Digital MarketingEmail MarketingRealizing Agile Email Marketing: The Future of Video, Content, and Context

Realizing Agile Email Marketing: The Future of Video, Content, and Context

A conversation with Movable Ink's VP of marketing can help marketers better understand the opportunity of video in email and agile email marketing.

In a previous column, I discussed the importance of adapting to change and the use of responsive design to optimize content rendering. In this column, I will dive deeper into that trend and highlight what Movable Ink refers to as “agile email marketing.”

Agile email marketing is different than the current waterfall process of email marketing campaign production. The current linear process of email marketing production assumes a certain level of rework, particularly as it relates to how testing is achieved in most email marketing applications. The agile approach is centered around the subscriber including up-to-the-minute contextual information, such as their location, time of day, and device. This is married with unlimited variations of content, historical subscriber data, and optimization rules to ensure that the right message is delivered to the right person at the right time. Such an idea is not new, but Movable Ink, a fast-growing New York-based company, has made this a reality for top retailers and brands. What makes its approach even more compelling is that it’s not an ESP; the company makes it easy to cut and paste its capabilities into the marketer’s existing email marketing solution.

Movable Ink announced earlier this year the ability to use video in its solution, which my firm recognizes as a huge growth area for email marketing. For example, YouTube reports that it has 800 million unique visitors each month and that mobile consumption of video has tripled since 2011. To better understand the opportunity of video in email and agile email marketing, I sat down with Movable Ink VP of Marketing Jordan Cohen.

David Daniels: Jordan, tell me about agile email marketing and how Movable Ink works to improve the relevance of messages.

Jordan Cohen: Historically, it has taken months for a marketer to conceive, produce, deploy, and gather insights from an email campaign. On the receiving end, consumers have had inboxes filled with emails that are frozen in time from the moment they’re sent, and that begin losing relevance and value from that moment onward.

Movable Ink is an agile email marketing platform that makes the campaign process more efficient for marketers, and email itself a more flexible and adaptive communication channel for consumers. Our technology enables messaging and content to be changed on the fly based on real-time insights, and perpetually adapt to each individual recipient’s current context, historical behaviors, and social graphs. Campaign cycles are dramatically reduced, occurring in days and minutes, as opposed to weeks and months. And most important of all, at the end of the day consumers receive much more timely, relevant, and valuable communications.

DD: We’re big fans of video and are increasingly seeing it used in email, but we think overall it is being underserved. Do you agree that video in email has been underserved and why do you think that has been? Is it a compatibility issue with the email clients that render the messages?

JC: Video in email had been underserved in the past for good reason – a lack of ISP/receiver-side support. The game-changer that’s making video in email a reality today and is making it poised for serious growth in 2013 and beyond is the introduction of HTML5 and the massive popularity of the email clients that support it (i.e., all Apple mail clients, (formerly Hotmail and Windows Live Mail), and the latest desktop Outlook clients). Those platforms alone can account for 50 percent or higher of opens on a typical marketer’s list. And when you combine them with other mail clients that render some form of video-in-email, 75 to 80 percent of a typical marketer’s email recipients are now able to see motion picture in their inboxes.

There is one other important reason that video has been underserved in email that I should mention – and that’s the fact that many marketers don’t have a ton of video assets to embed into email in the first place. This has factored into our thinking at Movable Ink in regards to the approach we’re taking to rolling out our video solution: rather than making video a premium, standalone product, we’re making it available as a basic, out-of-the-box solution that marketers can tap into whenever they see fit, along with a host of other inbox-enriching applications. Video is just one splotch of ink on the email marketing palette that we provide, as opposed to the only one.

DD: In my last column I talked about the dominance of the mobile devices and the need for responsive design. I believe mobile devices are really the new browser. What kind of mobile usage are your clients seeing on their mailings?

JC: Mobile device usage is really exploding. Even the most pro-mobile numbers being reported by other firms seem low to me based on what I’m seeing with our own customers (who are all large, enterprise, B2C marketers, which may skew the numbers a bit). Just today, we saw a 61 percent smartphone open rate on a campaign deployed by a major apparel brand. Another 7 percent of its opens took place on tablets. Amazing! The other trend we’re seeing is that Apple is eating Android’s lunch when it comes to email opens (or, at least email opens with images turned on). Forty-seven percent of all opens for the aforementioned campaign took place on an iPhone, compared to 13 percent for Android.

I know this is just one example I’m sharing, but we’re seeing results similar to these across many large brands. Rather than looking to aggregate benchmarks, marketers should look at their own device breakdowns, and optimize campaigns accordingly. They should also be doing so constantly, not just occasionally, and optimize for multiple platforms in real time. The landscape is too fluid to do anything less. The tools and data to do so are readily accessible, marketers just need to have at it.

DD: At my firm we talk about big data and subscriber profile data. Given the rise of this agile real-time movement, do you think marketers are capturing too much historical data and should instead rely more on real-time contextual information such as device and location?

JC: There is so much data out there to draw from, the challenge is drawing insights from it and making it actionable. I wouldn’t suggest that marketers should rely more or less on one category of data over another. They just should focus on data collection that translates into enhanced relevancy for consumers, as opposed to data collection for data collection’s sake. The nice thing about real-time contextual data is that its use can be entirely automated, and implementing contextual relevancy into email campaigns is relatively effortless.

DD: Thanks so much for sitting down with me Jordan, it was insightful.

I will be off to the All About eMail event this week and the EEC Email Evolution Event the following week. I hope to see some of you there, and if you miss these events I will be writing up some of the highlights in my next column.

Until then, best regards,

Email image on home page via Shutterstock.

This column was originally published on Jan. 28, 2013.

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