I'll Have Another

  |  May 24, 2012   |  Comments

When a reader knows they're going to get something that is fresh, relevant, and personalized, they're more likely to open it.

Of all the interactive media channels available to marketers, email has been around longer than any other. Email has a venerable marketing ancestor, the direct mail appeal, which itself was modeled after the handwritten letters that people used to send when they needed to ask their parents for money. We know that when we get an email from someone that they probably want something from us. Yet, we still open them.

I've been thinking lately about why email remains as effective as it is as both a communication and marketing medium. With email, I know the content is going to be fresh, front-page material that was sent to me, a loyal subscriber. As long as publishers and retailers uphold their promise to keep it fresh, and even if that fresh information isn't right for me at that particular time, I'll still open their emails again.

In other words, I'll have another (just like the horse that's taking aim at the Triple Crown).

But why?

It's all about now. When a reader knows they're going to get something that is fresh, new, relevant, personalized, and addressed specifically to them, they're more likely to open it.

We've done some research and found that email messages that contained our ad tags were being read for an average of about 28 seconds. That's a pretty long time. That means that people aren't bouncing out of the email after three or four seconds. I attribute that to a number of factors.

First, email readers - subscribers - are a loyal group. In order to actually receive a legitimate email, they will have already joined an email list - presumably for something that is of interest to them. That makes them a "subscriber." Subscribing to a particular philosophy implies belief and confirms an interest in the content being promised.

Next, a subscriber opening their inbox and scanning is demonstrating hope - a hope for interesting new content from sources they enjoy and trust. The subscriber reads all of the "from" and "subject" lines, and finally hones in on a message, then - click - opens the email in hopes that it will be worth their time. This click is the modern definition of intent. It's a declaration, "I am going to read this message!"

And finally, the high engagement rate shows the subscriber's dedication to a trusted brand. The open is a sign that the publisher - or retailer that sent the email - has established a bond with the recipient.

At this point a subscriber has joined, confirmed, and committed. That's pretty powerful.

Now the sender has to keep up their end of the bargain. And they do, and that's why people keep on opening.

With rare exception, the email sender - retailer or publisher - is sharing their most recent material with their subscribers. Whether it's today's daily deal or breaking news, readers can be fairly sure that the content they are about to read is meant to engage with its novelty. When was the last time that anyone opened up today's email expecting to find last week's material? That's not part of the deal.

The fact is, email contains the shortest-tail content today. It's the content that the editors and publishers of a site chose to send - just now. It's fresh from the oven. It's about now.

Compare today's email newsletter to typical web display. The web doesn't go away, it just gets bigger. Every day another layer of old content is added to the web. Most web content isn't breaking news, it's old articles and blog posts. Every day this layer of old web content needs to be monetized. And when a user lands on one of these old pages after clicking on a search result, they leave the page quickly, and the ad placed there barely has had a chance to render, let alone attract attention.

So if you wanted to gain someone's attention, what would you choose? The winner of this race is pretty clear.

After considering the commitment on the part of the subscriber, and the commitment on the part of the publisher, it's easy to see why subscribers say they'll have another…email. Email wins by 10 lengths, not by a nose.


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Dave Hendricks

As president of LiveIntent, Dave Hendricks devises corporate strategies and tries to simplify marketing language. Before growing LiveIntent, Dave was executive vice president (EVP) of operations at PulsePoint (then known as Datran Media), where he worked alongside LiveIntent chief executive (CEO) Matt Keiser and ran Datran's ESP StormPost (nka PostUp). A member of the founding executive team at ExperianCheetahMail, Dave began his email adventure at Pioneering ESP MessageMedia. Dave was named one of Business Insider's "Top 100 Technologists" in 2011 and Alley Watch claimed he was one of 15 people "changing advertising" in 2014. He plays electric guitar and you should follow him on Twitter @davehendricks.

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