Article first published in February 2016, updated June 2019
Did you know that it’s been 47 years since Ray Tomlinson sent the very first email via ARPANET? The message was a test email and said something to the effect of “QWERTYUIOP.”
Over the years, we’ve seen marketers take this beautiful tool and use it in various ways to try and reach customers. We’ve seen the flux of unsolicited messages from marketers trying to get a sale by over-emailing consumers in the ’90s. We’ve seen privacy and communications regulations as a response to these unwanted messages, and email marketers adopting anti-spam strategies in the early 2000s. We’ve seen early attempts at behavioral messages starting in 2001 and improving throughout the years.
More recently, the strategy of either purchasing lists or using your own list and sending out an “email blast” or a mass email has been popular.
Thankfully, with innovations in data collection tools and email provider technology, all of the strategies mentioned above are (or, at least, should be) history. This new age of email marketing works to engage customers with data-driven tactics that ensure you’re only sending messages your subscribers want.
Do email blasts work?
Mass emails (or email blasts) is the strategy of sending a single email to a large distribution list simultaneously. There’s little strategy involved—no personalization or segmented lists—so, often, the email falls on deaf ears and is ineffective.
Why? People want to receive emails that are relevant to their interests, location, and behavior. With hundreds of emails piling up in an individual’s inbox, email blasts will go unnoticed and even sent to the dreaded spam folder.
If you find you’re stuck in the past sending out mass emails, a generic newsletter, or have heard little of data-driven email marketing, this post is for you. Let’s dive into why mass emails are a thing of the past, as well as how you can keep up.
Automation is improving relevancy.
Seventy-three percent of millennials
prefer to connect with brands via email. However, that doesn’t mean millennials—or any other customer base, for that matter—want overly promotional materials, mass email blasts, or even a company newsletter. Rather, subscribers want relevant, highly personalized, and real-time messages from brands.
Upping your email automation game contributes to this desired relevancy. In fact, companies that send automated emails are 133% more likely to send relevant messages that correspond with a customer’s purchase cycle.
While fine-tuning your email automation strategy, it’s also worthy to note that, in recent years, email automation has carried a “set it and forget it” tone. While email marketing automation will save your team hours and hours of time, increase relevance, and reach customers in real time, the new 2018 approach to automation is “review and improve,” according to Research Director, Chad White, at Litmus.
White says this approach is already proven by positive results. Successful programs are 70.2% more likely to A/B test their automated emails at least once a year, and are 94.7% more likely to A/B test transactional emails at least once a year.
Up your game this year by not only automating your messages based on behavioral triggers, but also reviewing, testing, and improving your automation strategy throughout the year.
Personalization and segmentation are charming subscribers.
It’s impossible to talk about email marketing without talking about personalization. And, if you haven’t jumped on the personalization bandwagon, here are some proven reasons it’s time to reconsider:
- Personalized emails improve CTR by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%.
- Personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates.
- 74% of marketers say targeted personalization increases customer engagement.
- Segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue.
Are you convinced?
Email personalization includes strategies like adding the subscriber’s first name in the subject line, in the copy, and even in images, just like the following example from Sephora.
But email personalization extends much further than those simple, yet meaningful gestures.
Personalize with segmentation.
Personalization also includes collecting data on customers, creating customer profiles, and then segmenting lists to send more relevant messages to different subscriber groups. A favorite and simple example lies in the Adidas email strategy for announcing new shoe collections.
Adidas segments their lists based on gender. Then, rather than sending their whole catalog to all customers, they send the men’s collection to male subscribers and the women’s collection to female subscribers.
Personalize with dynamic content.
You can also use dynamic content to accomplish a similar effect. Dynamic content is where you change a specific part of content to appeal to different customer profiles or subscriber groups.
For example, if you’re a large travel company, like Flight Centre, with a wide subscriber base, you may want to send all of your customers the same update about your company but switch out travel deals based on the airport closest to each of your subscribers. For this, you can create a different section of content to appear based on the location of each of your subscribers.
Other ideas for email personalization
Segmenting lists and dynamic content are popular ways to use data to create hyper-relevant messages for different subscriber groups, but you still have so many more options.
You can also personalize emails based on automated triggers, like sending post-purchase emails, with suggestions for similar products and/or offers.
You can personalize emails by collecting customer preference data and sending emails with relevant suggestions (think Netflix’s recommendations list).
You can also utilize personalization by sending an abandoned cart email reminder encouraging subscribers to complete their purchase. Jack Wills is a great example of a brand who sends reminder emails to customers as soon as they abandon their carts.
The abandoned cart marketing strategy is especially important, considering emails sent within 60 minutes of a cart abandonment have a 40% open rate.
The list goes on. What’s important is staying up to date on the latest personalization tactics and working them into your email marketing strategies.
Email marketing is fostering customer loyalty.
In the past, the goal of email marketing was to simply convert a lead into a sale. This idea is more commonly referred to as the marketing funnel.
With all the advances in data collection and email provider technology, the days of thinking of email marketing as a strategy to convert a lead into a sale is dead.
Instead, the new funnel uses email marketing to maximize the lifetime value of loyal customers. The goal is to own the complete journey of the customer life cycle and get those customers coming back over and over again.
For example, Sephora uses email marketing offers to engage regular shoppers as well as VIP members. Shoppers that spend over $200 get exclusive offers and discounts other members don’t receive. This email marketing strategy rewards loyal customers and encourages regular customers to spend more to reach VIP status.
Customer loyalty is a particularly important marketing funnel goal, considering loyal customers are worth up to 10X as much as their first purchase, and a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%.
With this new marketing funnel, leads can enter at any stage, they can come in random order, and each customer may be enticed by something different. What’s significant is you can use email marketing to entice and nourish customers every step of the way.
Email marketing continually remains the leading channel at every stage of this new funnel, according to Senior Director of Acquisition Channels at Campaign Monitor, Samantha Anderl.
To experience more marketing success, an increase in sales, and a boost in customer loyalty, start using email marketing as a way not just to make a one-time sale, but also to create lifetime customers out of your subscribers.
Build a community with email.
Mass emails are certainly a strategy of the past due to the lack of personalization and its inability to build deeper relationships with subscribers. With so much new technology available to create a successful email strategy, your messaging still needs to be transparent and valuable. Otherwise, you may come off as robotic.
Email is actually the perfect platform to begin forming a community with your subscribers.
If you supply your subscribers with impactful content that demonstrates how your services and products can impact their lives, they’ll continue to engage with your emails. With this practice, you’ll see an increase in open rates, click-through rates, and even lead conversions.
Let’s look at three ways you can utilize email to build a community with your subscribers.
Sharing user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is exploding in the email marketing world—and with good reason. UGC helps build a community by including content that your subscribers curate using your products or services in action. Not only does this alleviate the actual design work you have to do, but it also helps bring your whole email to life. Here’s how:
- Social proof: Use live social feeds in your emails that showcase your brand being used in real life. You can build these around an event, holiday, contest, or just as an added element to your promotional emails.
- Interactive content: If you’re looking to inspire, using a video or GIF to highlight customers’ experiences with your product will give a refreshing in-action look at how it’s done. Consider creating a GIF with different posts, or even a live-stream video.
Asking for reviews and feedback
If you want your subscribers to feel like you care about their customer experience, asking regularly for reviews and feedback is vital. By asking for feedback, you can garner invaluable information on how your products are functioning and how satisfied your customers are with your service.
Once you receive reviews and feedback, you can then transform this information into informed content for your email messaging. You can display the testimonials that not only support your business goals, but also show your subscriber the community behind you to make them feel more than just a number.
Source: Really Good Emails
Utilizing email newsletters
While you may put email newsletters and email blasts in the same corner, newsletters are still a great way to connect and build your digital community. Newsletters give you the opportunity to discuss news, product or company updates, and tips that are often shared on a consistent schedule.
With clear messaging that delivers valuable content to your audience, you’ll begin to feel more connected to your subscribers and enjoy a boost in sales, social media follows, and overall engagement.
really has come a long way over the past 47 years, and it only continues to improve. Mass emails and email blasts may still be popular tactics for some organizations, but, after reading this article, you can see why they’re now things that belong in the past.
As you keep up with the latest and greatest email marketing technologies, data collection tools, and strategies for increasing relevance, you’ll find that email is working wonders for your marketing goals, that your subscriber lists are more meaningful, and that customers are continually engaging with your brand. So ditch the mass emails and give a personalized email strategy a try.