Email Marketing, Then And Now

Recently, my kids asked about what I do for a living. They decided my explanation wasn’t good enough, so they did what they have grown accustomed to doing when they want a question answered: They hit up Google, and searched, well, me. (It was a surreal experience to have my children “Google” me!) During their search, they found the first postI submitted to MediaPost, on June 11, 2009, nearly five years ago. I was curious to reflect on the content and recommendations made “then” to what we are talking about “now” in the email space. What struck me as most interesting was that while some of the reasoning has changed, we really are talking about much the same topics -- still.

In that 2009 post, the focus was how to ensure email marketing content was relevant without being completely creepy. We explored five areas of data, including purchase data, email engagement data, cart abandon, browse abandon and product search. Today, I am going to dive into three of these areas in more detail, with a look at the old post, comparing it with current recommendations. We’ll explore these topics both from an application perspective as well as look at how consumers have accepted the use of their data. Let’s dive in.



Purchase Data
Consumers recognize that transacting with an organization provides that company with personal information necessary to facilitate the transaction. Usually marketers will key additional messaging against what was purchased to cross-sell and up-sell. Including offers that are directly tied to the purchase have a lesser "creep-factor" when included in an order confirmation message.

NOW: The standard expectation is that brands recognize consumers’ previous engagements and purchases throughout the current experience. And that expectation surpasses email and includes online activity; it is expected that the brand recognizes the complete consumer experience and aligns the conversation with them based on their customer profile. Consumers are more aware of email marketers’ abilities to track their behaviors and communicate against it, and while many still find it a bit “creepy,” it has simply become an expectation of transacting in today’s connected world.

Open-And-Click Data
THEN: Marketers do a pretty good job of minimizing a sense of stalking when using open-and-click behavior to enhance their email marketing program. This data is often used to identify engaged versus unengaged recipients and which recipients are rendering email with images on -- and to remarket offers based on previous click behavior.

NOW: Open-and-click data today is an absolutely critical metric to driving deliverability, which is a fundamental shift over the last five years. Historically we looked at email engagement data as a way to identify program health. Today, open-and-click data is also the leading indicator for your ability to land in the inbox of your subscribers. This, frankly, makes the data of even greater importance than before.

Ecommerce Abandon
THEN: Marketing against items abandoned in the shopping cart is a logical step in driving incremental purchase. But you need to be tactful and strategic about it. Ask yourself how likely it is that the visitor has purchased elsewhere. How much time usually elapses before they would come back to complete the purchase? Understanding the overall behavior -- beyond the act of abandoning -- will help get you to the right strategy and will minimize the creepiness.

NOW: Abandon-cart messaging is considered a standard practice for anyone selling online. It also has become a practice well-known by consumers and coupon bloggers, who often recommend it as a money-saving tactic for consumers. Today, it is such an important component of the overall marketing mix that all ecommerce organizations should leverage it. But marketers need to be careful and further evaluate and test if offering a discount right off the bat is the most effective approach.

Five years have gone by since I first penned that article, and while we are still largely talking about the same approaches when it comes to the fundamentals of email marketing, the application of those tactics continues to evolve. I do wonder in another five years if we will still be talking about opens and clicks?

What are some of your favorite “then” and “now” email marketing best practices?

1 comment about "Email Marketing, Then And Now".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, March 20, 2014 at 6:32 a.m.

    Good article. Two observations (1) Open-And-Click Data is becoming less relevant, because email clients like GMail let you see the subject and first line of emails within the in-box list, and our client' data shows that this is enough for some customers, who are going directly to the corresponding Website or App without either opening or clicking the email. So we prefer to trust increased sales. (2) For Ecommerce Abandon, your "then" advice to keep a light touch and not assume too much about customer behavior is still the right thing to do.

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