sifting “big data,” fall back on whatever data sets are handy. Markel suggests that it would be better to bring in big data at the tail end of segmentation. He advises analysts to start by creating segments using primary research, add existing customer “big data” to target those segments more efficiently, and then plug segments into a data management platform for insights on other products, services, interests, and media that may correlate.

Analytics Miss Without a Companywide Strategy

Finally, Markel stresses that a segmentation study that ends up residing only with a few marketing decision-makers will fail to live up to its ROI potential. Customer and prospect insights have relevance for multiple departments and teams, from sales to customer service to finance. In order to deliver a seamless, personalized customer experience, Markel suggests creating 360-degree customer personas and promoting them throughout the organization. Management can start with workshops to educate employees on the use and importance of those personas both for their departments and the organization, and then can schedule check-ins to show team members the resulting benefits of segmentation and targeting implementation. If segments are made relatable, it will ensure they are used and embraced across the organization.

Predictive Analytics Can Harness Data for Marketing ROI

Beyond list brokerage, AccuList can support direct marketing clients with “predictive analytics,” meaning scientific analysis that leverages customer and donor data to predict future prospect and customer actions. It will scientifically “cherry-pick” names from overwhelming “big data” lists and other files. For example, AccuList’s experienced statisticians build customized Good Customer Match Models and Mail Match Models to optimize direct mail results for prospect lists, as well as one-on-one models for list owners to help acquire more new customers or donors. Plus, predictive models aid other marketing goals, such as retention, relationship management, reactivation, cross-sell, upsell and content marketing. Below are some key ways predictive analytics will harness data for better marketing ROI.

More Swift, Efficient and Effective Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is too often a sales and marketing collaboration, in which salespeople provide marketers with their criteria for a “good” lead and marketers score incoming responses, either automatically or manually, for contact or further nurturing. Predictive analytics will remove anecdotal/gut evaluation in favor of more accurate scoring based on data such as demographics/firmographics, actual behavior and sales value. It also speeds the scoring process, especially when combined with automation, so that “hot” leads get more immediate contact. And it allows for segmentation of scored leads so that they can be put on custom nurturing tracks more likely to promote conversion and sales.

Better List Segmentation for Prospecting, Retention and Messaging

With predictive analytics, list records can be segmented to achieve multiple goals. The most likely to respond can be prioritized in a direct mail campaign to increase cost-efficiency. Even more helpful for campaign ROI, predictive analytics can look at the lifetime value of current customers or donors and develop prospect matching so mailings capture higher-value new customers. Predictive analytics also can tailor content marketing and creative by analyzing which messages and images resonate with which customer segments, identified by demographics and behavior, in order to send the right creative to the right audience. Finally, analytics can develop house file segmentation for retention and reduced churn, looking at lapsed customers or donors to identify the data profiles, timing inflection points and warning signs that trigger outreach and nurturing campaigns.

Optimizing for Channel and Product/Services Offer

Data analysis and modeling can also be used to improve future marketing ROI in terms of channel preferences and even product/services development. By studying customer or donor response and behavior after acquisition, analytics can identify the most appropriate promotion and response channels, communication types, and preferred contact timing by target audience. Plus, a customer model can match demographics, psychographics and behavior with product and offer choices to tailor prospecting, as well as upsell or cross-sell opportunities, to boost future results.

Committing to a Good, Clean Customer Database

Reliable predictions require a database of clean, updated existing customer or donor records, with enough necessary demographics/firmographcs and transactional behavior for modeling. So, to prevent garbage-in-garbage-out results, AccuList also supports clients with list hygiene and management, including hygiene matching for DO NOT MAIL, NCOA and more, data appending of variables from outside lists, merge-purge eliminating duplicates and faulty records, response tracking with match-back, and more advanced list screening options.