Tis the season for driving in-store sales and email continues to top the list for what marketers say drives sales at checkout.
According to RSR Research, 58 percent of retailers are reporting year-over-year sales growth attributed email as a key driver of in-store visits. Despite new social avenues for driving direct response, such as sponsored Pins, Posts, and Tweets, email has been proven to be 40 times more effective. Additionally, 90 percent of consumers use email every day, so email continues to be among the top tactics for driving holiday sales.
However, just because email works statistically doesn’t guarantee success. For retailers and brands to win with email, it must first be opened, then read, and then reacted to. Retail emails have an average open rate of over 23 percent and click-through rate of 3.25 percent, according to bulk email software company MailChimp. With 75 percent of audiences not getting the message, what exactly makes for a great email?
Stick to the Subject
Subject lines are probably the most critical aspect of getting an email opened. Research has shown that using capitalization in the subject line can have a positive impact on open rates. Also, using personalization — such as the recipients full name in the “to” field and the senders in the “from” field — can improve open rates by as much as 35 percent.
Don’t forget to take advantage of how content is first viewed either. Gmail not only shows the subject line, but a small preview (or “snippet”) of text in the pre-header as well. Why have “Having trouble viewing this email? Click here.” appear in the snippet text can drive home a sales message like “Visit now for a special 10% holiday discount.”?
Also don’t forget to create greater relevance for the reader. There is a reason why lists (“Top 50 Fall Looks”) work to drive magazine newsstand sales, and it’s no different for email open rates. Curiosity creates action.
Shorter is also better. An analysis of millions of emails from MailChimp also showed that subject lines under 50 characters performed better as a rule. Are you more likely to open an email that says “Your Holiday Sale ‘Thank You’ Coupons” or “CHECK OUT ALL THESE GREAT 50% OFF HOLIDAY OFFERS GOING FAST!!!”? The latter sounds desperate while the former is direct and entices.
Barack Obama’s campaign leveraged short, powerful subject lines to win the digital fundraising game.
What’s the deal?
People love a good deal, but they also hate to feel “marketed to.” It’s a razor-thin line to walk when trying to incite the passive shopper to take action. In general, messaging should be fairly straightforward and avoid the use of hyperbole (along with exclamation marks).
In general, offering specific “Percent Off!” deals, SCREAMING IN ALL CAPS, or offering deals that seem too good to be true depress open rates and emails featuring them under perform. But, maybe a holiday deal is worth exclaiming. The key is making the message timely and useful – something that warrants genuine excitement for the consumer. That means getting granular, and offering shoppers who abandoned a certain category or items in an online shopping cart the opportunity to re-close the deal with a special offer (“24 hours left to get 10% off on…”).
This capitalizes on what shoppers have already expressed interest in, getting them to reconsider a purchase, and not feel as though they are being targeted with an offer that could have been sent to just anyone. With all the advanced digital webrooming that occurs during the holidays, retailers may want to consider offering in-store redeemable coupons for abandoned products, incentivizing customers to come in-store to interact with the product while also getting a discount if they choose to buy — a far easier sell than a one-time online offer.
Delivering the Message
Mobile Ink’s latest consumer device preference report has a statistic in it that email marketers may want to take note of as well: Over 66 percent of email gets opened on a smartphone or tablet. Most of those opens happen on smartphones (47 percent) as compared to desktop computers (34 percent) and tablets (18 percent).
For marketers, that means two very important things. Firstly, make sure HTML email and landing pages have responsive designs that render well on mobile devices. Secondly, target consumers before they get to work, since research shows that smartphone email open rates peak in the early morning. (Just think about commuters checking their email on the bus or while waiting in line for their morning coffee.)
Sonic uses responsive design to offer $1.99 chicken nuggets.
Many marketers make the mistake of treating email as a wholly separate channel that doesn’t work with social marketing. Instead of adding in social buttons on the footer as an afterthought, retailers and brands can tailor campaigns around their social presence, and offer discounts for following a Twitter account, or for pinning a specially promoted product. If they want to push out news of a special holiday sale or a new product offering, this is a great way to use email and social together – getting consumers buzzing, increasing meaningful social interactions, and – most importantly – driving more sales.
Colonial Candle offered discounts for Tweeting its handle.
A culture of measurement is incredibly important for brands and retailers to keep as well as vital for success with today’s shoppers. Marketers must take the time to A/B test multiple image and subject line messages before sending out emails in bulk. Many platforms offer this as an integrated function, but marketers do not take the time to prepare multiple versions of the email to find which works best.
Measuring results afterward is also extremely important. Now, it is easier than ever to not only monitor online email results, but connect email marketing efforts directly to offline success. If there are specific products marketed in email, retailers and brands should make sure they are working with a partner that can link those specific offers back to POS data, and compare sales of those products to normal, pre-sale outcomes to measure offline lift.
Make It Local
Finally, matching email content and offers to specific locations is probably the best way to increase the value, personalization, and value of email and drive offline sales. Whether it’s a Best Buy “get it now” campaign that temps consumers to skip online ordering and get into the store, or a simple “60% off” coupon designed to drive recipients into a local pharmacy to clear out their holiday candy inventory, associating the offer with a specific retail location can really drive increased results. It’s just a matter of crafting the right message before hitting “send.”