Gmail's maneuvers such as Tabs and image-caching, Yahoo's recycling of abandoned email addresses, and big-name acquisitions (ExactTarget, Responsys) got people talking in online forums, trade publications and conferences like MediaPost's Email Insider Summit.
As we settle into 2014, though, I would like to see marketers refocus on meeting internal challenges and opportunities that can make email an even more valuable program, whether it drives more revenue, leads or customer loyalty.
Incorporating behavior across all aspects of email marketing is one topic I will continue taking up with clients this year. Below are some of the initiatives I'll be talking about (I'll cover more in a follow-up column):
2014: Behavior Becomes the Rule
If I had one resolution for email marketers this year, it would be to incorporate more subscriber or customer behavior into their email programs. Behavior adds a compelling aspect that greatly helps emails achieve the promise of truly relevant, one-to-one messaging.
A few thoughts:
Incorporate browse behavior: Incorporate your customers' activity on your website into follow-up browse remarketing email messages that can nudge them further down the path to purchase. Leverage pre-opt-in browse behavior to personalize the onboarding experience, helping to generate immediate conversions.
Add post-purchase segmentation: Use purchase behavior and RFM data to drive a yearlong series of messages designed to encourage repeat purchases and to increase and reward customer loyalty.
Move to real-time messaging: Move up behavior-based emails from batch processing to real or near-real time. Focus on time-sensitive conversion-related programs such as cart and browse abandonment remarketing.
Rethink your preference center: Add "what they do" data (behavioral) to "what they say" data (demographic and preference) for each contact in your database.
Reduce inactivity, not just reactivate: Turning inactives back into highly (or somewhat) engaged subscribers is a key objective to reduce churn, but taking steps early on to detect and head it off will be more rewarding in the long run. Don't wait six to 12 months to deploy reactivation messages. Rather, move subscribers into activation/engagement tracks within a few months of showing tendencies toward inactivity.
Remodel the Infrastructure to Make It Happen
Several infrastructure and process changes must happen in order to make the behavior-based, digital marketing dream happen. Databases and disparate systems must start talking to each other directly, and data has to flow in real time.
Most importantly, you'll have to make some fundamental changes in the way you run your email program:
Eliminate the "pull the list" mentality: Instead, adopt a centralized marketing database approach that pulls data together from across databases and systems and is actionable in real time.
Get revenue attribution right: Spend some cycles doing so, and/or purchase specialized software that help you attribute revenue (and other goals) more accurately to your email-marketing program.
Leverage automation: Are you still deploying many programs and processes manually? Make 2014 the year you finally step up to more sophisticated marketing automation systems.
Seek out team processes and efficiencies: Moving up to an automated email-marketing program requires the ability to deploy more programs and content and to integrate and manage disparate systems. This year, spend some significant cycles revising or creating new processes for getting more emails of higher quality out the door with fewer resources.
Speak management's language to sell your ideas: Is your boss motivated by ROI analysis, lifetime customer value or straight-up revenue growth? Is she an early adopter of new program techniques, or cautious follower? Figure out what motivates your management to act, and produce appropriate data and cases when you ask for more budget and resources.
In a future column, I'll discuss other key areas to focus on in 2014, including content, mobile email design and location-based email acquisition.
In the meantime, what's your take on adding behavior to email? Did I skip any approaches that are working well for you? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time, take it up a notch!