By Ian Hitt, managing director, Epsilon International EMEA
Email campaigns live or die by reputation – it is the gateway to an inbox, but just how do ISPs decide whether to allow your email through? And once delivered what makes a consumer open and interact with a message?
Epsilon International’s recent Global Consumer Survey lifts the lid on the psychology of email marketing – from when to send messages, through to how often and most crucially, what kind of offer works.
Each week, consumers receive hundreds of email messages containing retail offers, business information, personal interest, newsletters and items that are quite clearly just spam. The challenge to today’s marketer is breaking through this inbox clutter to deliver relevant messages at the right time to their best customers.
Interestingly, according to the Epsilon International findings, as consumers have become increasingly time-poor, their definition of spam has expanded to include what they consider to be irrelevant emails, a decision made in an instant from scanning the sender and subject line.
One promotional email from a company per week is the average threshold for most consumers. Anything above that is considered to be spam email and more likely to have an adverse effect on the marketer’s brand.
Making it attractive
The “from” and “subject” lines are marketers’ first opportunity to be relevant and personal. 66% of email recipients think the “from” line is more important challenging marketers to establish a trusted relationship with consumers. Free product offers and discount offers are the most compelling subject lines, followed by a familiar brand name.
Even if an email makes it to the inbox, and is opened and reviewed by a consumer, it still doesn’t necessarily amount to a “win” for an email marketer. The overarching goal is to influence multichannel behaviour and attitudes about products, brands or services.
Some of these actions and behaviours are measurable such as coupon redemption or revenue conversions. Overall, our findings indicate that email marketing remains an effective driver of behaviour: 73% click through to a website, 46% purchase online and 43% purchase offline at a retail store.
Coupon redemption is high with half of respondents using coupons to purchase online and almost as many redeeming the vouchers offline.
Making it personal
Two-thirds of consumers want to receive content and offers based on their personal online behavior such as website and browsing activity and past purchases.
This suggests that generic email blasts are less effective. Today’s online shopper is looking for a highly personalised experience, mimicking the one-on-one attention of an in-store visit. The extra work will pay off. Companies need to use the clues left by customers to deliver segmented and personal content. It is a great way to engage customers, increase clicks and boost revenue.
Making it deliverable
Reaching the inbox has become tougher than ever as ISPs clamp down on spam with new techniques that trap legitimate traffic and which cost marketers millions – a 1% failure in deliverability can equate to £1m in lost revenue.
Assuming the quality of your email address list has been optimised, the first hurdle is ensuring your email is accepted for delivery by your ISP – and the reputation of your email service provider with the particular ISP will play a key role here. Around 90% of spam filtering occurs at this level.
Reputation is based primarily on the history of the sender IP address and the rate of legitimate vs bounce backed emails generated. More than 75% of email filtering and blocking at this level occurs on this basis. Further filtering takes place at the recipient mail server, when emails are diverted to junk or spam boxes. Content filtering is based on keywords, number of domains and images in the email.
Best time to send email
Finally, knowing when consumers are most likely to be reading incoming email enables marketers to schedule email to ensure maximum visibility in the recipient’s inbox. The best times to deploy promotional emails are evenings and weekends, when 80% of people are checking their personal email accounts, and weekdays between 8.00 and 10.00 am.
About one in ten people use a PDA or Smartphone for email - as consumers use more iPhones and Blackberries, they interact with their inboxes differently and the format of email messages will have to evolve accordingly.
As marketing budgets for digital channels such as social marketing, affiliate marketing and paid search are being revised downwards, email marketing has stood its ground and we are in fact seeing higher budgets being invested here.
Its versatility, measurability and fast turnaround make it a preferred channel across all campaign objectives from client acquisition and retention, loyalty building, product launches, short-tem tactical campaigns through to public education and crisis management.
Social networking as a standalone marketing medium is not as developed or proven as email and in these times of economic uncertainty and shrinking marketing budgets, perhaps now is not the time for experimentation. Integrating social networking tools into email marketing strategies will prove more effective, but that’s fodder for another story.
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