Is an Email Marketing Offer Just Like a TV Commercial?

When sending email marketing offers, context matters more than timing – a theme covered in this column. In it, I discussed the hastened pace that our time-starved, short-burst society moves at and the impact that it has on our attention. As consumers we like simple things; the increasingly popular info-graphic is an example of our love for the elegant yet easily digestible. To create more engaging email, we must begin thinking like TV commercial producers and data-driven artists and quickly get our point across and spur action. This column looks at the intersection of creative, content, and context to drive engagement.

An Email Marketing Offer Is Just Like a TV Commercial – Or Is It?

LiveIntent conducted a study that found that on average their publisher clients’ emails were viewed for 28.3 seconds, putting view time on par with a 30-second TV commercial. The duration that subscribers were engaged with these non-video emails is impressive, indicating that creative elements of email were contextually relevant to hold the subscriber’s attention for this duration of time. Moreover, this LiveIntent case study from publisher Techlicious shows that not only was engagement time long, but when using contextually relevant ads, their acquisition oriented ads improved. Most importantly, the engagement of these subscribers was better than other acquisition sources and these subscribers had much higher household incomes. Here, using dynamically placed, contextually relevant creative works. Similar to TV, in that if it can hold our interest for even just half a minute we will engage and if it is full of contextually relevant elements – then the spot will be memorable or at the very least drive us to action.

Start Your Timers and Take the TV Challenge

The TV challenge for us as email marketers? Can your email hold the attention of your subscribers for a half a minute? Is it elegant enough that it can convey its message in 30 seconds? Is it contextually relevant enough that it will spur the subscriber into action within those precious 30 seconds?

First you have to ensure that the subscriber can actually view the email and here are a couple of thoughts on creative best practices to ensure that your message is readable and highly scannable.

Use more images. Given the increased usage of mobile phones and tablet devices as primary email readers in some demographic segments, we must make the content easy to render. Beyond employing rendering tools from companies such as Litmus, IBM/Unica, and Return Path, using larger and potentially more images will make your email more readable and scannable. However, use those rendering tools to inspect that your messages are rendering correctly. I know some must be thinking, what about if images are off? If a subscriber wants your content via an email, she will turn the images on, particularly if the subject line is engaging and the content is relevant. A survey conducted by my firm in November 2011 found that 35 percent of consumers overall turn on images in their email; that percentage jumps to 56 percent for 27 to 32 year olds. The younger the consumer, the more likely she will turn on images in the email creative. Ensure that your website and landing pages also render well on mobile devices.

Use more dynamic, contextually rich images. Please begin leveraging the data that you possess about your subscribers to insert images dynamically into email creative. Leveraging past click behavior, preferences, location, and/or demographics to improve the relevance of your message is necessary. Several firms, including Movable Ink and LiveIntent, provide solutions to incorporate containers for live and relevant email content into your existing email marketing programs. Make this a priority and test this approach and you will likely see improved responses over static one-size-fits-all email.

As an email marketer, you cannot be afraid to fail. You must try new tactics and test them against what you are doing. Improving the readability and rendering of your email should be a number one priority. Improving content assets with contextually relevant dynamic chunks of content has proven to improve response, engagement, and conversion rates. So test the TV challenge: Is your email worth a half minute of your subscriber’s time? If not, then test new approaches.

Until next time,


This column was originally published on March 12, 2012 on ClickZ.

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