People Aren’t Opening the E-mails We Send Them, Are We Relevant?

Over the last several years, email marketing in North America has seen a significant paradigm shift in how brands communicate with consumers. The volume of email being sent was on the rise and consequently so was the rate of consumers unsubscribing from them. The industry had to determine a way to address the matter, and thus, relevant email marketing was born.

We in Asia have an advantage, however. While email programs in our region are not yet as advanced as programs in North America or Europe, the benefit of both time and knowledge is on our side. We can plan how to communicate with consumers in a more effective way. This brings up the first of many questions. How relevant to your customer’s lifestyle, interests, and personalities are your email messages?

Forrester Research published a study in 2009 titled “The ROI of E-mail Relevance,” which contains a key message to marketers: “Marketers and vendors will fail to be best-in-class without email programs that are automated around subscriber behaviour and data integration.” But before I go into the secrets of relevant email marketing, we have to acknowledge that the principles don’t just apply to email marketing; they can be applied across all the digital channels that make up your marketing plan.

So what’s the secret? Take one step at a time, enjoy the success, and then take the next step. What step should you take first? Here’s my ranking:

Personalisation. I’m not inspired by an email that greets me with ‘Dear Valued Customer’ or doesn’t acknowledge me at all. I do however like an email that says ‘Dear Darren’. It’s the easiest step but it’s a step too rarely taken, a message that contains an acknowledgment of my status as an individual – a returning member, loyalty member, high-value customer, age, or gender – so that I don’t receive an email for this week’s Little Black Dress. The data that you need for this should exist in your database; it’s a matter of asking for it and then flicking the switch.

Lifecycle management. We all like acknowledgment of who we are based on where we are in our life stages. Consumers in your email program are the same. They like a welcome email after they sign up, a first-time buyer offer or acknowledgement of a purchase, a cross-sell promotion, or loyalty program invitation. It’s all about messaging that is part of an integrated program to address the consumer lifecycle. And it gets easier than that when most of these messages can be automated.

Testing and measurement. ‘How often do I want to receive an email?’ ‘What’s best in the subject line?’ and ‘What content works best?’ are all questions that need to be addressed when you implement a program. You need to test individual elements of an email message to determine what works and what doesn’t. In addition, you should also consider testing around audience segments, offers contained in the email, and of course, creative design. The results of these tests are factored into the development of your next email campaign. The secret is not to stop testing and measuring, because what works today may not bring you the same results in months to come.

Segmentation. Every individual that receives an email as part of your next campaign has a unique profile, including preferences, location, purchase history, and online behaviour. The secret with successful segmentation is your ability to create messaging that is driven by these factors and is dynamically targeted to a specific audience.

Contact management. Quite simply, the notion of contact management is that triggered messages need to be based on an individual’s behaviour, actions, and/or an event. But they are also controlled based on expressed preferences for delivery of email messages, frequency, and recent experience with the brand.

Interactivity. This applies when your messaging contains calls–to-action for the email recipient to pursue interests and/or activities that engage them further in your brand. This can include links to make a purchase, obtain additional information, download coupons, or read a blog.

The benefits associated with relevant email marketing are very clear: relevance delivers results. Targeted email campaigns can generate a four-time increase in monthly revenue, and more than a four-time increase in monthly profit compared to non-targeted campaigns. As companies look toward the Asia Pacific region to generate revenue outside of the traditional North American and European markets, relevant content in your messaging is no longer a nice to have, it’s very much a strategic necessity.

So what’s your plan for making your email messages more relevant this year?

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