In the first half of 2015, my travel schedule has taken me to meetings at companies in various industries from India to Sweden and the U.K. to the U.S. I've met with email marketing and brand teams from both very large and small ecommerce and consumer product companies.
Although the perspectives and priorities varied somewhat among the groups, the topics discussed were quite similar from one meeting to another. In almost every case, company representatives confirmed they were either focused on a particular trend or issue or planned to take it up soon.
Here are the 10 topics that came up repeatedly:
1. Mapping email content to the customer journey: Brands want to understand where email fits. They're looking at what they send, how frequently, which messages focus on selling, and which aim to provide value to customers at different stages of their buyer journey.
2. Content that engages: The white space concept I wrote about in 2013 might be catching on. One very large retailer said that creating content that engages, not just sells, is becoming its single biggest email marketing challenge and opportunity.
3. Leveraging behavior: Many brands are really embracing the move to build dozens of automated email programs based on each customer's behavior.
4. Real time: Brands are focusing on what I call the decisive moment: delivering the right message at the time an individual customer is making a decision at a key stage of the customer journey. They're recognizing, for example, that sending remarketing emails days after a specific behavior simply might be too late in many cases.
5. Moving up the funnel: Many brands have seen great success with cart-abandonment remarketing programs and are now moving up the funnel to earlier in the buyer journey with browse, category and out-of-stock reminders.
6. Post-purchase: While converting new customers earlier has become a focus, using email to drive post-purchase product and service satisfaction and repeat purchases is getting much more attention.
7. Mobile context: Most companies I've met with have embraced the need to build mobile-optimized emails, whether with mobile-friendly or responsive design approaches. But they now understand that mobile is about context as well as screen size.
Mobile customers are different. Some are lean-in, on-the-move smartphone customers. Others are lean-back, on-the-couch tablet shoppers. Recognizing this and reducing friction, such as adding stored payment systems and simple, clean checkout processes, is the next and more strategic area of focus.
8. Onboarding: The one-off welcome email is dead. Marketers now understand that the beginning of an email relationship -- whether it resulted from a purchase, in-store email receipt, account creation or just a site opt-in -- is a critical part of the customer journey. Leaving it to chance -- whichever emails show up next after opt-in -- is not the ideal approach.
9. Inactive subscribers: Dealing with unengaged subscribers was a hot topic in my meetings a few years ago. It's now on the minds of many again. As then, I’m suggesting scoring and automated programs that move subscribers into “early activation” tracks at the first sign of inactivity, rather than waiting six to 12 months, when the chance to revive an inactive subscriber diminishes significantly.
10. Data integration: Obtaining IT resources for marketing projects has always been a challenge, but the stakes are bigger today. Almost all of the programs I've described here require different systems to talk to each other and to bring customer data from multiple touch points together into a unified, actionable customer and marketing database.
Although these resource challenges still loom large for marketers, many are doing a better job persuading IT management about the significant value and revenue these projects bring to the organization.
As we move into the second half of 2015, with the marketing challenges this six-month period brings, what are the issues that occupy your time and attention most? Please share them in the comments section below.
Until next time, take it up a notch.