Before we get to the “how,” let’s explore the “why”? In today’s age of rich media and social connectivity, multi-modal consumers reserve their attention for the most compelling, contextual experiences. With that said, how does a static medium like email survive as a marketing tool?
Unlike in the past, it’s harder than ever to time email to select times and days of the week, given the transient consumer and mobile device. The experience is still static, compared to richer experiences on sites and through video. The tactics of design and the traditional ISP inbox experience haven’t changed much over the past few years. Maybe it’s a little easier to manage now, but the rendering experience or design and ad experience is still pretty poor for most part.
Based on how we consume email today, the channel can drive brief experiences that shape our knowledge and behaviors as well as be a conduit for procedural knowledge (how to do something). The key term here is “brief.” Consumers are still combining stimuli -- and mobile consumers are less of a dedicated or focused audience when triaging email on their personal accounts while on the run. No more boring elevator rides, or even moments of quiet reflection; the vast majority of consumers are continually plugged in, using idle time as email and social media triage time.
The playbook for email in the past was pretty simple: focus energy on early lifecycle messaging and condition consumers to the frequency and type of communications for the first few months. The decay rate of this audience will diminish 40% over the first 90 days and then you focus on those that have engaged. After that, you treat them to a certain cadence of programmed email (promotions, knowledge-driven communications, alerts, updates and then of course triggered interactions) and you will then have a 2% to 3% decay per month, depending on how relevant or cyclical your promotion or business value is.
The playbook of the future will feature many of the same tactics, with the exception that the consumer will view the vast majority of your email on a smaller device in more distracted space and require it in smaller chunks. Ideally, you’ll have the “relaxed mommy persona” sitting at home with her iPad after the kids are down, flipping through her email with the patience to flip and browse through your site, but in reality you’ll likely get “distracted, overcaffeinated mommy” flipping through the top 15 emails while waiting in the car line dropping off kids in the morning.
My belief is the “experience,” static as it may be, has to be persistent. That doesn’t mean drop an email every day, but it does mean be in front of the consumer more often. Relevance is really a timing factor today and with it becoming harder and harder to predict time of day, it’s best to put your energy into creating chunks of information that can be consumed easily, fast , on smaller devices and in front of your customer more often. All the tests I’ve seen over the past few years have indicated that the over stimuli of email doesn’t have the negative effect you may think. This is obviously contextual to your type of business, and not necessarily the best advice for reaching a “savvy executive” persona and a B2B sales process that’s high-quality touch. But for those who have designed curriculum programs, newsletter programs and content-driven communications, reach and cadence is almost as important as content. Or, to put it better, according to Mark Twain: “Actions speak louder than words, but not nearly as often.”