We are still humans with emotional connections to things, places and people. Mass merchandising and advertising try to play off these emotions — and, in the context of the location, can work well. But what can you really expect from email, a digital medium where users spend less than three to five seconds viewing something that’s one of 100 they get every day? Why do we put so much effort into rich content if email is simply an interstitial with filtering?
If you are like many marketers, you are thinking about the impact points and trying to optimize that moment — maybe trying to time it, or even trying to be remotely contextual with types of information that would capture consumers’ attention for that brief moment. This is what I call “optimizing the minority.”
In the grand funnel of marketing, you start with an audience of, let’s say, 100. The ISP gatekeepers let 95-98 see an email — and, depending on your reputation, anywhere from 10%-15% could be in the SPAM /JUNK folder, so conservatively, so let’s say you start with an audience of 90.
In most commercial environments, 20%-30% is a good viewership (meaning people actually saw an image) and people actually taking action is anywhere from 1% to 10%. To optimize the minority, you are essentially putting an effort toward nine to 10 addresses for every 100 people on your list. Not bad compared to direct marketing trends and direct mail.
While life isn’t that logical, the math makes it easier to understand why email gets such a small percent of the budget. Unlike media, where there’s an infinite audience (You can buy as big an audience as your budget will allow), email has a fixed audience that swells and shrinks at various times, but usually not more than 1%-3% a month. I’m not rationalizing media over email by an means, but the fact is, with media you get one shot. With email you can think about conditioning and how content impacts a long-tail view of engagement.
The million-dollar question for most leaders is, what is that point where you can justify doing more — and what is the more? With such a short window of payback, many resort to optimizing the minority vs. a long-tail view of content, syndication and engagement. Is it because we are lacking the ability to sell it? Lacking the ability to justify it? Or is there just not enough hands on deck to think past the 10%?
What I like about publishers is they are primarily focused on monetizing the reader. In order to do that, they must have a solid content strategy, they must syndicate content frequently, they have to think about the reader and what device and medium to use. If someone doesn’t read, click or engage with their content, they will not make money.
I believe retailers are simply publishers in sheep’s clothing. While the objectives are different — engagement vs. purchase — all major retailers are moving in the direction of original content.. This is the day and age of online reviews, virtual shelfs and webrooming.
While I don’t believe consumers will shift overnight to a content strategy from retailers, I do believe there is more value exchange to this approach than with coupons and discounts, since the core motivation is to communicate with a consumer. Retail brands need to think about engagement, and begin to act like it’s important. The retailer-shopper relationship is much broader and deeper than ever.
In 2016, think about how to engage the 90%, and find ways to internally monetize those strategies. We are in a newer world than we were 30 seconds ago.