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 Angela Connor, Founder and CEO of Change Agent Communications.

Marketing, communications and advertising professionals know “the room” I’m referring to very well. From an agency perspective, it’s a room that not many people get the opportunity to spend time in. This is a special room, reserved for the cream of the crop—the persuasive, the impressive, the charismatic, the experts, the leaders. The winners. These are the people who can sell who they are and what they do so well that they are most often on the receiving end of a “Yes,” to their ideas, being deputized as the “Chosen ones,” while all others are forsaken. 

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about the pitch room: The room where it happens. What begins as an invitation to present in the room evolves into a project that sometimes feels like icing a 35-layer cake, no detail forgotten. Getting there is exhilarating and exhausting. Emotions run the gamut. Sometimes there’s yelling, always a spirited debate, an abundance of late nights and maybe even tears. Stress levels are high because there’s so much at stake when you’re part of the team charged with bringing home the bacon. There’s also some fun leading up to it when you’ve got the right team with the right chemistry, all who are in it to win it. 

It’s an honor and a privilege to be on the pitch team. I’ve been on it more than my fair share. I’ve been part of some amazing wins and a few gut-wrenching losses. I’ve traveled on red-eye flights, run full-speed through airports with my colleagues, sat in the back of minivans, crammed in a few sedans, and even rehearsed in hotel lobbies—honing my skills over the years as part of pitches big and small. In fact, I believe that’s one of the reasons I’m good at selling myself and my own agency today. It’s hard to lose a spot on pitch teams once you’re established as being good in the room. 

I suspect that, from the brand or company side, it is also a privilege to be in “the room where it happens.” Though it may be daunting to review agency responses, whittle them down to a list of finalists and then sit in on lengthy presentations—all usually within a very compressed time period—and then participate in a huge decision with a ton of money at stake in most instances, it’s an important and coveted position to hold. There, too, you will find the cream of the crop, the leaders, the introspective, the key stakeholders. The decisive, whose input is highly valued by the organization.  

Now let me tell you what is missing from this room where it all happens, on both sides: people of color, particularly African Americans. I was always the only one on my side, and of all the pitches I’ve experienced, I know I’ve never seen more than five to seven African Americans total, and I may be exaggerating by one or two. 

It was so rare that when I did see someone who looked like me, we usually had a moment. A handshake during introductions that lasted a few extra seconds than the others or a look that had meaning to both of us but that no one else noticed. And on a few occasions after we’d presented, I even got a motherly hug.  

For me, it was usually an African American woman, slightly older than me, who would give me what I coined “the sister wink.” I even opened up one day and told a few of my colleagues about this wink, explaining what happens when a Black woman on the brand side would see me, another Black woman, lock eyes and tell me without saying a word how proud and delighted she was to see me—and that her colleagues would see me as well. 

Sounds like a heartfelt warm and fuzzy tale, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. You know why? Because it’s not right, and the fact that it happens speaks to some of what is very wrong about the lack of diversity in both agencies and marketing teams in companies across the country, which also speaks to the opportunities afforded (or not) to those who could or should be in “the room where it happens.” 

For an industry charged with, and supposedly rooted in, connecting brands with their target audiences, the lack of representation of those audiences in the increasingly fragmented, ever-evolving media environment we live in today is stunning. No, shameful. 

Oddly enough, if and when there’s a call for a multicultural campaign, the people who match the demographics sometimes magically appear as an option for being in the room, or better yet, a partnership with another agency must be established to make it appear that the agency is diverse and represents the audiences the brand is trying to reach. I know you know what I’m talking about. 

It’s a little hypocritical in my opinion to do this, but what’s worse is not learning from having done it. If you come back after that partnership and fail to hold a mirror up to your own organization, ask tough questions, scrutinize hiring and promotion practices, and make diversity and racial equity a priority, you’re contributing to the problem.  

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not and should not be matters of convenience. You don’t parade a group of people out when the RFP (Request for Proposal) calls for it but never consider them outside of that. It must be part of your internal DNA to be sure that everyone can get a seat at the table. Then you must invest in them and prepare them for a coveted spot in “the room where it happens.” 

Angela Connor is the Founder and CEO of Change Agent Communications, a two-year-old boutique PR and Strategic Communications Firm in Raleigh, North Carolina, that helps organizations navigate change and communicate when the stakes are high and they have stories to tell.

She’s a veteran journalist and speaker, author of “18 Rules of Community Engagement,” and very recently launched a new consulting practice within her firm called “Now Look Inward,” and an accompanying podcast, which she calls a challenge to Corporate America to sweep around its own front door, get its house in order and make Black voices matter throughout the organization.

Committed to serving the business and creative communities in her region, Angela opened Triangle Podcast Studio in April, and launched the inaugural Women Inspiring Women Conference in 2019.

Angela also pens a weekly newsletter called Women Inspiring Women Weekly.

Visit this page to see more in the series, or check back 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 we are committed to amplifying the voices of Black and racially diverse authors. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.

This post is authored by Kevin Tyler, Insights Director at Ologie.


So, a little background: I was born in Columbus, Ohio, to an extremely light-skinned mother and a much darker father. My mother was so light in fact that, as the story goes, at a very young age I announced proudly to her, after a nap:

“Mom, I’m glad that you and I are white and Dawn [my sister] and Dad are black.” 

True story.

My mother, who swiftly corrected me as soon as the ‘k’ of ‘black’ crossed my tiny teeth, loves telling that story—even to this very day. It was the first time, as my mother tells it, that she was aware that I was aware of race. She says that, as proud as she was of my observation skills at such a young age, it was also the moment that the world, for me, would never be the same. It was the loss of a certain kind of innocence.

As I continued to grow, other things changed too, of course:

My parents got divorced.

My father married a white woman.

My mother married a black man.

I discovered I was gay.

It’s also important to note here that when I was growing up and finding out I was gay and being raised in predominately white neighborhoods, it meant that I never felt like I fit in. I was too White for the Black kids and too Black for the White kids and too gay for everybody. So, I was just different in a way I couldn’t explain at a young age.

And while this might feel like too much information right up front (I mean, we just met and you already know most of my life story), it’s important to set this groundwork for the conversation we are about to have about some commercials I like to think about in my work.

The short version though is this: the life I’ve lived is the lens through which I see the world.

More importantly though, as it relates to marketing: the life I’ve lived is also the lens through which I see marketing.


In the past eight years, there have been three ads that, for one reason or another have stuck with me. Ads that spoke to those parts of me—the ones described above—that I’d never seen from a brand before. They were ads that made bold proclamations: That everyone sleeps. Everyone eats. And (almost) everyone drives. And that their ads, and by extension, their brands, should reflect that. Those three ads are:

Sealy Mattress – 2012

Eight years ago I was in my early-30s and had yet to see a commercial as bold as this one from Sealy. This ad, called “What you do in bed” didn’t just feature a gay couple, it featured an interracial gay couple. And the brand didn’t stop there. They continued with what I still think is one of the first and boldest moves a known brand has ever made: making the viewer imagine a gay couple doing the things couples do on a mattress. It was an important ad for me, as a gay dude in an interracial relationship, to see my life—my story—reflected in a national television ad.

Cheerios – 2013

Just a year later came this ad from Cheerios that ended up making national headlines for all of the worst reasons. By way of the dreaded “comment section” the brand was taught that not everyone in the country was used to or approving of, an interracial relationship. The ad (and the response it got) made both the morning and evening news show circuits. But Cheerios stood strong and ignored the criticism. A brand making a move like this meant that it was a brand that recognized relationships and families like mine. And to this day, when I see an ad that features a multiracial family, I think about this Cheerios ad.

Subaru – 2019

The last ad that I carry with me is one from Subaru. It’s an ad that’s not entirely surprising, since the Subaru brand has trained us what to expect: shots of camping, bonfires, forests, and other features of Mother Earth. What made this ad special? The featured couple was Black. For me, it took until 2019 for there to be a black couple to be camping in an ad on my television. It was a moment that actually made me sit up on the couch and stare at the screen. It was important. Not because I love camping, but because it was a new version of a commercial that’s been played to death, and that made it exciting. It was a different version of black people than what we normally see depicted. And that’s what made it so important.  

Those ads had an impact on me because the stories they told were, in one way or another, connected to the life I was living or had lived. They were ads where I could see myself—I felt counted and like I mattered. They were ads where I was included.


I work in marketing. I’ve done it in some form or another for about 17 years. I’ve worked in electoral politics, health care, insurance, and now higher education. I’ve worked on all sorts of communication projects for clients of all sizes and kinds.

I’ve been in my fair share of meetings about making commercials or writing marketing emails.

And what I’ve realized about those three ads listed above is that while they are incredibly important to me personally, they are even more important to me professionally. I like to think that the impact those three ads had on me was because of one, brave soul, in one seemingly trivial meeting about yet another commercial.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that in order for me to have had the experience I did with those ads, a series of brave acts had to occur, one right after another. But that sequence of important decisions may have started with one, thoughtful person.

As marketers, we have great power. We have the power to reinforce messages, or introduce new complementary ones. When I think about how seeing those ads felt for me, even as recently as last year (for that Subaru one), I think about how the decisions I make each day in my job could be impacting someone I will never know.

It’s the butterfly effect.

At a time when the country is having important decisions about race, racism, and inequalities of all kinds, the role of marketing and the people who do it is elevated. We have the opportunity to ask new questions, make new decisions, and possibly change people’s perspectives—every single day.

Listen, I get it. Marketing is or can be gross at times. It can seem like a decision is made simply to make a buck. And while I won’t fight you hard on that (at all), I am a firm believer that while you make that dollar, you can also make some change. The more often marketers and advertisers make bold decisions to actually reflect the diversity and beauty of this country, ads like the ones I’ve mentioned will be once-a-day rather than feel like once-in-a-lifetime.

So what I’m saying is this: Be that brave soul in that seemingly trivial meeting about yet another commercial, and change the world.

Kevin Tyler is based in Columbus, Ohio, and is the Insights Director for Ologie, a marketing and branding agency specializing in higher education, arts and culture organizations and non-profit projects. More of his writing can be found here.

In his spare time, he runs a food blog on Instagram (@TheFullBellyBlogger), reads voraciously and lives with his partner Greg and dog Nigel. He also recently launched #StopKillingUs, a social media campaign aimed at reframing the narratives of the black community.

Visit this page to see more in the series, or check back 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 the first in a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing, as we are committed to amplifying the voices of Black and racially diverse authors. Follow along and check back for other posts in this series.

This post is authored by Amma Marfo, a writer, speaker, and digital marketer based in Boston, MA.

As the United States continues to painfully and publicly reckon with its racist origins, you’ll likely see a number of Martin Luther King, Jr. or James Baldwin quotes circling. But my writings today are best summarized by a quote from Marian Wright Edelman: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Viola Davis invoked its sentiments in 2015, when she—only five years ago—became the first Black woman to win an Emmy Award for Leading Actress in a Drama. As she accepted the award, she said, “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” 

The piece below is an individual reflection I shared with my personal email list, but its reflection questions and calls for visible representation are important for any sort of communication. What does it look like to be seen, and understood, and included in your organization? Can those to whom you write see themselves as part of your world? And how are you working to make it so—not just in optics, but in organizational composition, governance, and impact? 

This may seem like a lot of weight to place on a looping image. And in some ways, it is. So diffuse that weight. Don’t leave it to images to show your commitment to equity and justice. Show it in your hiring. Show it in your promotions and leadership structure. Show it in your work every single day. Let the images you use in your communications be but the entry point of your dedication to equitable, just work.

Source: Giphy

A recent history of GIF’s evolution

Yes, the pronunciation debate rages on. I’m not here to correct you on it, I promise.

I remember, in my sophomore year computer science class, learning how to make animated GIFs. The technology (in 2005) was less sophisticated, it was used FAR less, and I was only partially paying attention because it was a Wednesday night class and I had vowed loudly to drop it the first time the professor ran long enough that I missed Lost. (He never did, so I didn’t have to.)

But in recent years, I’ve learned to have fun with GIFs, playing with them as a form of expression, a supplement to stories or jokes I’ve wanted to tell, and to share emotions that I—even as a writer—couldn’t always pin down with words.

At some point, the effort felt incomplete. And that realization came in tandem with several other realizations that I shared in my piece for Femsplain, “The Wake Up Call.” The realization, as with many others during that time in my life, was one of representation. When I shared a GIF, it was indicative of what I was feeling, or wanted to say…but it was hard to find people that shared that emotion or sentiment that looked like me. Actually, I’ll own that the previous statement is incomplete. It was hard to do, and I had never considered the implications of why.

From “The Wake Up Call”:

My reset is vocal and it is visible. It shows when I seek to elevate the voices of colleagues and leaders in my field of higher education who others might not see. It shows when I help lift black students to their highest potential because I know few others are looking out for them. It shows in small ways, like accenting pithy tweets with GIFs featuring Black faces (which are too hard to find, by the way — who’s working on that?); and it shows in big ways, like forgoing my former “TV Christmas” — the Academy Awards — because I couldn’t see myself in it anymore.

I’m so thankful that conversations are expanding to recognize that being able to see yourself in a piece of art—a book, a film, a TV show—is a right that is extended to far too few people. And the result? When I wanted to express an emotion through a GIF, I was using imagery that featured white males, sometimes white females.

When anyone who deviates from these highly available norms can see themselves in a narrative, in the world, it matters. It matters when Luke Cage allows millions of comic book enthusiasts to see themselves as something other than a sidekick, as the New York Times would apparently rather relegate them. It matters when most actors in high profile roles with disabilities are played by those without—save an exception on this season’s Speechless. It matters when celebrated creators like Tim Burton shirk their ability to create these worlds, leading to responses like this beautiful and heartbreaking thread from one “blerd.” And it matters because, in the absence of proper representation, hurtful and offensive stereotypes can persist unchecked.

My decision to change the way I “GIF” (that’s a verb there) was part of a larger reset, but it’s something I pay far more attention to than most people might think. And luckily, I have an answer to the “who’s working on that?” in Jasmyn Lawson (formerly of GIPHY and now with Netflix), who is very open about the work she’s had to do at GIPHY to make diverse GIFs available for those who shared my concerns. Her efforts, paired with ones like Jesse Williams’ Ebroji and Kevin Hart’s Kevmoji has literally placed a new face on digital expression, and it’s one I’d love to see more of. But in addition to showing others that there are options, there’s another deeply personal reason that the seeds of change in GIFing matters to me.

My friend Matthew opens most of his standup bits by disarming the audience about how they perceive him when he hits the stage. With descriptors like “‘80s movies have taught you not to trust people with my hair and bone structure” and “incorrectly assumed to be a lacrosse player,” he calls out the idea that people who look like him are usually labeled the villain. To be quite clear, he’s not; Matthew is lovely and brilliant and hit the genetic/good human lottery in an embarrassing number of ways. But he looks it. So he closes that portion of his set by saying “I want you to know that I know.”

And to me, choosing to pick GIFs that look like me does that. A big part of the wake-up call that I wrote about earlier this year was about challenging my understanding that I push what many expect of “people who look like me.” In ways small and large, I defy expectations—which is heartbreaking if I think about it for too long. But these small but consistent reminders that I’m as much an Issa Dee as I am a Liz Lemon, as much an Oprah as I am an Ellen, and a Retta more than anything else, remind those around me that I’m not trying to “transcend” or “defy” anything. This is who I am, this is how I see myself, and this is how I want you to see me.

So the challenge that I issue to you this week isn’t as active as usual, but nevertheless: Look around you. Look at the images you see. Who’s elevated? Who’s relegated to second- or third-class status? How do you know? And what can you do to even the playing field, from the picking of a GIF to the elevating of a voice?

Amma Marfo is a writer, speaker, and digital marketer based in Boston, MA. The tagline under which she unites her work: “using stories to create community.” She is also the author of three books: The I’s Have It: Reflections on Introversion in Student Affairs (2014), Light It Up: Engaging the Introverted Student Leader (2015), and Cultivating Creativity (2017)

Amma is a dynamic and sought-after speaker on topics such as leadership, group dynamics, creativity, and values-based organizational change. She speaks on college and university campuses across the country, at regional and national conferences, and has partnered with organizations like HubSpot, Wayfair, Pfizer, and TEDx.

Learn more about Amma on her website.

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

Liveclicker is part of CM Group, a family of marketing technology brands focused on changing the world of business. Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Emma, Liveclicker, Sailthru, and Vuture compose CM Group, and each brand is supporting the battle against racism by elevating the voices of Black and indigenous people of color.

“Workflow efficiency” is one of marketing’s hottest topics these days, as growing pressure mounts on the marketing department to deliver more results without a corresponding increase in resources. Email marketing is one of the ripest areas for process optimization, with ample opportunity to improve productivity and results without relying on new headcount or getting stuck at organizational bottlenecks.

Litmus survey in 2019 produced some surprising statistics about the email marketing workflows that teams use to get email campaigns out the door:

With the right tools and strategy, email teams can drastically reduce the amount of time and effort needed to get their campaigns out the door.

Real-time content helps you conquer FOSB

That would be “Fear of the Send Button.” You know, that queasy feeling you get when you’re about to hit “Send” on a campaign—especially a complex one involving many interchangeable parts—and thinking about all the things that could go wrong.

Dynamic content, especially content that updates on its own automatically based on “moment of open,” allows you to send the most up-to-date and accurate emails. 

Your customers are happier with relevant personalized emails, and your team spends less time getting campaigns out the door and more time on planning, analyzing and innovating.

5 workflow problems and how dynamic content can solve them

Automated messaging can take some of the time and headaches out of campaign creation and deployment. But dynamic content helps close the loop to create an even better customer experience with email, as you can see below:

1. Update triggered campaign content

Sometimes days or even weeks pass before a subscriber will open your message. In the meantime; inventory can sell out, offers can expire, or other conditions might change. 

You could send a follow-up email (that you have to create, code, test and get approved) with updated information. 

Or, you can simply use a dynamic content element to swap in the updated message – even after it’s already been sent! That’s a huge reduction in time and resources needed to keep your customers up-to-date.

2. Create dozens or hundreds of localized versions of a single message template

An event like a store opening or closing is most meaningful to the people who live in the store’s market area. So instead of creating a fresh message for every event, use a single message template and incorporate a real-time element like location.  

The images below show how clothing retailer Torrid uses adaptive images to create excitement leading up to and on the day before a store opening. Check out the before and after below. Added bonuses: a live map, an add-to-calendar function that sends a personalized reminder and an invitation to RSVP on Facebook give customers more possibilities to participate.

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3. Keep message templates fresh without constant updating  

Updating your message templates fresh takes time and energy. Maybe that’s why only 39% of marketers review their automated templates every few months instead of waiting a year or longer, according to Litmus. But templates age out quickly these days; it doesn’t take long to look or sound out-of-date.

Live content feeds can pull fresh content from your website, social media accounts and other content sources into designated modules in your message templates. You could adjust them to always show your current featured products, your brand’s latest Instagram posts, or the hottest trending articles on your site right now. That means you can spend less time going back and managing/updating your triggered campaigns and templates!

4. Update inventory content in real time

People who don’t open your email right away might be disappointed if they click to the website, only to find the item is sold out or the price changed. 

Nobody can afford unhappy customers these days. So, use dynamic content linked to your inventory to replace the original message with a note about the current status and a replacement offer.

Hot Topic implemented this tactic in their email strategy and saw customer complaints drop virtually to zero. Learn more about how they did it here.

5. Adjusting message content according to customer status or segments

Loyalty programs are fertile ground for this. Your VIPs need to feel wanted and special. You can make that happen by showing members in each tier of your program where they’re at, what benefits they can claim now and what’s possible at higher levels.

You can guess where we’re going with this. You could create multiple versions of a loyalty email, or you could use a single template that automatically inserts the appropriate content to subscribers according to their tier levels. 

That’s what Torrid did when it was updating its popular Torrid Rewards program. 

Using multiple automatically personalized elements on like dynamic images and adaptive individualization based on account status, Torrid sends each VIP member a monthly statement summarizing their activity, reminding them to spend their Rewards cash and letting them know when their tier credits expire. Urgency + transparency = winners all around.

Wrapping up

Dynamic messaging based on real-time content gives your subscribers the relevant personalized messaging that drives action while helping you redefine and streamline your messaging workflow. 

You can produce more beautiful, more relevant content in less time and with less reliance on IT and developer resources. If you’re looking for a real win-win, check out our RealTime Personalization solution!

Video is everywhere these days, and not just on your phone or TV. (Nothing like watching the news while you pump gas!)

One place video isn’t as prominent as it could or should be is in email. In some ways, the inbox represents the final digital frontier of widespread video ubiquity. But evolving technology and delivery tactics can help more email marketers harness the engaging, eye-catching power of video, too.

Why video is so compelling

Even marketers who are devoted to the written word can’t deny that video grabs attention and can drive engagement (opens and clicks) and conversions:

What’s keeping video out of email?

Tech and user issues are the main obstacles preventing video content from taking over the inbox.  

Some email clients that don’t support embedded video will display a big black rectangle instead. Even the next best alternative – showing an animated GIF or a static image with a clickable “play” button instead of the video – may eject the reader out of the email to watch the clip on the website. That means lower view rates and less time spent in the email.

Video can make the message file so large that the email client will clip it, forcing the reader to click to see the whole message. Some ISPs block messages if their file sizes exceed their limits, and mobile users may also have trouble with large files on their network (not to mention complaints about data usage).

Today’s dynamic email content platforms are capable of resolving or mitigating these tech and rendering issues by detecting and displaying the method – embedded videos, animated GIF or static image – the user’s client will support. For instance; only 3% of Liveclicker embedded video recipients see just a static image, while 40% can view the embedded video.

Experiment-worthy: live streaming and sharable social video

Online video continues to evolve, generating a flurry of developments and use cases. Not all are suitable or practical for email right now, but two show definite promise without requiring massive infusions of budget or an entire creative staff. In some cases, all you need is your phone and some fans!

1. Live video streaming

Need some numbers to show how livestreaming has gone mainstream? Here you go:

All this means is that many of your email readers know about and are open to viewing livestreamed content in your email. You won’t have to explain what it is or why it’s worth their time to watch your live event. Big, recognizable brands like Facebook, Instagram and the Super Bowl have done it for you already.

Use it in email to showcase an event: Livestream a product launch, unboxing or contest reveal. Create a library of tutorials or demos. Stream a press conference, as LG did at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show. Any event with FOMO potential can become an engagement magnet.

Harley-Davidson used video to launch its 2019 fall FXRG Collection clothing line:

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2. TikTok social video

Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are so-o-o-o 2018! Well, no, they’re still relevant. But now you can add TikTok to the lineup of social media channels whose content could cross-pollinate to email.

With 500 million users worldwide, (188 million TikTok app downloads in 2019 alone), chances are good some of them are in your email database if you appeal to a Generation Z demographic

This is prime UGC marketing material. Use it in email to expand your reach, reward your fans and put your customers’ faces and voices (and bizarre antics) in your emails. 

TikTok is the newest short-form social video platform, and one that’s stealing Gen Z users away from other video channels. Marketers are beginning to investigate for its potential to sell to that key audience, but, as with so many other social channels, most are still trying to figure out how to use the platform.

Mainstream brands like Macy’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill and even the Washington Post are on TikTok. But some of the most interesting uses of TikTok come from non-marquee brands, like NYX, which embeds a fan’s TikTok video in a business-as-usual email:

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Before you dive into video … 

Have a sound business reason to use it and the technology to provide a good experience for your readers. Video for video’s sake does you no favors. How does it fit into your broader strategy, and can it help you achieve your email or business goals?

Be sure you have the technology that can give your readers a good experience. Usability studies say you have only a short window – from less than 60 seconds to 90 seconds at most – before viewers will abandon a spotty stream.

A dynamic email platform content platform capable of seamlessly embedding video into emails will help you get over those rough spots and give your readers yet another avenue to love your emails.

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

Where to begin? With this curated list of 10 email marketing statistics. 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!

We love a good surprise. An email promising a mystery discount gets us every time. And aren’t you always dying to know What’s Behind Door Number 3?

But the email medium has traditionally suffered from technical limitations that make it hard to have a good surprise. Marketers are often left no choice but to make subscribers click through to a landing page to reveal a cool deal or amazing bonus – a disruptive experience that increases drop-outs and conversion attrition.

Thanks to two clever combinations of innovative email content with a ‘big reveal’ functionality, marketers can add some mystery, pizzazz and interactivity right in their emails. Your customers will get a better email experience, and you’ll get better results; it’s a win-win!

What’s in it for you? How about these bonuses:

The big reveal

Teasing a mystery is a time-honored marketing tactic. Innovative marketers have been using ‘reveal’ functions in their emails for some time, often with great success.

The idea is simple enough; you simply hide the content you want to reveal (a big surprise, a special discount, a secret message – you get the idea) behind a concealing image. When subscribers click, tap, or even “scratch” the image, the mystery is revealed. It’s fun, interactive, and can drive remarkable results for your marketing.

For instance; LEGOLAND Increased click-to-open rates by 600% for a Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaign using scratch-to-reveal promotions. See the creative email and the results yourself in this case study.

Adding mystery to make magic

This ‘click/tap/scratch to reveal” functionality is powerful on its own. But you can make it even more effective by combining it with other dynamic, interactive email functions to really impress your audience and increase engagement. Consider these ideas:

Combo #1: Reveal + Content Hover

Consider combining the engaging experience of a reveal element with the interactivity of a hover pop-up!

Using the two together means you can set up an experience in which your customers can either tap (on mobile) or hover their cursors over your CTA to reveal your secret message.

It could be a special promo code, unique discount, new location – get creative! Then on another tap or click, the revealed content is once again hidden so the user can focus on other content or repeat the reveal experience.

Combo #2: Reveal + Personalized Coupon

With this combination, you can create an attention-grabbing offer: the mystery and interactivity of the reveal with the appeal of a unique personalized offer created through your personalization platform, such as a personalized birthday or win-back offer.

Let’s say you want to go the birthday route. Every other marketer in your customer’s inbox is sending a birthday greeting in an attractive but static email. Yet another generic 20% discount or free-shipping offer? Yawn. 

Now, your email shows up with your greeting or offer embedded in a big birthday cake, with copy that says something like “Scratch/Click to reveal your personal birthday message.” Who could resist?

But do they work?

Yes! This is what pop-fashion retailer Hot Topic told us:

“Since we started implementing the code behind the reveal, our average click-through rate has increased by 17%. It has even beaten out click-through rates from a similar campaign that was sent during last holiday! 

“Added bonus: having the live elements automatically populate the coupon code and personalized imagery has significantly decreased the workload on our CRM team, who used to spend days setting these campaigns up manually.”

Your comments, our inspiration

We were inspired to create these combinations in response to client requests for ways to boost the interest and interactivity within email. You wanted new ways to grow email engagement and avoid the losses that can result when you have to push customers to your website to deliver your offers right within our platform, so we made it happen. 

We hope you’ll test these reveal combinations in your own emails, and let us know how they work for you! 

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.

A screenshot of a cell phone screen with text

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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

The holiday season is a critical make-or-break point for brands in a variety of industries; especially retail, CPG, ecommerce and similar verticals. In most retail sectors, the holiday season drives over 20% of annual spending. It’s a huge opportunity to build your brand, develop customer relationships, and drive revenue. 

Email’s role in holiday marketing and communications can not be overstated. That’s why we’re creating the ultimate resource for holiday retail email marketing: a guide and reference to inspire and craft your holiday email campaign from beginning to end.

Get it now: 9 Solutions (With Real-Life Examples!) to Retailers’ Biggest Holiday Email Headaches

One of the best ways to inform a strategy for the future is to take lessons from the recent past. Last year’s holiday season provides marketers a bounty of valuable results and lessons to bring your customers—and your brand—happy holidays this year.

The Big Picture

It’s no secret the holiday season is a huge opportunity to make an impact on your bottom line. But just how important is it really? 

Here’s some context from last year.

In 2018, holiday retail sales finally crossed the $1 trillion mark. Yes, trillion with a T: one million millions. That’s a mind-boggling amount of potential revenue, and competition has never been higher to get a slice of the pie.

To bring that figure down to scale, the average American shopper spent $846 on gifts in 2018a substantial 14% increase YoY,

There are several factors driving this growth. One of the largest (and perhaps most significant for email marketers) is ecommerce: US retail ecommerce spending hit $123.73 billion last holiday season (up 16.6% YoY).

In total, about 65% of holiday purchases are influenced by sales and promotions. As one of the most direct, personal, and flexible channels in the marketing toolkit, email a critical way to deliver the right sales and promotional content at just the right time before, during, and after the holidays.

Holiday Email Trends and Strategy

Unsurprisingly, email is consistently a top performer for holiday marketing.

Email was the third-highest 2018 Cyber Monday revenue driver, contributing 24.2% of sales. It was just behind direct website traffic (25.3%) and paid search (25.1%). Email led the pack in conversion rate by referral source in 2017 and 2018 for BFCM (over direct visits, organic search, and social).

Subject line optimization remains a key part of any email strategy. The top 5 subject line terms for holiday emails with the highest open and click rates are:

The window for holiday shopping is opening earlier and earlier in the year, presenting a unique opportunity to email marketers who are able to get their strategy in place on time.

40% of consumers started their holiday shopping by November 1 last year. 12% started before September. Compared to later in the season, competition to reach these audiences through the inbox is relatively low. It’s the perfect time to get a head start on your holiday numbers and to begin earning your subscribers’ attention and loyalty.

BFCM Email Statistics

The Black Friday/Cyber Monday period is a crucial point for most retailers, and email is capable of tipping the scales during the peak of holiday shopping. Retailers sent over 3.5 billion emails on Black Friday, and another 4.1 billion on Cyber Monday in 2018 

Over 50% of shoppers during the Thanksgiving period believe the best deals of the holiday season are on Black Friday, so make sure your email campaigns are ready to deliver your customers what they expect.

In 2018, Cyber Monday generated $7.9 billion in online sales—the biggest online sales day in US ecommerce history. 

54% of shoppers went both online and in-store over Thanksgiving weekend. These tend to be the most valuable customers of all; email programs that serve customers online and in-person work best.

On the Move: Holiday Mobile Marketing

It’s impossible to consider a strong email or ecommerce strategy without factoring in mobile behavior and experiences.

Mobile’s share of total digital commerce reached 40% on Thanksgiving 2018, which was the ‘most-mobile’ of the three big BFCM days. An impressive 28% of Cyber Monday sales were also via smartphones.

2 in 3 shoppers over Thanksgiving weekend turned to their mobile devices to research products and make purchases. When they open their phones this year to do the same, you would do well to have a helpful email awaiting them.

Last year mobile shopping also came with a huge missed opportunity. Studies show that shopping cart abandonment on smartphones is as high as 85%. Meanwhile, only 1 in 3 major US retailers sends emails to shopping cart abandoners. Consider setting up some special email workflows for your cart abandoners this holiday season.

Make Your 2019 Holiday Email Campaigns the Best Yet

Innovative brands have the potential to make 2019 a banner year for driving email ROI and connecting with holiday shoppers. Find out how top email marketers are already hacking the holidays in our exclusive lookbook complete with real examples that delivered impressive results. Download it now!