Email's New Role In a World Gone 'Mocial'

Two years ago or so, you might have heard marketers express comments and questions like the following as they tried to understand the changes coming to digital marketing:
  • "@LorenMcDonald: Trying to figure out this Twitter thing: Is it a fad or the next big thing I have to deal with?"
  • "So, a few hundred million people are on Facebook, but what do people posting party pictures have to do with marketing?"
  • "Checking in on Foursquare? Why would I want to tell people where I am?"
  • "Nobody wants SMS ads on their phones."

Today, the future is much clearer. For me, it's a concept I'm calling "mocial": the convergence of mobile/social/local/email, driven by a few key trends: 

  • Facebook has become the second Web.
  • Mobile devices are the norm.
  • Check-ins and daily deals are the new coupons.
  • Smartphone apps are moving users off the Web.

These and other trends are opening opportunities for email to increase value in the marketing ecosystem. What separates email marketing from these other channels is its ability to deliver dynamically targeted messages in a true one-to-one fashion.  

The challenge for email marketers is to upgrade their marketing programs to find a place in a "mocial" world. 

8 Roles for Email in a 'Mocial' Environment 

1. Connector/Identifier: While younger people are increasingly using their mobile numbers as their unique identifiers, email is still the predominant identifier for companies.  

Marketers must figure out how to reconcile the multiple email addresses consumers use with their different social channels. Despite these challenges, the email address will remain for some time the base for connecting an individual's email activity with his/her social accounts and activity. 

2. Transactional: Because social and mobile message formats offer a limited communication experience, email remains the best vehicle to deliver transactional messages. 

3. Complex, personalized offers: Social media might be the most efficient way to promote a coupon, discount or special offer to your fan base. 

Email, however, is the only medium in which you can send highly personalized offers to customers based on demographics, recent Web, email and purchase behavior; incorporate cross-sell recommendations; pull in customer reviews of specific products; and serve up real-time A/B split test images.

4. Cross Promotion: Multichannel marketing has been around for hundreds of years, but the digital world is making it even easier.  

Consider this example: Brand X promotes a "buy one get one free" offer via Facebook Deals (Places to the consumer) on its Facebook Page to its 250,000 followers.  

Emails promoting the deal go out on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday to its 2 million subscribers, driving traffic to the Facebook Page. As a result, Brand X gets many times the coupon redemptions a social-only approach would deliver.

5. Reach: While some brands have more than a million "Likes" (formerly known as Fans) on Facebook and hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, many are still in the tens of thousands in these two kings of the social world.  

These same brands might have 10 to 100 times these numbers in their email databases. Although social networks are growing as marketing channels, your brand might never reach the same number of customers and prospects that you can contact directly via email.

6. Conversion/Nurturing: By its very nature, social communication has a greater personality, human and conversational element. While better email programs mirror social messaging in these areas, email continues to be the channel consumers prefer for promotional messaging.

Because of the ability to target, use dynamic content and put consumers into nurturing programs or tracks, email will continue to be the more successful channel at producing profitable conversions.

7. Share of wallet: Increasing lifetime customer value is a primary marketing goal for most companies. The keys are increasing loyalty -- share of wallet and repeat purchases -- at higher margins than less loyal customers.  

Email is the only marketing channel that can leverage customer data and targeting technologies to drive these activities and build higher LCV. 

8. Channel Preferences: I've become a Facebook fan of Chipotle. I use its iPhone ordering app, and I'm becoming a frequent customer.  

Naturally, I signed up for Chipotle's emails, once I tracked down the opt-in page. I'm still waiting for those.  

Because I'm in an older demographic, I check my email more frequently than my Facebook feed. Others like me, equally avid users of social media, also will prefer to receive certain types of communications from specific brands in email.

Those message types might vary dramatically. But brands that don't offer the choice via preference centers will miss opportunities to touch customers and prospects, consequently leaving money on the table. 

9. Dual purpose: Email and social work together to grow engagement in each channel. Email messages themselves can be designed to encourage social sharing and to build the company's social following. At the same time, the social channel encourages opting in to the email program and amplifies email content. 

Marketers who can upgrade their email programs will find  "mocial" won't kill email. Instead, it can shift broadcast-type messages to social channels and clear the way for email to live up to its promise as a highly targeted and one-to-one messaging channel.

Until next time, take it up a notch.

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4 comments about "Email's New Role In a World Gone 'Mocial' ".
  1. Michael Gallagher , December 30, 2010 at 11:22 a.m.

    Thank you for this great post, Loren, it's very helpful. Question, though: Any thoughts or research on email design for a mocial world? Is plain text better than graphically extravagent?

  2. Blaine Mathieu from Compound Marketing Group , December 30, 2010 at 12:01 p.m.

    Excellent posting Loren. In a see of agreement there is one small area where we may differ. I believe social media in 2011 will become much more dynamic and personalized - maybe even mores than email given how few email marketers actually do personalized dynamic content. Social platforms carry with them a tremendous amount of knowledge about the user and platforms will begin to enable marketers to use this in their campaigns.

    Blaine Mathieu
    Blog: http://compoundmarketinggroup.com

  3. Loren Mcdonald from Silverpop , December 30, 2010 at 4 p.m.

    Blaine: Good to see you commenting here...on social becoming more personalized and dynamic - from an advertising perspective a lot of those capabilities are here already - incorporating someone's Facebook profile data, with what page they are on and whether they've liked a particular brand or not and if certain number of friends have liked the brand, etc. But with the shift toward more privacy, I'm not sure FB will be able to share all of that data with marketers in the future. And the messaging platforms will still be limited in terms of format and length - making it difficult to present complex offers with images and multiple content blocks.

    But will be interesting to see what develops.

  4. Loren Mcdonald from Silverpop , December 30, 2010 at 4:11 p.m.

    Michael...great question - there is actually a ton of information out there now on designing for mobile - here is an older presentation - http://www.slideshare.net/Silverpop/designing-emails-for-mobile-pc-environments-presentation - but I recommend following the Style Campaign blog - http://stylecampaign.com/blog/ - lots of good, ongoing mobile design tips

    As far as text vs images - a complex question, but the short answer is make sure that an image heavy email also works well when images are blocked/turned off, or can't be seen - and make sure you push key text content toward the top. But for most environments, image heavy emails still convert better.

    BTW, great to see the Stevie Awards name - I actually won Marketing Executive of the Year in 2005 - have the gorgeous award sitting right on my desk!