Travel is back! According to recent research conducted by Criteo, 69% still plan on traveling before the summer ends.

For many travel brands—email is the primary vehicle driving every moment that matters. Whether it takes the form of a booking confirmation with every detail included, a last-minute reminder or notification that saves the family getaway, or a personalized promotion that shoppers just can’t pass up, your email marketing strategy has a lot of heavy lifting to do over the next few months.

Unless, of course, you switch up your messaging by implementing these three easy tactics to take advantage of the summer vacation trend:

Add flexibility into your fares

While any traveler’s plans are subject to change at the drop of a hat, travel conditions and geographic shutdowns outside of anyone’s control unfortunately are as well.

So, shift your messaging by introducing email campaigns promoting more flexible solutions. Things like refundable tickets, free cancellations and upgrades, and no-fee online booking are already helping travel businesses get back to their 2019 summer performance peaks—and will no doubt be something consumers demand long after things return to ‘normal.’

summer vacation

This seemingly small move can result in major rewards, whether your goal is customer acquisition or retention.  New shoppers who are welcomed by an easy, fast, and convenient experience are much more likely to make a purchase. And your loyal, long-term buyers always feel appreciated when they receive a travel option that doesn’t feel like it nickels-and-dimes them at every step when making a change.

Can’t forget about COVID-19

Did you know that 53% of consumers feel that it’s still very important for the brands they shop with to have a strategy in place for social distancing and staying within CDC-recommended guidelines.

By simply acknowledging this reality and communicating openly about any potential cautions, you enhance the impact and value your emails deliver because they contain everything someone needs to know before they even schedule their trip. Especially if you do so through a special message from the captain or an embedded email video.

summer vacation

TrustedHousesitters, for example, uses video messages to overcome its number one customer objection: trusting a stranger to take care of a traveler’s home and pets while they’re away. By sharing videos that include the perspectives of both pet owners and sitters, the brand is able to eliminate buyer hesitation by addressing this issue directly. Not to mention lift conversions, engagement, and open time duration across these emails too.

Make man’s best friend a priority

After being stuck at home the last 18 months, it can be understandably hard to abandon the furry friend that helped you survive it all. Which is why so many travel brands are experiencing unprecedented success by promoting pet-friendly summer vacation accommodations and travel options.

For anyone feeling especially clingy after spending 24/7 with Fido throughout COVID-19, a pet-centric email promotion can be the motivator that finally pushes them out of the house and into your care.

summer vacation

Beyond the allure of an animal-friendly vacation, however, this degree of personalization helps your brand stand out from the competition. It gives customers the impression that you truly care about their individual preferences and needs—as well as your business the chance to create more engaging and relevant conversations that keep travelers coming back whenever they’re ready to schedule their next summer vacation.

First-party data has always been your best personalization tool because it comes from the insights your customers share directly with your brand. At its most basic level, this info can be classified as one of two categories:

You need both kinds of data to get a well-rounded picture of each customer. Because what customers tell you in preference data might be different from what you see them actually doing. Combined, this more comprehensive picture helps you create more relevant, personalized content for every customer in every campaign you send.

So, what’s going wrong for so many companies in terms of email conversions right now?

1. You’re not selling customers the right stuff.

Your goal isn’t just to send an offer. It’s to deliver value and an exceptional customer experience with every email conversion opportunity. 

Yes, you can sell. But you sell best when you recommend products or services that reflect the data you have on your customer—the kinds of products she browses and buys most often, the sports he tells you he enjoys, where each customer lives, and so on. A truly personalized customer experience only comes after you apply the first-party data insights you’ve collected about each customer to your marketing messages. Especially if it doesn’t take extra work or development resources to put into practice.

email conversion

As one of the world’s largest online pet marketplaces, Rover wanted to know if dynamically personalizing its emails based on customers’ dog breeds could have a positive impact on sales. And after applying new segmentation rules and A/B testing of a generic email’s results versus one with a dynamic, breed-specific hero image the answer was an overwhelming yes. Compared to its static alternatives, Rover’s personalized email experience drove 80% more revenue to the retailer!

2. You don’t speak your customer’s language.

An irrelevant message won’t generate clicks or conversions. In the long run, the only way to win is with messages that show customers you know them. After all, emails with dynamic content elements that can be automatically adjusted based on your first-party data insights are more appealing to the average buyer.

That’s because—rather than another one-size-fits-all sales promotion—these personalized interactions are more interesting and engaging. Your customers are excited when they see a new email from you in their inbox, making your messages more likely to not only be read—but your recipients more likely to click and convert on your offer.

And that generates even more first-party data feedback. Which you can use to refine and further personalize your emails for even better results and long-term customer loyalty.

email conversion

Prior to partnering with us, Hot Topic received an uptick of customer service complaints whenever Harry Potter promo emails were sent. After asking its subscribers about their Hogwarts house affiliation and segmenting the audience by their responses, the brand has eliminated this negative noise—on top of growing email engagement, open rate, conversion rate, and CTR too.

3. You’re selling to the wrong audience.

A growing subscriber list is an essential component for any email marketing strategy’s success—but size alone isn’t enough. If you don’t include as many likely buyers as possible in your campaigns, you’ll never see the CTR or conversions you expect. 

So, use the customer insights you can draw from studying your first-party data to divide your email list into meaningful segments and personas. Then and only then are you ready to target your message content to each specific group. 

When FitKit UK needed a more in-depth understanding of its email subscribers to send more targeted, engaging content to its recipients, we helped the organization build an interactive campaign that featured embedded surveys asking customers about their fitness needs and overall familiarity with the brand.

email conversion

As a result, FitKit UK experienced immediate results—including a 272% increase in email clicks, a 59% increase in conversion rate, and a 298% increase in orders placed through these interactions

Everybody wins when you put the customer first

By following these best practices and prioritizing your customer experience, you’ll be ready to send more relevant, engaging messages that help your customers shop successfully in no time! And that’s a win-win that pays dividends for everybody involved.

Download our playbook, The Dynamic Personalization Elements You Can Be Automating to Spend More Time Creating, for a step-by-step guide to enhance your customer experience through first-party data and dynamic email elements.

On the Fourth of July, your BBQ guests weren’t the only ones filling up. Because this past weekend, online shoppers also received a stuffed inbox with special holiday sales and offers.

That said, any retail marketer knows that not all emails are created—or received—equally. The messages that truly stand out are the ones you personalize. Because customers always prefer relevant, engaging, and interactive content over one-size-fits-all promotions.

After all, 73% of shoppers engage more with the brands that treat them like individuals across every interaction. Especially if you’re using first-party data to elevate your email’s relevancy and boost ROI.

So, which three brands stood out this Independence Day for their ability to deliver engaging, real-time personalized email experiences to every shopper?

Red, white, and you: Zoro Tools makes Fourth of July savings personal

For businesses everywhere, Fourth of July sales are a favorite tradition. While it’s technically America’s birthday, that doesn’t stop millions of shoppers from taking advantage of the opportunity to save money and buy themselves a midsummer gift or two.

Fourth of July

But for brands like Zoro Tools with thousands of different products to choose from, a generic sales email experience does little to drive results. Most customers are only interested in a handful of items from any retail brand, meaning that if they don’t see discounts on those items right away they’re likely to ignore the entire message.

Zoro’s Independence Day email caught our attention because it was one of the few holiday sales promotions this weekend attached to specific product categories. Rather than alerting email subscribers of a discount or percentage off their purchase and leaving them to figure out how it applied, this email targeted customers most likely to buy household essentials with specific items and a simple, one-click transaction experience.

Plus, this email was the only one we noticed that featured a unique digital coupon code for each customer. Making it easy for buyers to take advantage of the promotion and Zoro Tools to track the effectiveness of this unique campaign.

H-E-B taps into the thrill of the grill this holiday season

What’s more popular on the Fourth of July than fireworks, traveling, or attending a public event? Grilling! In fact, almost 60% of U.S. households hosted a barbeque at some point over the holiday weekend. Giving the brands paying attention to this trend plenty of fuel for their email personalization fire in 2021.

Fourth of July

Grocery retailer H-E-B used the momentum of grilling season to deliver a list of trending products and shopper faves to its Fourth of July email recipients. But the brand didn’t stop there—because it wouldn’t be on this year’s list if that were the case.

What we loved most about this brand’s Independence Day email experience was the inclusion of a handpicked selection of items specially chosen for each recipient. Whether a new subscriber simply received a list of hot sellers or a long-time customer enjoyed a selection of product faves and brands they’ve browsed in the past, this small touch helped H-E-B deliver big results and unbelievable digital customer experiences over the weekend.

Fourth of July

Herman Miller turns individuals into influencers on Independence Day

Summer is the season for social media. With the world opening up once again, millions of Americans are traveling, spending time outside, and making Fourth of July memories that they want to capture, post, and enjoy forever on their favorite online platform.

Fourth of July

Herman Miller used this trend to take its email engagement and customer experience to a new level this Independence Day. By featuring photos and user-generated content posted to buyers’ social media profiles rather than its own professional photographs, this luxury brand was able to personalize its sales promotion and make products more accessible to every household.

Every retail success starts with data. Whether you’re optimizing marketing messages or managing inventory levels, a foundation built by high-quality, first-party data is key.

But information on its own doesn’t deliver value. If it’s not accurate, actionable, or accessible at the moment it’s needed, it can lead to inefficient business decisions, inaccurate forecasts, and ineffective long-term marketing strategies.

In fact, the challenge of integrating first-party data insights you’ve worked hard to collect from customers into personalized email is creating a two-tier playing field that separates pretenders from true contenders when it comes to retail success:

Start fueling your personalization with first-party data now

Today, 62% of retail consumers say it’s important for brands to deliver personalized experiences. And with so many more people searching, shopping, and purchasing products online, real-time personalization has become an invaluable tactic for improving customer engagement, loyalty, and intent to purchase.

But integrating your first-party data doesn’t need to be an expensive or time-consuming process. In fact, here are three things you can start right now to improve your digital marketing results right away:

Take personalization beyond product recommendations. Integrate a personalized content strategy for every customer email. After all, this small change can be particularly useful for retailers with smaller assortments and longer purchase frequency cycles. The combo of first-party data and real-time personalization can even be used to engage and nurture relationships while simultaneously maximizing the value of existing assets like blog and influencer content.

Use personalization behind the scenes. Personalization does not always need to be explicit in order to deliver an effective experience. Identify interest, product, and brand affinities that can help you deliver more relevant content, align your brand with your customers’ values, and deliver a more engaging, exciting customer experience across all channels.

Consumer behavior shifted towards essential goods at the beginning of the pandemic. As we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, now is the time for every kind of retailer to prepare their strategies. Personalization does not need to come at the sacrifice of branding or creative efforts. Even the most high-strung luxury shoppers’ expectations can be met with effective segmentation and behavioral strategies that can predict a browser vs a high-intent shopper.

Eliminate inconsistency, inefficiency, and lost revenue in one move

When you combine first-party data profiles with the power of real-time personalization, you get rid of the disconnected experience your marketing team faces anytime a personalized email needs to be built, updated, or sent. Transforming any overly manual, time-consuming legacy processes you use into streamlined project sprints that maximize your productivity and efficiency — and your organization’s email engagement, conversion rate, and revenue generating potential, too.

Now more than ever, it’s important for you to integrate first-party data into your email marketing strategies. Because, as you move closer and closer toward a truly omnichannel customer experience, the insights your customers decide to share with your brand are an invaluable tool for building more relevant and engaging email content, establishing more meaningful customer relationships, and aligning your business with future trends and behaviors that are likely to lead to long-term retail success

Every day, you send and receive an average of 121 promotional emails. But can you remember one you’ve seen recently that stands out in your mind?

For today’s email marketers, that’s the challenge. Sure, breaking through inbox clutter to reach the right person at the right time is a big deal. But there’s no substitute for memorable email messages that move your audience to action.

To maximize the value your real-time personalized marketing efforts deliver, that means first-party data. And not just lots of it, either—your insights need to be used in a way that personalizes content at the moment of engagement to deliver the most relevant, interesting, and valuable interaction possible to every recipient.

After all, you spend a ton of time making sure your ESP’s customer data profiles are accurate. Why not use them to drive your customer experience forward and step up your email marketing game at the same time?

Results may vary, but here are four real-world examples prove the combined power of first-party data and real-time personalization make your messages stand out. So you can grow engagement and revenue with every send—no matter how much competition you face.

Know exactly how to say hi the second someone signs up

Users who have just offered up their email address are likely expecting a welcome email. So, why not take advantage of this opportunity by using the most up-to-date information possible in your brand interactions?

Real-Time personalization taps into your customer profiles to not only serve the freshest, most interesting messaging available at the moment of engagement—but dynamically updates, hides, and/or replaces content in case anything changes between the time you send your email and someone opens it.

first-party data

The Washington Post created a personalized email onboarding experience for its paid subscribers that not only introduces them to the brand, but prioritizes the collection of specific first-party data points about their preferences and news interests through fun, interactive embedded polling features.

That way, The Washington Post can recommend highly targeted email newsletters and content to every follower and track trending topics in real-time—ensuring a connected, loyal audience of everyday newsletter readers that are much more likely to convert into paid subscribers down the road.

Make your customers convert with unforgettable email experiences

For many customers—especially those who are shopping primarily online as a result of the pandemic—the internet is awash with abandoned shopping carts. But just because a buyer lost interest doesn’t mean you should call it quits.

Abandoned carts, previously browsed items, or even items your subscribers have clicked in previous emails all provide future opportunities for email communication and potential conversion. Especially if you can bring first-party data insights like purchase history, brand preferences, and recently browsed categories into these messages to give shoppers timely, hard-to-ignore product recommendations and offers.

When online retailer JustFab adopted dynamic recommendations based on the abandoned cart and previously browsed item data stored in its ESP into its real-time email personalization elements, it achieved a 50% increase in email conversion rates. Not to mention a 46% decrease in customer churn on top of that.

first-party data

Explore the potential for cross-promotion

The original Morning Brew email newsletter has long been the gold standard when it comes to email engagement rates. So when the brand wanted to promote its niche newsletters, such as Marketing Brew, Morning Brew maximized its two best assets: The newsletter subscribers already open and love every morning, and the first-party data they’ve already submitted to Morning Brew.

first-party data

To promote Marketing Brew to its nearly two million subscribers at the time, Morning Brew included a personalized plug that sat in the newsletter’s top spot and dynamically changed based on each subscriber’s individual story preferences, newsletter subscriptions, and recent website browsing behaviors at the moment of engagement—making Marketing Brew’s launch impossible to ignore regardless of interest.

Add flexibility to your first-party data

All-too-often, brands spend too much time and energy focusing on personalization and what they know about buyers on their emails instead of what happens afterwards. Think about it: there’s nothing more disappointing than being served a ‘just for you’ promotion only to find a generic store page staring back at you through the screen after you’ve made the mistake of clicking.

Real-Time personalization is a commitment that goes beyond any single channel, meaning the data you collect across every interaction makes your next message even more engaging. Your content needs to be tailored to individual needs and preferences at every step, and by adding first-party customer data profiles directly into your ESP’s template and campaign builder experience you ensure that occurs. Otherwise, your followers won’t see the value of submitting their personal information or increasing their engagement level with the brand going forward.

That’s why Food Network uses past behavior and a wealth of info collected across digital channels to deliver trending recipes, articles, programming recommendations, and more directly to its subscribers’ inbox. Every email adds value to their audience interactions by using first-party data to deliver exceptional user experiences.

first-party data
first-party data

This article is part of a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing. As a company, we are committed to identifying actions we can take in the fight against racism and injustice, and elevating BBIPOC voices is paramount to inspiring change. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.


This post is authored by Marissa Taffer, Founder & President of M. Taffer Consulting. 
Building and developing a diverse high performing team isn’t something that happens by accident. Earlier in this series, Jada Harland shared some of the secrets to recruiting diverse candidates and hiring changemakers, but what happens when these folks come on board in an organization? How do we as leaders ensure they are set up to be successful and thrive in their new roles?

Inclusion and belonging are the elements that transform teams from existing as a group of people who work near each other to executing as a high-performing team. In my experience, hiring a diverse group of individuals and not focusing on team building, inclusion, belonging and engagement is a mistake. It leads to high employee turnover, missed goals and metrics, and failed projects. All things that we know cost organizations a lot of money. 

In the marketing function specifically, having a diverse team that represents (or has a strong connection with) your target market will be an asset to the business. Research has shown time and time again that diverse teams produce better business outcomes. The Economic Development Collaborative shares that, “A diverse marketing team will be more likely to recognize subtleties and identify facets of diverse marketing efforts that might prove off-putting or offensive in international markets. Something as simple as color – which is often either considered artistically or is taken for granted – can have an impact on marketing efforts. For instance, one scholarly study found that the colors purple and gray hold opposite meanings in different cultures.”

While it takes time for teams to go from people who were hired to work together to high performing and collaborative, here are 5 tips for guiding your team and building the culture everyone wants to be a part of, and creating an environment where people can speak up and feel that their opinions, culture, and experiences matter.

Five tips for creating a high performing and diverse marketing team

1.Role model the behaviors you want. 

As the leader of the team, it is your job to role model the behaviors you want to see from everyone. If you are welcoming, positive, and work in a way that supports your team—and their lives outside of work—your teammates will start to do that for each other as well. 

You can take this a step further by creating a set of team working agreements that everyone can contribute to. For example, consider setting an agreement that no one will send emails after 10 pm and before 8 am. If you are a night person and you’d like to work outside of those hours, use the email scheduling feature or save the message to your drafts and send during the agreed-upon times. For some of the more creative roles, inspiration can strike at any time, so make sure your processes support that but also create healthy boundaries within the team. 

Other behaviors you may want to consider role modeling include taking breaks including vacations and PTO, shutting down early on Friday afternoons to spend time with your family, or whatever else might be important to you or members of your team.

From a career development perspective, you can role model continuous learning. That can mean asking a team member to teach you a new skill or using professional development budgets to ensure you are also taking new classes, attending conferences or virtual sessions, or creating development plans for everyone in the department. Taking stock of your own strengths and weaknesses and allowing your team to do the same will ensure you have a culture where continuous learning is prioritized and making mistakes is rewarded—because it means team members are trying new things and stepping out of their comfort zone. 

2. Be transparent.

When things are left unsaid or unexplained, people tend to make up their own explanations. This explanation could range from “they asked Dave to lead the presentation because he’s a white man” to “I’m not getting the promotion because I have a disability” and everything in between. It could be Dave was asked to lead the presentation because he introduced the agency to the client and the promotion might be going to another colleague because they expressed interest and took on a stretch project that you didn’t.

Racism, sexism, and other systems of oppression show up in work and life in a number of ways. Explaining decisions and inviting questions about who on the team is doing certain things and why can help in a few ways. First, if there is unintentional systemic oppression at play, it can expose it. As a leader, you can’t fix what you can’t see or don’t even realize you’re doing. Second, it prevents people from making assumptions about why things unfolded the way they did. 

3. Invite (and give) candid feedback.

Going along with being transparent, invite candid feedback. As leaders, we are not perfect people. In her book, Radical Candor, Kim Scott tells the story of her time at Google. After a presentation, her boss at the time Sheryl Sanberg pulled her aside to give her feedback on her delivery. She asked Kim if she wanted some time with a speech coach to help her stop saying “um” when she made presentations. Kim shrugged it off. Then Sheryl came to her point more directly and told Kim, “When you say ‘um’ it makes you sound stupid.” 

Sheryl was practicing what Kim now calls Radical Candor, that is when you have built trust with someone so that you can both care about them personally and challenge them directly. 

This is not something that happens overnight, so don’t try this with your brand new hire. When issues arise in the early days and stages of team formation, this is not how you want to handle them. But, as your team becomes a well-oiled machine, using Radical Candor can have many benefits for the individuals on the team, as well as the team as a whole.

These are the kinds of conversations that can be difficult to have without trust but are important to the development of the team. When preparing for a candid conversation ensure that you are unemotional and well prepared. You might want to have a few notes about what you want to get across and why this is important. 

Remember that the conversation is a two-way street and it is just as important to listen as it is to be heard. You want to ensure that like Sheryl you are getting your point across and it is understood, but you also want to hear from the other person. What is going on and why is this happening? Is there something you aren’t seeing that is contributing to this issue? If you are catching the other person off guard, give them time to process the situation. Ask them how they’d like to move forward but give them time to think and consider their options. 

As the team leader, it is important that you provide candid feedback to your team members but also invite them to give it to you. It might be hard to hear that you did something that was perceived as racist, sexist, ableist, or culturally insensitive, but not knowing allows those cycles to continue. 

4. Check your “blind spots”.

As a caucasian and cis woman, I have very little concept other than what colleagues have shared with me over the years about what it is like to show up on our team as a queer person or a person of color. These are what I call my blind spots. I also don’t know what it is like to show up with a visible disability, or as someone practicing a religion other than my own. 

Several years ago, when Wil Reynolds was trying to hire a talented woman into his company, Seer Interactive, he was shocked by her strange response. She wanted to start working for him but not for 7 months. Wil was confused, he needed someone now and didn’t understand why she wanted to wait for such an oddly specific time to start. 

She shared with him that she was (obviously) pregnant. She was so sure that she wouldn’t get an offer if the company knew that after only three months with them, she’d need to take maternity leave. At the time, she had a job with a large company that would pay for her leave, and starting a new job meant she would no longer be covered under FMLA or any type of short-term disability insurance. Not something she wanted to give up for a new job.

Wil shares that this was a pivotal moment for him in his understanding of what it was like to be pregnant in the job market. He said, “It never occurred to me that anyone would ever not hire a woman who was able to help them right now for the next three or four or five months and then take some time off and come back.”

While not every blind spot is the same as what Wil experienced, I can share from my own experience what it’s like to be interrupted by a man in a meeting (repeatedly) like we saw in the vice presidential debate last year between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence. Although, I never had the courage or conviction to so directly let my colleagues know I was speaking. I also know what it’s like to be invited to a team birthday celebration as someone with dietary restrictions that were not accommodated so I couldn’t even eat my own cake. 

When running in-person (or even virtual) team-building events and meetings, think about how you’d feel as someone with celiac disease being served pizza and beer, or someone who is in recovery from an alcohol addiction being invited to a cocktail-heavy happy hour or receiving these foods and drinks delivered to your home. While excessive drinking in the workplace is never appropriate, there are many people who choose not to drink alcohol at all, whether it is because of an addiction issue, religious belief, or just personal choices. 

Like Wil’s story, we also need to learn to check our blind spots in the hiring and onboarding processes. Hiring for “culture fit” is another way that we limit diversity on teams or alienate people when they join. Think about a time when someone “didn’t fit in the team.” How were they treated and what was the impact on the work? 

Other ways you can check your blind spots might include things like asking people to put their pronouns in their Zoom name or on a conference nametag, having everyone in a group pronounce their names so you can make sure you’re saying them correctly, or even just asking privately if anyone needs any type of accommodations proactively. This can help so many people feel more comfortable in speaking up and getting what they need to be successful or sharing more of their identities. 

5. Hold space for the way people show up. 

If we’ve learned nothing from working through a pandemic, my hope is that we have learned to hold space for how people show up. Earlier in my career, I was working for a small startup filled with younger, predominantly white colleagues. I had an amazing and talented colleague of color and she was trying to explain code-switching to me and I was not getting it at all, not even a little. My response to her was tone-deaf at best and racist at worst. To this day it’s still something I feel bad about. 

Think about how you can hold space for how people show up. In the wake of tragedies like the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the onslaught of racism and violence against the AAPI community, and the conflict in the middle east, as a leader, it is important to hold space for how people show up. Between a global pandemic and all of these heavy events, you might not know exactly how your team members are impacted so it is important to hold space for how people show up.

One easy way to do this is to start your meetings with a one-word check-in. Ask your team members to go around the room and share one word about how they’re feeling. It could be in the moment, that day, or in general. This serves two purposes, the first is to take the temperature of the room. Are they tired and overwhelmed or energized and ready to go? Even without the explanation behind the word, you still have some context to the energy in the room and can adjust your leadership style or even the meeting agenda accordingly. This exercise takes about 10 minutes or less for a group of up to 40 people. Another benefit of the one-word check-in is that it can be a good warm-up. Now everyone has spoken in the meeting room at least once and may feel more comfortable contributing to the conversation. 

If your group is too big for a one-word check-in, another strong way to start is by using a diversity welcome. The diversity welcome can help you welcome in and acknowledge all of the identities present and even ask attendees to think about who is not in the room. 

The bottom line: Diversity in your marketing team is good for the company and good for the team

Creating an environment where people feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work and are supported is important, especially now. In the last few months, we’ve seen leaders in many industries step down and step away from their roles in order to listen, learn and better align the organization’s leadership with the diversity of their teams.

In April of this year, the CEO of Basecamp, Jason Fried announced to the world in a blog post that they had made some changes at the company. These changes included banning political discussion at work and canceling some employee benefits including those they labeled paternalistic including fitness and wellness benefits and a farmer’s market share. The final point they made about their changes was “No forgetting what we do here. We make project management, team communication, and email software. We are not a social impact company. Our impact is contained to what we do and how we do it.

These changes were not welcomed by the entire organization and they saw about a third of their team decide to leave the organization following this blog post in what was described as a tense internal meeting. This is only one example, but we’ve seen similar occurrences in other industries this year including the culinary/hospitality industry and the media. 

It is my sincere hope that these tips and examples help you to think about how you want to show up as a leader and a team member moving forward and that you strive to create the kind of environment that everyone wants to belong in. 


Marissa Taffer, PMP is the founder and president of M. Taffer Consulting. In her practice, she supports business owners and marketers with business development strategies, project management, and content development. She’s created content for new and established brands and conducted project management training and process optimization for large and small digital agencies, nonprofits, and marketing departments.

Marissa is a Project Management Professional (Project Management Institute, 2016), Asana Certified Pro (2020), HubSpot Certified Content Marketer (2020), and holds a certificate in Women’s Entrepreneurship from Cornell University. In 2021 she served as a co-facilitator for a diversity program called The Culture of Respect and participated in the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s Designing Leadership program. 


Visit this page to see more in the series, or check back in a week for our next guest post.

CM Group is a family of global marketing technology brands including Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Emma, Liveclicker, Sailthru and Vuture. By joining together these leading brands, CM Group offers a variety of world-class solutions that can be used by marketers at any level. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, CM Group has United States offices in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and global offices in Australia, London, New Zealand and Uruguay.

This article is part of a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing. As a company, we are committed to identifying actions we can take in the fight against racism and injustice, and elevating BBIPOC voices is paramount to inspiring change. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.


This post is authored by Gabrielle Lawrence (she/they), Writer, Editor, & Designer. 

Perhaps abuse is a strong word. The poet in me is overly conscious of that choice. I’m also fighting against my conditioning here. I know from lived experience, history, the media, education, and so on, that a facet of white fragility is it’s sensitivity and aversion to the language of violence—especially when it is responsible for said violence. It reminds me of gaslighting.  

However, language is power and it gives us space to demand accountability. Abuse does refer to the mistreatment of another living being, and we know that violence is not only or always physical. This argument, that employers abuse minorities in white spaces, is geared toward companies without an evolving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion core, or companies that practice performative inclusivity. 

This can manifest as:

How white spaces lead to burnout and resentment 

Having to “fit” into a culture that doesn’t take your experience into account creates the perfect conditions for burnout and resentment. In response to these arguments, I often hear people rebuttal:

Sometimes it feels like they’re right; maybe I should resolve to keep my head down and my mouth shut when I experience bias and oppression at my job. I should accept and actively engage in double consciousness as I navigate predominately white workplaces. 

Maybe I should allow my self-image, mental health, growth opportunities, and happiness to suffer—for a paycheck—from people who, upon hearing of my sudden death or departure, wouldn’t even blink before trying to fill my vacancy. 

The effects of white spaces don’t begin on day one

Furthermore, consider every part of the process: having access to the “right” education and communities, the job search itself, the hoops of the recruiting process, salary negotiation, the onboarding and socialization process, and the list goes on. 

The workplace isn’t a walk in the park for anyone, especially during major transitions and crises like the pandemic, but I find it harder to stay docile when I realize that my fellow white employees have the luxury of a completely different experience. Especially those without intersecting identities. 

For white colleagues, going to work does not mean confronting the same roadblocks, mental stressors, or disrespect. At minimum, the culture of the environment and the market are most often catered to their experiences. This also makes it easier for white colleagues who notice and acknowledge these inequities to stay complicit because they are not as severely impacted. 

Consider the harmful ways these disparities can manifest for minorities on the job:

Wrap up

If a job description were to be tailored to a person of color truthfully, it would look quite different. Responsibilities would include things like experience collaborating with people who aren’t conscious of their privilege or prejudice, must be extremely familiar with white culture and have a similarly crafted personality, must be comfortable sharing insight into your culture when it suits us best or makes us money, have a willingness to work harder to combat our prejudice and earn our respect, etc. 

Of course, these could look differently at every job depending on the nature of the work, styles of communication, and structure of the company. Nevertheless, the disproportionate asks of employees whose identities are at the intersection of BIPOC, LGBTQ, and disabled communities is shameful, especially considering the impact of the pandemic outside of work on these populations. 

This should not be normal or sufficient. In the wake of everything we’ve seen the past four years, we should also be taking radical action towards building safer workspaces. Not just because companies know sustainable DEI has a positive impact on profit, but because we matter. 


white spaces

Gabrielle Lawrence (she/they) is a freelance writer, editor, and designer from Southern California. They are well-rounded with experiences in marketing, software development, publishing, higher education, and more. She is a contributing editor for The Tenth Magazine and Harpoon Books. Their poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net and Best New Poets. They are an interview correspondent for TERSE. Journal and they had the honor of being the former EIC of Linden Avenue Literary Journal. Gabrielle loves music and yoga. Learn more about their work and services at gabrielle-l.com.


Visit this page to see more in the series, or check back in a week for our next guest post. 

CM Group is a family of global marketing technology brands including Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Emma, Liveclicker, Sailthru, and Vuture. By joining together these leading brands, CM Group offers a variety of world-class solutions that can be used by marketers at any level. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, CM Group has United States offices in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco, and global offices in Australia, London, New Zealand, and Uruguay.

If you want to boost email engagement, one of the best ways is also becoming one of the easiest: add video.

Video and email are a match made in marketing heaven. Everybody uses email, and more consumers are watching videos online with each passing day.

If video is so great, why doesn’t everyone use it in their emails?

The relationship between email and video hasn’t always been a smooth or lovely experience. In the past, largely technical hurdles like incompatible email browsers and spotty bandwidth have kept these channels separated.

These tech limitations made video in email a hit-or-miss experience for many viewers. And that unreliability, coupled with a hazy ROI and lack of content and production time, also turned many email marketers off the video trend.

But today, technology is catching up with the public’s growing appetite for consuming video. And it’s doing so in a way that makes the value of video in email much more apparent and trackable. Now, all it takes is a few clicks to embed videos into email and analyze the results without a single line of code or concern about platform compatibility.

A few browser holdouts are keeping video from reaching its full email potential (we’re looking at you, Gmail), but every day more and more email environments are evolving to handle video. Apple’s native desktop and iOS email clients, for example, make embedded email videos possible in Outlook across every Mac device.

Why video is worth the effort

In short, people love it. Just putting “video” in your subject line can boost open rates by six percent or more. Not to mention increase click rates by 300% and reduce unsubscribes up to 26% too. 

Especially if you’re trying to capture the attention of highly coveted Gen Z and Millennial buyers. A 2020 survey found 88% of this group watch videos for entertainment, giving the brands that take advantage of this trend a unique opportunity to engage audiences across a variety of digital and social media channels like never before. 

The lesson here: If you want to increase engagement among your younger customers (or any follower, for that matter), add video. Besides expecting it, these active video consumers are much more likely to respond to interactive messages. So why not give them exactly what they want?

It’s not as pricey or complicated as you might think. Marketers spent less than $300 on average on video in 2020. Today, cost is no excuse. You can produce a high-quality video using just a smartphone and a good ring light. And that doesn’t include the dozens of free or low-cost video production tools you can use to edit emails like a pro. 

Video can amplify other advanced personalization tactics. Video is most successful when used strategically. Your embedded email videos can draw eyes to dynamic factors such as real-time content targeting by location, time of day, and more. Ensuring your customers never open an outdated offer or out-of-stock sale alert again.

2 emails that are winning with video

Add the human element: Room & Board features live video in many of its promotional emails. In the email example below, it brings a customer’s story to life with an on-demand interview that discusses their unique experiences and most helpful advice.

video and email
Image via MailCharts

Set the tone: Videos got many homebound tourists through a year without travel in 2020. And now, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is capitalizing on both the longing to get away in luxury and the need to feel safe by including video in its emails that takes viewers on an up-close,-personal tour of its newest ships.

video and email
Image via MailCharts

Ready for your closeup?

If you’re ready to add video into your email experience, check out our How to Embed Video in Email guide. You’ll learn the basics of DIY video embedding, different ways to use video, and how to effectively experiment with your emails to improve results.

This article is part of a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing through the amplification of Black and racially diverse authors. As a company, we are committed to identifying actions we can take in the fight against racism and injustice, and elevating BBIPOC voices is paramount to inspiring change. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.

This post is authored by Jada Harland, CEO + Talent Marketer.

From a consumer and recruiting perspective, diversity did not become important; it always has and will continue to be important to the structure of any long-term success of any business. 

According to HR Digest, a McKinsey study acknowledges that “Ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to have financial returns above national industry medians and gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to do the same.” Trillions of dollars and hundreds of millions of potential customers support a variety of industries with their cash.

But another currency that has become more and more valuable is engagement. Inclusivity in talent leads to new perspectives, accountability in better decision-making, and endless ideas for content. So, I pose the question, why shouldn’t the talent supporting the internal structure of a business reflect their customers?

Recruitment is a bittersweet necessity for all companies, big or small. The recruiting teams keep the wheels of stellar talent turning as businesses expand, roles change, and new opportunities emerge, giving the recruiter extraordinary power to shift the narrative of their respective company’s diversity agenda. Therefore, a good recruiter is to hire the best candidate for the role, regardless of what one’s name looks or sounds like on their resume, any assumptions of personal preferences, or skin color.

Hiring changemakers

My take on talent is a little different as my role as a Talent Marketer has incorporated, if not focused, on diversity quite a bit. This job title has gained traction in recent years as more workplaces realize recruitment is more than just cold calls and looking over hundreds of resumes. A lot of the time, we are assigned unicorns that we must attract, entertain, and persuade to join our clients’ organizations or our own companies.

Hence the marketing aspect of recruitment is strategic in achieving the goal of encouraging the increase in engagement from a diverse and capable talent pool. And to top it off, I primarily focused on hiring marketing talent.

I should also mention that my role in Talent Marketing was even more unique as I am also a Black woman in Corporate America, where there are only a few others who look like me in most companies. For example, as a Talent Marketer, supporting recruiting efforts often puts me on a team that has only 1 or 2 black recruiters out of 30+ recruiters.

Leaning on my experience hiring project managers, copywriters, consultants, contractors, and even executives, you hear and see a lot on the backend of the hiring recruitment process that makes me hopeful about workplace diversity for our future. Some rhetoric makes me proud of the progress made in Corporate America with a genuine demand for great talent that will change the outlook of the office, while other times I find myself cringing at displaced and disgraceful commentary surrounding the conversation around diversity or inclusivity.

It’s general knowledge that after President Truman’s Executive Order 9981 in 1948 diversity in the armed forces would bring about change, but the corporate initiative has been painfully slow until recent years since the 1960s.

Marketing teams lead the way

As a Talent Marketer, I have had the pleasure of focusing on marketing professionals who I consider to be the gateway for change. Marketing and Advertising teams are hired to manage half the business. Their half of the business is primarily focused on demand and ongoing engagement. The content produced by the marketing team guides the conversation around a brand and the interactions of the customer.

This past year, the Black Lives Matter Movement exposed uncomfortable issues in our private lives, but also in the workplace. Many companies scrambled to make the conscious decision to identify who their customers were and to address how they were being affected. This led to new campaigns being produced, companies rushing to hire more diverse talent so as to not be part of the problem, and even displaying their political views on social platforms.

These efforts were driven by marketing teams that suddenly had to face the struggles of their peers as well as consumers. In light of the BLM Movement, the lack of empathy from Corporate America became impossible to ignore and many companies acted swiftly, leading to the understanding that representation matters in and out of the office. That’s one reason why creating diverse marketing teams and marketing leadership is important. Witnessing the impacts of marketing on the social constructs of our world means the more people who look and think like us all, the more change we will see.

But while diverse marketing teams make big strides toward change, marketing teams that lack diversity can make big mistakes. We all saw the epic fail of H&M and their campaign around a new line of clothing with black kids wearing monkey shirts. This led to an uproar and H&M struggled to recover. The same goes for Dove under Unilever with their campaign with a black woman removing her brown shirt to be replaced by a white woman in a white shirt or skincare brand Nivea, and even Pepsi. All could have been avoided and saved millions of dollars on horrid content if they had a more diverse team to speak on these issues.

Diverse talent is abundant

In my role, I deal with talent 70% of the time. I have been on the agency and client side. Unfortunately, the conversation about diversity is complex when dealing with hiring clients for several reasons.

First and foremost, the lack of access leads to lack of diversity. As a recruiter and as a marketer that attracts talent, the data shows that the talent is out there, but there are changes that must be made. Job descriptions should be descriptive of the role but leave room for individual experience.

For example, if a role requires a candidate to have experience with “creative assignments” and they have all the required tools to get the job done, who is to say that their experience working on other material outside of “White America” would not be helpful to broaden the scope of projects for your company? We are aware that there are what’s considered “Black brands” vs “pop culture.”

This divide exists because most brands exclude people of color. If I have a talented graphic designer who has primarily worked with “black brands” and their work reflects the hair textures or ideologies of black culture, their work should be valued just as much as their white counterparts.

Unfortunately, talent like this often gets overlooked and categorized as “too urban” or “not a cultural fit.”  We recycle the same content instead of mirroring the reality of society. We all have a story, and we have the right to share it authentically. Placing value on one’s life experience over another is damaging.

But that’s not the only way that Corporate America is moving so slowly when it comes to creating more diverse teams. In the process of finding talent for a job posting, we do an intake call, starting off with one idea of “revolutionary talent,” but ultimately the search changes as the company goes back to seeking candidates that they’ve always had, white and male with the same perspectives.

Another point to make is that the wage gap still exists, and it is discouraging to speak to a talented marketer who is hired at a lower salary and takes a much longer time than their peers to reach a certain salary threshold. If we are moving forward to a more equitable future, companies must go back to the drawing board. The two previous problems prove that the search for more diverse candidates was an idea, not a plan of action for diversity or inclusivity.

Wrap up

As a black professional and as a recruiter, I have learned that doing your job well is not just based on your results, but equally on the vision of the client or hiring party. Internal conflicts around diversity and inclusion need to be addressed from the top down much like legislation.

We lead by example. Because the ideology behind talent marketing is to identify, create, and encourage top-tier talent to gravitate to the roles for the company, we have to set the tone. The resources we use in recruitment change depending on our search and in this case, we also need to change our perspective. The diversity we seek is not hidden. Choice is change. This responsibility leaves us all with a question, Corporate America, what are we working on, and are we really serious about it?


Visit this page to see more in the series, or check back in a week for our next guest post. 

CM Group is a family of global marketing technology brands including Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Emma, Liveclicker, Sailthru and Vuture. By joining together these leading brands, CM Group offers a variety of world-class solutions that can be used by marketers at any level. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, CM Group has United States offices in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and global offices in Australia, London, New Zealand and Uruguay. 

Until recently, marketers have been able to reliably look at past holiday performance as a strong starting point to build their email strategy for the next. But this year? Not so much.

Retailers and researchers alike have scrutinized consumer behavior closely since March, looking for trends and changes in shopping patterns. This report title from WARC, based on panel data and insight from media firm Meredith, sums up the general direction of most of the research so far: “Meredith predicts consumers will use e-commerce to drive an earlier, quieter 2020 holiday season.”

The 10 statistics below show a combination of two big trends: Consumer behavior shifted significantly in the first seven months of 2020, but marketers can still base their planning on a few fundamentals. 

1. 48% of holiday shoppers expect to spend less to “a lot less” than last year. Nonretail services like dining out will be affected most. (Coresight

2. One-third of holiday shoppers expect to do their shopping on Amazon Prime Day, which is expected to be in October. Another 28% said they will start their holiday shopping earlier than usual, 18% said they would shop on Black Friday (Coresight)

3. The proportion of consumers avoiding any kind of public places, especially malls and shopping centers, spiked to 85% in late July, reversing a gradual decline (Coresight). 

4. 73% of holiday shoppers will purchase primarily online this holiday (Netimperative/Rakuten).

5. More than 72% of consumers believe the 2020  holidays will be different from past years. (WARC/Meredith)

6. 50% of consumer families have someone concerned about a job. More than a third of them have already experienced some loss of income. (WARC/Meredith)

7. July, August and September have the highest rates of shopper interaction with customer reviews, photos, and questions and answers as they research gifts online. (NetImperative/BazaarVoice)

8. October is the month when shoppers are most likely to submit reviews and questions as they intensify their gift shopping. (NetImperative/BazaarVoice)

9. Retailers’ loyalty-program members generate 12% to 18% more revenue for retailers than non-member customers (Accenture Interactive).

10. 36.4% of consumers say they don’t consider themselves brand loyal until they’ve made five or more purchases from a brand, and 36.5% of shoppers said they will spend more on products if they’re loyal to a brand.  (Yotpo).   

What now? How to act on new insights

Most of the evidence points toward an unpredictable, difficult holiday season for email marketers, right at a time they’re under more pressure than ever to drive results and make up for lost time. Creative, innovative measures will be needed to stand out in a crowded inbox, keep revenue flowing, and stay essential to your team.

Download the 2020 Holiday Email Lookbook for ideas and inspiration to update your email strategy for a new kind of holiday season. You’ll get actionable tips and examples to help you pursue revenue growth, engagement, and efficiency when it’s needed most.