Email Marketing for the Overly-Connected Consumer

One screen. I worked remotely for a day and had to rely solely on my laptop’s monitor. Just. One. Screen! I felt totally unproductive. I realize that it takes at least two monitors for me to reach a sufficient level of productivity and I, probably like many of you, have tried to find ways to add a third. Just imagine the work we could all get done if we were decked out like an air traffic control command station!

Let’s face it: multi-tasking across multiple devices is not just for busy corporate workers with a lengthy “get it done yesterday” to-do list. Consumers have integrated and coordinated their devices into their shopping patterns. According to a Google/Ipsos study of consumer intentions for the 2012 holiday season, 80 percent of shoppers planned to use multiple devices simultaneously while shopping. Over half of those multi-taskers shopped using a computer and smartphone at the same time. This behavior is likely to carry over and expand this year. Your ability to capitalize on this trend will factor into your 2013 holiday success.

So, how are marketers preparing for this multi-device consumer? Many are starting by optimizing their sites and building more robust mobile services. According to Forrester’s “State of Retailing Online” report, 51 percent of online retailers will invest in conversion-driving features such as the checkout process, variety of payment methods, and enhancing product detail pages. Forty-three percent of online retailers have a priority of improving the mobile and tablet experience by investing in apps, mobile-optimized sites, and analytics on mobile users.

Those are some major initiatives. My advice: don’t be short-sighted in your forward-looking site optimization. Email marketing efforts are connected to each of these emerging consumer behaviors – especially triggered messages. Sending automated messages that are triggered when a subscriber takes a certain action (or inaction) have long been part of the email marketer’s toolbox. The “set it and forget it” foundation of emails like abandoned cart reminders, a welcome series, or a birthday greeting increase overall sales for the channel with minimal time and resources required. While efficient and revenue-driving, the “forget it” part of “set it and forget it” can be a pitfall. These messages are often ignored. They end up breaking, not rendering correctly, using old logos, feature expired promotions, contain dead links…or they are sent as plain text that was written 10 years ago. Eek!

I recommend reviewing the functionality, content, and user experience offered by your triggered messages at least once per quarter. Neglecting to do so can lead to a frustrating customer experience during a period of time that greatly influences a purchase decision or long-term brand loyalty.

If you are like the retailers included in Forrester’s study, you need to include your email marketing messages in your site optimization and mobile enhancement plan of attack. In addition to the recommended quarterly audit to ensure functionality and prevent potential gaps in messaging, you have to consider how these subscriber actions, inactions, and events translate to the multi-device consumer.

Trigger events could expand to include near-field communication (NFC) actions taken at various locations or digital payment methods like Google Wallet or Apple’s Passbook. These events will also splinter between your site and physical stores with a mobile device being the bridge between the two. Order and shipping confirmation emails should contain enough customer service-related information to maintain both a solid traditional and mobile inbox experience. Phone numbers should be tappable. Tracking links should not only be tappable but should click through to a mobile-optimized landing page. As you build your mobile-optimized site, include code that will detect the email clicker’s device type and show product pages, account info pages, and forms in a mobile or traditional computer-friendly view.

Let me step back into my role as an everyday consumer for a moment and give you a real-world illustration of this concept in action based on my own experience and behavior as a furniture shopper on the hunt and ready to make a purchase.

I recently went shopping for a new coffee table and forgot to grab printouts of emails containing in-store coupons. While over-thinking my purchase decisions, I asked employees at three major furniture stores if they would accept the coupon if shown on my phone. Two out of three said they would accept the coupon. One said they were not allowed to do so. Guess who got my money? When I returned home, I read the printouts and saw those two brands not only included copy in their email informing me that I could show the email to a cashier on my smartphone, but they also included instructions for the cashier on how to input the offer if the code would not scan. This one email went from my laptop to a printer to my smartphone and then to the cashier. That’s quite a journey and ultimately email was able to bridge the gaps and got the brands their conversion. This approach should be part of your triggered message planning as your site evolves to the multi-device customer. Now, get back to your multiple monitors, smartphone- and tablet-covered desk, and start planning for your equally connected consumer!

Overly Connected image on home page via Shutterstock.

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