New Technologies That Will Change How Subscribers Read Your Emails

I don’t have to tell you that marketing technology is always changing, you experience that every day. As an email marketer you live and breathe browsing behaviors, purchasing decisions, and re-targeting decisions based on new sets of data. Your email program has probably evolved over the years adapting to shifts trends. Consumers now use an array of devices used to check email and to maximize your reach you’ve worked to integrate all your marketing data to deliver the perfect content, at the perfect time to your subscribers.

Recently there have been some changes that will not only impact the content that can be sent subscribers, but also how those subscribers interact with your messages. Two topics that signal this shift is the growing adoption of AMP for email at the mailbox provider level and text-to-voice software like the new “Play My Email” function for Outlook. Both are markers of what is possible with email creatives and how email fits into a subscriber’s everyday life.

AMP Scripting for Email

AMP or an Accelerated Mobile Page was developed to combat slow-loading mobile web pages and was not originally for email. The weight of all the assets and resources that go into a single web page can be too much to render quickly. AMP allows content to load faster, be more engaging, and easier for the end user to consume content. Now enter AMP for email, carrying the same mantle as it’s AMP for web predecessor. It is tempting to dive into the nitty-gritty of AMP for email, instead let’s take a high-level overview of this new technology and how it can make a subscriber seamlessly move through the sales funnel of interest, decision, and action. To illustrate this a little better, I will use a fictional travel company as an example.

Envision you get an email from this travel company that has a call out for a destination you have been wanting to visit. After seeing a highly desirable resort at an affordable price, you click on the call to action and are taken to the travel company’s site. You look at pictures, view local activities, peruse the accommodations, and then decide that this option is not for you and you want to review others. You then go back to your email, scroll through, click a different link, and start the evaluation process all over again. This constant back and forth between email and browser could create fatigue. You may stop browsing and potentially begin looking for a new way to book your vacation.

This whole process is creating friction between two stages of the sales funnel, interest and decision. If a subscriber must take unnecessary time to explore all their options before making a decision, they can just as easily choose to make no decision at all. This leaves both the subscriber and sender somewhat dissatisfied with the email experience. With AMP for email though, all that investigation can be done in the subscriber’s inbox with a few simple clicks. They can view photos of the resorts and discover other information in an efficient fashion right from their inbox. AMP for email also has form submission elements that can cut out part of the purchase or action stage of the sales funnel. In the earlier example, if you decided to book that vacation you can select the dates, room accommodations, and other options right from the email and essentially use the travel website as the credit card processor. This example of AMP for email blends almost all stages of the sales funnel into a faster and more engaging interaction, rather than using the email as a launching point for a subscriber to interact with the brand.

Text-to-Voice Email

Microsoft recently announced a function known as “Play My Email” and this is in line with other text-to-voice features that have been appearing recently. Devices like Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Nest are gaining popularity in many households and it a matter of time before they’ll be reading a subscriber’s email aloud as a normal part of their day.

What does this mean for email marketers though? Subscribers will be even more distracted while checking their mail than before. Surveys have shown that most people check their email using an additional piece of technology. Now subscribers can have and email read to them while they are cooking dinner, folding laundry, or any other task that may be near to these text-to-voice devices. With these additional distractions, it is now more important that the content of an email is of high value to the subscriber. The content sent to subscribers will need to be specific to their immediate needs and wants for them to find the email in their inbox later and take further action. Using other technologies like dynamic content not only achieves the goal of having the content be of high value to the subscriber, but also can streamline the email development process by not having to create new email creative for each subscriber segment.

This also means that it will take longer for subscribers to consume the information in an email if it is read to them rather than skimming through an email visually. Usually if a sender can have a subscriber spend more than 8 seconds looking at an opened message that means they have successfully grabbed the subscriber’s attention. With the text-to-voice devices, much of that time may be spent having the friendly from and subject line read out loud to the subscriber. If the main content is buried down in the email past pre-header, navigation, or other content, the subscriber can just as easily skip that message and move on to the next item in their inbox. There have been great innovations that revolve around the visual aesthetics of email and how it can catch subscriber attention, but now is the time to focus on the optimization of the written content in your emails. It is important to ensure your written content is conversational, relevant, and informative from the first word or instance of alt text to have the voice-to-text software that is reading the email convey the value you are presenting to the subscriber.

The progression of all technology has one main goal, to make any task no matter how big or small more effortless for all people. Advancements like AMP for email and text-to-voice software options are appearing to make one of the most used channels of communication streamlined and more accessible to all email users. One nugget of email marketing wisdom that I like to keep top of mind is all senders are being compared to the best sender in their subscriber’s inbox, whether they are direct competitors or not. Being ready for these changes in customer experience and information consumption will help ensure your brand is what all others get compared to, not the other way around.

Towards LGPD and Beyond – You’ve Gotta Have a Plan!

As the GDPR deadline of May 25th, 2018 approached, one of the biggest mistakes many European senders made was to leave everything to the last moment. By that stage, many email subscribers were completely overwhelmed by inbox overload, and their simplest response was “ignore everything!” As a result, lists were decimated – research from Yieldify showed one-third of marketers lost over 30 percent of their email lists, with Travel (37 percent), IT/Telecoms (32 percent) and Finance (28 percent) being the most impacted. We also saw individual programs that lost over 90 percent of their lists!

In the first two posts of this series we considered the legal bases for email marketing, and the importance of having robust deliverability to ensure your subscribers receive their LGPD emails. In this post, we’ll talk about strategies for making sure those messages get a response!

1. Start Early

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) introduced its new sign-up form a full year before the GDPR deadline. Note how their approach is explicit, granular, and requires positive action to opt-in.

By the time GDPR became law, a large part of RSPB’s list was already organically compliant, meaning far less last-minute re-permissioning. They also saw much higher engagement levels from new subscribers, with open rates increasing by 1.15X and click rates by 1.9X!

2. Spread the Load

We’ve already explained the importance of avoiding sudden changes in volume. Mailbox Providers (MBPs) don’t like this behavior, because it indicates potential spam activity, or even that a program may have been compromised. In the UK one sender who tried to mail their entire base 1 day before the May 25th deadline saw over 80 percent of their emails sent to junk folders as a result.

Tesco understood this importance and took a more pragmatic approach, mailing approximately three percent of its database each day across a four-week period. In this way, volume impact was blended into Tesco’s daily activity. It also meant more conservative connection and throughput settings could be applied, which is good practice when mailing to less engaged audiences.

3. Don’t Rely on Just One Shot!

Successful re-engagement/win-back programs take a multi-email approach. If you only fire a single shot, you’re more likely to miss, as our previous research shows! Waitrose recognized this, and they ran a structured program of communications over the weeks leading up to GDPR, maximizing their opportunity to secure re-permission.

The first two emails focused on creating awareness of the new legislation, then explaining the benefits of remaining a member of the program (offers and discounts, recipe ideas, events, and tastings, etc.)

As the May 25th deadline grew closer, Waitrose increased the urgency of the language that used to persuade subscribers to continue with their program membership:

4. Maximize Your Marketing Real Estate

You don’t want to send LGPD messages to your email audience every day (although some UK and European senders did just this, generating serious program fatigue in the process!). But there are other ways of reinforcing the message while remaining reasonably subtle!

Clarks made use of the emails’ pre-header text, which read “We’ve updated our privacy policy and need to confirm you want to keep hearing from us.” This was a smart approach because most email clients now show 70-80 characters of pre-header text, meaning a good chance of the message being seen even without opening the emails.

Selfridges took a more visual approach, and for a 30-day period included the grey “Don’t lose touch” box in the top third of every marketing email they sent. As a result, they achieved exceptional subscriber retention rates, although engagement rates suffered because less promotional content was immediately visible to openers during this time.

5. Think Multichannel

Remember email doesn’t operate in a vacuum! It is part of a complex multi-channel ecosystem and your retention efforts should recognize this. Make sure you provide LGPD reminders when your customers login to their accounts. Also make them part of your postal, social and push messaging strategies if you use these channels.

If your marketing program operates above the line, also consider broader approaches to your LGPD messaging. We saw this memorable example from Manchester United football club, with re-permissioning messages shown on the digital advertising boards at Old Trafford stadium!

Another important element is Point of Sale (POS). Direct Marketing Association (DMA) research shows around 40 percent of new program sign-ups now take place in-store (almost 60 percent in the 18-34 segment). The Yieldify research also showed the single most effective tactic for post-GDPR list rebuilding was encouraging account registration and opt-in at checkout.

Senders with a physical presence should therefore think carefully about how they provide in-store LGPD education, providing advertising in the POS area, and equipping checkout staff with scripts and training to assist with these conversations.

Also, be aware LGPD will probably have impact on the way e-receipts are issued. In the UK, guidance was clear that: 1) e-receipts can not contain any marketing content (the consent to receive the e-receipt is not consent to receive marketing); and 2) customers must be provided with an opt-out from receiving email marketing at POS (meaning POS staff must be trained to ensure this happens. Read my DMA blog for more on this topic.

In summary, key points from this post are: start your LGPD preparations as soon as possible; spread out your broadcast schedule; don’t rely on a “one shot only” approach; and cover as many of your multi-channel bases as possible to communicate your LGPD messaging to your customers.

In the next—and final—installment of this series, we’ll provide guidance around effective use of language and creative to maximize the impact of your emails during the inbox overload period we are expecting as next August approaches.

 

What is List Verification and Why is it Important?

With so many strategies to implement in the market these days – marketing automation, personalization, mobile experience — it can be tough to truly understand them all. If the importance of validating contact data has fallen into that mix for you, look no further. As the trailblazers of list verification, we are here to be your experts on this area of marketing and database management.   

We’ve answered a few questions below that we hear most frequently around list verification. 

1. What is list verification and why is it important? 

Even the best admins and marketing teams struggle with invalid contact information. Stale email addresses, misspelled mailing addresses, and fake phone numbers impact critical efforts across the company. These prevent you from reaching your customers and prospects and have direct impact on customer experience, your ability to hit sales numbers, and ultimately the bottom line.  

List verification directly solves these challenges, ensuring you’re collecting and utilizing valid contact information across the business.  

Our list verification solution helps you validate data in three different ways. 

  • Verify addresses live, at the source of input. If the email entered is not real, there is an immediate prompt for correction. 
  • Drag and drop existing lists into the web application and receive a breakdown of the validity of each email address.  
  • Verify email addresses directly within Salesforce and get warned when one is invalid, keeping your CRM data clean. 

Whether you implement just one or, ideally, each of the three options above, you’re on your way to maximizing the customer experience, protecting the email experience, and increasing ROI. 

2. What are invalid emails and why does it matter if I send to them? 

Simply put, an invalid email address is an email that does not exist.  

Stale or invalid email addresses negatively impact your sending reputation, raising a red flag to blacklists and mailbox providers as spammy behavior. In turn, this jeopardizes your connection with valid email subscribers.  

There are three ways we determine an invalid email address: 

  • Invalid Format 

The email address format is incorrect. For example, james0uwerwe#com is not in the correct email format of inbox@domain.com 

  • Invalid Email Domain 

The email address is associated with a domain that doesn’t exist. For example, briteeeeverify.com is not a real domain capable of sending and receiving email, so inbox@briteeeeverify.com is an invalid email. 

  • Invalid Email Account 

The email account does not exist at the given domain. This can be due to a typo upon collection, entering of a fake address, or it was once valid, but churned over time as mailboxes naturally shut down.  

3. Is there a way to verify phone numbers and mailing addresses? 

Yes! With our real-time API, you can not only verify email addresses, but also ensure both phone and mailing address contact fields are complete and accurate at the point of capture. The API can verify mailing addresses in the US and phone numbers in the US and Canada. This includes determining if a phone number is a cell, landline, or VOIP as well as its location: residential, business, or small office. 

4. How does the security around list verification work? 

One of your most valuable assets is the personal data of your customers and subscribers. To help keep that data secure, we limit how long we retain your verified lists in our system for download. After your records expire, you can still access your detailed results for each verified list, keeping your aggregated data close at hand for analytics, but personally identifiable information is removed for the safety of your subscribers. 

Additionally, we are proud to operate in the most privacy conscious, industry tolerant, PII sensitive, way possible. We practice the GDPR principles of data minimization and pseudonymization. We only store enough information to deliver our solutions. All data is encrypted in transit, and any personal data we receive is also hashed and encrypted at rest as well.

5. Why do I need a subscription instead of a one-time run? 

This is kind of like asking, “Why do I need to clean out the refrigerator? I did so 6 months ago”. Just like with your aging produce that has been sitting in the vegetable drawer, contact data goes stale. Some of this you may need to toss out while adding fresh items back in. By verifying your list only one-time, you’re harming your efforts in a couple ways: 

  • Point-of-collection captures are left out
    Capturing accurate data real-time from point of collection ensures your data is clean from the start. By only allowing accurate contact data into your CRM, you’ll reduce maintenance costs and gain better customer insights to leverage for crafting relevant, meaningful, and timely experiences and services.
     
  • Lists are constantly growing and evolving
    Ideally your subscriber list will constantly be growing in an organic way. As this takes place, new data is infiltrating your database. At the same time, already-captured data is aging and possibly becoming invalid. It’s crucial to stay on top of these changes with constant verifications.

6. I already use a marketing automation tool. How is this different? 

In its simplest form, the main job of a marketing automation tool is to send your email. However, there are typically not steps taken within this solution prior to a send to verify the addresses you’re sending to are valid. By integrating list verification with your ESP, you’re able to ensure you’re sending to real email addresses before you hit send. 

7. How do I justify the cost? 

A fake email is not just a lost opportunity. 25% of all email addresses collected are invalid, making it a financial liability. Sending to valid addresses increases engagement rates, improves reputation with mailbox providers, and drives more conversions. Want to see how it could impact your program specifically? Hop into this ROI calculator to run your numbers and see the potential impact.  

Whew, that was a lot! Hopefully that helps clarify any questions you may have had around list verification and its value to your email program. When implemented, list verification streamlines your subscriber list, improving your reputation and impacting conversions and ROI. It’s a must-have for any serious email marketer.  

Ready to verify your data? Click here to learn more about BriteVerify, the industry’s longest-standing and most complete email and contact verification solution. 

Have a question we didn’t cover? Contact us and we’d be happy to help.