Email's Role In The User Experience
Why is it OK for brands with graphically modern, visually arresting, personality-forward sites to confirm an email subscription using a simple text email with robotic copy? How often are visitors to thoughtfully merchandised online stores invited back with altogether ham-fisted promotions in their inboxes? In how many meetings have marketers waved off email as passé and turned the group's collective attention to a brand new social site they read about on Mashable last week?
Email hasn't been synonymous with progressive in over a decade, and because of its complexity around deliverability, legal issues and analytics, it's no wonder some marketers don't find it to be any fun at all. But show me a site that doesn't rely in some enormous way on email -- and I'll show you a site missing a huge opportunity to engender loyalty and attract a larger and more engaged audience. Fun or not, email is necessary, like taxes. We can choose to ignore it, but it will cost us later.
Email’s role in the user experience, in particular, is often overlooked. We all understand and value the channel’s ROI, but because it touches so many customers across multiple devices and at high frequency, email extends – and sometimes even leads – the brand experience.
Consider these ways in which email can give your site – and brand – more meaning by carrying the user experience into the inbox:
The first impression: The way you invite customers to sign up for your email list sets the tone for your relationship with them in the inbox. Use the opportunity not just to gain permission, but to heighten expectation. Bonobos.com, for example, asks its customers to sign up at checkout with a checkbox that reads, “Email me new stuff, exclusive sales, and hilarious puns.”
Taking care of business: Your confirmations and other triggered messages are perhaps the only emails you will send your subscribers that enjoy nearly perfect attention and anticipation. Since you know customers will read these messages, make sure they’re as representative of the brand’s interest as they are of those in the fulfillment department. Backcountry.com is an excellent example, confirming purchases with the subject line “Order Confirmed – Get Stoked.”
Blocking and tackling: Putting thought into how you are setting up your email program can also extend the user experience. From address, shortened tracking URLs, unsubscribe language in email footers and pre-header text are all opportunities to incorporate your brand’s unique elements and personality.
UX in expected messages: When your subscribers do receive the promotions and newsletters they’ve signed up for, naturally they expect the design and tone to be consistent with their experience on your website. But user experience is no longer limited to design, and incorporates increasingly rich features and functionality. We are close to the point where words and pictures alone are not a satisfying email experience. Stay current with what’s possible and progressive in the inbox.
UX in unexpected messages: A part of the user experience can be how a brand surprises and delights. Unexpected emails commemorating a birthday or anniversary can be perceived as thoughtful, helping to differentiate your brand -- particularly when they are designed solely to reward or engage instead of sell.
Every point of contact between your brand and your customers comprises the user experience. When your site, fulfillment and advertising make your customers gush "wow," your email program shouldn't make them shrug "meh."