If you keep sending the same non-targeted, irrelevant messages over and over, you can expect one result.
For most people, the month of February brings thoughts of flowers and candy for Valentine's Day. For me, February reminds me of one of my favorite movies, "Groundhog Day," in which Bill Murray relives Groundhog Day over and over until he learns to recognize his faults. I think many email marketers are in the same situation; performing the same action over and over, but expecting different results each time. Some would even say this is the definition of insanity. Marketers wonder why response rates are dropping, but are blind to the fact that they are sending the same non-targeted, irrelevant messages over and over again. Of course subscribers are losing interest; you are conditioning them to expect the same redundant email every time.
One online retailer I know of has sent 13 consecutive weekly emails with the same subject line. Here's a hint: if I wasn't enticed the first time, the 13th time probably won't convince me. This retailer does themselves no favors in a cluttered inbox. We know that consumers often save an email to go back to later when they are ready to shop. Make it easy by using distinctive subject lines for each message. Create distinctive offers as well. Using math to trick your customer into thinking they are getting a deal may initially drive sales, but after a while they'll catch on. No matter how many ways you change the percentage off, or offer free shipping, if the end result is $24.99 every time, customers will eventually stop looking for that "special" offer.
Another way marketers train customers to ignore emails is by sending too often. Seeing that email in the inbox each morning becomes routine. In most instances, people actually may want to receive all of those daily deal emails, but just skim the subject lines each day until they see an offer or brand that they may want, while deleting the rest without opening, and this can influence spam filters. So why not just ask what they want and segment based on that information? A simple preference center can allow your customers to set products, categories, and brands they are interested in. Your customer may have bought that deal for 50 percent off bungee jumping today, but chances are they won't be interested in a buy-one-get-one-free deal on knitting classes tomorrow.
All of this boils down to engagement. ISPs are factoring engagement into the filtering process and marketers will need to test and refine their strategy to remain in the inbox. Regardless of your opinion on the matter, it's here, and it's not going anywhere. If you aren't testing, how can you know what it is that's driving your performance? I understand that developing a testing strategy can be time-consuming and a bit intimidating, but start small and ask for help. Your email service provider can help you develop and test programs that will ultimately give you actionable information. Just like in "Groundhog Day," it might take a while to find the right combination, but it's worth it.
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Jay Brangiforte is a senior deliverability operations manager at e-Dialog. He has been with e-Dialog for five years, and is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a member of MAAWG. Jay works with e-Dialog clients to help them implement best practices for privacy and deliverability.
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August 21, 2014