Email marketers are under tremendous pressure right now to perform, while at the same time facing tightening budgets and shrinking resource pools. That means it’s never been more important to get the most possible value out of every campaign, and take steps to make production more efficient.

This includes a core component of every good email marketing program: testing.

Testing is important for effective email marketing because you can see whether you’re investing your time and budget wisely. But traditionally marketers have had to wait hours – sometimes days or even weeks – before you find out which variable of your test generates the results you want. That means you can’t apply your findings until the campaign is over, often well after those insights would have been most helpful (in that campaign!).

Testing + dynamic content = faster, better results

You can solve both problems when you join A/B testing with dynamic content in an astonishingly simple, yet powerful, combination. Here’s how it works:

You set up a typical A/B test comparing two versions of creative: hero headlines, CTA buttons, product features…whatever you want to compare performance. But here’s the important part—when adding the creative to your email code, you make sure to do it as dynamic content (content that can be changed and adjusted at any time).

Then deploy the campaign as normal, and wait for the opens to start. Once a statistically significant winner is determined, the testing platform automatically swap in the winning content for all recipients—even those that already received, or even opened, the message. BAM! The higher-performing, better-converting creative is now sitting in the inbox of your entire list.

The result? Faster results and better campaign performance. 

If you can set up your testing through a dynamic content platform to monitor performance and automatically update your campaign with the winning content, that’s one less task on your list.

Two more bonuses:

3 tests to try using dynamic content and moment-of-open technology 

Try it out on three tactics that can help you capitalize on the changes in consumer behavior and other special challenges that will make this holiday season one for the books. 

1.  Update your BOPIS/BOPUC strategy with dynamic product recommendations

Hypothesis: Adding dynamic personalized product recommendations to a pickup reminder will generate incremental sales without increasing spam complaints or unsubscribes.

Rationale: BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store) and BOPUC (Buy Online, Pick Up Curbside) helps customers buy local and get their goods faster than waiting for home delivery. The emails you send when their orders are ready to claim give you a chance to upsell or cross-sell customers, just as you can with regular order confirmations. 

Test: Your control is your regular pickup notification. The variable is the same email with personalized product recommendations pulled from inventory. Test to see whether customers respond to this additional content.

KPIs: Unique/total clicks, conversions, unsubscribes, spam complaints

2. Test static versus animated coupons

Hypothesis: A coupon using a scratch-off animation will attract more clicks and conversions than a static coupon

Rationale: Animated GIF support is nearly universal now in email browsers. Plus, a moving object is more likely to arouse curiosity and clicks.

Test: The control is the static coupon. The variable is the animated coupon. Divide your database into two segments at random, and test to see which one draws better responses.

KPIs: Unique/total clicks, conversions, purchases, revenue.

3. Increase personalization throughout the email message

Hypothesis: Adding personalized content in more locations (greeting, images, offers, location-based elements) will increase customer engagement and conversions.

Rationale: Most marketers can personalize the subject line or use segmentation to target content manually. Adding personalization throughout the email instead of segregating it to one location tells your customers you know them as individuals, not just numbers. 

Note: With this multivariate structure, you’re comparing one entire email to another instead of individual sections like the subject line, image, call to action or offer.

Test: Your control is your standard email with one personalization element, or none. Your variable is an email in which you add multiple personalization points, such as a combination of the following according to the data you have for each customer:

KPI: Unique/total opens, unique/total clicks, conversions.

Want to learn 7 more ways to improve your email workflow efficiency?

Testing is just one way you can streamline your email process, leaving you more time to think, plan and analyze. Check out our new guide, 8 Secret Workflow Hacks Email Marketers Use to Get the Job Done (With Results!) and get tips like these: 

Download your copy now and get ready for better results!

The cruise industry was one of the first to feel the full effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. Interest in cruising remains high, however. Cruise lines that can capitalize on that interest until departure day is safe once again are best positioned to endure through their toughest season in decades.

Innovative use of email will be a key asset for cruise line marketing teams working hard to reassure and engage passengers, update messages swiftly and create more personalized, relevant campaigns faster and more cost-effectively. Its cost effectiveness and flexibility offer marketers a powerful combo to continue engaging future passengers and weather the storm.

Brisk business in cruise shopping

So far in 2020, bookings for 2021 cruises are up 40% over the same time in 2019, a representative of told the Los Angeles Times. Only 11% of those bookings were from people whose 2020 cruises were canceled, she said.

The demand for bookings, although a year out, is a bright spot in an industry that effectively shut down by government order, and it indicates that cruise passengers are still interested in sightseeing by water. Though there’s still uncertainty about how COVID and the resulting economic difficulties will play out, there’s reason to be hopeful for the future. 

Messaging to the new cruise market

A traditional single-note “Book This Cruise” message will likely not be enough to bring back a large swath of the cruise-going public. Cruise marketing must adjust to new expectations and concerns, address a changing lineup of passenger worries, and respond when conditions change unexpectedly. 

“We have seen consumers, at this stage, be more health-sensitive than price-sensitive,” Robert Li, director of the U.S.-Asia Center for Tourism and Hospitality Research at Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management, told the Los Angles Times

A new Liveclicker guide, Email Marketing for Cruise Lines: Finding the Layline to Success through Personalization, gives marketers a quarter-by-quarter playbook of recommendations for sending emails that keep up with and even anticipate passengers’ interests and concerns.

Near-term email campaigns can focus on reassuring both passengers and cruise shoppers about health and safety measures and supporting passengers who booked on canceled or delayed cruises.

Reminding passengers of the good times they enjoyed on earlier voyages can keep the focus on positive developments for people who remain interested in cruising but aren’t ready to book yet. 

That’s why this email from Celebrity Cruises stands out. The message, sent to repeat passengers and loyalty program members, uses advanced personalization to pull in important data to populate a fond reminiscence about past travels. But beyond its friendly walk down Memory Lane, the email also uses a small but noticeable call to action to prompt the recipients to check out current deals. 

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As the weeks go on and shopper focus switches from seeking reassurance to getting back on board, cruise marketing should evolve to nudge browsers into booking. Promoting deals and low prices to spur bookings is one approach, as Royal Caribbean demonstrates:

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Achieving more with less

Notice something unusual about that Royal Caribbean email? It shows the real-time weather report for the next 5 days in the Bahamas, one of the destinations featured in the email. 

But here’s something you don’t see: Every time the email recipient opens the message, she’ll see an updated forecast, no matter how long after the company sent the email. 

Real-time dynamic content that updates content at the moment of open is more than an interesting “nice to have” feature. It’s a critical tool for any industry in which everything can change in just a few seconds, from schedules and offers to regulations and operating conditions.

It’s also one of the recommendations in Liveclicker’s guide to help marketers save time and money by reducing the steps needed to build and send highly personalized and effective email campaigns. 

Download your copy of Email Marketing for Cruise Lines: Finding the Layline to Success through Personalization to learn how advanced personalization, adaptive content and moment-of-open technology can help cruise marketers can send email with confidence and give passengers and shoppers a better email experience without adding team members spending precious time building and sending follow-up email campaigns. 

These recommendations will help you strengthen relationships and drive business in today’s turbulent journey and shore up your foundation as you move into your “next normal.” May it come with fair winds and following seas! 

Personalization: Is it an accepted best practice or just another distraction that’s wasting our time? Like many other aspects of email marketing, there’s a lot of speculation and misunderstanding surrounding the practice of making customer experiences more relevant and individualized.

The evidence is clear that personalized emails outperform “one size fits all” messages on just about every metric you can name. Still, a few dangerous myths refuse to go away at a time when making messages more relevant, empathetic, and valuable is especially important.

Have you heard any of the objections below from your fellow team members, your boss, your mom or your friends but didn’t know how to rebut them? Time to start fact checking!  

1. Personalization doesn’t work

This idea has been gaining traction lately, with some reports noting that traditional personalization tactics are falling out of favor or not delivering the results they used to.

In reality, research supporting personalization’s power to drive more user activity is among the oldest and most trusted in the email industry.

Before 2005, marketers knew only anecdotally that personalized emails outperformed broadcast messages. Then, a pioneering study by David Daniels and Jupiter Research found emails with content based on clickstream activity drove higher opens, clicks and conversions and produced 9 times the revenue of broadcast email. 

And that was back in the days when many marketers had even less data to work with than they do today and fewer ways to analyze it quickly. (More of David’s research on the value of personalization later in this post.)

It may be true that some of email marketers’ basic personalization tools are losing effectiveness. A customized [FIRSTNAME] token in the subject line just doesn’t deliver the punch it used to. Customers’ standards for relevance and value from brands has risen dramatically, and not all of us have kept up.

But there’s still plenty of innovation happening in marketing personalization, and more sophisticated tactics can deliver tremendously better results. In fact, brands utilizing advanced personalization can see 17% more revenue than those still stuck on the basics.

2. Everyone thinks it’s creepy

You’ve probably had seeing an uncannily accurate ad online or received an eerily timely message from a company you weren’t expecting to hear from.

Yes, people can get (understandably) unnerved when they see messages personalized with data that they didn’t expect a brand to have, or if they don’t trust how the brand will use their data. 

Still, shoppers of all ages (and especially younger shoppers) prefer personalized experiences. They’ll share select information if they see how it benefits them and can trust you to manage it properly. They’ll shun brands that don’t get it right. That’s part of why it’s so important to acquire and treat data in an ethical, respectful manner.

What isn’t creepy is personalized data that’s linked to an email’s purpose with a clear benefit to the customer, such as location data to provide a map showing a store’s nearest location or “moment of open” to update an offer. Be clear with subscribers about what they’re signing up for, give them relevant and valuable marketing, and be transparent about what data you’re tracking and you’ll be rewarded.

3. You need a lot of data to get started

Nope. With as little as one data point – like when a subscriber joined your list – can power everything from a welcome email to a customer poll to a reactivation campaign. Or you can pull real-time data from the email client and act on that – information like device, location, and time of day. See this post for more ideas on personalizing even when you don’t have customer data

The more data you have, the more you can personalize, but only up to a point. Data gets old fast, and it’s not foolproof. 

Laws like the European Union’s GDPR, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law and the California Consumer Privacy Act can even restrict you from using third-party data without consent. That makes first-party and real-time data even more effective.

Even purchase data, which drives much of today’s email personalization, can lead you down the wrong path if you can’t distinguish between gift and personal purchases.  

That brings us back to David Daniels, now CEO and founder of the research firm The Relevancy Group. In 2019, his firm’s research showed personalization based on contextual and real-time data generated an additional $20 of revenue for every $1 spent on technology to mine and incorporate that data. 

This is data such as real-time data generated from moment of open (device used, location, time, etc.), rules-based personalization, live inventory and clickstream activity. 

4. It’s prohibitively difficult

We won’t try to kid you. Setting an effective personalization process is a little more complicated than just putting together another broadcast campaign. You have to identify the data you need, figure out how to capture it, set up rules on using it and create email messages to put it to use. 

It’s also true that even bad email can make money. But, as the Relevancy Group’s results show, good email makes lots more. 

Today’s cloud technology means the days of crossing your fingers and hoping everything works are long over. It’s very possible to streamline personalization and make it more accessible and easy. In fact, some personalization technology can dramatically improve your workflow efficiency overall.

Look for a personalization platform that has done much of the advance work for you and doesn’t need hours of IT work to integrate with your database and email sending platform. 

The final word: Personalization done right is worth it

Still a little skeptical? Check out our white paper, Overcoming Challenges to Advanced Personalization. IT goes in depth to address the major issues that stand between a marketer and an effective personalization plan. 

Also, keep an eye on our blog, where we report frequently on client successes using real-time tactics like live offer updates, countdown clocks, live feeds for social posts and customer-generated content, or even a live weather forecast.

Marketers can divide email metrics into two general categories:

1. Activity metrics: These measure subscriber activity on your emails, including number of emails delivered, opens, clicks to a landing page, unsubscribes, bounces and spam complaints. 

2. Objective metrics: These measure whether your campaign achieved its goal: total number of conversions, total revenue, revenue per email, revenue per subscriber, average order value, number of leads converted to buyers, and many more.

You need both sets of metrics to measure your email program performance accurately, but some are more important than others. That’s what makes them key performance indicators, or KPIs.

Those KPIs are what you get judged and rewarded on, so you need to use everything in your toolbox to improve your numbers. Real-time personalization can help you make measurable progress, and not just because it has a big “Wow!” factor. 

Real-time personalization is a tactic you can use strategically to drive business. It can take your customers over many of the hurdles between your email and “add to cart” on your landing page.

Below, we identified three essential KPIs for a successful retail email program and how real-time personalization can help you increase each metric.

1. KPI: Click rate  

This baseline activity metric shows what percentage of your subscribers clicked on a link in your email. It’s a standard engagement measure and one to track over time to watch for trends.  

How to increase it: Add a real-time poll that asks customers to answer a question relating to your brand, products, their preferences or even some fun, offbeat current event, and then displays the results right away so they can see how they compare to other shoppers. 

Why it works: Who can resist a fun poll question? It’s a low-commitment way to get a click without resorting to clickbait. Plus, the click can take customers to a landing page with product recommendations that match your customer’s interests. 

Bonus: You can use your customers’ answers to guide future targeting or campaign planning. Win-win!

2. KPI: Revenue per email

This metric gauges the amount of revenue earned per email delivered. You can use many means to increase RPE, such as persuading more prospects to start buying, nudging your occasional buyers to shop more often or induce your regular shoppers to spend more each time they buy. 

How to increase it: Add dynamic product recommendations based on items that match customer preferences or previous purchases in current inventory and which refresh every time the subscriber opens the email.

Why it works: Selling more products at full price is one of the best ways to boost RPE. It’s also a huge challenge, given many consumers have become conditioned to think of email as the bargain-basement channel. 

Suggesting available items (no sold-out disappoints to discourage a sale) that are closely personalized to customers’ preferences and behavior can help customers discover things they wouldn’t necessarily have found on the sale racks.

3. KPI: Browse to buy ratio

This objective metric measures the proportion of first-time purchasers. It’s usually reported as percentage of the total number of buyers in the campaign.  

How to increase it: Embed a live video to your promotional email to provide information that can help move your browser closer to a purchase. 

Why it works: People love video. Advances in technology and improved email client compatibility have made live video a more reliable email experience.

What about the open rate?

Many marketers will notice a conspicuous absence from this list of core KPIs. The open rate is most useful when you track it over time to see if it’s going up or down. As a barometer of subscriber engagement, the open rate is pretty good. As a core metric for campaign goals? Not so much, unless the sole objective for your campaign is to get an open. 

Plus, the open rate metric doesn’t really tell you what you want to know. It’s not a reliable metric because image-blocking can undercount opens. Also, the open rate measures only email activity, not revenue-based campaign goals.

The beauty of email marketing is that you can measure just about anything and use what you learn to improve your email program. And, the beauty of real-time personalization is that it can improve almost every KPI you have. 

What are your KPIs, and how could real-time personalization help you meet your goals in 2020?

New decade, new chance to track and smash your email marketing goals for 2020!

Where to begin? With this curated list of 9 email marketing statistics for 2020. Each one is tied to a strategy that can help you achieve just about any business goal. 

What’s your main objective this year? We have a stat for that – that is, we’ve tracked down research to help you form and clarify your plan for developing strategies and tactics that will help you achieve it. 

1. Advanced personalization generates $20 of added revenue for every $1 invested in it.

If this isn’t the statistic of the year for email marketers who need to make a case for tactical investments that show a clear return, we’ll eat our virtual hats. 

The data is from The Relevancy Group’s 2019 report, The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers, and is one of many eye-opening findings of the research.

If your list of 2020 marketing goals includes increasing revenue (and whose doesn’t?), get your own copy of the report or read our analysis of the findings on advanced personalization.

2. On average, marketers lose a full 34% of newly acquired subscribers within the first month.

It’s an old marketing maxim that your newest customers are your most engaged, but this stat shows that they grow cold quickly if you don’t nurture them. Not everybody is ready to buy all the time. But, you need to get them clicking quickly to keep their interest and show you offer them something valuable in exchange for their email addresses.

Try adding a live polling function to your welcome email and business-as-usual emails to get those pre-purchase clicks. This gives customers people a reason to engage even if they aren’t in the market to buy. And if you phrase your polling questions right, you can also collect important preference or attitude data that you can use to segment and target your customers even before you get behavior data.

3. Birthday emails can lift conversion rates by 60% over non-birthday emails with the same offer. 

Birthday messages aren’t just nice greetings to send your customers. They have a revenue payoff, too. If you already send birthday emails, add a dynamic feature to pique your customers’ attention, such as a scratch-off image revealing their special birthday deal.

4. BOPIS is big: 72% of Generation Z shoppers used Buy Online Pick Up In Store services within the last 30 days.

Who knew Gen Z could be the ones to save brick-and-mortar retail? While their parents and older siblings shop from the couch, consumers born in 1995/1996 like to visit the store – but not to poke around until they find what they want. 

This Package Concierge study found 58% of younger shoppers have used BOPIS at least once. The reasons vary, but many revolve around same-day gratification. They find what they want online, but they don’t want to wait or pay to have it shipped. 

Help your BOPIS shoppers of all ages find you by including personalized location information in each email, with a live map of the nearest location or the street address.

5. Consumers are interested in technologies that show whether a product is in stock (55%), help them compare prices or read reviews (49%), make it easier to find a product or its location (47%), or try an item before buying it (38%). 

All of those action capitalize on consumers’ interests in taking time and friction out of the buying process. 

Your email messages can take even more steps out of the process by adding dynamic content that uses real-time data to alert customers about low or sold-out inventory, to add your social feeds from review sources like BazaarVoice or show a map or store directions to bring them to your doorstep.

6. Emails using dynamic content based on real-time data generated an estimated $7 million of incremental revenue, or 17.4% more than purchase-based personalization.

Here’s another statistic from The Relevancy Group’s 2019 report, The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers, showing how personalization at the highest level beat out simple name personalization and even purchase-based personalization for revenue generation. 

Basic first-name personalization has pretty much lost its edge as a customer engagement device, and purchase-based data can be too limiting. You don’t need to scrap them because they do serve a purpose in showing your customers you know who they are and what their history is with your brand.

Rather, add a top layer of data-driven advanced personalization because it’s the most effective of the three methods and generates measurable revenue.

7. Adding videos to your email can boost open rates by 6%, increase click rates by 300% and reduce unsubscribes up 26%.

People love videos, as the stats show. Adding live video to email messages was thought to be too complex given the limitations imposed by different email clients and platforms, but a module like Liveclicker’s LiveVideo element can bypass those concerns.  

8. Both active and inactive subscribers order more often and spend more than nonsubscribers.

This study of email activity by the millions of subscribers who get emails from its platform because it showed that inactive subscribers aren’t always gone for good. 

The research found subscribers order at least 25% more often than non-subscribers, spend at least 6% more and are much more likely to shop again. Inactive subscribers are 26% more likely to make a follow-up purchase than non-subscribers, and their monetary value to the mailing list is about 32% of an active subscriber.

The findings support efforts to tune tuning up our acquisition efforts to attract new subscribers and to be judicious about handling inactives. Instead of just lopping them off your list, look for patterns that show website browsing and purchases even among subscribers whose records few or no email opens.

9. Even though 86% of consumers are concerned about data privacy, 72% of them will engage only with personalized marketing messages.

We’ve been hearing this mixed message for years, so it shouldn’t surprise you. But you can put this set of stats to work in your email messages in 2020 to build trust and serve up meaningful, not creepy, personalization.

Add links to a plain-language version of your privacy and data-management policies in every email. It’s not just a nice thing to do; it will help you comply with strict privacy and email requirements in laws such as the newly enacted California Consumer Privacy Act, which affects any marketer holding data, including email addresses, on California residents.

As you build trust, you can also add in the relevant personalization that dynamic content based on real-time data instead of potentially inappropriate or irrelevant numbers. Everybody wins in this scenario.

Now that we’ve fully moved into the Roaring Twenties Redux, let’s leave one marketing myth behind: that social media is killing email as a core communications channel. Instead, the channel starting to feel the heat from social is – surprise – search engines! Fortunately for marketers looking for a way to fill the gap, the inbox can provide a surprising and effective way to continue reaching consumers right at the moment they’re looking to buy.

Granted, Google and its 90% share of the search market isn’t going away anytime soon. Amazon, the half of the major search duopoly, now claims around 50% of new product searches. 

But consumers are spending more time in social media – an average 2 hours and 11 minutes a day in 2019. So, it’s not hard to grasp that more than 25% of product searches, especially those looking for recommendations and reviews, are happening in social media channels instead of search engines and other sources. That figure increases steadily the younger the audience gets, so this is especially big news for brands looking to target younger generations.

Embedded live social feeds direct shoppers to the right place with the right message

Email marketers can jump on this growing preference for social searching by integrating live social feeds within email messages to give customers a heads-up on what everybody else either searches for or recommends. That could include feeds from sites typically considered well beneath the ‘social network’ umbrella like Twitter and Facebook, but also content pulled from sites that aggregate user-contributed reviews and comments (think Yelp, BazaarVoice, or even Glassdoor!).

Brand and retail sites rank in the low single digits as a consumer’s first choice for product searches. A dynamic content platform that seamlessly embeds live feeds from social channels into your emails and elsewhere can deliver more curious shoppers directly to your site or desired landing page.

Social proof reassures shoppers, drives email activity

Increasing site visits and sales is one benefit of adding social media feeds to your emails. But building trust is another important byproduct of adding a social feed to your emails.

Your customers want to be confident that they’re buying the right products from the right brands and getting a fair deal. So, they seek proof that if other people have bought and recommended a certain product or service, it must be right. 

They find it in Facebook recommendations, Pinterest pins and customer reviews, ratings and recommendations. Using “social proof” in this manner is a powerful and time-honored marketing tactic to boost conversions from risk-averse consumers; and it can work in email, too.

Adding a live feed from a product review and recommendation service, such as Bazaarvoice, can also benefit your email performance. Just check out this awesome example from Flight Centre:

“Adding reviews from real customers who’ve used your product is a great way to increase your email click-through rate,” Campaign Monitor wrote when describing how clients add social proof to their emails via a social feed. 

“By showing customer reviews in their campaigns, Franklin Rd reassures potential listeners that clicking through and checking out the albums is worth their time. This element of social proof, combined with other information and visuals like the album cover, increases the chances that people will click through and drives conversions.”

Getting started with live social feeds

Adding live social feeds to your emails can be more complicated than you might thing. You want to be able to trust that the content they pull in is authentic and positive – even great products and brands can get the odd negative review. Make sure to use a tool capable of filtering content that matches with the mission of your message and campaign. Want to see how easy it can be? We’d love to show you how easy it is to get started!

If email marketing were a human being, it would be a mature adult by now. It survived a wild infancy and tumultuous adolescence to emerge as a respected professional with valuable experience, a few life lessons and a very positive outlook on its future.

What does that future look like as we move into the 2020s? 

Email is poised to continue its gradual upward trajectory resulting from wiser use of the channel, better technology and a wider embrace of data to create emails that consistently aim to help consumers and to meet company objectives at the same time.

Okay, that was a mouthful. But there’s plenty of evidence to support it. Here are five email marketing trends in 2020 that support our optimistic view of email’s future.

1. Personalization will remain a major tactic to connect with customers.

One reason why personalization will stay a hot trend for years is because we’re nowhere near close to realizing all the potential that personalization done right can offer marketers and customers alike.

When Sailthru surveyed marketers for their third annual Retail Personalization Index, they learned 86% of brands sent welcome messages. Okay, not bad. But then they also discovered that only 38% included personalized recommendations in their welcome emails.

Your welcome email can incentivize your customer (lovingly but firmly) to go back to your website and buy something, complete a profile, register for a conference or just ask for more information. Personalization can make that happen.

2. Technology will keep getting smarter and easier to use. But it must serve your objectives, not run the show.

Our landmark report, The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers, found that today’s advanced personalization tech platforms are easier to use and require less hands-on IT support to install and integrate with existing systems. 

This trend will continue as vendors work to make their systems as easy and fast to learn as possible. But you still need to be sure the technology you use is getting you the results you need.

Technology like real-time data platforms is the means to an end, not the end in itself. A map showing your nearest store location in your email campaign isn’t just a cool thing to do. It carries out a strategy to improve the customer experience and increase store sales.  

You wouldn’t add dynamic content that replaces an expired offer with up-to-date content just because you could. You do it so you can give customers who missed out on the original offer something else to consider, which can turn a disappointment into a potential sale.

3. Data management will become more important to comply with new laws.

Email regulation is evolving from channel-specific laws like CAN-SPAM to a wider focus on data and its acquisition, management, security, protection and privacy. 

U.S. marketers don’t yet have federal regulations covering these data issues, although CCPA – the California Consumer Privacy Act – will come close when it goes into effect on Jan. 1. That’s because the law applies to all California legal residents, even if they live outside the state.

CCPA doesn’t require marketers to get permission before sending commercial email, as do CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Law) and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which governs data use in the European Union. But email addresses are among the personal data the law does cover. 

If you and your data and legal teams haven’t reviewed your potential exposure on the law, now’s a good time to read up on it..

4. Open and click rates are dipping across the board. That doesn’t mean people are souring on email.

Opens and clicks went down slightly on both broadcast and triggered emails in the second quarter of 2019, according to an Epsilon benchmark study, while volume went up 4.3%. Those trends usually work in opposition to each other – when volume goes up, engagement goes down.

But there’s more to this seeming trend of lower engagement than you can tell just by looking at headlines. Keep these three things in mind:

5. Email will stay future-proof because it’s more adaptable to change. 

Better technology, a customer-first perspective and a tight integration with company goals and objectives are three factors that will keep email strong in 2020 and beyond. But is that what email prognosticators envisioned in 2015 for email?

Below are two winning predictions (more or less)  and one definite fail:

Win: Dynamic content, personalization and real-time content will be much more prevalent, along with the next generation of emails triggered by a wider and more diverse range of behaviors. 

Technologies like Liveclicker’s real-time personalization platform are helping more marketers see higher engagement and revenue with real-time content. But, judging by our inboxes, broadcast email is still going strong. 

Win: “Email readers will get better at helping recipients manage their email by factoring in contextual information and no longer simply displaying email by an arbitrary factor like recency.”  

Inbox providers like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail have been retooling their email clients to help their users navigate their inboxes. Some of Gmail’s experiments have stressed out marketers (hello, Tabs!), but new changes that push trusted senders into the spotlight will help wanted email stand out.

Fail: “Five years in the future, all email marketing will be automated.”

In a word, no. But we’re closer than we were 5 years ago, thanks to marketer-friendly platforms that let users build content and audiences easily and more easily integrate data to power triggered and transactional emails.

Get your shades! The future is bright

With 2020 just a few email campaigns away, we’re optimistic about email’s future. Not just because we’re bullish about the engagement and revenue possibilities that Liveclicker’s technology offers brands, either.

Marketers are getting smarter about how they use technology to achieve their goals and to make it easier than ever for their subscribers and customers to connect with them through email. Customers are getting smarter about how they use email, too. Marketers would do well to understand that and to account for those preferences in how they do email.

We believe 2020 will be another great year for email. Thanks for going on this journey with us!

Streaming music services are hot, and getting hotter. They also represent a new avenue of engagement for email marketers who want to use curated content to make their messages even more relevant and memorable – a move that can bring better results from your email marketing.

The numbers tell the story:

Adding music streams into your email marketing expands your connections with your readers beyond the static appeal of the email message itself. You’re adding extra value in your emails, and you’re engaging with them through a new sensory experience. 

That helps build your brand within and even beyond your email channel. Even if your customers aren’t ready to convert, you’re giving them something to click on that keeps your brand in their line of vision. It gives an opportunity to connect your brand with the powerful emotional experience music and spoken words can convey. 

If you incorporate music streaming elements into emails the right way, you give your subscribers a seamless advanced email experience. Mobile users who tap on your playlist in your email message should be able to start it up right away in the appropriate app. On a desktop, a playlist click should open either the web version of the streaming player or the desktop app, depending on user settings.

Bonus: Customizing the way a playlist appears in email (for instance, with your brand logo and colors) makes your brand visible every time your customers click on it and whenever the playlist comes up when noncustomers are searching for content on the service. It’s a win-win!

Use cases for audio in email

When we talk about audio in email, we’re not suggesting you embed songs or podcasts right in your email. It’s technically possible with some HTML5 wizardry, but it might not give a good experience to a wide portion of your mailing list. Many email clients still don’t support the technology. So, it could set off spam filters. (Read more in this Campaign Monitor blog post.) 

One reliable option is to use Liveclicker’s new LiveSocial feature, which embeds a real-time copy of your playlist in your email messages and links to the playlist to your openers’ Spotify app. 

The tool makes compiling and customizing your playlist feed fast and easy, too. Simple drop-down menu allows you to show off your carefully-made mixtape in brand colors, custom fonts and more. And it always pull the latest version of your playlist at the moment of open, so if you make any additions or adjustments, it’ll get reflected in your emails (yep, even after they’ve already been sent!). 

You can use playlists for any occasion to deliver or enhance content. Just think of the possibilities:

Innovative brands are already incorporating links to streaming songs and playlists in their marketing. Check out these examples for inspiration.

1. Bonus content from a partner or influencer:

K2 Snowboarding teams up with influencers among its users and invites them to put together representative playlists. In the email below, K2 presents a playlist from the Dust Box group of snowboarders in one of its regular marketing emails. Clicking on the link opens the Spotify app (mobile or desktop depending on which device the reader is using). Check it out for yourself (fair warning; some of the songs contain profanity).

2. Multi-use content channel

Mattress manufacturer Casper uses its Spotify channel to deliver podcasts and other content to help restless sleepers settle in for the night. You can fall asleep to a crackling campfire, sounds of the solar system or guided breathing methods. (Also handy for relieving anxiety!). Though Spotify podcast listings aren’t supported in the Liveclicker platform (yet), you can still use email to feature brand podcasts, or podcasts your brand sponsors.

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Start streaming!

All you need to get started is a subscription to a streaming service and a solid plan for the kind of content you want to include and what you want to achieve with your playlists. And, check out Liveclicker’s LiveSocial Spotify integration for quickly adding your content to your marketing emails. Want to see how it works? Just request a demo

Advanced personalization can add $20 or more to general campaign revenue for every $1 invested in it. But can you get into the game without committing a monumental amount of time and money?

Absolutely! A new Liveclicker report, Cost-Effective Personalization: Relevance the Smart Way, analyzes ROI data from personalization in The Relevancy Group’s landmark study, The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers.  

The report shows how incremental innovation and the right technology partner can help your marketing team take that big leap, even if you don’t have an Amazon-size marketing budget.

How to leapfrog from ‘batch and blast’ to advanced personalization

Upgrading from “batch and blast” or broadcast email, where everyone on your mailing list gets the same message, to highly personalized messaging is like going from 0 to 75 MPH in 6 seconds flat. You can’t do that unless you have the right car, and you can’t go from zero to advanced personalization without the right email marketing platform

Cost-Effective Personalization: Relevance the Smart Way analyzes The Relevancy Group’s data and results from a survey of 400 marketers and concludes, “Every brand needs to be using advanced personalization techniques, no matter their current level of personalization efforts or technology sophistication.”

That’s because the ROI is so clear:

Retailers who used advanced personalization reported monthly revenues 17% higher than those who only used basic personalization.”

And there’s this:

“Personalization based on real-time data drove 9% higher revenues than personalization based on click behavior, and 6% higher than personalization based on inventory.”

The key is to define your goals first and then work with a technology partner to find the path that will help you achieve it. Technology like Liveclicker’s RealTime Email focuses on testing and ROI, so you can find out quickly what’s working and how it affects your bottom line. 

Together, these can help you rack up some early wins that can persuade management to invest even more in advanced personalization.

Learn how Torrid and Stella & Dot win with advanced personalization

These two brands compete successfully in two white-hot markets: women’s fashion and jewelry/accessories. 

Download the report to learn just how these brands blow past their campaign goals and build stronger, more engaging relationships with their customers. 

But if you want a sneak peek, here’s this: 

One brand sees promotional campaigns delivering additional traffic and sales even after the promotion ends. The other brand uses live images to make its emails more shoppable. Both brands use real-time data, but each one uses it in a way that’s appropriate to its own goals.

Be sure to get your own copy of the Relevancy Group/Liveclicker study The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers, too! Finally, check out our Resources page for other helpful guides that tackle the topics marketers wrestle with most, like using advanced personalization to compete with Amazon and overcoming the challenges that hold them back from implementing innovative technology.

Sometimes, email works a little too well. That irresistible promotion or clever creative drew tons of conversions; maybe so many that you sold out before you could even send a reminder campaign.

Well done! But what about all your other email subscribers who will open your email an hour or day or even week later, rush to your site and find the dreaded “Sold Out” banner plastered over your irresistible offer? That’s a complaint just waiting to happen (not to mention a missed conversion).

It can happen any time of the year, but it’s especially likely now that we’re in the thick of the busy holiday shopping season, when inventory flies out almost as fast as it hits your store shelves and deals can change in a jingle. It sets up a poor customer experience, one that can drive customers to your competition if you don’t manage it well.

Dynamic email keeps you connected

The same channel that drove all those customers to your site can also bring them back again when you offer to take their names and let them know when the product is back in stock. 

“Back in stock” emails function like abandoned-cart messages. You’ll get more customer action when you give them detailed information about the restocked product, like this message:

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This email is about as specific as you can get. It names the product, provides a photo and details, links to the product page and even reminds the customer why she’s getting the email. 

“Back in stock” emails are popular with customers. They generate some of the highest open rates of any triggered messages – 47.6% to 65.32% according to different sources. For one brand, 7.7% of site visitors who clicked from a “back in stock” email bought the product, compared with the site’s 1.7% overall conversion rate. 

Those figures are impressive. But, your customers are still hitting dead ends when they click from your email to your website only to find they’re too late. 

Here’s an even better way: Use real-time data and content to replace the original email offer with an updated message when products sell out or some other catastrophe happens, like a delayed shipment from your supplier. 

If you can integrate your inventory management and messaging systems, you can substitute a notice that the product has sold, suggest similar products or invite the customer to sign up for an alert when the product gets restocked. 

Your customer might still be disappointed, but she won’t get an unexpected and unpleasant experience on your site and then go away empty-handed or click over to a competitor.  

How Hot Topic drives sales and engagement with dynamic content  

Pop-culture retailer Hot Topic uses moment-of-open technology that keeps its email customers up to date on new-product availability – not just when a product sells out but even before, when it becomes available in-store and online. 

The content automatically updates when the product’s status change, as shown in this promotion for the hot collectible brand Funko :

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If a product sells out, Hot Topic substitutes a grayed-out image that subscribers see at the moment they open the email message.

This tactic reduced customer complaints about missing out on hot sales and generated a 30% lift in clicks, longer browse sessions and higher sales. (Get more details in this blog post: 2 Wins and a Fail: Real Email Marketing Experiences and Lessons from Hot Topic.)

Add a restock alert to your product pages

Dynamic content that updates when customers open their emails can mean fewer unhappy surprises on the website for customers. But what about people who find your site through search, by typing your site name into their web browsers or clicking through from your emails anyway even if the message says the product is sold out?

A well-done “back in stock” email can save that sale. 

Offering to email customers when a product is available again is a standard feature on Amazon product pages. The product page will automatically disable color, size and other options and substitute a message like the one below:

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Logged-in Amazon customers don’t have to type in their email addresses; the system adds those automatically. If you can’t provide that same seamless experience, ask for an email address so you can send a restock alert.

Collect that address in a form on the page, like Amazon’s, or in a pop-up form (often called a pop-over or overlay).  

‘Back in stock’ alerts and email permission

You don’t have to worry about complying with email or data-privacy laws like CAN-SPAM, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) or the EU’s General Data Privacy Regulation because you are emailing your customers at their request. That makes them transactional rather than marketing emails

But, while your have your browsers’ attention, why not invite them to join your mailing list? Highlight the benefits of joining – special offers and discounts, VIP notices, etc. – but assure them they can request a restock alert without opting in. 

Also, remind customers why they should sign up for an email stock alert, such as being the first to find out when the product is restocked.

Be careful that your marketing-driven material is secondary to the restock reminder. Keep reading to see two ways to handle this.

3 tips for better ‘back in stock’ alerts

1. Be specific: We mentioned earlier that “back in stock” email messages function like abandoned-cart notices. They work best when you get as specific as possible, beginning with the subject line.

Instead of saying “Your item is back in stock,” specify the product you mean in the subject line and list details in the message in case you need to jog your customer’s memory. This is important all year long, but it become crucial for holiday shopping when your customers can easily go into information overload.

2. Make them memorable: Many “back in stock” alerts look like a robot formatted them. Design yours to be as attractive as your other marketing messages by using a similar template and adding your brand logo and colors and a little marketing pizzazz, like product alternatives.

This Glasses USA email recognizes that the love affair your customer had with a product when it wasn’t available can cool off by the time it gets restocked, so it suggests similar items from inventory. 

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This email from Lyst gives customers the option to request similar product views by clicking the “Similar products” button. Consider this approach if you are concerned about adding marketing-driven material to a transactional email.

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3. Build urgency: Persuade customers to jump on the alert. This Huckberry email stokes customers’ egos by noting that they are the first to learn about the restocked product and then ramping up the FOMO (fear of missing out) by reminded them that the new stock is limited. You don’t want customers missing out twice on a good deal!

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Wrapping up

No matter how effective your inventory-management system is, you can’t always avoid being sold out of a popular product. But you can retain more sales by using real-time data and dynamic content in email to get out in front of the problem before customers hit a dead end on your website. 

Then, follow up with a persuasive “back in stock” alert that entices them to come back and close the deal.