Innovating Email Marketing

April 9, 2015

Aren’t emails interesting? Sometimes when I check my inbox in the morning to find 374 unread emails I think to myself, “Brilliant! This is weeks’ worth of riveting content to pore over. This is gonna be wicked. I bet I just lose myself in that one about the latest in alternative pharmaceuticals.” Then I put the kettle on and get stuck in.


Only joking. No, I don’t. Well, I do put the kettle on, but only after I’ve hit select all then delete. Despite that intro about how much I love emails, I actually don’t love them at all. Gotcha! God, I’m good. No, the truth is I rarely read an email unless I’m expecting it – emails, email campaigns and email marketing in general are completely wasted on me. Even if at some point I’ve signed up to willingly receive a company’s e-newsletter or information on their latest products, any message they send me remains forever unopened.


Old dog, new tricks

It’s probably this aversion I have to email marketing that led my manager to decide to put me on a webinar about how good it is. ‘Old dog, new tricks: innovating email campaigns in the social media age’ was hosted by contributor to the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s The Marketer magazine Kate Hilpern, and her guests were Alex Timlin of cloud marketing platform Emarsys, as well as Kim Barlow and Martin Ruddy of Oracle Marketing Cloud. These guys loved emails.


Alex kicked things off by saying that the majority of email marketers need to change their tactics, with the number one reason being that it’s just no longer relevant. I liked Alex. He reckons people generally don’t open emails from businesses because they’re almost certain it won’t appeal to them directly.



Nowadays we’ve access to far more detailed data than ever, meaning marketers are able to (and therefore should) create more “contextually aware content.”


Building communities

“Customers are no longer demographics; they’re individuals,” said Alex. I raised an eyebrow and tilted my head as if to say “Go on…” “But while they’re individuals, you need to create a sense of community among them, instead of purely promoting yourself.” I almost high-fived my monitor. Alex was saying all the right words.


How you go about doing this is to spread your strategy across all channels, rather than segregating campaigns to individual platforms – customers interact through a multitude of touch points now. And incorporating user-generated content is a must. This was all making sense to me, and Alex Timlin was helping me feel a little more positive about the possibilities of email marketing. Then he started talking about using countdown timers on campaigns to create urgency and I went off him a bit.


Up stepped Martin and Kim. The point they wanted to drive home was to keep things simple. Which I thought was a little ironic as they kept using terms like CSS3 media queries and BAU emails. I zoned out for a while but when I tuned in again Kim was getting quite animated about kinetic design being a game changer. “Calm down, Kim,” I thought. But then he went on to make some good points.


Don’t scroll, slide

Most people access their emails on the go, via their (often small) mobile devices. This is when longer emails become an issue, as they force customers to scroll and scroll until they’ve completely forgotten who sent it to them and they’re left with barely enough energy in their thumb to press delete.


Here’s where the game-changing kinetic stuff comes in. Slider icons at the head of the email allow users to skip straight to content that appeals to them without sifting through boring things. Plus, each click gives very specific, recordable data about individual interests. Kim said, “Marketers using this kinetic have witnessed a huge increase in overall responder to open rate and sign ups.” Which I didn’t really understand but he said it in a tone that made me think it was a good thing. So…Yay!


Among other things, Kim also discussed how timed carousels have the potential to maintain or increase customer engagement levels. Basically, you should expect more diversity within kinetic content in the future of email marketing. If emails keep heading in this direction, one day I might just open one.


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