11,000 unprocessed emails. That’s what one CEO mentioned to me yesterday. Dealing with email has become one of our most dreaded chores. So, you can imagine my shock at discovering it’s also cited as one of the biggest source of marketing innovation in recent years. I know my inbox is still filled with the same old dry, dull text blocks–that’s why no one relishes checking it.
While other advances like VR/AR (virtual reality/augmented reality) are making minor inroads, many digital marketers are still relying on simple text and maybe a few graphics in their emails. According to Jason Warnock in an article for the Marketing Land website entitled Why Email Is Taking Center Stage in Marketing Innovation, a more advanced and innovative email is an important advertising and brand building tool that should be making a major impact in 2018.
For BrightWave CEO, Simms Jenkins, and his Chief Client Officer, Brett Rosengren, the supposedly dying means of online communication is alive and well. In fact, their company is on the cutting edge of turning the same old email experience into something new, exciting, and effective. For them, it’s all about learning how consumers consumer digital media and how they interact with brands. In their mind, you need to accomplish three key things to make your emails more effective:
- Bring interactivity to the inbox
- Have more of a website experience in your email
- Add visual elements like videos or animation
With these approaches, you can tap into the power of the platform to create a powerful revenue engine for your company.
Bring Interactivity to the Inbox
You know how the typical business advertising email situation goes. Rosengren offers this familiar example: “So normally you’d get an email. You click the button, you go to a website to complete a form and press submit and then, you’re like, okay, now I’m done.” That’s the old way of doing things in BrightWave’s opinion, and they’re right.
In fact, the latest trend is to make your daily (or in some cases, hourly) mail out more personable. In some cases, companies are going so far as to put individualized recommendations, and more intuitive links and suggestions directly into the body of an email. The how-to of this approach, however, can differ depending on who you talk to.
For example, Alice Jackson of DesignHill points out in her article for SmartBrief, 4 Trends in Digital Marketing for 2018, it’s all about, “(Giving) an app or microsite inspired experience within the email itself.” She suggests using sliders, navigation bars, accordions, menus, short videos, animated GIFs, and even shopping carts to make your messages more exciting and engaging.
According to Adobe, “77% of marketers have real time marketing as an important part of their business.” Put simply, as Phil Davis of the website Towerd@ta explains, “this means they utilize up-to-the-minute data, creating targeted and timely content that fulfills consumers’ expectations of instant gratification and personalization.” Sadly, many companies are still unsure of what that means, or how to implement the idea across the platform.
Applying such “in the moment” messaging can be difficult, but there are ways to do it. By providing real time rewards balances, geographically based bookings for hotels and other events, or reservation services for specific travel brands, you begin to build a means of communication which gives both sender and recipient the information and experience that benefits them both.
Don’t Make People Go to a Website
Email technology is now incorporating much of the functionality reserved for websites. For example, many of us rely on surveys and polls to gather information. Haven’t you thought: “There has to be a better way than clicking on a link to take people someplace else.” Well, now there is. Yay!
Rosengren puts it this way: “What if you had an email [where] in the email you can fill in your information, pre-populate the information in the email because you know the person’s name because you sent them an email. And then, press submit from the email itself and then that information is captured on the back end and the user never has to leave their inbox.”
How is this done? The guys at BrightWave make it clear you’re going to need someone on the team that’s proficient in working behind the scenes. There’s a level of automation required that only an expert can provide.
“It doesn’t matter if you are sending it from MailChimp, whether you’re sending it from Constant Contact or SalesForce,” Rosengren points out, “it really comes down to the development of the html code.” It’s all about capturing what experts call “user states” and making the exchange of data as engaging as possible.”The message shouldn’t feel like a boring survey,” Jenkins says. “Again, we want to make it interactive, fun, relevant, and compelling.”
Most experts agree – we are a visual people. We react more favorably to videos and gifs, especially across the social media platforms, than we do long written rants or detailed reports. This has lead to a new wave of email innovations that are bringing the YouTube experience to your inbox. “People are much more engaged with video, whether it’s email or other channels, “Jenkins believes.
In a post for their website, Campaign Monitor points out the inherent problem with this approach. “It’s a common misconception that when you use video in email, that the video will simply play, right from inside the email. That would be a magical thing, much like a rainbow unicorn, but as we know, email clients like Gmail, Outlook, Thunderbird, and others often don’t support the technical requirements needed to play video right inside the email.” Listen, I really want this one, too. In fact, I was nagging Brightwave about it before the interview started. The technology isn’t quite there yet. Sigh.
BrightWave knows this all too well. “The big caveat is if you’re reading it in Apple Mail versus Gmail versus Outlook – you’re going to have different experiences,” Jenkins points out. “If my list is 80% Gmail, I’m going to make sure that whatever we do is going to work well in Gmail. We want to make sure that our clients understand that 100% of the people on your list are not going to get it, like the perfect, cool, animated way.”
So, why is it important to add videos (or gifs, or animations, etc.) to your message? Campaign Monitor has the raw data. “In spite of (the limitations), 76% of marketers plan to increase their use of YouTube and video marketing. Because as we know, video has an undeniable impact on email KPIs including:
- Boost open rates by 19%.
- Boost click-through rates by 65%.
- Reduce unsubscribes by 26%.
It’s all about playing to people, not the platform. The quality of the underlying message is always going to be the most important thing. And, one thing is clear; nothing beats email for getting your message to the masses. Since it just keeps getting better and better, roll up your sleeves and start opening!