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.

Despite all the changes and customer behavior shifts that have occurred over the last 18 months, email remains the most effective tool for your marketing team.

That’s because 80% of retail professionals still rely on the channel as their number one driver of customer retention. And anyone that makes a purchase via email spends 138% more than the average transaction.

As you begin to pull together your customer acquisition and retention strategies for Q3 and the holiday season, let’s explore why email is still king. And—more importantly—how it can help your marketing strategy dominate the competition, deliver continuous value, and enhance your online customer experience.

Email boosted customer acquisition and retention in 2020

As a customer acquisition channel, email’s biggest advantage is that it gives someone the chance to signal their interest or intent to buy from your very first brand interaction. By opting into your email list, for example, you begin a two-way conversation with each recipient, giving you the chance to start learning about each buyer and collecting first-party data insights before they browse your site or put the first product in their digital shopping cart.

Before the pandemic accelerated the pace of digital transformation to an unprecedented rate, 66% of businesses used email to find new customers. Now, 10% more have discovered how email helps them reach new audiences, a MeritB2B study discovered.

But finding new customers is far from email’s only benefit. Because, in terms of customer retention and engagement, email is also doing a lot of the heavy lifting to keep existing customers excited and coming back for more. Beyond the 28% of businesses that saw CTR increase as a direct result of email, AOV grew 56% and customer engagement grew 76% for companies that inserted personalization into these messages.

3 reasons why email continues to dominate

While we could list dozens of reasons and write thousands of words on this subject, let’s focus on three disruptive benefits email can deliver to help your brand stand out:

1. Email marketing lets you optimize messaging for specific buyer personas.

There’s no doubt about it anymore—email personalization must be baked into the customer experience. Customers expect it, look for it, and will click away from your emails the second they receive a one-size-fits-all promotion. 

Don’t believe us? After combining research with Sailthru to create our Values-Based Personalization is the Future of Retail Marketing guide, we found that nearly two-thirds of consumers (62%) say it’s important that brands personalize their retail experiences, either online or in the store.

If your brand has invested heavily in initiatives to enhance your CX and grow your audience, there’s no doubt that your business stands to gain a lot from email’s almost limitless capacity to personalize messages, images, and even offers to someone’s specific interactions and browsing/buying history.

With a minimal investment, you can set up email marketing strategies that automatically anticipate and serve each customer’s needs with unique, personalized messages that show you understand them as individuals. Making them much more likely to engage with your content, act on your CTAs, and help you uncover $20 or more in ROI for every dollar you invest into email personalization.

2. Email is highly customizable and measurable.

Besides creating individual messages for each customer in your audience, you can also use email to build unique journeys or customer programs that help you achieve your business goals. Just a few examples:

Beyond this high degree of flexibility, almost every activity related to email generates data signals you can use to learn more about your customers, create new email journeys, and make messages even more relevant. Your brand can constantly learn and improve its interactions simply by tracking customer clicks before using these insights to inform future testing and optimization strategies.

3. Emails is both a stand-alone and omnichannel digital marketing strategy.

Email binds your online and offline channels together to create a transparent, comprehensive marketing ecosystem. For you, that means email can support and draw strength from other channels to become more effective. Or, it can support your website, mobile, and cross-channel strategies to deliver a greater overall impact instead.

In playground parlance, that means email plays well with others. It can expand your social media reach, for example, to attract subscribers from a wider range of audiences that don’t regularly engage with these platforms.

Search and email are natural partners, too. Your high-ranking keywords can create more subscriber-relevant email content. At the same time, your search campaign landing pages can attract new subscribers. Everybody wins.

Stick with email to build customer loyalty and engagement for 2022

Marketing pundits are always eager to write off email marketing as outmoded or old-fashioned. But, as current stats show, the channel rises to almost any customer acquisition or retention challenge you can encounter. Going forward, don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

According to its latest blog post, Google is officially delaying its phase out of third-party cookies in Chrome from this year until 2023. For many marketers scrambling to find first-party data solutions, this announcement comes as a much-needed relief.

Because the loss of third-party cookies and tracking mechanisms will likely lead to massive challenges down the road where digital advertising and consumer targeting efforts are concerned. Especially if there’s not a widely adopted alternative in place by the time third-party data tracking finally comes to an end.

So, how does this unexpected delay impact you and your work?

Google and the Future of Data Privacy in Digital Marketing

While Google has been hard at work building its Privacy Sandbox, many marketers are skeptical of whether or not this toolset will be enough to make up for the loss of third-party cookies and insights. Even Vinay Goel, Chrome’s Privacy Engineering Director, admits that there’s much work to be done before the organization (and you) are ready to sunset third-party data tracking capabilities forever.

“While there’s considerable progress with [the Privacy Sandbox], it’s become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right,” said Goel.

However, the organization isn’t simply looking for a quick fix or to replace third-party cookies with an equally invasive form of individual tracking approaches like browser fingerprinting, The Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0, or Lotame’s Panorama ID that have been growing more and more popular in media since Google’s original announcement.

Despite this delay, Google continues to develop its next generation of data privacy-friendly marketing tools. If all goes well, expect a new suite of first-party data-driven technologies to be deployed by the end of next year — giving you and marketing experts everywhere nine months to test these tools and migrate services before Google’s three-month phaseout of third-party cookies begins in late 2023.

3 Steps You Should Take Today

If it isn’t already obvious, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and start preparing now for life after third-party cookies. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done for many marketers who don’t know where to start. So, here are three easy recommendations you can use to ready your future personalization strategies:

Focus on where you already collect first-party data

It’s never been more important to collect insights directly from your customers. But that doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel — rather than building out new initiatives and campaigns, focus your attention on improving existing efforts like event signups, landing pages, newsletters, and digital subscription forms. That way, you’re able to capture new data points with minimal time and resource investment required!

Always keep consent in mind

This shouldn’t be a new concept after GDPR. But it’s nonetheless an important consideration that is only growing more vital to the ultimate success or failure of your personalized marketing strategy.

Be sure to check the first-party data you already have in order to gain a clear insight into what data you’ve got, and then update your privacy policy to shed light on how you are using this data moving forward to keep your company and customers protected.

Transition to People-Based Targeting

When you combine first-party data with real-time personalization, you’re able to target a desired audience across any channel they engage with. Because people-based marketing doesn’t rely on third-party cookies and tracking mechanisms, it’s an ideal solution for interacting with customers on their own terms.

If you’re interested in building your own people-based marketing strategy, consider these three key elements:

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.

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. 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 Hava Billen, Classroom Educator for Selligent Marketing Cloud. 

The first step in a marketing campaign lifecycle is to identify the target group and adapt the offer to match the audience characteristics.

Target group identification has evolved. Lately, technology has enabled marketers to collect tremendous amount of customer data. Thanks to marketing automation platforms, customer behavior tracking and analytics tools, and customer data platforms, marketers have access to a 360-degree view of the customer.

Collectively, big data, combined with new methodologies for data processing and analysis, has enabled marketers to deploy new models for audience segmentation with predictive capabilities based on artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.

This AI goes as far as predicting future consumer purchase behaviors, thanks to browser cookies, mobile geo-location positioning, online browsing history, social media sharing, brand likes, and online shopping experiences.

Hyper-personalization is expected by all consumers

The hyper-personalization concept, in essence, provides an opportunity for marketers to deliver real-time, anywhere-anytime content and customer experience at an individual level.

Marketers today know way more about customer identities, lifestyles, behaviors, habits, and preferences than customers know about themselves.

Yet research by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found that 54% of consumers surveyed do not feel culturally represented in online advertising. And 71% of consumers expect brands to promote diversity and inclusion in their online advertising.  

The analysis shows that there are still big issues around representation of what are called “minority” groups:

These numbers clearly tell us that there is an enormous opportunity for marketers to tap into. In an automated world, get human – and let your target groups identify themselves with your brand efforts.

Today more than ever, the case is compelling! It is evident that online campaigns that have more diverse representation have a higher recall rate: 90% of ads that featured a diversity strategy experienced higher recall rate.

How can Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion act as a brand differentiator?

Firstly, what is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)?

Diversity ensures that a marketer invites everyone to the party. In other words, the message and offer are designed for a diverse target group.

Equity in marketing terms can be interpretated as being fair to your audience. This fairness can be manifested via delivering your offer on diverse channels so that everyone has the same chance at that offer. This part of the DEI concept is relative innate for marketers; however, there are still some gaps to be addressed (e.g., an elderly person who is not on Instagram or TikTok may never have the opportunity to learn more about the trendy Gen Z-focused offers on healthy food, yoga retreats, or online shopping experiences.)

Inclusion enables that everyone has the same chance for consuming an offer. A visually impaired person can read the offer; a person with hearing loss can understand what you communicate in your videos; a gay couple can relate to your “romantic couple weekend away” banner; a person who practices a different religion does not feel insulted by your assumption that Easter is a celebration for everyone.

Why should we be talking about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)?

Let’s continue with some fact checking. In the summer of 2019, The Female Quotient partnered with Google and Ipsos and surveyed more than 3,000 consumers in the US from various backgrounds to get insights about brand perception, based on their advertising and marketing diversity and inclusion efforts. At a high level, the outcome was:

Creating a marketing strategy that incorporates diversity, equity, and inclusion practices can bring more loyal customers and expose your brand to a much larger market.

Consider, too, that 70% of consumers expect brands to take a public stand on social and political issues. “Like a Girl,” a 2015 Super Bowl spot for Procter & Gamble’s Always brand, is one that jumps immediately to mind as a good example. Here are some others:

When a brand takes a stand on DEI, it immediately builds a positive brand perception in consumers’ eyes. This links to an increase in brand effectiveness, and significantly lifts purchase intent and loyalty.

Marketing practices that serve diverse audiences are inclusive and enable everyone to have the same chance to consume an offer.

Marketers have great potential to tap into diverse groups of people and match their needs by implementing marketing practices that are diverse, inclusive, and give everyone a fair chance of accessing the offer. 

How can you put this in practice?

Consumers expect brands to be inclusive and reflect the reality of their lives in advertising.

On an ending note, organizations with inclusive cultures are two times more likely to exceed financial targets, three times as likely to be high performing, six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

Wrap up

Finally, if a marketer wants to serve a diverse market, it must embrace diversity from within. It must walk the talk and sensitize its own company to find new diverse sources of talent to understand customers better and thereby increase sales.

After all, isn’t this how diverse ideas, innovative solutions, and multiple points of view are surfaced?


Juliet Bourke, Which Two Hats Are Better Than One? How Diverse Teams Create Breakthrough Ideas and Make Smarter Decisions (Australian Institute of Company Directors, 2016)

Google/Ipsos, U.S., Inclusive Marketing Study, n of 2,987 U.S. consumers ages 13–54 who access the internet at least monthly, Aug. 2019.

Hava Billen is a Selligent Marketing Cloud classroom trainer, educating companies how to use our intelligent marketing automation platform to better engage with their customers. Hava loves to analyze social behavior and market trends from a consumer and business point of view. She has spent the last 10 years travelling the world, working in multi-lingual, multi-cultural teams. This has allowed her to learn a lot about adapting to changes and intercultural diversity from a work and social perspective.

In her free time, Hava enjoys sports, outdoor activities, exploring new cuisines, wine, art, learning new languages, reading books, listening to podcasts, and laughing with her friends.  Probably the weirdest thing she has ever done is to sign up for beginners figure ice skating class with 5-6 year old ladies. “Being on the skate rink with uplifting music is one of the most relaxing activities for me,” she says. “Although when I took ice skating classes with the group of young ladies, I felt really embarrassed falling down and being watched by their parents.” It’s the price to pay when you crave for learning things at an older age.

Like many millennials, Hava cares about the environment and likes to contribute by choosing a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle 90% of her time. She also likes exploring brands that are eco-friendly and sustainable. She also occasionally engages in social causes such as protection of children with vulnerable backgrounds, especially in her home country of Bulgaria.

 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.

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

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

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

Testing + dynamic content = faster, better results

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

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

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

The result? Faster results and better campaign performance. 

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

Two more bonuses:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Test static versus animated coupons

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

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

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

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

3. Increase personalization throughout the email message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download your copy now and get ready for better results!