In a crowded inbox –
269 billion emails are sent and received each day – uninspiring emails will be
tossed into the trash without a second thought. As marketers, it’s our duty to
understand customers and treat them as individuals. And while context in email
marketing is king, it’s easy to forget that surprising and delighting customers
can also make a lasting impression.
1. Play with context
Email marketing shouldn’t just be viewed as a promotional
engine, but rather a channel where brands can exploit customer context and
build advocacy through hyper-targeted, relevant messages that inspire readers
to act. It’s your go-to touchpoint for customer interactions, and while it’s
important to feature your product offering, it’s more important to showcase
your intelligence and understanding of customers; these qualities drive brand
credibility and loyalty, respectively. Think of it as a strategically refined
To drive relevance, you need to prioritize situational
messages over ‘canned’ ones; the former packs more of a punch, fosters advocacy
and drives revenue. By leveraging rich customer insights – such as buying
behavior and location – you can contextualize
messages, tying the customer journey back to the individual’s environment. Irrelevant
messages make email recipients likely to not only ignore email, but to take
negative actions such as marking it as spam.
Communications that ooze brand personality and resonate with
customers are proven to maximize their engagement and prompt them to take the
desired action. i.e. sending weather-related messages to contacts based on a
live forecast which recommends products that complement the weather in
real-time. (barbecues when sunny, raincoats when drizzly and accessories for
your snowman to don when blizzarding.)
2. Exceed customers’ expectations
To foster genuine advocacy, brands need to continually push
the boat out. Today, simply delivering on your brand promise isn’t enough; you
need to overdeliver in a meaningful way. Giving subscribers something when they
least suspect it can truly enhance their experience.
Three ways to nurture brand affection include:
a) Surprise sign-up gift
b) rewards for feedback and reviews
c) Out-of-the-blue freebie
Thank subscribers for joining your mailing list with a
surprise gift. It’s common practice for brands to use incentives as a prop to
lure people in at the sign-up stage. However, the positive effect can be
greater if you hold back and surprise prospective customers once they’ve joined
your list; for instance, by sending them a coupon for $10 off their first
order. Subscribers will feel like they’re getting something special for nothing
– a gift rather than an exchange for data.
To make customers’ experiences more memorable, surprise them
with a gift for their feedback. Most consumers expect a simple thank-you
message for their time, but you can exceed expectations and foster loyalty by
delighting them with a free delivery or reward points.
Offering a free product (i.e. a sample or voucher to redeem
in-store) to lapsed customers can awaken their love for your brand. To strike
the perfect balance between relevance and randomness, thank the recipient for
the last purchase they made using historical ecommerce data. It’s a great
talking point and by making someone’s day, you’ll hopefully generate some great
exposure for your brand through positive social posts and word-of-mouth
3. Celebrate random holidays
While it’s common practice for brands to email customers
over popular holiday periods – such as Halloween or Valentine’s Day – your
messages run the risk of getting lost in all the noise, endangering your
engagement metrics. However, capitalizing on a holiday that isn’t as widespread
can give you a competitive advantage in a quieter inbox.
Sending a random but relevant email to your subscribers to
celebrate an unusual holiday can give greater exposure.
In 2009, Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba adopted ‘Singles Day’
– an anti-Valentine’s Day celebration – as a prime online shopping event during
what’s considered a traditionally low volume sales period. Driving relevancy to
the millions of singletons in China, Alibaba made a colossal $25.3 billion in
sales on Singles Day 2017. This goes to show that brands can popularize
unfamiliar holidays and make significant gains.
When applying randomness to your email marketing, it’s
important that the topic still resonates with customers. Make sure your holiday
of choice: marries up with your brand’s personality, provides a topic of
conversation that inspires social sharing, and drives customers to take your
Dress up your pet day
People love to dress up their pets – we’ve all seen that
well-dressed chihuahua poking out of a handbag, haven’t we?
Aligning one of your email campaigns with this unofficial
holiday is a great way to widen your social media presence. For instance, you
could invite customers to enter a pet photo competition in exchange for a prize
draw entry; hopefully it’ll amplify your brand’s presence through social shares
and deliver some great user-generated content.
If you’re a retailer that also specializes in pet clothes –
say dogs, for example – you could capitalize on this holiday by sending a
fun-loving email to those you know are dog owners using segmentation. Showcase
your best dog jumpers, coats and hats, promoting them with a special dog-day
discount or free shipping. And if you’re super data-driven, include pictures of
items modelled on the customer’s specific dog breed to really pack a punch.