From cable television to casual dining chains, many long-lasting industries and popular products are suddenly struggling to find the growth and success they’ve enjoyed for years. And the reason, according to some commentators, is the much-maligned millennial.

Millennials have become a favorite scapegoat to explain the (real or perceived) stagnation and decline of many cultural and commercial institutions. Their influence extends well into the world of marketing, disrupting many time-honored tactics and forcing marketers to rethink millennial marketing campaigns and their approach to media, messaging, brand, and product.

The rise of a generation of tech-savvy brand cynics as a core consumer demographic begs some obvious questions: Do millennials use email? Is marketers’ favorite tool next on the millennial hit list?

The Danger to Marketers

It’s no wonder why marketers would be worried about the ongoing viability of the email. After all; it’s one of the most reliable sources of ROI in the entire digital toolbox. Losing it would be a painful blow to revenue for any business.

And intuitively, email would be an obvious channel for millennials to target (or worse; ignore and abandon). After all, this is supposed to be the generation that is constantly seeking new experiences , suspicious of corporate interaction, and hostile towards intrusive advertisement (84% of millennials don’t trust paid ads).

At a time when new media channels and flashy digital experiences emerge on a constant basis, how can email possibly keep up? Do millennials use email when they have so many other options competing for their attention?

The Good News

If you’re worried about millennials killing your email program, you can breathe a sigh of relief—at least for now.

Despite the disruption millennials are introducing to many other marketing tools, email remains a rock-solid way for brands to make meaningful, profitable connections to individuals in this generation.

In fact, as we’ve been explaining in our ongoing Future of Email circuit, millennials seem to love email.

Between personal and work inboxes, millennials spend more time reading and responding to emails than any other generation.

When you stop to consider what email offers that most other marketing channels don’t, it quickly becomes apparent why it’s millennials’ medium of choice. Email puts the control in the hands of the consumer:

The key takeaway: millennials want to engage with your brand…but they want it to be on their own terms!

How to Make Emails Millennials Love

Just because millennials have a preference for email doesn’t mean you can get complacent with your email program. They still have high standards, and won’t hesitate to unsubscribe or mark your messages as spam if you’re not delivering the experience they expect.

Want to earn, and keep, the favor and loyalty of your millennial subscribers? Start with these tips to make your campaigns for marketing to millennials as effective as possible!

Don’t skimp on the mobile experience.

Millennials check email on mobile more than any generation before them (a trend that continues for even younger demographics!). Make sure your email experience performs seamlessly on mobile devices, especially any of your more dynamic email elements!

Take relevance to the next level.

Everyone wants a more customized, personalized experience from brands. But millennials want it even more than most–and they’re even willing to give up personal information for it. But don’t think elementary personalization tactics are going to cut it; this generation wants comprehensive, one-to-one relevance catered to their immediate environment and preferences.

P.S. Need some help levelling up your email personalization? Learn how to do it easily (and at scale) from our latest ebook!

Let visuals do the heavy lifting.

Keeping emails brief and copy-light is not new advice. But when it comes to marketing to millennials, it becomes even more important to express a lot of information in an efficient, eye-catching way.

Visuals are some of millennials’ favorite communication tools. Millennials who use “visual expressions” such as emojis, GIFs and stickers say that those images better communicate their thoughts and feelings than words do at twice the rate that people over 65 do.

But don’t stop there; elevate your email visuals to the next level with slideshows, mouse-overs, and even fully-embedded embedded video to really keep your millennial audience captivated and entertained.

Ask, listen, and respond.

Millennials don’t want to be marketed to; they want to be part of ongoing conversations where their input makes a difference. 70% report feeling an obligation to share feedback on brand experiences; take advantage of that with invitations to leave reviews or even use live polls inserted directly in your emails asking your audience exactly what they think.

46% of millennials are digital content creators and users. Use their user-generated content in your emails to augment and enhance community engagement (with their permission, of course).

Once you’re getting input and feedback, don’t just sit on it. Use that data to fill out user profiles to provide more customized experiences in the future and inform your entire millennial marketing strategy!

Consistent streams of high quality, hyperpersonalized emails can keep customers engaged, build loyalty, and develop relationships. But it’s triggered emails, not promotional campaigns or nurture drips, that are usually most effective for driving immediate conversions.

About ¾ of email ROI comes from “segmented, targeted, and triggered campaigns.” It makes sense; triggered email marketing connects brands with customers right at the moment they’re most willing and able to engage.

Given all the potential for conversions and revenue, shouldn’t you be making sure you get the absolute most out of your trigger-based email marketing?

The Power of Triggered Email Marketing

Expertly implemented trigger emails bring a lot to the table for digital marketers. Sailthru listed a few of them on its comprehensive guide to trigger-based email marketing:

To top it off, setting up triggered emails with contextual relevance and personalization is easier than ever thanks to real-time email automation technology. Need some ideas to energize your marketing performance? Draw inspiration from these ROI-generating triggered email examples!

The Warmest of Welcomes

Welcome emails are opened at a higher rate than almost any other kind of direct marketing message. When someone subscribes to your newsletter, joins your loyalty program, or registers an account with your ecommerce site, that’s your opportunity to make a big first impression that will keep them coming back for more!

Need a triggered email example to inspire your welcome series? Chuck E Cheese’s sets the tone for its brand relationship with new rewards program members with a colorful, fun, and highly personalized welcome email. The brand combines dynamic images that adjust to the subscriber’s name, a live map that shows the way to the nearest destination, and real-time geo-data that gives new members everything they need to start planning their next visit right away.

Sophisticated email marketers send multiple messages in a welcome series. This strategy provides additional opportunities to direct consumers to complete high-value activities. If you know that your best customers are those with a loyalty membership, follow you on Instagram, and have set explicit preferences for products consider highlighting these in a multi-step welcome flow.

Weather Triggered Emails

Weather is one of those universal factors that binds us all together. There’s a reason it’s been one of the most popular pieces conversation starters and small-talk fuel for ages untold.

But weather isn’t just basic water cooler chit-chat material; it’s a great way to start conversations with your audience with the power of weather triggered emails. As Paul Walsch, Weather Channel weather and climate specialist said, “Weather is such an important driver of consumer sentiment and activity…but it’s not as well known and leveraged as it should be.”

Imagine having an email set to automatically deploy on a rainy day to invite subscribers into your stores for some shelter (and savings!). Or including live forecasts in a triggered email leading up to a personally-relevant event like a vacation or concert to add even more value.

Hotels.com includes both real-time weather information and an up-to-date forecast in an email triggered to send a few days before a reservation. This information helps customers prepare to make the most of their stays, gives them a reason to re-open, and enhances the customer experience to motivate repeat purchases.

 

RentPath included live weather data in its emails to apartment hunters and improved engagement rates by 25%: click here to see how!

Abandoned Cart Email Triggers

Some 69% of digital shopping carts get abandoned throughout the conversion process. This is the perfect opportunity for a targeted, direct message. Your prospect has made the effort to register an account and choose products she’s interested in; often a little extra motivation is all that’s needed to give her that extra nudge into customerhood.

Automated emails targeted at cart-deserters have impressive engagement and conversion rates that can have an immediate and substantial impact on digital revenue:

Image source

Keep Collective makes excellent use of their abandoned cart triggers. The brand uses friendly language and dynamic product-feature elements that adapt in real time to exclude any items that the shopper goes on to purchase or that are currently out of stock. The email reminds people of what they’re missing out on—while cleverly omitting any content that could be confusing or disappointing.

Looking for more highly-effective triggered email examples? Check out our Lookbook or download this inspirational triggered emails guide for creative, results-driving ideas to steal for your own programs!

Forrester’s recently released Now Tech: Email Marketing Vendors, Q3 2018 report provides an overview of 38 technology vendors in the email marketing space. Such reports are always helpful to email marketers needing to stay on the cusp of innovation; they have been a mainstay in the industry for two decades. Now Tech is an especially good read, and one I’d highly recommend for any digital marketing leader.

But why read this Now Tech report in particular? In the past, reports of this type typically served as a guide for email marketers seeking a new email service provider (ESP). Or in other cases, simply to confirm that a previously chosen ESP remained relevant.

This time, Forrester is offering email marketers something new to consider.

Introducing the Email Content Personalizer

Now Tech is the first formal report written by a leading analyst firm that acknowledges the accelerated pace of innovation in the industry by creating an entirely new class of email marketing vendor: The Email Content Personalizer. I’ll refer to these companies as ECPs.

Just what in the heck is an ECP anyway? Forrester describes these vendors as “… [a category of company that] does not send emails. They use advanced in-email functionality or machine learning to optimize message content, offers, or subject lines in emails delivered through ESPs.”

Companies like Liveclicker fall squarely into this new category. Unlike traditional ESPs, ECPs don’t manage email delivery, deliverability, or sender authentication. Forrester called out a specific Liveclicker example of an ECP at work: “… Liveclicker helped TOMS show off ‘glow- in-the-dark shoes’ to users who flipped a switch in the email and to exact-match email content to website content at the time of email open.”

It’s hugely validating to see a leading industry analyst, Shar VanBoskirk, place her name and Forrester’s analysis behind the creation of this new category. I’d encourage you to check out the report just so you can see exactly where ECPs fit into the ever-evolving martech landscape.

In the meantime, here’s my take on just what exactly an ECP is:

E is for Email. ECPs have a focus and strength on the email channel in particular. While much of the industry’s technological development over the last decade has focused on integrating email into multi-channel marketing programs, ECPs have developed special best-of-breed technology that plug into the email tech stack, helping elevate the performance of email marketing as the channel struggles to remain relevant in an environment of hyper-channel fragmentation and dwindling consumer attention spans.

C is for Content. ECPs use technology to change the content within email messages vs. focusing on the delivery of email itself. They provide sophisticated content management capabilities that allow marketers to apply complex rules or machine-learning systems to render the right content for each email recipient.

P is for Personalization. ECPs like Liveclicker use advanced personalization “hooks” to ingest data from any channel at the time an email is opened, and then render personalized experiences using that data for the consumer. For example, marketers can use open-time device detection to power experiences like in-email video or advanced interactive capabilities like the TOMS example. At the same time, data from a marketer’s website or other martech systems can be accessed in real time to keep email messages as relevant as possible.

I hope you enjoy reading the Forrester Now Tech report as much as I did. It includes an introduction from Liveclicker that highlights many innovative email approaches including email content marketing. It also provides Forrester’s insights into the email marketing vendor selection process as well as a closer look at specific providers who are currently providing content personalization in emails delivered through ESPs.

Happy emailing!

In our last Marketers are on a Mission article, we examined new research related to how companies are investing in marketing technology and services today.

Here, we’ll look at the topic of how to maximize these investments by sending the most timely and relevant messages.

Tap into personalization to take advantage of all that email has to offer

When it comes to email marketing, there’s a real opportunity to achieve a rare win-win.

First, simply using email is a real competitive advantage. Email marketing is still the top channel when it comes to achieving ROI. Email continues to outperform other marketing channels because it is so cost-effective and generates extremely high engagement levels.

Once marketers fully embrace email marketing, they can produce better results in three ways:

  1. Sending more personalized dynamic content
  2. Developing more behavior-based messaging such as abandoned cart, remarketing or recent purchase emails
  3. Investing in new personalization tools and strategies

Simply put, email is still one of the most effective marketing tools, and the more you can personalize based on your customers’ context and interaction, the greater your results will be.

Are we moving in the right direction?

Many marketers recognize email’s  potential and are doing all they can to make them more personalized. It’s a wise decision, when you consider research shows that 70 percent of millennials experience frustration when they receive irrelevant emails, and 55 percent of consumers report that they prefer email marketing that includes relevant products and offers.

Yet when you look at the types  of emails we all continue to send, there’s a real discrepancy. This same research shows that 62 percent of marketers continue to send mass emails (without personalization) and that only 38 percent are currently focused on individual recipients.

It’s interesting to take a closer look at what marketing teams are doing in different industries. As you can see in the graphic below, travel and hospitality is leading the way when it comes to personalization. Surprisingly, retail – an industry that would seem to have the best opportunity to personalize emails based on consumer behavior – is slow to change its ways.

Send smarter emails

We all know that consumers prefer to receive highly targeted, highly relevant content. Yet many marketers continue to flood customers’ inboxes with too many general, non-personalized emails. While this strategy is intended to capture customers’ attention (and wallet), it can actually lead to the opposite effect: high unsubscribes.

There’s a real opportunity to invest in personalization technologies to send the most relevant messages possible. The retail industry is starting to understand this a little better than other verticals – retail is the only industry currently planning on decreasing the amount of mass marketing emails it will send and focus on behavior-based marketing campaigns instead.

Such an approach is already delivering better performance and results: “Behavior-based emails have seen 60 percent more conversions than mass marketing emails for our clients,” said Kara Holthaus, vice president of client services, SmarterHQ. “That is why it is so important for brands to invest in behavior-based marketing strategies if they want to quickly move the needle and impact ROI.”

So if you’re interested in generating faster, better results and ROI, behavior-based personalization is worth exploring.

Stay tuned for our next article in the Marketers on a Mission series – how some marketers are choosing to compete with Amazon. Or, if you want to get all of this information, all in one place, download the full Marketers on a Mission report now.

Stay tuned for our final Marketers are on a Mission article, or download the entire “Marketers are on a Mission: The State of B2C Marketing” here.

Email marketers: We feel your pain, and we’re here to help.

This time of year can be tough. As if there isn’t enough pressure to constantly create and deploy great campaigns that outperform the competition, the holiday season is just around the corner.

If you’re not careful, it can all become a blur (“Weren’t we just working on Back to School campaigns?”) Also, facing very real constraints related to time, budget, and resources, many marketers may have no choice but to default to “same old, same old” campaign executions, which can fall short on personalization or dynamic content.

Yet in doing so, they’re missing out on real opportunities to engage and connect with their customers and prospects—and, of course, generate better marketing results at the same time. It’s no secret that everyone’s inboxes are overflowing with emails, and it takes something truly spectacular to stand out from the crowd. From welcome emails to customer retention and beyond, we have got some great ideas to get your creative wheels turning. Read on and then check out the LookBook for a deeper dive.

What Customers Will Love in a Welcome Email

Use your welcome series as a chance to get to know each other better. For example, create an interactive poll and ask recipients to share a little bit about themselves, then use that information to personalize future emails. Or provide a quality video that welcomes new customers into the culture of the brand as another great way to engage and connect.

Yet, welcome emails don’t have to be limited to evergreen content. Consumers are bombarded with emails every day, and it’s a big deal that they’re taking the time to open yours. Show your appreciation and build momentum by showcasing new arrivals or offers you think they would love. Make sure you’re always showing the most relevant information for your brand by scraping it right from your website.

lookbook personalization blog

Personalize Your Follow-Ups

The key to keeping customers engaged in your email campaigns is to provide information they find relevant and helpful (and fun!). If they order online, let them track their shipment right from their order confirmation message instead of a third-party site. Include cross-sells or up-sell promotions and make it easy for them to buy related products.

Also, think outside the box and try to extend the value of your campaigns beyond recipients’ past purchase behavior. Help them plan their weekend with a weather forecast–they just might need to buy some rain boots. Any information that would make their lives easier will be valued and appreciated, leading to increased engagement with your future emails!

lookbook personalization blog

Show Them the Way

Get customers excited about their relationship with you. Use loyalty program data – shopping rewards, membership benefits they’ve earned, and points balances – to increase loyalty and motivate them to reach the next reward. Plus, make it easy for them to take the next step: whether it’s to complete a purchase, visit your store, or engage with your brand in other ways, provide them with everything they need to make it happen.

lookbook personalization blog

But that’s not all, folks. If you’re looking for a bunch of good ideas to get inspired and ways to use innovative email personalization to break away from the “same old, same old,” check out our LookBook, “Real Examples. Real Results. A Guide to Real-Time Email Marketing Personalization Every Marketer Should Follow.”

In a recent blog, we unveiled a new research report, Marketers are on a Mission, and examined the first trend it highlighted: The need for marketers to create much more personalized customer experiences. This article will take a closer look at the next trend, which is the topic of investing in marketing technology and services, especially multichannel solutions.

(Be sure to stay tuned for future articles summarizing additional trends from Marketers on a Mission, or download the entire report here.)

The need for multichannel technology

When I first read Marketers are on a Mission, one sentence really jumped out at me: 50 percent of millennials are still buying in store, and 90% of consumers report that they have browsed online and then purchased in a store.

These may seem like natural behaviors, but these stats prove that consumers still use digital and physical channels. This may be surprising to marketers who have been led to believe that their customers purchase only in the digital world (website, social media platforms, mobile, etc.).

But it really shows that marketers must do all they can to make the omnichannel experience much more appealing than ever before. They can’t guess which channels may or may not work and need to invest in multichannel technologies and solutions.

Growing budgets, growing investments

It seems like many marketing teams agree. Survey respondents reported that they are currently investing nearly 17 percent of their budget on multichannel technologies and services, which is 26 percent more than any other technology.

investing

There’s more good news, too. The research shows that marketers are investing in additional technologies to support their stated priority of increasing personalization. After all, when you think about it, some of the most important components in providing highly personalized experiences are data and analytics and behavioral marketing technology.

This is exemplified in a quote from Matt Berry, digital marketing manager from Herschend Family Entertainment and one of Liveclicker’s clients: “We’ve upped our email game with personalization and dynamic content to communicate with customers on a one-to-one basis – and lift engagement. Now we’re further improving our use of data and analytics to gain deeper insights to hyper-target communications based on their engagement levels and channel preferences.”

Marketers are shifting their investment strategies to focus on both of these areas. As you can see in the chart below, 83 percent of respondents stated they were investing in data and analytics while 57 percent reported investments in personalization and behavioral marketing technology.

investing

Take advantage of a new opportunity

The report also found that marketers in all industries currently prioritize their investments to drive traffic to online, mobile, and in-store in that order.

It’s a little bit of a surprising strategy, especially when you consider the survey finding that shows that consumers still prefer in-store experiences over other channels.

This insight can even become a new opportunity. If marketers invest in the right technologies to engage and track multichannel behaviors – including in-store interactions – they will improve their ability to create and deliver relevant and timely customer messaging. Not only will this help them stand apart from the competition, but such an approach is bound to result in increased conversions, sales, and ROI.

How can marketers improve personalization and focus on improving ROI? That is a topic for another blog, so stay tuned.

Or, to get all of this information, all in one place, please download Marketers on a Mission now.

Using known information to improve communication is nothing new in the digital world. Since my first day as an email marketer, I’ve been groomed to look for insightful ways to divide and conquer email lists. List segmentation has been a core component of email marketing’s ability to stay competitive amongst peripheral digital channels.

The email ecosystem has always seen the biggest successes from marketers willing to take the next step in personalizing the customer journey. Context is a crucial element to every conversation; maintaining relevance is just as important as the value of words conveyed. Online, this conversational practice is primary to holding the attention of customers. In email, this challenge has been particularly difficult to solve with basic list segmentation.

Contextual Email in Current Workflows

Contextual interaction marketing in email still involves all of the previous personalization methods but allows for increased focus on the consumer. List segmentation can be used initially for the targeting framework, responsive HTML design will deliver the message cleanly across devices, dynamic personalization structures the content, then contextual elements interact with user-level indicators as the email is opened to enhance content interaction.

Adding contextual functionality to email shouldn’t affect how an email campaign is created, managed, or deployed. Naturally, it’s an additional step to create the real-time targeting, but the HTML is added to the email template the same as any other content. The actual segmentation work happens the instant the email opens and the targeting variables are identified.

Dynamic vs. Contextual Content

You might be asking. So, what’s the difference between dynamic email content and contextual email content? In principal, they’re very similar. Both segment content based on data from the recipient. The primary technical difference would be where the data gets pulled for the customization.

Dynamic and contextual email code are created and integrated into the email template during the development phase. During the email deployment, as emails are sending, dynamic content is pulled into each email just before it leaves the server. Dynamic content creates unique messaging for each recipient but relies on backward-focused CRM information to personalize.

The contextual technology works more responsively within the campaign structure. While the targeting is done before the email is sent, the content segmentation is done as the email opens and recipient attributes are used to dictate the display. Creating unique messaging for each recipient and giving the email forward-looking flexibility to deepen that personalization.

You’re Better Off Using Both Content Types

Each form of personalization works well independently. What makes a difference in an email is when these two methods are combined. Being heavily CRM-driven, dynamic email takes on a whole new life with contextual functionality. With both content types being used contextual relevance meets documented customer history.

A great example of this type of email could be a membership rewards campaign. Dynamic (pre-defined) data would be used to add things like name, member id, birth date, etc. While contextual (real-time) data like reward points total, reward availability and imagery all refresh at the moment of open.

The Future of Contextual Email

Real-time content elements will gain usage as email companies discover new applications for the kinetic style of messaging. Consumers will largely demand better digital communications from companies overall, consequentially pushing email functionality towards more of an interactive online medium. The inbox will shift from flat email content to a website-like interface.

Domain authentication will also become more prevalent in email marketing; helping authenticated email senders deliver enhanced messages, leaving unauthorized emails in cyberspace or relegated to static content delivery only.