Optimization, Frequency and Segmentation Prove Key to Email Marketing Success

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"Triggered programs, such as customer win-back, browse and cart abandonment, welcome subscriber and first-purchase programs, welcome customer and second-purchase programs, and replenishment programs are where email really stands out for delivering value and revenue—to the customer and the brand."

That came from a detailed GetResponse study titled The State of Email Marketing by Industry, Here are a few email effectiveness takeaways from that study along with important numbers from Movable Ink's U.S. Consumer Device Preference Report.

1. Segment as much as possible. According to GetResponse, 42% of marketers don't segment, sending the same message to their whole audience and doing no customization. Look at things like completed transactions, abandoned carts, website browser behavior, articles they're reading. "It's not just that they abandoned the cart but what was in that cart that you want to capture," Jeanne Jennings, managing director, digital marketing, for Digital Prism Advisors, told a SIPA audience recently. "Then you give a gentle reminder with that image, typically on a 2nd or 3rd email and offer a discount."

2. Optimize for mobile, even if you still convert on desktop. According to Movable Ink, about 2/3 of all email opens come from mobile devices. That means that just 32% are opening on desktop. But 51% convert on desktop. So while most people are not converting on mobile—although 20% smartphone conversions are nothing to be dismissed—they are deciding whether or not to delete there. If they keep it, they may look at it on desktop later and take action.

3. Optimize for mobile, even if you think people read more on desktop. Actually they don't, according to Movable Ink. A surprising 62% of Kindle users spent 15 seconds or more reading their emails, followed by 48% of Android smartphone users. On desktop that number was only 41%. Interestingly, only 28% of iPad users spent 15 seconds or more reading emails, by far the lowest of any device.

4. Make sure you send frequently enough. "If you're not sending enough emails, you're leaving money on the table and potentially handing your customers over to your competitors – provided you're sending emails your customer consider valuable," writes GetResponse. "Too many marketers use the unsubscribe metric to guide their decision as to the optimal frequency when, in reality, it should be a metric that matters—such as sales, revenue, downloads, etc."

5. Use triggered email messages. They have higher open rates and higher click-thru rates. "Once created, you can use them over and over again," said Jennings. "Set it and forget it. They're highly relevant because they are being triggered by an action that person takes."

6. Do one strategic test a month. It can make a huge impact on the bottom line. Throw a video in there; see what happens. Segment a different group each month. You could test the effectiveness of an "exclusive offer" subject line versus "30% off."

7. "Consider every email a customer survey of your target market," advises GetResponse. "Aim to learn something from every email you send—not just an A/B test to determine which subject line gains the best results, but how elements like tone of voice and messaging affect your opens and conversions."

8. Collect data from email, but take your time. Jennings compared collecting data to dating, where you pick up key information about the other person over time. Jennings said that even asking for a phone number early on can be a stopper. "It sounds like a sales rep is going to call me. I put it on the second page or voluntary...As a relationship grows they'll be willing to give more. LinkedIn does a great job of this. Every time I go back they ask more questions. And I typically answer them."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…