Planning a Rich Media Email Campaign

Compare the commercial email coming into your inbox these days to what you might have been getting a year ago, and I’m sure you’ll notice quite a bit of innovation in the area of rich media email.

These days, the communications I receive from e-commerce vendors, trade-show marketers, promotional companies, and others are as likely to be via some form of rich media email as they are to be of the plain-text variety. Folks with something to sell are certainly trying harder to focus prospects’ attention on their products for as long as they can.

Rich Media Grabs Attention

The return on investment for a properly executed rich media email campaign can be orders of magnitude higher than that of a plain-text or simple HTML campaign. Attribute this not only to the novelty of some of the new email formats, but also to a streamlined conversion process. Marketers are quickly realizing that getting someone to view a video stream, retrieve detailed information on a product, or even buy a product is an easier sell if the video, information, or purchase capability can be delivered in the body of an email. Simply put, more effort is required to get somebody to click on or copy and paste a link into their browser than to view enhanced content within an email.

With these enhanced consumer experiences also comes an increased level of responsibility for marketers in delivering rich email. No longer is the implementation of an email campaign as simple as delivering a text version and an HTML version to an email marketing company for delivery. Rather, marketers need to select rich media formats, perform detailed analyses on which segments of an email list can receive a particular format, and segment their lists appropriately. Often, a rich media email provider will be able to use a detection script, commonly referred to as a “sniffer,” to find out which email client (e.g., Outlook, Eudora, AOL, etc.) a given recipient is using and whether the recipient has the necessary plug-ins to process any enhanced content appropriately.

Take a look at some of the offerings from TMXinteractive, Radical Communication, EyeWonder, and ToggleThis to get an idea of some of the latest capabilities of rich media email. Before you get too excited, realize that not every email recipient is capable of experiencing this technology in the same way. Many of the new rich media email technologies are dependent on Java and on the capabilities of the recipient’s email client; thus, not everyone is capable of experiencing enhanced content right within the body of an email.

Rich Media Requires Planning

That’s not to say that rich media email isn’t worth using in your next campaign. Quite the contrary. It’s just important to note that rich campaigns require more planning and behind-the-scenes work than run-of-the-mill text or HTML campaigns. When planning a rich media campaign, always be sure to ask the following questions (at a minimum):

  • What technology is required in order for users to get the full experience in the body of the email?

  • If Java or a plug-in is needed, how will my deployment provider address segmentation issues? Will the provider use a sniffer to determine the presence of the necessary technology? Will the sniffer also be able to determine which email client a recipient is using?
  • What will be served to recipients who don’t possess the technology necessary for the experience? Will it be a link? A text version? An HTML version?
  • What percentage of my email list will be able to receive enhanced content?
  • Are there any deployment issues that might arise from using a rich email provider in conjunction with any email deployment vendors I might already be using? Are there any issues if I deploy via an in-house solution?
  • What lead times are required for creative? Can a rich media vendor deploy within a few hours of receiving creative, or are weeks required for proprietary encoding and such?

Clearly, as email offerings get richer and richer, marketers are required to do a lot more homework. But with the potential to achieve double-digit response rates and even higher interaction rates, the rewards outweigh the risks.

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