How to Use ELI5 Messaging to Reach TL;DR Non-Clickers by Remailing

Go on any social network, visit any forum or read a few comments on any site and you will find a wide variety of abbreviations that will not make sense for the uninitiated.

Fossils like LOL, BRB or BTW are about as cool as an AOL Instant Messenger “Away Message.” There are two that I frequently see used to express a person’s desire to know more, or conversely their lack of interest to investigate details. The increased usage of this form of shorthand made me wonder if these self-professed proclamations of interest to consume web content could be true for an email’s content. I chose two contrasting abbreviations: ELI5 and TL;DR.

Let’s start with TL;DR which means “Too Long; Didn’t Read.” Simple enough, right? The content immediately gave an overwhelming impression so the person chose not to read the entire page. That’s only part of the story.

“TL;DR” usually precedes commentary. Even though the content was not read, the commenter still shares his two cents. Imagine a 1,200-word article detailing the science behind the recent “Polar Vortex” followed by “TL;DR I think it’s global warming and here’s a picture of my puppy.”

This leapfrog effect from initial interest in the article (clicking a headline) to lack of interest in consuming the content (barely skimming the copy) to commenting (having a desire to contribute) made me think about subscribers who open an email but don’t click.

The gap between your open rate and click rate is a crossroads of subscribers who are interested — just not enough to take the next step and click-through to your site. There are tons of reasons why this can happen: irrelevant content, boring promotions, curious subscribers who open everything, etc.

However, after opening over 12,000 emails during the holiday months of November and December, I can tell you that there were a ton of emails that were TL so I DR. You probably have merchandisers and other teams vying for placement of their products and offers in your emails which can lead to your email looking like a deck of cards scattered on the floor. The items may be related, but there are simply too many of them in the mix. There’s no way to visually make sense of them causing the opener to give up. Worth noting – the interest that caused the subscriber to open may still linger much like the polar vortex commenter I referenced earlier.

Does this mean I’m advocating short emails with few products? No, not exactly. There are product-heavy emails that are engaging and will drive sales. I’m recommending marketers become more aware of the length and density of their promotional emails and how TL;DR will impact click rates. Stunted clicks lead to stunted sales so it’s worth being mindful of this design element when reviewing email program performance metrics.

Marketers also need to find effective ways to target and reengage those TL;DR non-clickers. We all know that remailing, if done well, will lead to additional sales. Time and resource constraints often lead to the same email design being resent with a slightly modified subject line. “20 percent off Men’s Sweaters” becomes “Last Chance: 20 percent off Men’s Sweaters.” This is the lazy man’s remailing.

You may see incremental sales but you could also see higher unsubscriptions as your subscribers become frustrated and exhausted with repetitious content. One of my previous ClickZ articles focuses on how to execute a robust remailing program, but I want to elaborate on the population of subscribers who opened the first email but did not click.

This is where the ELI5 abbreviation comes into the mix. Standing for “Explain Like I’m 5,” the term is used when someone wants a layman’s explanation for something complex like “ELI5: What does e=MC2 mean?”

This is not a dumbing down of the message itself; it’s simply forming an explanation that is useful for a specific audience. It’s all in how the information is organized and transmitted.

If you are sending a product-heavy, dense email, proactively prepare an ELI5 email that can be sent to non-clicking openers. Distill promotional messages down to their most concentrated form. Perhaps an email for a menswear sale including “sweaters, pants, outerwear, accessories, shoes, active wear and more…” with images of products representing each category that requires the opener to scroll multiple times to see everything becomes a postcard style design with a large, clickable call to action encouraging the opener to “shop our menswear sale.” This will convey the primary point of the promotion with the details of the sale categories only one click away.

This approach gives the opener the information they need to understand the promotion, but saves details (which could be overwhelming) for the site and shopping experience. Subscribers can then self-navigate through the details as they explore your site one step farther down the purchase path.

If you found this post to be TL;DR and scrolled down for a summary, I’ll give you an ELI5 version. Make your remailings to non-clickers direct and cut the clutter. You’ll encourage clicks and get more buyers.

Related reading

Signpost with two signs pointing in different directions, one labelled B2B and one labelled B2C.
Image from Desigual welcome email to new subscribers.