At the recent Email & CRM Seminar on May 4th I was tasked by the Communicator team to inspire you all to get more creative with your email marketing content.
Now, for me, there could be no better brief. This is a topic I feel really passionate about and it was something I highlighted as one of Communicator’s top trend predictions for the email industry in 2017 – engaging with your audience and growing their brand loyalty through great email content.
The Changing Email Landscape
Not only do I love getting creative, but there’s been something in particular about email creativity that I’ve been meaning to get off my chest for a while now: email is not the channel it used to be.
When I first joined Communicator, email deservedly had the perception of being a frustrating channel for great design. You could have even referred to email as a laggard; something that trails behind the rest of its competitors, which in this case are the other ‘more exciting’ channels.
Since then, there have been some significant changes that have dramatically improved the way we can design for email, but the marketing world has never really bothered to remove this longstanding design-based stigmatism.
Industry developments now mean that we should no longer be creatively hindered by the limitations of email inboxes.
The main three changes driving this creative inspiration are:
- The rise of mobile: smartphones have brought modern inboxes to the world of email design. With their huge growth in recent years, smartphones now represent the majority of email opens and give a different dynamic to how we use email to communicate with the ‘on the go’ consumer.
- Webmail client changes: Hotmail is dead, replaced by the all-new inbox Outlook.com. Gmail has recently hit the headlines by rolling out support for responsive design.
- Innovative workarounds: companies like Fresh Relevance, Liveclicker, Kickdynamic and Movable Ink have all been founded by working around email inbox limitations, giving marketers far more creative options.
Expect More Of Email
Individually, those three developments probably aren’t headline factors. But, together, I would argue it means we can start to expect more of email.
Email isn’t perfect – improvements can still be made – but I think we’re at a point where we shouldn’t consider these challenges a hindrance. There are a number of ways to get creative, from device, time, image & weather personalisation to website mirroring or user-generated content.
Here are my top 5:
1. Interactive Design
There’s so much you can do with interactive design. It might not work on every inbox, but it can work on the majority of them. For everyone else, you can provide graceful fallbacks.
Email Designers think of it as a challenge to ‘hack’ email these days, I know this as we have a few of them at Communicator! They’re crying out for briefs to ask more questions of them around interactive design but, as marketers don’t expect this from email, the briefs rarely come in. I would therefore challenge you to think about how interactive design can benefit your brand.
Take this example from Communicator customer Domino’s Pizza UK…
It uses fantastic interactive design to change the content depending upon what pizza the recipient chooses, with the menu at the bottom. A really great use of interactive design and imagery to promote their latest range.
2. Weather Personalisation
We’re British. That means we LOVE talking about the weather. Right?
The ability to include personalised content in real-time based on the local weather is a great way to bring your email content to life. See below an example from our customer, Vintage Inns;
The Vintage Inns team wanted to send an email campaign about the bank holiday weekend, playing on the weather forecast. If the weather was forecast to be good, their beer gardens were waiting. If the forecast was bad, the warm and toasty indoors was calling.
Can you make an assumption of the weather forecast based on every location in the country for each of the three days? No. That would be impossible to resource. But, you can merge the forecast based on the three days for the recipient’s detected location and the inclement weather!
The solution was a good weather creative and a bad weather creative, and the campaign saw great results, outperforming their seasonal Easter efforts.
3. Video In Email
The prospect of putting video content in emails is an interesting one. It’s proved hugely successful on other channels, so we could say it’s about time email marketers got their act together!
Use real-time device detection to display an embedded video, an animated GIF previewing the video or (in some instances) a static image.
For example, imagine you’re a car dealership. You’ve got data on your customers which automatically informs them when they’re due a new part, a service or MOT. I have personal experience of this one. When I needed to buy a £300 cambelt for my car, I received an email with details about the importance of regularly changing the cambelt, and also a tutorial video that my car dealership included. It not only added value to the email, but persuaded me to purchase the part there and then.
The concept of video content in emails is an achievable one, it just requires a little more thought.
4. Image Personalisation
The ability to personalise images at scale has been around for quite some time now and, when used well, can have an incredible impact. It’s also quite simple to achieve.
But it’s still not being used very much by email marketers, and I think this is such a missed opportunity. Or when I do see it, all too often it’s just someone’s first name that makes up the ‘clever’ bit.
We can do better than this! Personalisation is much more than first name. Having looked at our recent Benchmark stats, we know that personalising with just someone’s first name no longer has any impact on an email’s performance.
Sports Clubs in particular are utilising this tool, but apart from that it doesn’t seem to be used for much else. It doesn’t just have to be someone’s name, it could be based off any data that you store. This could be your recipient’s door number on a front door, or a street name on a sign, full address on a parcel image (post purchase), their age in birthday candles… the possibilities really are endless.
5. Time Personalisation
Using real-time information to include personalised time elements is yet again another great way to get creative with your email marketing. If you’re a travel company, you could show the travel destination local time from the time of opening. OR if you’re an insurance company, you could include a countdown timer to when the subscriber’s policy expires.
So, To Summarise…
Email is a much more creative channel than you might think, so don’t make it an afterthought when planning your campaigns. Think of the capabilities of your email like you would with a website and ask more of your designers, agencies and ESPs. Email marketers can’t innovate further without getting the briefs! It’s down to you to ask for the creativity, and push your designers to deliver.
How good are your emails?
Take five and visit and ratemyemails.com to see where you line up on our Sophistication Scale.
See where you are now and where you could be, then we’ll help you with the in between.