I had the unique pleasure of moderating two panels at the DMA Annual Conference in San Francisco this week, both focused on leading brands driving innovation and engagement in the email channel. I figured I would share some of the details with the MediaPost audience, since I did not see all of you in the sessions! So read on to hear some of what was shared by IHG, Zappos, MTV Networks, HauteLook and Travelocity.
On day one, Kevin Hickey with IHG demonstrated how the Holiday Inn brand is taking email newsletters to a new level. By combining customer preference, loyalty and transactional data, Holiday Inn is able to create a very positive brand experience for their subscribers and deliver open, click-through and conversion rates that far surpass industry averages. The audience agreed that content is only king if it is being driven by customer attributes from within the database. Too often we see one-size-fits-all newsletters. Companies should follow IHG's lead and make these more relevant to avoid list churn and unengaged customers.
Next, Michael Fellner of Zappos demonstrated a number of data-driven campaigns that help make the customer experience at Zappos second to none. Michael was faced with an interesting challenge at Zappos: how to increase email frequency without hurting the customer experience. How did Zappos deal with the challenge? They created a new email program that delivered offers to clients based on identified brand preference. If you expressed an interest in a certain brand of shoe in the past, this new campaign would deliver you targeted offers for that brand. The results were exceptional, driving double-digit increases over control group conversion rates. Too many business increase volume by simply sending more; consider opportunities in which email can add value to the consumer and develop programs accordingly!
Day two brought about the return of the Ultimate Email Marketer competition. Michael Neuberger's Travelocity presentation led off with a triggered-email program designed to alert travelers of a price drop in airline fares they had recently searched for but not purchased. The completely automated program is delivered as a service to Travelocity customers and ensures they are always aware of great deals that are specifically relevant to them. The program logic is very complex, crunching through tons of data to determine the correct message for the traveler. As one of the most effective programs in the Travelocity email channel, the message was clear: look for ways to automate relevant communications to consumers and you will be rewarded.
In his attempt to grab the title, Keith Griffin presented a welcome series email program from MTV Networks' online gaming property "Shockwave." The program focused on educating customers about the features and value of the Shockwave site across a series of communications (three to be exact). The audience was impressed by the way the welcome series indoctrinated new customers. First, it validated subscription and provided an opportunity for double opt-in. Next it provided tips on how to maneuver the "Shockwave" site and earn points in the Shockwave loyalty program. Finally, the series recruited user-generated content to be used in the community and other site properties. If you are not running a welcome program (post-subscription or purchase), consider focusing on ways that the welcome series can make your customers' experience with your brand easier to manage and more valuable in general. Consumers are rarely as engaged as they are upon initial subscription or purchase --do not miss this valuable opportunity.
Finally, the audience was blown away by this year's Ultimate Email Champ, HauteLook and Hayley Osher. HauteLook is a leader in the rapidly growing "Flash Sales" space. Each morning at 8 a.m. PT, HauteLook delivers more that 1 million emails to members within a 10-minute window. This communication, one that the audience at DMA confirmed is anticipated and appreciated, creates a virtual stampede to take advantage of each day's member-only sale event. The email program exceeds all industry delivery benchmarks and is customized based on a number of consumer-specific criteria. HauteLook uses sophisticated analysis to drive deep understanding of their members, resulting in highly relevant communications. Their commitment to create the right customer experience keeps members coming back for more. Congrats to Hayley and HauteLook!
What struck me most about the stories shared by the above brands was an overwhelming commitment to execution. These high-performing programs focus on relevance, automation, deliverability, frequency and other things that seem to get lost in our constant fascination with the new new thing. As email marketers, ask yourself if you are executing at the highest level. It is often the most obvious thing that results in the biggest win for a program.