Email is like a digital Swiss Army knife. Sure, the actual tool has what you expect: knives that stay sharp for years. But the add-on tools, like a bottle opener, screwdriver and tweezers, help you survive everything from a battlefield to a picnic. (Thanks, corkscrew!) Email also does just what you expect: It sends important messages to your subscribers and customers. When you plug in an amazing collection of tools, you extend email’s utility and reach way beyond the inbox, creating cross-channel experiences and bringing scattered audiences together. 

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Below are six ways email can add power, connection, utility, discovery, information and value. These cross-channel experiences giving recipients more reasons to open (and reopen) your emails and buy from you instead of a competitor.

1. Add the people’s voice 

Bring in fresh content and outside voices from your social channels to give your emails added impact and inject the human touch that makes a standard campaign email more like a conversation than a sales pitch.

Besides boosting your email messages, your social channels get exposed to a new audience and the repurposed content gets a second life in email. Win-win for everybody.

2. Offer event reminders

Everybody needs a little nudge, whether it’s to show up at a major real-world game, concert or store opening or to head online to a virtual event. You can’t rely on your customers to keep opening your email to find out when and where they have to be.

An add-to-calendar function is perfect for cross-channel experiences. With just a tap or click, your customers can add your event to their calendar apps. Then, just before “go” time, they’ll get a calendar or email reminder about your event. Smooth!

3. Tap to text

People used to say that SMS and text would kill email. Turns out they link up beautifully on messages that are more effective delivered via text. A tap-to-text function lets customers reading your email on a mobile device tap a link, which automatically populates a text message with offers or other content.

Your desk-bound customers aren’t left out, either. A tap-to-text function should include device detection, which can deliver a message with instructions for joining the text program to readers on desktop or laptop browsers.

4. Create audio experiences

Email delivers more brand-building value when it can keep recipients in the message as long as possible while also giving them something to do while they’re there. Create a custom branded Spotify music playlist to promote an event and embed the live feed in your email. 

Bonus: Allow your subscribers to share your playlist with friends to gain viral exposure to untapped audiences.

5. Ask for opinions

Everybody has one (or many). Knowing what’s on your customers’ minds these days can help you tap into the zeitgeist and shape your content and message focus. You can do this two ways:

6. Show a video

It worked for your exhausted high-school teachers, and it works in today’s red-hot video climate. Adding video to email raises response and conversion rates, and new technology and email standards mean more subscribers will be able to see the video instead of a static image.

Retailers, see what you can do

Download our retail playbook for step-by-step suggestions on how you can deliver hyper-relevance, capitalize on the multichannel experience and then surprise and delight your subscribers and customers with cross-channel experiences that bring them back to your message again and again. 

Online retailers are talking about this holiday shopping statistic from Episerver’s global shopper survey: 42% of shoppers plan to buy most or all of their gifts from Amazon this holiday shopping season.

Yikes! But the survey also found that 47% of shoppers will buy few or none of their gifts from Amazon. Plus, 43% of shoppers will start their searches on a retailer or brand website, not just Google (29%) or Amazon (30%). 

How can you boost your chances of getting more sales from the 42% of Amazon devotees and retaining your share of the 58% that will shop elsewhere? 

One of the best battlegrounds to contend with deep-pocketed ecommerce competitors is the inbox. As recent research from The Relevancy Group shows, advanced personalization on this channel has become one of marketers’ secret weapons against giants like Amazon.

Beating Amazon at the Relevance Game

Give your customers something they can’t get from the retail behemoth: an email experience that shows your customers you know them as individuals, not just as files in a database.

Of course, Amazon already does email personalization. But marketers can still find room to go above and beyond to provide unparalleled relevance. In fact, according to ground-breaking research, 52% of retail marketers cite ‘providing a more relevant and enriching customer experience’ as their primary way to compete with Amazon.

Cohort recommendations (“people who browsed that item bought this item”) and next-logical-product suggestions (“People who bought that item also bought these items”) are Amazon hallmarks, as are browse- and cart-abandon email reminders. 

All of these have also become standard offerings on many ecommerce platforms like Shopify. 

But they don’t substitute for the kind of advanced email personalization that can help your customers shop more successfully, avoiding frustrating missteps like out-of-stock inventory on a hot promotion.

How Retailers are Winning in the ‘Age of Amazon’

The Relevancy Group’s groundbreaking study, The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers, discovered that advanced personalization drives multiple benefits for retailers of all sizes. 

Most notably, it can add $20 – or more – in revenue for every $1 spent on it, on top of the added revenue from basic or purchase-based personalization.

But advanced personalization, which uses real-time, clickstream and open-time data to drive unique, highly relevant content for each email recipient, can also help retailers stand up to Amazon.

Some of growth marketing’s brightest minds gathered in San Francisco this week to learn, share, and hobnob at Iterable’s 2019 edition of the Activate conference.

This was the Liveclicker team’s first time attending the Activate, and this year’s conference didn’t disappoint. The gathering was packed from beginning to end with incredible presentations, discussions, workshops, and networking opportunities.

There was a lot to learn at Activate this year, and we know not everyone could make it to the conference. And even if you were fortunate enough to attend, you probably weren’t able to see and experience everything the event had to offer.

Regardless of your situation, Liveclicker has you covered. Our boots on the ground reported back on core themes covered throughout the conference with important takeaways for marketers to push email ever forward:

The Evolution of Personalization: What Comes Next

If there was a single common theme across the multitude of sessions beginning the conference, it was that the most creative, innovative brands are moving past personalization to a new goal: individualization.

As keynote speaker Duncan Wardle, former Head of Innovation and Creativity at Disney explained, brands need to get more creative when thinking about consumer behavior and why customers make decisions. He encouraged marketers to go deeper with their ‘Whys?” and look past surface-level explanations for what’s driving choices. “Consumers made decisions on intuition and emotion,” he explained. “Keep asking why.”

That helps explain the drive to push past personalization and towards individualization. We know that personalization creates more successful marketing efforts; but why?

A superficial explanation is that consumers seem to want to see their name in a subject line, or content related to their favorite interest in a body copy. But if we dig deeper and ask why consumers want those things, we start getting closer to a more meaningful answer; people like immediately relevant, valuable experiences tailored to their individual, contextual needs.

Individualization of the Customer Experience

Today’s most successful brands are those who are going to market with a focus on the customer experience. So it was inevitable that the discussions at Activate would eventually turn to focus on where this evolving trend of individualization would intersect with the world of CX.

Leslie Emmons Burthey, VP of Marketing at FabFitFun, explained in a session the importance of developing 1:1 relationships with customers. Soliciting feedback and having a dialogue is increasingly valuable for retention.

Fabian Seelbach, CMO of Curology, had even more assertive advice for earning lasting loyalty: dramatic improvement of service in the shortest time possible. Curology’s mission is to make sure their customers see results using their products in the shortest amount possible. He explained how the skincare brand, focuses on helping customers getting results ASAP with helpful content that’s not sales-related and encourages engagement with user-generated progress photos and stories.

Some other valuable takeaways and tactics from speakers on improving your customer experience:

Email’s Place in the Individualization Formula

As one of marketer’s best options for direct one-on-one engagement, email was a hot topic any time customer experience and individualization came up.

Eva Wei, Growth Manager at Shift emphasized that email isn’t going anywhere as a core 1:1 marketing channel. She noted that re-engagement of customers and prospects over time is essential for maximizing ROI: 70% of 1st time visitors to a company’s site aren’t there to buy, and 70% of ecommerce carts go abandoned.

Wei explained some of the key differentiators between personalization and individualization in terms of email.

Email personalization is more related to basic customization: first name personalization, dynamic content, treating subscribers a basic mass segment by demographic.

Individualization is evolved personalization: curating content, 1:1 conversations, and automatically adapting to personal behavior, preferences, and engagement history. Data is the driving force that enables advanced email individualization tactics like:

Christine O’Brien, Retention Marketing Manager for LovePop, shared a success story highlighting the power of individual marketing email experiences. As she explained, subscribers know you’re probably collecting a ton of data about them and do expect you to use it well. LovePop moved from individualizing 1% of their emails to 10%—and saw huge boosts to click-through and retention rates!

Trendyol also improved their email personalization across the board and earned:

Want to learn how? Click here to read the case study!

The Power of Connections

One other prevailing theme of the conference was the power of connections.

Good marketers know connecting with and engaging their audience is essential for success. But connections between brands and between the professionals working at those companies can be just as important.

That’s part of what makes events like Activate so valuable for marketers of all kinds. There are plenty of resources to learn how to be a better marketer and improve your campaigns out there. But the opportunities for us to meet, network, share and engage with each other personally are much more limited.

Consultant, author and networking expert Karen Wickre explained in her keynote the importance of always connecting and having a vast network that you nurture and can tap into for thought leadership, brainstorming, and business opportunities.

Connecting like minded people with each other is the catalyst to exponential growth, and at Activate19 we were delighted to engage with current and future partners, clients, and Liveclicker team members. We can’t wait to go again next year!

Header image modified from Kathryn on Twitter

As an allergy sufferer, sometimes I think we should change the saying, “April showers bring May flowers,” to “April showers bring … a whole lot of pollen.”

Okay, I realize my version doesn’t rhyme, or even have the right number of syllables, so it will never replace the original. Yet, pollen is still a real part of spring, and an inevitability that millions of people with allergies are very aware of—and dread—each year.

For innovative email marketers, pollen doesn’t have to be bad news. Instead, with a little creative thinking, you can use this annual event as a new way to create personalized campaigns that connect with consumers in ways they may not expect.

Even better, using pollen counts can be an effective approach for a wider variety of industries and brands that you might at first think. So even if your company doesn’t sell allergy medicine—or even anything for the outdoors—you can still use weather conditions to your advantage.

LG turns pollen counts into a marketing advantage

Leading electronics and appliances retailer LG recently came up with a great way to incorporate pollen counts into its email campaigns.

In this case, LG used Liveclicker’s LiveForecast advanced email experience to personalize emails with five-day forecasts of expected pollen counts in the recipient’s city or region. More, these forecasts were displayed with color coding and a custom graphic, both of which would quickly catch a reader’s attention. For example, on the worst days, the graphic would include a red bar with the words, “Pollen level: Very high,” while the custom graphic displayed more pollen than other days.

The entire creative was set against a backdrop of a blooming cherry tree just beginning to shed its early flowers (just looking at it makes my eyes water) and displayed an industry seal to demonstrate that LG’s products are officially certified to be asthma and allergy friendly.

Why would an appliance and electronics company like LG create this type of email, especially considering it sells products designed for indoor use?

It turns out they had a very good reason. LG created this real-time personalization experience to promote its line of washing machines, air purifiers, and other LG products that could help reduce pollen and other common household allergens.

This innovative email approach led to a new way to connect with consumers, “warn” them that they could be facing an upcoming pollen problem, and then demonstrate just how LG products could help them overcome these potential  issues. Clever…and very effective!

Additional uses for pollen counts

On one hand, personalizing emails with pollen counts and other weather conditions may seem too specific, or not an approach every company can use. Yet creative marketing teams in a wide variety of industries can use this real-time information as an effective marketing tool.

Some other powerful use cases:

As you can see from the LG example and the suggestions above, there are many different ways to use pollen and weather forecasts in your email marketing campaigns. Don’t forget, you can use these forecasts in either situation—when pollen is high or low—giving you a rare win-win opportunity.

The importance of personalization in marketing is well-documented at this point, and most marketers have realized the value of making experiences and messages more relevant to individuals.

But despite this growing focus on 1:1 marketing, many marketing programs go without meaningful personalization in their emails. Nearly 40% of marketers said they almost never personalize their emails last year.

Even among organizations that do conduct some amount of personalization, it is often limited to the same basic customization marketers have been using for years: a first name in the salutation, a recent purchase in the body, and so on. These can be effective tactics, but today’s consumers have come to expect much more from brands.

Obstacles to Relevance

Most marketers would probably do more personalization if they could. But adding meaningful, individualized relevance to emails is often some combination of expensive, time consuming, or prohibitively difficult.

As I explained in our recent webinar, there are some constantly-growing headwinds marketers across industries and business sizes have to fight if we want to find success:

“Email volumes are continuing to rise, so standing out in a crowded inbox is more and more important to marketers and brands. Technologies are continuing to advance, and customer expectations are rising around what the brand experience is and they’re expecting more customized, more relevant experiences to be communicated with them. We’ve seen universally across the board email marketing teams tend to be resource-constrained, making it a challenge for brands to adapt to the high expectations of consumers. And it’s vital that marketers are able to offer compelling experiences in a way that’s scalable and sustainable for these resource-strapped programs.”

It’s impossible to hand-craft a customized email to every person on the mailing list. That just would not sustainable at any significant scale. There’s only one way marketers can deliver personalized experiences to all their subscribers: automation.

The beauty and magic of email automation is that it lets you scale up personalization to broad audiences. And not just elementary personalization like putting a name in the subject line, but advanced email personalization experiences as well.

If you need a way to upgrade your automated personalized emails to drive better results, try one of these powerful email personalization automation hacks:

Insert Evolving Content that Never Gets Old

Try inserting content into your that stays ‘evergreen’ and gives openers a reason to come back for more. Adding email features that automatically update upon open means you can constantly serve a fresh experience with minimal upfront input.

Some ideas:

For maximum relevance, make sure this content is structured to update upon open—not just when the emails are deployed. That not only makes sure you’re sending the freshest, most pertinent information; it makes each email open a fresh, novel experience.

As my webinar co-host and Oracle Marketing Cloud Product Marketing Manager Bryan Finfrock explained:

“This is just a great example of doing something above and beyond for customers; adding value and giving them a reason to open that next message, giving them something to look forward to in the experience that makes them want to participate with your brand.”

Send Emails That Adapt to Their Environment

Today’s consumers are more mercurial than ever; constantly on the go and rapidly shifting their interest from one topic to the next. Your email automation needs to change fast to keep up and perpetually bring value through real-time relevance.

Make emails capable of adapting to open-time context for the best relevance and engagement. Include elements that respond to the context of the opener—and your business—right when the email is opened. Some inspiration to try:

These are just a few of the ways you can increase relevance and personalization in your email marketing without having to make a big incremental investment in time and resources. We included a more comprehensive list, complete with effective and inspiring examples, in our latest ebook, Automating Personalization: 5 Ways to Scale Relevance in Your Email Marketing.

Download it now entirely free and start down the path to more relevant, more engaging, more effective emails!