Why do retailers see declining opens, click through rates (CTRs), and conversions, and growing attrition? The problem isn’t the channel, it’s the way marketers are abusing it.
Consequences of Email Abuse
Open Rates Suffer: There are many culprits for declining open rates like spam filters and tougher competition within the inbox. The biggest blame is the practice of batching and blasting just to stay on top of your subscribers’ inboxes. When someone receives multiple emails from you and they notice a pattern of irrelevancy, their eyes glaze over.
Poor Click-Through Rates: Rather than focus on what resonates best with individual email recipients, the norm today is to test against entire segments. The mentality goes, “As long as a couple people will buy the sweatshirt, we might as well send the promotion to everyone.” This kind of industry-wide abuse and disregard for recipients’ desire for relevant content has lowered the standards of what we should expect from CTR.
Emails go Straight to Spam and other Categorized Boxes: Spam filters, thank God, have become very good at keeping out unwanted mail. Ending up in the spam folder is usually a sign you haven’t white-labeled your domain, excluded words like “free” from your subject line, or avoided ALL CAPS. But for most retailers, the inevitable destination is the purgatory-like Promotions Box. It’s Gmail’s way of saying, “yes, you followed all the rules, but we know you’re sending the same generic message to each of these recipients.”
Pathetic Smartphone Conversion Rates: 66% of emails are opened on mobile. But conversion rates from smartphones are abhorrent (⅓ of desktop and tablet). Why? People are addicted checking email, but often aren’t in the right space to fully engage. Conversion rates aren’t improving for most retailers because they’re neglecting to account for today’s smartphone users. This neglect ranges from not redirecting to responsive pages to not accounting for a user’s email click through activity when presenting subsequent offers.
So what gets consumers to actually open, click, and even eagerly anticipate your emails on a regular basis? And how can retailers apply these lessons towards the creation of a modern-day email strategy?
Offer Fresh, Curated Content: There’s no reason why retailers can’t capitalize on people’s inclination to open emails that promise fresh, curated content. eConsultancy cites Net-A-Porter as a great example of this. The fashion retailer’s weekly email often links to its on-site magazine where “snackable” content keeps readers engaged. While not every brand is in the position to have a digital magazine, they certainly can come up with creative bits that readers will actually look forward to regularly receive in their inboxes.
Focus on Quality Over Quantity: According to a March 2015 survey conducted by eMarketer, 44% of US internet users said that less frequent messaging is the primary way to improve marketing emails. And a combined 48% stated that more informative and personalized content are the key to winning their attention. At one point the recipient opted in to receive your messages. Don’t give them too many reasons to change their mind. Nearly half of consumers will mark an email as spam simply because the sender bugs them too frequently.
Subject Lines Matter: According to Forrester’s Email User Experiences Best Practices, the best performing subject lines are those that are “descriptive, evocative, and compel the user to open the message”. Seems pretty obvious, but for some reason, retailers continue to miss the mark. Here’s a tip: mentioning a particular category that the recipient has been shopping for on your site is highly effective in a subject line.
Fully Account for the Smartphone Experience: Ensure your messages are responsive to device type and link to an onsite experience that’s fully optimized for smartphones. An appalling number of sites don’t do it, even though it’s like remembering to put the gear down before landing a plane. A responsive site will help you prevent missed opportunities, but on its own won’t do much to promote greater conversions or revenue. Retailers need to fully leverage the narrow screen afforded to them by smartphones and aim to be on target for each individual shopper with laser-focused relevancy.
Send Individually Relevant Content Based on Each Shopper’s Expressed Interests: Imagine being able to send an email to someone that contains the specific products they’ll likely purchase next. The shopper’s individual preferences expressed through their clicks, searches, add to carts and purchases serve as the basis for the content of the message. Also influencing the content is their gender, deep rooted affinity for specific brands, patterns, style, color pallet, and more. With these kinds of advanced personalized emails, all content — from the hero image, to the product recommendations within the body — is about the recipient. Subscribers receive something closer to what a paid personal shopping assistant might send to their most known client, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” email blast.
Results You Can Expect by Getting Email Right
Shoppers will not care about your emails unless they contain up-to-date content that truly resonates. To get remarkable results from the channel, start treating email the way you would treat a highly personalized site. Retailers who follow through and take an approach that’s focused at the individual level enjoy dramatically increased metrics:
- Open rates improve – more recipients now see your valuable content
- CTRs increase – great individualized content means higher click throughs
- Attrition decreases – because more people find your personalized emails more valuable, they stop unsubscribing and possibly add your email to their primary tab
- Revenue per email increases – with more people coming to your site via email with higher intent, your conversion rate increases and revenue quickly follows
Your consumers have not ended their love affair with email. They check it religiously, but they will only engage with you once you get it right. You may have subscribers who are ignoring you now, but once you start treating them as individuals, you’ll win them over and they’ll spring back to life as re-activated, engaged shoppers.