Is This The Future Of Your Email Marketing Campaigns?

by 19 02/13/2014

Not going to lie. 2013 was a hard year for email marketers.

Google sent most of us to the Promotions tab, open/click rates apparently have fallen across the board, and many are wondering if email marketing is dying.

Now, you could panic like everyone else… Or you can see this as an opportunity to innovate,  be more compelling, and create emails that your subscribers are genuinely excited to receive.

If you’re the type that strives to blow your subscriber’s minds, keep reading.

In this article, we’ll talk about four things you can do that will make your campaigns more compelling and deliver huge results.

1. Your Email Gets More Visual

I don’t know about you, but my inbox got a lot more visual in 2013.

While it’s nice to see more well-designed email’s on my desktop, my guess for this shift is due to there being 1.4 billion smartphones in the world, and visuals allow you to take in information 60,000x faster than text, which is perfect for a quick consumption device like a smartphone.

Visual Information Processingimage source

If you’re the type that swears by text-only email, that’s a statistic that’s hard to ignore.

Visual calls to action like “click here” and “play” buttons are also more intuitive, easier to click with a thumb, create a stronger visual connection between the email and website, and are a way to extend the amount of brand impressions you make on a single person.

spotify emailmyspace

According to MailChimp the amount of images in an email also have a dramatic influence on the open/click rate.

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More images communicates a greater attention to detail and respect for your subscriber’s time. The higher click-through rates could also be attributed to the visuals communicating something that is emotionally compelling.

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If you’re afraid to try more visual email at the risk of “losing the personal feel,” you should try A/B testing your emails for a while and see which emails get the higher click rates.

Also, keep in mind, you can still use text-based emails to send more personal messages to the different segments of your email list (e.g., thank you emails, requests, surveys).

Imagine how cool it would feel to get invited to a V.I.P. program by the CEO, or what a personalized “thank you” email from Jake in customer service would feel like. With a layered email marketing strategy, you can achieve your business goals while building a strong bond with your subscribers.

2. You’re Periodically Using Animated GIFs

Taking the concept of more visual emails one step further, brands are using more GIFs in email campaigns. Below, you’ll see examples of subtle (and not so subtle) animation to call attention to the primary call to action.

With so much noise out there, a little animation in the inbox can be that extra boost that gets subscriber’s attention. For retailer Bluefly, it resulted in a 5% increase in click throughs, and a 12% increase in revenue over it’s non-animated counterpart.

One piece of animation that I thought was brilliant was this offer for free shipping from ThinkGeek.com.

The old-time animation feel is in line with ThinkGeek’s branding and my personal preferences. To be perfectly honest, this pleasant little surprise has kept me opening their emails since it came in.

For something more in your face, hip hop magazine Complex uses an animated GIF you’ll kick yourself for not opening.

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American Apparel adds a new spin the animated GIF to show what their featured product is all about.

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MailChimp uses animated GIFs, to give you a quick product demo after becoming a customer. They’ve reported this has reduced the amount of first-time-user customer service calls, and has allowed their users to start building email campaigns faster.

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With the popularity of sites like Buzzfeed and the rise of short video platforms like Vine and Instagram, many people enjoy these short, compelling animations, especially when used smartly.

Seriously, imagine an email from Target with the subject line “Bored?” then seeing this gif with the call to action:

Click For The Perfect Summer Time Activity

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Would you click it?

Granted, people have been saying “GIFs in email are a trend to watch” for some time, but the adoption for GIFs in email will only grow in 2014 and beyond.

3. You’re Using Automatic, Click-Based List-Switching

Let’s pretend that you run a geek chic teeshirt store and you’ve emailed your list featuring hot new Breaking Bad teeshirts. In that same email you include links to Iron Man tees, Dr. Who tees, and some other generic geeky teeshirts.

Of course, a percentage of your subscribers click and buy. Normally that’s the end of the interaction until the next email blast.

But, how much more money could you make if you automatically sent follow-up emails based entirely on the link they clicked in the last email? For example, if they click the Breaking Bad tee, they automatically receive follow-up emails featuring Breaking Bad related products.

This sort of click decision segmentation creates a temporary “off ramp” from your main broadcast list to send more relevant offers.

What happens is the subscriber is temporarily unsubscribed from your main list, and resubscribed to a short autoresponder that sends relevant information based on the actions they’ve taken. When the autoresponder finishes, they’re resubscribed to the main broadcast list without any interruption.

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If you’re an AWeber user like me, this may sound like a pipe-dream.

Fortunately there’s an AWeber-approved add-on called AWProtools that enables you to create SmartLinks, which move subscribers to another list like we’ve been talking about.

SmartLinks also let you add tags to a subscriber’s lead record and copy them to additional lists whenever they click a link.

These additional features are very helpful if you want to create special segments for webinar attendees, people who have downloaded your ebooks/white papers, or understand which blog post topics generate the most interest.

Similar features are available through premium email marketing software like InfusionSoft or GetResponse, but can be slightly more involved to manage. Though it’s worth checking with your ESP to see if something like this is available for you.

4. Your Email Segments Get Deeper

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In the same vein as tagging your subscribers based on the links they click, the future of your email marketing campaign will rely heavily on your ability to create actionable segments to your list.

Why?

With Google shuffling most of us to the Promotions tab this year and Yahoo recycling old email addresses, understanding more about your subscribers is increasingly important to deliver relevant emails they’ll actually want to open.

Some example segments you might consider creating to increase your response rate:

  • VIP’s (People who open, click & buy regularly)
  • Medium Purchasers (People who open, click & buy a moderate amount)
  • Prospects (People who open and click, but never buy)
  • Interests (Tag links with specific interests, make offers based on interest based segments)
  • Service Provider (@yahoo, @gmail, @hotmail, @brandedcompanyemail.com, etc)
  • Time of Day (Segment based on specific time windows. Night-time openers are probably different from daytime openers.)

Now these are just a few segmentation ideas that can get you started and, if used right, can be combined to have you sending the best emails at the best times.

For example, if you’ve created an interest-based segment for Breaking Bad, you could monitor trends on social media that corresponds to that segment. When there’s a big piece of Breaking Bad related news, you could email that segment.

Taking it a step further, you could combine that segment with the “open times” segment to email at a time where your subscriber is most likely to open and click.

How Will You Make Your Email Marketing Better This Year?

The war for attention is heavy on all fronts now, and it’s every man for himself.  Anything you can do to personalize your email campaign just a little bit more will give you a serious advantage.

1. Leave a comment below telling me which strategies you plan on using more this year. If you’re already using them, please let us know how they’re working for you. The only way we get better is if we share our experiences.

2. If you want more ways to make your content better this year, check out my free ebook, Top 10 Content Marketing Strategy Mistakes (& How To Fix Them). The link to your free download is in my bio below.

Check out other Crazy Egg articles by Tommy Walker here

About 

Tommy Walker is an online marketing strategist, show host, and prolific guest blogger specializing in highly effective, counter-intuitive approaches to online marketing. He seeks to expand your thinking on what's possible with online content.

Check out his approach on guest post landing pages, and get a free copy of The Top Ten Content Marketing Strategy Mistakes by clicking here.

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19 COMMENTS

Eric Sloan

Are people really sending more than 49 photos in their emails?

I feel like the data for higher images per email has to do with those companies possibly sending emails where a high amount of images are expected. Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation.

I’ve always found that adding images drops the clickthrough rate in almost EVERY test… including 10+ images.

Love this article though!

February 13, 2014 Reply

    Tommy Walker

    That’s a good point and one worth qualifying.

    While it says “images” it should really say “visual elements” so think backgrounds, pictures, read more buttons, borders, social sharing icons, contrasting fonts…etc.

    Look at any of the html examples above and pull out all of the visual elements. It adds up fast.

    February 13, 2014 Reply

Mynah Q

Hi Tommy… there is a discrepancy between what you are advocating and what you are actually doing… you say use more images but the Daily Egg newsletter comes with minimal if any images and is also dropped straight into the promotions tab in gmail. please clarify.

February 14, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    Hi Mynah. Smart analysis. But Tommy isn’t necessarily talking about a blog alert email–though he tells me it will benefit from images too. Ecommerce emails, promotions, autoresponder series and other relational emails are the type of emails that do especially well with images and other graphics.

    Sadly, we have no control over which tab gmail decides to drop our alerts. (I so wish we did!) Since our email is sent out as a blast, gmail sees it as a promotion. Hopefully that will change in the future, but until then, thanks for checking your promotions tab and clicking through to our articles.

    February 14, 2014 Reply

Mike

Great article. The piece on gifs is interesting. We have used these in the past, but i always thought they looked a little cheap. The example ones look great though.

February 14, 2014 Reply

    Bhavesh Patel

    Exactly same thing I also thinking Mike. I think GIf is hate by many people.

    February 17, 2014 Reply

Phil Frost

Great article Tommy. Couldn’t agree more about segmenting and customized follow-up campaigns.

Here’s another tip for e-commerce businesses that works really well. First, break up your checkout into two sections: 1. name/email, and 2. all the other info you need. Then create a special email follow-up campaign for anyone who completes step 1, but not step 2. Those are some of your best prospects because they made it halfway through your ordering process.

February 16, 2014 Reply

Ryan Cardarella

Has adding additional images and visual elements impacted the amount of spam filters your material gets caught in? I’d like to include more images, but the higher images to text ratio hurts us in terms of being flagged. Any thoughts?

February 19, 2014 Reply

    Tommy Walker

    Personally, no.

    But a lot of that is going to depend on your ESP, your messaging, and your overall industry, really.

    Like I said Eric earlier too, “more images” is a bit of a misrepresentation. It’s really about more visual elements.

    If I break down the ThinkGeek gif, I can identify at least 7 different visual componets to it.

    – background
    – Today Only text
    – Primary headline (free shipping)
    – monkey logo
    – black banner underneath monkey
    – secondary message text (Looks like Timmy…)
    – CTA Button

    This is of course only one image in the overall email. Check out this email to get a full perspective on just how many “visual layers” are actually going into a single send.

    When you look at it this way, it doesn’t look labored, it just looks like a well designed message that’s meant to get you to the things you might want.

    February 19, 2014 Reply

Dale Bryant

Oddly enough, I actually click on promotional emails more now that they are neatly organized in my promotion tab in Gmail. I like the idea of intelligently designed visual elements in email marketing (or any marketing) but it’s particularly effective when it provides content. I want my marketing to be entertaining as well as informative. People spend hours and hours browsing through pics on sites like instagram and reddit because it’s entertaining. Marketers can bring that same sort of entertainment value to email marketing while simulateously promoting an idea, product or service.

April 11, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Dale, I actually like the promotional tab as well. It groups similar items together and makes it easier for me to wade through my actual email inbox. Thanks for sharing your feedback :)

    April 11, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    Dale, I’m with you and Neil. I love having my emails sorted for me. My only challenge is making sure important conversations don’t get lost in the updates. And I love your point that marketing should be entertaining. When we’re so overloaded with messaging, it’s refreshing to see a brand taking time to do something that makes me smile. We, as marketers, just need to make sure we don’t garble our message in an attempt to be clever.

    April 11, 2014 Reply

Mr Doodles

What the *, Tommy. Animated gifs?? Outlook won’t show them! HUH?

April 30, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    That’s a good point, Mr. Doodles. It’s important to consider our users when selecting images… no matter how cool they may be.

    May 1, 2014 Reply

ravi

It was really impressive.I would also recomment a worthy feature wherein you can send bulk emails with ‘schedule time’ option.

July 21, 2014 Reply


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