When used at the right place and the right time, even relatively simple application of real-time personalization can deliver impressive improvements to your email program and holiday marketing metrics. 

As we count down to the start of the holiday season, find out how one ecommerce company grew revenue 110% along with click throughs and site visits in their holiday campaigns by using real-time personalization effectively.

3… 2…1… GO!

Holiday ecommerce sales reached a record $122 billion last year; a 16% YoY increase. And this year is poised to be even bigger.

That kind of growth presents huge opportunities for brands with the right strategy. By incorporating real-time content into their emails, One Click Ventures was able to increase holiday email revenues by more than 110%! 

Here’s how:

One Click Ventures sets ambitious holiday targets for all its ecommerce brands, including site like Readers.com, Sunglass Warehouse and felix + iris. 

The company aims to deliver tailored and engaging customer experiences through digital communications to drive conversions and increase revenue through personalized email marketing efforts. 

But, historically the organization faced familiar obstacles. Their consistent, standardized email design lacked impact and was unable to connect with target audiences in a unique and individually relevant manner. And they had few tools with which to create a sense of urgency and convert short-term sales.

A Real Solution in Real Time

To update its ecommerce email marketing strategy and drive better holiday results, One Click Ventures turned to dynamic, real-time personalization. 

One tactic that was particularly successful was the incorporation of countdown timers to generate interest for important holiday sales and events.

From ticking down to a big Black Friday sale to chanting away the last seconds of the year on New Years’ Eve, the holidays are full of events worth counting down to. Countdown timers are the perfect tool to build anticipation for special occasions and put fuel to the FOMO fire.

Read More: How easyJet, Verizon, and Hertz Use Countdown Timers to Turn Their Emails into FOMO Factories

As the holiday season warmed up, One Click Started using countdown timers to promote flash sales, ‘last day of deal’ notifications, and major discounts around events like Cyber Monday.

This simple addition delivered major impact. The substantial 110% email revenue growth was powered by 12%+ bump in conversion rate and a 90% increase in site visits.

The countdown timers also brought something to subscribers that they hadn’t had before: a reason to come back and open emails time and again to check on the ticking clocks.

“When we used a countdown timer in our Cyber Monday campaign we saw 43% of subscribers that opened the email actually re-open it later,” said Stephanie Cox, Director of Digital Marketing.

More opens on a key Cyber Monday email meant more exposure to the ecommerce brands’ offers and more opportunities to convert sales. Last year’s Cyber Monday generated $7.9 billion in online sales by itself, and email was responsible for about 1/4th of it. Imagine the kind of results your own Black Friday/Cyber Monday emails could drive if they had a 43% re-open rate!

Ecommerce Email Marketing Best Practices for Using Countdown Timers

Something as straightforward as adding a custom real-time countdown timer in your holiday emails can translate to 14% higher click-to-open rates, 59% higher transaction-to-click rates, and twice as high transaction rates compared to your average marketing emails.

If you’re considering adding this tool to your arsenal, or want to use it better, keep the following in mind.

Avoid overuse. 

The occasional strategically placed timer is a surprising, compelling email feature that incites immediate action. But including one in every campaign can have the ‘crying wolf effect,’ causing openers to glaze over them. Save countdown timers for when you really need to make an impact and when they make thematic sense with the rest of your creative and offers.

Use seconds or smaller units of time when appropriate. 

Part of what ignites that excitement and FOMO is seeing the constant, inevitable ticking of the clock. But subscribers won’t get that effect as strongly if you’re using larger minimum time units like minutes or hours! Check out this eye-catching sample ticking away the seconds from Dunhill London:

Test, optimize, and test again. Most audiences respond positively to real-time content like countdown timers, but there’s no guarantee that yours does. And even if your subscribers love your timers, there’s always room for improvement in layout, time increments, design and more. 

Use a real-time personalization platform to design your timers. 

When using a countdown timer in email, a simple gif isn’t going to cut it. Basic moving images don’t have the capability to adapt to time or location of open, and they may display inaccurate information—especially once the timer runs out. A real-time email personalization platform will send a personalized timer to each opener and allows you to swap in new content once the timer has run out. For example, here’s an example of an email with a timer from Pier 1 Imports:

And here’s the cheery image that was swapped in once the timer expired:

You’re On the Clock

The holidays are fast approaching, and time is limited to start incorporating those big difference-making tactics and tools into your holiday ecommerce email marketing strategy.

That’s why many leading ecommerce and retail brands are already making extensive use of countdown timers and other real-time content to create a sense of urgency and convert more shoppers throughout the holiday season. 

See for yourself how the most innovative email marketers combine countdown clocks with advanced personalization and interactive features to drive more results and gain more holiday revenue. We feature great examples like this in our holiday lookbook:

Consider it an early gift from us to you as you look for ways to improve your holiday ecommerce email marketing strategy.

There’s a lot to be learned from the past and the experience of others—building off their successes and learning from their mistakes. In this 2 Wins and a Fail blog series, we’re inviting clients, partners, friends and thought leaders to share their email marketing stories; both good and bad.

This week we had the pleasure to speak with Matt Berry, Digital Marketing Manager for Herschend Family Entertainment.

Herschend is the largest family-owned themed attractions corporation in the US, managing 23 entertainment, tourism and hospitality properties and theme parks including Silver Dollar City Attractions and Dollywood Parks & Resorts. Matt has worked with Herschend brands for 4 years and oversees email campaigns for many of the organization’s properties and attractions. His experiences hold valuable advice for any email marketer; especially those working in the entertainment, travel, and hospitality industries.

Success Story #1: Getting Subscribers Ready To Explore A New Land

Drumming up excitement for upcoming locations and attractions is an ongoing challenge for destination brands like Herschend’s.

When Dollywood started promoting its latest theme park expansion, Wildwood Grove, it took a strategic, measured approach.

Wildwood Grove will be the newest—and largest—addition to the world-famous Dollywood theme park. “Because of how significant the new area is, we really went big and are still going big with this announcement across all channels,” Berry said.

Dollywood wanted to create excitement and awareness about the new attraction and use that buzz as momentum to fuel related campaigns and sales opportunities. Though the big expansion wouldn’t open for several months, the brand started promoting it as early as last fall; right when it was going on sale with its season passes for the upcoming year.

dynamic email design example

Click here to see the complete interactive email!

The Dollywood team also tried something new with this announcement; a pre-sale campaign.

“When we announced, we gave guests the opportunity to ‘raise their hand’ to learn more about Wildwood Grove early,” Berry explained. “We also offered guests to sign up to be part of our limited time pre-sale, which would give them special pricing opportunities in addition to access to Wildwood Grove before anyone else. So we were using the announcement to sell season passes as well as offering special access to early adopters.”

A series of announcement emails directed interested subscribers to a specialized landing page where they could opt in to receive additional news and special offers related to Wildwood Grove. The email team segmented this list and sent it an extremely successful pre-sale campaign, taking advantage of Liveclicker features like fully-embedded video and slideshows in-email to build excitement and anticipation.

As icing on the cake, Dollywood made clever use of advanced tracking technology to monitor individuals who:

  1. Signed up for the special Season Pass Pre-Sale
  2. Went to the Dollywood site store where season passes were sold
  3. Did not make a purchase

The company remarketed this audience segment with highly-focused and effective ‘abandoned cart’ style emails.

The Wildwood Grove announcement and the campaigns launched alongside it have proven extremely potent for Dollywood, and Herschend is now adapting these tactics to its other brands to multiply its success.

Key takeaways:

P.S. Wildwood Grove is scheduled to open soon (May 11)…and it looks AWESOME! Check out this teaser featuring an introduction from Dolly Parton:

Success Story 2: A Concert Promotion Email Encore

The second big win Matt shared was an initiative to create interest and sell more tickets to concerts at another one of Herschend’s theme parks: Wild Adventures.

The park hosts a series of A-list bands, artists, performers and comedians with every new season. This year Wild Adventures adopted a new strategy that boosted both season pass and reserved concert seat sales.

Instead of announcing the complete concert lineup all at once, the team decided to ‘tease’ subscribers by just featuring a couple of the events on the schedule at the beginning of the campaign in the fall. These limited announcements were used as value-adds to drive early season pass purchases.

As the new season approached, Wild Adventures used the final main concert announcement as a miniature event in and of itself, using in-email countdown timers to build and maintain excitement leading up to the release date.

The email featuring main concert announcement was heavily personalized. ”We have rock artists, we have Christian artists, country, and so on,” Berry said. “If we saw that a user had attended a certain kind of event in the past, we made sure to showcase similar artists and performers and bring them to the top because that’s what they’re likely to be most interested in.”

But this year the company was careful not just to show a limited selection of events. They wanted to highlight the sheer breadth and variety of high-quality concerts and performances available. After all; people can have diverse tastes and interests in more than just one or two entertainment categories.

To showcase the broad suite of concert selections in the limited real estate of an email, Wild Adventures made great use of Liveclicker’s LiveSlides functionality. The interactive element could effortlessly showcase multiple artists in a particular genre, which was dynamic based on that subscribers preferences, while maintaining a sleek, user-friendly email design.

As an extra value-add, they explained that season passholders received exclusive first access to reserved concert seats a week before they went on sale to the general public.

entertainment brand email example

Click here to see the complete interactive email!

This multi-pronged approach has been hugely successful. Though only a few concerts have occurred so far this season, Wild Adventures is already up YoY on the limited reserved concert seats and has seen substantial growth in season pass sales since the main concert announcement.

Key Takeaways:

The Fail: “Oops.”

Herschend has seen a lot of email success across its properties. But even very well managed marketing programs aren’t always executed perfectly.

Matt was given an especially stark reminder of this after a Herschend property sent out a mass email with a crucial oversight.

This property is well known and respected for its fun, quirky email campaigns. So when it sent out an email announcing a pending price increase in membership costs, it got a lot of opens for a flash sale for memberships at the current lower price.

Unfortunately there was a critical mistake in the email. The link to the landing page where subscribers could buy at the discounted price was wrong. It went to an unrelated web page, and any openers clicking through expecting a good deal were immediately disappointed, confused, and frustrated.

This is a nightmare scenario for email marketers. Countless hours of creativity, strategy, and analytics—not to mention months or years of careful relationship nurturing and goodwill building—can all be sabotaged by a single mistake like this.

The property’s email team reacted in textbook fashion once it realized the error. They followed up with an apologetic, funny, and self-deprecating “oops” email. The email didn’t try to ignore the mistake; it owned up to the error and provided subscribers a comically large selection of correct links that would take openers where needed to go for the flash sale.

oops email example

“We have learned over the years that ‘oops’ emails actually perform pretty well..people like to watch you mess up and are more prone to open,” Berry said. “I loved the way this was written as it was calling attention to ourselves for making a mistake and putting less focus on the promotion itself. The message barely mentioned the sale, yet drove engagement and resulted in sales – possibly higher than the original email may have achieved on its own.”

This follow-up strategy proved to be extremely effective and earned exceptional open and engagement rates.

Key Takeaways:

Enormous thanks to Matt Berry and Herschend Family Entertainment Brands for these stories for us to share and learn from!

Matt recently shared even more of his experiences, expertise and advice at our Future of Email Atlanta event! If you’re interested in hearing more stories from email pros, register now to join the conversation at a session near you—it’s completely free for email marketers!

Are you looking for a new way to impress your customers and prospects? Kinetic email design is a proven innovation to deliver true interactivity in email. Yet until very recently, adding kinetic interactivity was not as easy as some marketers hoped, forcing them to rely on more technically proficient resources such as developers, agencies, or third-party service providers.

Now Liveclicker’s brand new LiveHover capability gives marketers an easy way to create kinetic emails—on their own and without any help. Marketing teams can now create interactive messages that include changing email content on mouse-over, to improve engagement and produce better results.

When used effectively, kinetic email design has the potential to be a true game-changer. Yet we find that many marketing teams are still not completely familiar with this innovation, so we wrote this blog to help cover some of the more important details. This article traces the evolution of kinetic design, highlights specific industry examples, and shows you how LiveHover—as well as Liveclicker’s kinetic design services—can help any marketer get the most out of this new technology.

The history of kinetic email design

Early kinetic email design capabilities first hit the market sometime around 2010, but it wasn’t until 2014 that the idea of adding kinetic enhancements to an email template became mainstream.

It started with the European retailer, B&Q and its now-famous “tap to interact” email. Using Oracle’s Marketing Cloud solution, B&Q sent a fully interactive email that encouraged recipients to tap to interact with different content categories. When they did, the email efficiently displayed new information—a pleasant surprise for consumers long accustomed to static emails.

More importantly, the email delivered impressive results, including an 18 percent increase in responder-to-open rates and 42,000 click-throughs to the website.

How does kinetic design work?

Clearly, kinetic email design is a proven way to create interactive email campaigns in the email template itself. But how does it work?

Kinetic email design provides template-level animations and motion using native HTML5 and CSS3 in order to maximize the capabilities of certain mail clients. Marketing teams can create animations, enable responsive email elements, add motion, or promote other interactive effects to traditionally static content.

It is important to note that a kinetic email approach does not apply to personalizing content. Instead, kinetic design focuses on the visual interaction of the content within the email template.

Kinetic email in action

FreshInbox.com, a leading source of interactive and advanced email design techniques and news, recently reviewed a kinetic email campaign produced by Pret’s. The email creative featured an empty cup along with copy that read, “An empty cup is no fun. Pick a flavor.” Email recipients were encouraged to select a smoothie flavor and watch as their virtual cup slowly filled to the top.

Additionally, Pret’s was able to create a fallback plan for email clients that didn’t support kinetic design. The marketing team created a second email that featured a stack of drinks displaying all of the same flavors.

Focus on improving results

Kinetic email campaigns often result in a creative, “fun” execution, yet marketers shouldn’t create them just for fun’s sake. Instead, they should produce kinetic email designs that maximize the use of intelligent functionality and deliver an experience consumers may not have experienced anywhere else.

However, it’s important to note that many kinetic email design techniques are not universally supported. For example, iOS allows developers to apply kinetic design very consistently, where desktop versions of Outlook reduce overall functionality.

Campaign innovations

Recently, contextual email marketing technologies started dabbling in the concept of bringing kinetic design to SaaS platforms with features such as scratch-to-reveal content or in-email polls. These capabilities enable kinetic design in email clients that support this technology, but like the Pret’s example above, seamlessly display regular image content where functionality is limited.

One good example is Liveclicker’s LivePoll capability. Marketers can embed polls into their emails that allow a recipient make a poll selection and then see the poll results directly within the email (on iOS devices). Kinetic design techniques can also show or hide various pieces of information within an email without computing help from a server.

Get kinetic with Liveclicker

As consumers continue to expect a better email experience, companies will rise to the challenge and adopt more interactive email techniques.

For example, Liveclicker just recently released a kinetic live mouse-over capability called LiveHover as an out-of-the-box application. Marketers no longer need to depend on technically-advanced developers to bring kinetic interactivity to their campaigns – now they can achieve the desired effect with their own two hands.

At the same time, Liveclicker has a kinetic design services team as part of our larger professional services organization. We help clients create highly interactive, highly engaging messages using features such as interactive tabs, button rollovers, product hotspots and much more.

So whether you’re looking for a team to create your next kinetic email campaign, or the tools to do it yourself, Liveclicker has you covered.

Thinking ahead

As we look to the future, one thing is absolutely certain: mail clients, devices, and technology will continue to evolve and change. Marketers need to continue to do all they can to deliver personalized, engaging marketing messages that exceed the consumer’s expectations. With kinetic design and other new innovations still to come, email is one of the most promising tools to achieve all of these goals, showing that email’s best days are still ahead.

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.