Originally published on Printful.com By Ieva Baranova
With billions of marketing emails being sent and received daily, we can no longer imagine our inboxes without them.
Meanwhile, most retailers can’t imagine their marketing strategies without email. With DMA’s latest email tracking study showing that email brings 30 times ROI on average, it will continue to be a vital communications channel for ecommerce and other industries alike.
However, the world of email will bring significant changes next year – to both marketers and consumers. First of all, 2018 will be marked by the GDPR – a pivotal EU regulation affecting all marketers dealing with European citizens.
Next year we will also see increasing personalization & automation, more interactive, gamified and mobile-responsive emails. As more than 42% of marketers confess to sending irrelevant emails to their audience, the digital society is still struggling with the downsides of email marketing – lack of personalization and value.
Would you like to be among the “good marketers of 2018”? To deserve that title, take these 10 email marketing resolutions to heart – and keep them all year long.
1. Be ready for the GDPR
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will affect several aspects of email marketing, especially how you seek and collect email addresses and send email campaigns to subscribers in the EU – no matter where you’re based.
The GDPR aims to strengthen data protection in the European Union and its export to other countries, giving more control to the citizens over their personal information.
As the GDPR comes into force on May 25, 2018, marketers will have to collect and record their subscribers’ consent that is “freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.”
To be compliant by May 25, you have to start preparing now. Make sure you follow these rules:
- Your signup forms can’t contain pre-ticked boxes or other indirect means of acquiring your subscribers’ consent.
- The signup process must inform subscribers about your brand and state the purposes of collecting their data, giving them the opportunity to object. This includes telling your subscribers if you intend to profile their data to adjust the offers they receive.
- Email addresses acquired in exchange for participating in a contest or downloading a white paper cannot be used to send marketing messages. Unless you mentioned it in the form and your subscribers clearly agreed to give their data for that specific reason, it won’t be legal to add them to your mailing list.
- Your existing database should also include only those subscribers whose permissions have been collected in compliance with the GDPR’s standards and can be proven as such.
- You should have a mechanism for keeping a record of customer consent, as all forms will have to be presented upon request.
As many companies rush to get their current database to comply with the new standards, we’ll be seeing many brands running re-permissioning campaigns before the GDPR enters into force.
Those who fail to comply risk to get huge fines – up to €20 Million or 4% of a brand’s global annual turnover (whichever is higher).
On the bright side, the GDPR brings more security for EU consumers and also greater consistency that makes doing business in Europe easier. While these changes can slow down list growth in the short term, they will help to improve the list quality over time. And if your email marketing efforts comply with the GDPR, they are likely to adhere to other international email laws as well. Read more on the GDPR here.
2. Automate your email marketing campaigns
It might sound counterintuitive, but email automation is all about sending personal emails to your audience. As the majority of consumers still indicate that most marketing emails they receive are untargeted and irrelevant, more automated email flows are desperately missed all over the world.
Mass newsletters are history. Your customers want to be noticed, talked to, and valued.
The future really lies in behavior-based (or action-based) email automation that adds value to your conversation with your customer, generates more conversions, and simply makes your life easier.
Whatever the size of your email list, you can set up triggers that will send an email at the right moment, to the right person. For example, you can approach your customer when they sign up at your online store, open an email or click on a specific link, and much more.
The complexity of automation series can vary – from a simple “welcome” email to drip campaigns that target visitors after they’ve completed a certain set of actions.
Let’s look at some common email automation campaigns:
- Welcome/onboarding series. Thank your subscribers for signing up and onboard them to your products or services. Consider offering a first purchase discount or a free shipping voucher to increase your conversion rate and start the relationship on the right foot.
Map poster design tool Grafomap does several good things in this email. It thanks the person for signing up, tells what to expect from their newsletter, suggests a beautiful way to display their product, and offers a free shipping voucher.
- Thank you emails. Every time a customer makes a purchase, signs up for your special deal, or takes another action you encouraged them to do, send an automated email to thank them and inform them of the next steps.
- Upselling series. Offer more products that match each customer’s purchase history. You can recommend customers buy similar products, send gift guides or style tips, or teach them how to find the best deals on your online store. Or even send automated reminder emails, like Drugstore do it:
3. Experiment with interactive email design
Here’s a simple formula – the more beautiful and interactive your emails are, the higher the chances that your subscriber will be excited to receive them.
The emails of the future are interactive, gamified, and resemble micro websites where the user can perform many actions without leaving their inbox.
Here are some ideas for interactive emails that make the inbox a more exciting place.
- Gifs, videos, and animations work great for engaging users. But make sure they don’t load too slow and lead to poor user experience across email clients.
- An image carousel makes your email more dynamic and attractive while showcasing multiple products beautifully.
Warning: Be careful not to make your email too “heavy” because it can lead to deliverability and loading issues. Keep your images small and don’t overuse them. Never send emails that only consist of one or several images and always provide alt text for your pictures.
- Integrated forms and surveys can be turned into a fun and interactive element if they are done right in the inbox. More subscribers are likely to leave their feedback or reveal information about themselves if you don’t direct them to a new page but keep them engaged in the email.
- Attractive social sharing buttons. Make it easy and exciting for the user to share your content on social media.
- Menu options and search in email. Integrating these elements into your emails can increase clicks and lead to higher conversions.
- Countdowns help to emphasize the urgency of taking your email offer better than a simple “sale ends soon” text. If you design it nicely, it will also add an engaging touch to your template.
4. Unite all of your marketing channels
In order to offer a holistic experience to your customers and be successful, you need to unite all the branches of your marketing plan. When email, social media, SEO, and other strategies work seamlessly together, your brand becomes stronger.
An effective omnichannel strategy is impossible without email. While social media, SEO, paid search, and advertising may help to get your customers into the top of your sales funnel, it’s primarily email marketing that will keep them there, and increase customer loyalty and repeat purchases.
Some ideas for merging your email marketing and social media:
- Content marketing. Prepare valuable blog posts and distribute them to your target audience via email newsletters and social media.
- Retargeting. With Twitter Advertising and Facebook Custom Audiences you can upload your email subscribers to your social database and advertise to different customer segments on social media.
- Let your channels promote each other. Include social sharing buttons in your emails and invite your email subscribers to join your social community. On the other hand, encourage subscribing to your newsletter on social media (Twitter Cards and Facebook Lead Ads will help with this).
5. Send location-based emails
With more and more consumers using mobile to make purchases on-the-go, the potential of location-based email marketing is greater than ever.
Geo-targeting lets you convert users more effectively in a way that isn’t seen as annoying or spammy.
This is especially true for Millennials that are so tech-savvy that they expect maximum personalization from the brands they interact with. A company that fails to determine location and preferences is doomed to disappoint Millennials.
Location-based email marketing uses a prospect’s geographic location as a means of segmentation. Here’s how it’s done on MailChimp:
Here are some ways your online store can use geo-targeting:
- You can either base the information on the shopper’s current location or their delivery address.
- Include holiday shipping deadlines depending on the location of the email recipient.
- Personalize the links from your email to your website, so that shoppers see the website in their language, prices, and currency.
- Adjust your offers to the season or even the weather conditions at a given time. For example, match your offer so that you don’t offer winter jackets to the Australian market in January or to the European subscribers in July.
To make even more personal offers for specific customer segments for your promotions, ask for location data in your opt-in forms and feedback surveys. Explain to your customers that their information will help you create relevant and valuable content for them, and they’ll be more likely to share.
6. A/B test on a regular basis
Testing is the secret sauce for success. In fact, if you’re not doing A/B split tests in your email campaigns, you are missing a valuable opportunity to get to know your audience better.
You can test virtually any part of your emails, from the subject line and sending time to the email copy and CTA button color.
Usually, A/B testing works like this:
- You decide which aspect of your campaign you’d like to test.
- Determine the size of your sample groups.
- Build two or three variations of the test email.
- The winning campaign will go out to those subscribers who didn’t receive the test.
Here’s how A/B testing looks on MailChimp:
TIP: Make sure you test only one element each time; otherwise you won’t be able to learn any lesson from your tests. For example, you won’t know if your subject line or CTA button color delivered the conversion if you were changing both in your test emails.
PRO TIP: Make sure your sample groups are large enough to draw conclusions. This depends on the size of your list, but it’s advisable to include at least 5k subscribers in each sample group. If your list is smaller than that, divide it all into two or three parts and analyze the campaign results for improving future practices.
7. Set up abandoned cart emails
The latest Baymard Institute data show that online shoppers abandon almost 70% of shopping carts before finalizing a purchase.
However, less than a third of US retailers send shopping cart abandonment emails.
If you want to be successful, you have to be among that one third.
Here are some effective tips for your cart abandonment emails:
- Remind the recipients what exactly is in their carts.
- Include the name of at least one abandoned item in the email subject line.
- Include the pictures of the abandoned products in the email. 85% of retailers do it and it’s a smart move as it reminds the customer of the desirable items they left behind.
- Suggest alternative products in addition to the abandoned products.
- Trigger your cart abandonment emails quickly – within 24 hours after the customer has left.
- If the cart value is significant enough, consider sending a series of emails instead of one email.
- Your cart abandonment emails need to regenerate the user’s session – it’s simply frustrating for them to receive an email that returns them to an empty cart.
TIP: If you don’t have a cart abandonment email yet, start by setting up a very simple one. With time, improve it by following the tips outlined above.
PRO TIP: One of the main reasons for cart abandonment is high administrative costs at checkout – taxes, shipping, handling fees, etc. If you can remove this friction by offering free shipping and a discount, your cart abandonment emails will bring even better results.
8. Become even more mobile-friendly
I know I risk sounding like old news, but making your emails mobile-responsive is really the key to success. A study by Statista revealed that 86% of smartphone users claim to use their mobile for checking personal email.
Just as your web content and online store are mobile-optimized, your emails should be responsive, easily readable and clickable, with a short loading time, and adjusted spacing.
To catch up with our mobile-first society, you’ll need templates that will be automatically optimized for both desktop and mobile email clients.
This means you’ll be sure it looks just as great on an iPhone as it does in Outlook or Gmail or the hundreds of other devices and clients your subscribers are using.
By the way, do you know which are the most popular email clients among your subscribers? Litmus compiled a list of the most popular email clients in 2017:
9. Work on your email deliverability
Only some email marketers know the difference between email delivery and email deliverability. So here it is:
- Delivery is the number of emails that are delivered vs. bounced.
- Deliverability is the number of emails delivered to the inbox/promotions tab vs. spam/junk folder.
If you struggle with email deliverability, the issue most likely lies with your customer engagement, i.e., how your email recipients interact with your emails.
The past two years have been increasingly challenging for email deliverability as email services keep developing their anti-spam algorithms to keep our inboxes cleaner.
What can you do to improve your email deliverability?
- Make sure you send emails on a regular basis (at least once per month). If you didn’t send anything during several months, your list may contain inactive emails (hard bounces).
- Upon signup, tell the subscribers what they’ll be receiving and how often.
- Segment your subscriber list based on their behavior to deliver only relevant campaigns.
- Make sure your website has no single-opt-in signup forms that may contain spam-traps. Choosing double opt-in forms is especially important in the light of the upcoming GDPR (see resolution 1).
- Don’t include links to a third party in your email content. If they have a bad reputation, your email will probably drop in the junk.
- If any of your subscribers issue spam complaints, analyze the possible errors and adjust your content.
An important deliverability practice is keeping your list clean with re-engagement (win-back) campaigns. Keep reading for the final resolution of 2018!
10. Set up re-engagement campaigns
Did you know that the average email list decays at least 30% every year?
Out of 1,000 subscribers whose emails you collected through blood, sweat, and tears, 300 will soon lose interest in your content. Horrible, isn’t it?
But not all of your inactive and dormant subscribers are lost forever. Re-engagement or win-back emails can serve as a filter to separate the “lost causes” from those whose interest can still be awakened.
In fact, 24% of inactive consumers read the re-engagement emails. It’s worth a try, right?
Simple steps to set up a re-engagement campaign:
- Create a segment with subscribers who didn’t open your emails for the last three months.
- Come up with a catchy and heart-thumping subject line.
- Write a brilliant copy to make them come back or include a free shipping coupon or discount.
- Segment the re-engaged subscribers and send a follow-up email with the ones who still didn’t respond.
- Say good-bye (erase) the emails that still didn’t open or click your win-back campaign. Remember – inactive subscribers hurt your engagement rates and deliverability.
For example, this win-back email combines emotional appeal with good humor and an enticing offer, and it’s also personalized with the recipient’s name. First, it piques your interest and then they gently guides you towards the special deal. Since you’re already reading the email, you might as well check what’s new in their stock.
We have an exciting year ahead of us!
While some of these resolutions may not be new, they are still crucial for raising your standards, keeping up with your competition, and seeing better results from your email marketing efforts.
We know it because we peeked inside a crystal ball and saw what exciting stuff 2018 will bring to email marketers.
And that’s not all we discovered.
We saw that email marketing will continue being the primary digital communication channel for small and large retailers alike.
Marketers who follow the latest email advertising trends and improve their strategies will see a rise in customer engagement.
Interactive emails will be all about helping customers take action with minimal effort.
Bulk emails will gradually become obsolete with personalized automated messages taking over.
Amazing, isn’t it? So let’s welcome 2018 – a year of targeted, innovative, and valuable email marketing!