Innovative Email Strategies: Bulletproofing and Bake-offs

Sep 26, 2011 8:04 PM  By

When it comes to email marketing, the best thing for merchants to test 10 years ago was the subject line, according to Ryan Urban, director of acquisition for men’s apparel merchant Bonobos.

The best thing to test today? The subject line. “And it’s the easiest,” Urban said in a Sept. 13 session at the Shop.org Annual Summit.

If you really want to get cooking with your email tests, Urban suggested starting a subject line “bake-off.” Hold internal competitions for the best subject line using A/B/C split tests. Involve employees from a variety of departments, including graphic designers, copywriters and vice presidents.

This helps everyone absorb what language your audience responds to, Urban said. What’s more, “it’s really fun, and you’ll get a tremendous lift in the open rates.” This can even literally change a brand’s direction, he noted.

Another tip with email: More is more. Urban advised adding “length” to your current email template with a bottom navigation content zone. “You will improve your click-through rate and conversions,” he promised.

What could you add? Best sellers, new products, popular categories, links to your outlets or clearance center, and so on. You could even just duplicate the navigation or a smaller hero graphic, Urban said.

Will this really make a difference? Absolutely, according to Urban. In all of his A/B tests, the email version with the extra length has never lost, he said.

Finally, you want to make your email bulletproof, Urban said. About 95% of your email subscribers have images turned off by default—this is a huge problem for marketers. So you want the focal points—navigation, call-to-actions, border—to be visible by default.

Big brands such as Walmart have not mastered the art of the bulletproof email, Urban said. Who’s doing it right? Group buying deals marketer Groupon for one, Urban said. He cited an example of a Groupon email for New York City deal that you could easily buy without seeing the image.

“Don’t hate on Groupon,” Urban told the Shop.org audience. “They own email marketing—they know what they’re doing.”