Takeaways From The Email Evolution Conference

Last week the Email Experience Council held its first annual Email Evolution Conference in San Diego, attracting over 500 attendees.  It was a great first event for us, in large part thanks to our fantastic line-up of more than 100 speakers. This week I'd like to share what I thought were some of the most interesting takeaways from the sessions that I attended:

Reward mavens. Lawrence DiCapua, Pepsi's senior marketing manager, said that the company identifies email forwarders and rewards them with a special VIP program within the Pepsi Extras loyalty program, along with others who show acts of evangelism. While people have to requalify for the VIP program with each campaign, some bloggers are permanently VIPed. Retailers know how to reward their most loyal customers, but do they take the time to reward their biggest brand evangelists within their email subscriber base? Those mavens can be worth way more than a loyal customer.

Explore new technologies -- like personalized images. Priscilla Lawrence of Scene7 said that customers have a significant response to personalized images, particularly those personalized with their name. For instance, Williams-Sonoma tested personalized images and saw conversions increase 50%. For retailers that sell a significant amount of monogrammed and personalized goods, this technology might be very effective in select cases. Imagine a customer's response to a product image that was pre-monogrammed with her initials?

Don't fixate on list size. When asked how they defined email success, only 2% of attendees at the conference said "list size." Forty-seven percent said they defined success by "conversion dollars"; 42% by "response rate"; and 9% by "delivery rate." And Chip House of ExactTarget said that the ESP has found that the size of the list is a determiner of list effectiveness: the larger the list, the less effective it is. All that said, there still seems to be great reluctance to cut dead wood from email lists and focus on engaged subscribers.

Authenticate both your email and corporate domains. Craig Spiezle, chairman of the Authentication & Online Trust Alliance and director of online safety and security at Microsoft, warned attendees to authenticate both their email and corporate domains, because phishers almost always spoof your corporate domain. AOTA recently put out a press release saying that authentication adoption exceeds 50% among many consumer-facing businesses.

Looking at the universe of retailers that I track, DomainKeys Identified Mail adoption now stands at 66%, up from 48% last May. While retailers are clearly getting the message that they need to authenticate their email domains, I worry that some may be neglecting their corporate domains.

Make it easy to subscribe. Travis Falstad, the Internet marketing manager at Hot Topic, said that when he joined the youth retailer it used a sign-up process that asked for 20 pieces of information. The sign-up form was so long that he failed to complete it, getting distracted halfway through. Consumers were similarly daunted and Hot Topic's list size was shrinking. Flash-forward: Today Hot Topic requires only three pieces of information -- email address, confirmation of email address and birth date. And its list is growing again. That's a powerful reminder of the importance of being user-friendly. Hot Topic will be taking that attitude a step further soon by adding a preference center so subscribers can say how often they'd like to receive emails, what topics they're most interested in, etc.

Make smart use of videos. Carmen Curran of Mintel, which recently did a consumer survey about video content, said that there are three main types of videos -- commercials, new product demos and instructional -- and that consumers are most responsive to the latter two. Older consumers in particular are more likely to be annoyed by commercials. She said the ideal length for videos highlighted in emails is 30 to 45 seconds.

Those were some of the takeaways that I found most interesting. I hope you find them interesting as well.



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