Email & E-commerce = Match Made in Heaven

Leonardo DiCaprio. Believe it or not – he often reminds me of email.

Let me tell you why? DiCaprio seems unstoppable: I still remember the young kid who used to play the good looking chap on a big sinking ship. Great act, but everyone dismissed him as a real actor. Fast forward 17 years and he is still around. In fact, he has now grown into a polished gentleman that just keeps on bringing it with every new movie.

That said, he is pretty silent; his personal life is not that much in the media and he’s not known to show up at every Hollywood party. Young actors come and go every year – but you can always count on Leo to be out there for the Oscars with one or two performances worthy of the statue. Not because he is trendy, but because he is consistent in the quality of his work.

Film DiCaprio Maguire

And yes, that’s exactly how we feel about email.

How so? Well, there have been so many new marketing channels popping around lately, yet most of the research shows that email outperforms all of them – especially when it comes down to engagement with your existing customers. You know, the most important segment of customers; the ones that love your brand and keep coming back. Despite all these facts, email has been neglected for long time and has shared the spotlight with many newcomers (yup, just like DiCaprio). But we are not worried; email is proving to be extremely resilient and more and more useful for e-commerce marketers. In fact, we believe there is a huge opportunity for the ones that take advantage of this somewhat neglected marketing channel.

With the best of breed email marketing tools becoming easier to use, simpler to segment your audience and faster to analyze your marketing efforts, I believe we are up for a glorious 2014 (with DiCaprio maybe even winning a well-deserved Oscar this year).

Let’s look into what’s coming up in the world of e-commerce email marketing.

MOBILE EMAIL OPENS HAVE SURPASSED 50% IN 2013

Firstly, mobile is no longer a joke. Even if you were dismissive about its importance in 2013, it’s now becoming shockingly obvious that mobile is eating … well, everything. As Litmus reports, mobile email opens have already surpassed other opens in November last year and the growth doesn’t seem to be stopping.

Email opens, November 2013 by Litmus

Email opens, November 2013 by Litmus

Pay special attention to the growth of mobile opens versus webmail opens (as normal desktop client opens remain almost at the same levels). What this means is, that business users haven’t changed their habits a lot (yet), but the mobile growth is eating heavily into webmail, which has traditionally been the way consumers read their emails.

Takeaway

Double check your email templates with a tool like Litmus. If they don’t render well on mobile devices you are throwing away a great portion of potential sales. In this case, your should immediately dig a bit deeper into responsive and scalable email knowledge base and adjust your template(s). For more responsive design related content head to Litmus or Campaign Monitor.

RELEVANCY MATTERS MORE THAN EVER

Reading emails on mobile devices is bringing with it new consumer behaviour patterns. People pay less and less attention to every single email – instead, we skim through them. Mobile vendors, like Google with its Android, are making it extremely easy to quickly go through new emails and archive the ones that aren’t relevant.

So what does that bring to email marketers? What we are seeing is that this really amplifies the already important components of successful email campaigns: subject lines, email preheaders, advanced user segmentation and, above all, individually relevant content.

Recent research done by Accenture shows that, consumers not only prefer relevant content and offers. They are even willing to sacrifice some of their privacy for it. Thus, personalization is quickly becoming a norm.

Relevancy matters more than ever.

Relevancy matters more than ever by Monetate.

Takeaway

Continuously tweak and test the most vital components of your email campaigns. Subject line, preheader text, from address (no, no-reply is not a really welcoming from address), from name, design and copy. If possible, find a way to implement some sort of automated relevant content into your email templates. You can try to do that manually or with assistance by a product like ours.

SOCIAL IS GREAT. AND SO IS EMAIL. THEY ARE JUST DIFFERENT.

Don’t take me wrong – I believe social media is awesome for some use cases. It augments our consumer voices and enables smart e-commerce companies to proactively engage with consumers. That said, I personally believe it’s primarily a customer service tool. Of course, we could argue that customer service is an important part of strategical value proposition (as we’ve seen in the case of Zappos). But the bottom line data shows that email is far more valuable in bringing in revenue.

Let’s go through some of the facts:

  • Your email subscribers have given you explicit permission to send them emails. They expect you to reach out to them and if you have something valuable to give or say, they will listen (but don’t abuse their permissions – I’ll write about this topic next week).
  • Every e-commerce business has a natural opportunity to get the email permission at the checkout stage.
  • Since many of your subscribers have already purchased something from you, they obviously like something about your brand.
  • It’s a widely known fact that more than 40% of e-commerce revenue comes from existing customers. Email is the only channel to reach them all directly.

Let’s back this up with data from one of Monetate’s latest research below.

Performance of different channels by Monetate

Performance of different channels by Monetate

Takeaway

Start measuring real impact on the bottom line of particular marketing channels. Social media is important, but we are seeing some confusion in how it impacts the bottom line. Studies show that email, especially in e-commerce, has way more impact on the bottom line. Let’s think about it strategically and allocate proper resources and budget to it. Speaking of the budget…

YOUR EMAIL BUDGET IS PROBABLY TOO SMALL

“Hey – wait a minute? Email is free, so, what are you talking about a budget?” Well, of course, emailing someone is free. That said, doing it properly on a larger scale takes time, effort and man power. For example: we all spend a lot of our time optimising our websites, writing social media posts and adjusting our analytics tools. Even though all these activities are seemingly free, they still consume a lot of modern e-commerce manager’s time and often require several specialized tools to do it properly. The same goes for email.

As the recent research from Forrester shows below, email is still widely underbudgeted, despite its consistent stellar conversion performance. Forrester researcher Shar VanBoskirk attributes this to the fact that email seems naturally inexpensive and thus executives pay less attention to it. Probably a mistake, judging by the facts above.

US Interactive Marketing Spend by Forrester

US Interactive Marketing Spend by Forrester

Takeaway

With all that said, we would be naive not to seriously consider email in our marketing budgets. I believe it gets even better – because most of the industry is underestimating email, there is a natural opportunity for smart e-commerce businesses to take advantage of the fact and invest in it heavily.

Here are some of the tough email questions that e-businesses should be asking themselves regularly and adjust budgets accordingly:

  • How can we grow our email subscriber base faster?
  • How can we design our emails better?
  • How can we test more copy variations each time we send out an email campaign?
  • Is there a better way for us to test the results of our email efforts?
  • What new vendors can we speak to, that could help us achieve better segmentation and email relevancy?

MORE EMAIL GOODNESS COMING IN 2014

We’ve barely just started the year and it’s looking to be a smoking one in terms of further email adoption (yes, the number of email accounts is still rapidly growing) and progress both for us at Mojn and the general e-commerce email ecosystem.

I’ll dig more into each one of the above topics in my next posts. Feel free to reach out to us either in comments or Twitter and subscribe to our weekly email tips & tricks.

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