Jenna Tiffany, lead digital marketing strategist at Communicator, rounds up her discussions with brands like Ralph Lauren, Warner Music, Unilever and Intu – to name but a few – at our recent ecommerce event.
Our focus was email testing and using it as a crystal ball to look into the future of your customers’ behaviour before you press send on your email campaigns. As a strategic email service partner, we work with a variety of ambitious retail brands and know how importance testing is to maximise your email performance.
So from that perspective it was a mixed bag in terms of whether testing was a continuous activity or a one-off hardly focused on task. Those that did conduct regular email testing were sophisticated in their approach, making sure that they have clearly defined objectives & constantly learn from every test. For marketers where testing didn’t quite reach their to-do list wasn’t because there isn’t an aspiration to do so, it was because there currently activity lacked structure, lacked a clear direction and teams are working in silos in their organisation structure and also in their thinking. Ones things for certain, more email marketers are testing that ever before which is a brilliant step forward, but whether those tests are clearly defined with objectives and goals is an area for development.
3 key challenges discussed
1. Segmentation remains a big challenge for email marketers
2. Including more informative email content types within the mix
3. ‘Send more emails’ sadly is still a regular occurring request
A huge topic of discussion during our round table chats, with every marketer commenting on the importance of being able to provide targeted and personalised email journeys. The big challenge standing in the way of making this a reality is segmenting that database. It was incredibly refreshing to hear so many marketers in the room acknowledge the importance of segmentation. Only a year ago at another event, I met several marketers where blasting sending the same message to everyone was still seen by some as an acceptable email strategy. What’s for certain is that although blast sending is still occurring within email activity, it’s not because the marketers want to still do this, it’s because they are working on their segmentation strategy in the background to switch on at any point.
A warning to any email marketers who haven’t yet acknowledged this or have a clearly defined approach to segmentation, you’re going to get left behind very quickly and those subscribers you’re currently bombarding with irrelevant messages will go elsewhere to brands that understand the true value of a personalised customer journey.
Another thing that is for certain is that like our customer Moss Bros retailers are moving away from heavily discount and sales focused messaging to be softer and more informative to bring in the conversions more naturally, rather than forcing it. Mark from Chain Reaction Cycles summed this up brilliantly during his talk ‘it’s no longer about an acquisition strategy, it’s about customer journeys’. Mark has completely hit the nail on the head! Related back to the importance of segmentation, it’s not about constant push messaging (who ever thought that was a good idea anyway?), it’s about providing variety within email content. After all variety is the spice of life right?
Key challenge is making a change from a sales constantly on approach, is to create the right balance between offer led and informative emails. The ability of understanding that right balance with your subscribers comes down to testing and analysing your email performance. Does sending 2 offer emails a week and 1 informative email retain engagement over a long period of time?
‘Send more emails’
Still I was sad to hear that the directive of ‘send more emails’ is a continuing occurrence for email marketers. Working with many retail brands and from first-hand experience I know how frustrating and demoralising this can be, especially when you have a carefully crafted email strategy that then gets tarnished by a flippant one-off campaign to ‘drive more sales’. This goes back to the age old viewing subscribers as a number and not as human beings. If I’d sat at the round table and just constantly tried to sell Communicator’s email service, ignoring any interaction I’d got from delegates I’d have found myself very quickly sat on a table by myself. Email marketing really needs to be viewed as a human communication and not just pressing send into a big black hole to ‘100,000 people’.
My closing thoughts from the discussions are that there was complete agreement that email marketing is a crucial part of the marketing mix and email marketers are challenging bad practice approaches to create better experiences for their customers.