Streaming music services are hot, and getting hotter. They also represent a new avenue of engagement for email marketers who want to use curated content to make their messages even more relevant and memorable – a move that can bring better results from your email marketing.

The numbers tell the story:

Adding music streams into your email marketing expands your connections with your readers beyond the static appeal of the email message itself. You’re adding extra value in your emails, and you’re engaging with them through a new sensory experience. 

That helps build your brand within and even beyond your email channel. Even if your customers aren’t ready to convert, you’re giving them something to click on that keeps your brand in their line of vision. It gives an opportunity to connect your brand with the powerful emotional experience music and spoken words can convey. 

If you incorporate music streaming elements into emails the right way, you give your subscribers a seamless advanced email experience. Mobile users who tap on your playlist in your email message should be able to start it up right away in the appropriate app. On a desktop, a playlist click should open either the web version of the streaming player or the desktop app, depending on user settings.

Bonus: Customizing the way a playlist appears in email (for instance, with your brand logo and colors) makes your brand visible every time your customers click on it and whenever the playlist comes up when noncustomers are searching for content on the service. It’s a win-win!

Use cases for audio in email

When we talk about audio in email, we’re not suggesting you embed songs or podcasts right in your email. It’s technically possible with some HTML5 wizardry, but it might not give a good experience to a wide portion of your mailing list. Many email clients still don’t support the technology. So, it could set off spam filters. (Read more in this Campaign Monitor blog post.) 

One reliable option is to use Liveclicker’s new LiveSocial feature, which embeds a real-time copy of your playlist in your email messages and links to the playlist to your openers’ Spotify app. 

The tool makes compiling and customizing your playlist feed fast and easy, too. Simple drop-down menu allows you to show off your carefully-made mixtape in brand colors, custom fonts and more. And it always pull the latest version of your playlist at the moment of open, so if you make any additions or adjustments, it’ll get reflected in your emails (yep, even after they’ve already been sent!). 

You can use playlists for any occasion to deliver or enhance content. Just think of the possibilities:

Innovative brands are already incorporating links to streaming songs and playlists in their marketing. Check out these examples for inspiration.

1. Bonus content from a partner or influencer:

K2 Snowboarding teams up with influencers among its users and invites them to put together representative playlists. In the email below, K2 presents a playlist from the Dust Box group of snowboarders in one of its regular marketing emails. Clicking on the link opens the Spotify app (mobile or desktop depending on which device the reader is using). Check it out for yourself (fair warning; some of the songs contain profanity).

2. Multi-use content channel

Mattress manufacturer Casper uses its Spotify channel to deliver podcasts and other content to help restless sleepers settle in for the night. You can fall asleep to a crackling campfire, sounds of the solar system or guided breathing methods. (Also handy for relieving anxiety!). Though Spotify podcast listings aren’t supported in the Liveclicker platform (yet), you can still use email to feature brand podcasts, or podcasts your brand sponsors.

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Start streaming!

All you need to get started is a subscription to a streaming service and a solid plan for the kind of content you want to include and what you want to achieve with your playlist marketing strategy. And, check out Liveclicker’s LiveSocial Spotify integration for quickly adding your content to your marketing emails. Want to see how it works? Just request a demo

Sometimes, email works a little too well. That irresistible promotion or clever creative drew tons of conversions; maybe so many that you sold out before you could even send a reminder campaign.

Well done! But what about all your other email subscribers who will open your email an hour or day or even week later, rush to your site and find the dreaded “Sold Out” banner plastered over your irresistible offer? That’s a complaint just waiting to happen (not to mention a missed conversion).

It can happen any time of the year, but it’s especially likely now that we’re in the thick of the busy holiday shopping season, when inventory flies out almost as fast as it hits your store shelves and deals can change in a jingle. It sets up a poor customer experience, one that can drive customers to your competition if you don’t manage it well.

Dynamic email keeps you connected

The same channel that drove all those customers to your site can also bring them back again when you offer to take their names and let them know when the product is back in stock. 

“Back in stock” emails function like abandoned-cart messages. You’ll get more customer action when you give them detailed information about the restocked product, like this message:

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This email is about as specific as you can get. It names the product, provides a photo and details, links to the product page and even reminds the customer why she’s getting the email. 

“Back in stock” emails are popular with customers. They generate some of the highest open rates of any triggered messages – 47.6% to 65.32% according to different sources. For one brand, 7.7% of site visitors who clicked from a “back in stock” email bought the product, compared with the site’s 1.7% overall conversion rate. 

Those figures are impressive. But, your customers are still hitting dead ends when they click from your email to your website only to find they’re too late. 

Here’s an even better way: Use real-time data and content to replace the original email offer with an updated message when products sell out or some other catastrophe happens, like a delayed shipment from your supplier. 

If you can integrate your inventory management and messaging systems, you can substitute a notice that the product has sold, suggest similar products or invite the customer to sign up for an alert when the product gets restocked. 

Your customer might still be disappointed, but she won’t get an unexpected and unpleasant experience on your site and then go away empty-handed or click over to a competitor.  

How Hot Topic drives sales and engagement with dynamic content  

Pop-culture retailer Hot Topic uses moment-of-open technology that keeps its email customers up to date on new-product availability – not just when a product sells out but even before, when it becomes available in-store and online. 

The content automatically updates when the product’s status change, as shown in this promotion for the hot collectible brand Funko :

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If a product sells out, Hot Topic substitutes a grayed-out image that subscribers see at the moment they open the email message.

This tactic reduced customer complaints about missing out on hot sales and generated a 30% lift in clicks, longer browse sessions and higher sales. (Get more details in this blog post: 2 Wins and a Fail: Real Email Marketing Experiences and Lessons from Hot Topic.)

Add a restock alert to your product pages

Dynamic content that updates when customers open their emails can mean fewer unhappy surprises on the website for customers. But what about people who find your site through search, by typing your site name into their web browsers or clicking through from your emails anyway even if the message says the product is sold out?

A well-done “back in stock” email can save that sale. 

Offering to email customers when a product is available again is a standard feature on Amazon product pages. The product page will automatically disable color, size and other options and substitute a message like the one below:

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Logged-in Amazon customers don’t have to type in their email addresses; the system adds those automatically. If you can’t provide that same seamless experience, ask for an email address so you can send a restock alert.

Collect that address in a form on the page, like Amazon’s, or in a pop-up form (often called a pop-over or overlay).  

‘Back in stock’ alerts and email permission

You don’t have to worry about complying with email or data-privacy laws like CAN-SPAM, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) or the EU’s General Data Privacy Regulation because you are emailing your customers at their request. That makes them transactional rather than marketing emails

But, while your have your browsers’ attention, why not invite them to join your mailing list? Highlight the benefits of joining – special offers and discounts, VIP notices, etc. – but assure them they can request a restock alert without opting in. 

Also, remind customers why they should sign up for an email stock alert, such as being the first to find out when the product is restocked.

Be careful that your marketing-driven material is secondary to the restock reminder. Keep reading to see two ways to handle this.

3 tips for better ‘back in stock’ alerts

1. Be specific: We mentioned earlier that “back in stock” email messages function like abandoned-cart notices. They work best when you get as specific as possible, beginning with the subject line.

Instead of saying “Your item is back in stock,” specify the product you mean in the subject line and list details in the message in case you need to jog your customer’s memory. This is important all year long, but it become crucial for holiday shopping when your customers can easily go into information overload.

2. Make them memorable: Many “back in stock” alerts look like a robot formatted them. Design yours to be as attractive as your other marketing messages by using a similar template and adding your brand logo and colors and a little marketing pizzazz, like product alternatives.

This Glasses USA email recognizes that the love affair your customer had with a product when it wasn’t available can cool off by the time it gets restocked, so it suggests similar items from inventory. 

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This email from Lyst gives customers the option to request similar product views by clicking the “Similar products” button. Consider this approach if you are concerned about adding marketing-driven material to a transactional email.

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3. Build urgency: Persuade customers to jump on the alert. This Huckberry stock availability email stokes customers’ egos by noting that they are the first to learn about the restocked product and then ramping up the FOMO (fear of missing out) by reminded them that the new stock is limited. You don’t want customers missing out twice on a good deal!

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Wrapping up

No matter how effective your inventory-management system is, you can’t always avoid being sold out of a popular product. But you can retain more sales by using real-time data and dynamic content in email to get out in front of the problem before customers hit a dead end on your website. 

Then, follow up with a persuasive “back in stock” alert that entices them to come back and close the deal. 

As data-driven as we claim to be, today’s marketers are still susceptible to what amounts to old wives’ tales. Some of them are relatively harmless, while others derail marketing programs and sabotage ROI.

Several of the most common, and most dangerous, myths that marketers believe involve email. That was one of the prominent themes in our recent webinar: How to Make Email Marketing Work Harder, with Liveclicker Co-founder Justin Foster and Forrester VP and Principal Analyst Shar VanBoskirk.

The speakers named several hazardous misconceptions that abound in the world of email. Take this opportunity to learn the truth about getting more value from your email campaigns, and stop subscribing to these common myths:

Myth #1: Email marketing is just good for promotions

Think bigger than immediate conversions! Too often email is relegated to an advertising platform for products, events, and offers. It’s easy to see the channel’s applications as a promotional tool—but it’s capable of so much more: brand loyalty, account management, relationship development, and beyond.

Myth #2 Clicks and opens are the right metrics of email marketing effectiveness

Despite marketers’ efforts to make that breakthrough innovation, performance among email’s most-followed metrics has stagnated.

Part of the problem is that marketers are focusing on the wrong targets. Critically important metrics that correlate to brand favorability, depth of engagement, and loyalty are ignored in favor of traditional performance indicators.

As VanBoskirk explained during the webinar: “If you’re using email to do things like create a customer relationship, help connect a customer from one experience from one experience with your brand to another experience with your brand; if you’re using email to introduce your brand in the same way you might use a more traditional media experience like television, then maybe there are metrics that you’re not even tracking right now that are better indicators of the value that email is bringing.”

Myth #3 Your emails are interactive

The definition of interaction is changing across the digital channels, and email marketers need to change fast to keep up. “You get an email into your mailbox, you open it up, and you have a chance to click on a blue link…and that’s kind of far as we got with the experiential element of email.” Said VanBoskirk. “But everything else in the digital world has become more interactive; much more of a surround-sound experience.”

Think about when you interact with something as simple as a mobile app or website. You can probably pinch and drag and resize it with ease. It probably remembers who you are and caters your experience based on preferences and activity. The enormous majority of email programs don’t even scratch the surface of this basic interactive functionality.

Myth #4 Segmentation and dynamic content are enough to make email relevant

Relevance today means much more than catering content to fit certain personas and demographics. Emails need to take into account the context in which they’re being opened; when, where, and how.

Simple factors like time of day, email client, geo-location, and even the local weather can have a huge influence on a user’s immediate needs and interests when they open an email. There’s also the context of your business at the time of open to consider: available store inventory, live pricing, active sales, and more. Cater to those contexts to improve relevance, delight your customers and build lasting relationships.

A “New Chapter for Email”

Study after study discussed in the webinar revealed that mediocrity has become the status quo across the world of email. Even a poor email program can deliver some of the best ROI in a marketing mix, rewarding complacency and discouraging innovation.

But ambitious, forward-looking marketers can find ways to swim against the current, WOW their customers, and earn success not previously thought possible.

The speakers showed several powerful examples of innovative brands that are pushing the boundaries of email with creative technology-driven experiences (download the webinar deck to see for yourself). They also listed three things you can start doing right away to “hack” your email program and get better results in the long and short term:

  1. Make email more than just an ad medium.

Email is a phenomenal direct mail-style promotion platform—and that is getting marketers into trouble. It’s so good at one thing, we’ve often overlook all the other value we could be getting from it.

Start thinking: what if email did something else for you?

What if it played the role of a tv commercial? What if it played the role of a data collection portal? What if it was an ecommerce or customer service platform? Don’t be afraid to get creative and take risks; innovative email marketing technology is making more and more interactive customer experiences possible every day.

  1. Develop email as a comprehensive digital experience.

Historically, email has served as a gateway to experiences. Marketers would use emails to drive subscribers elsewhere; to landing pages, websites, content, etc.

Try transforming your emails into discrete, complete experiences capable of standing on their own. Instead of sending openers onward where they might drop out of the journey, keep them in one place and give them everything they need to learn, see, engage, and convert right there. Implement dynamic email content elements that update reflexively to real-time data and personalization while minimizing the amount of effort and production time spent crafting these experiences.

  1. Tenure your email team.

Remember that powerful emails come as much from talent as technology. According to VanBoskirk: “What we find from our research is that companies that have more senior email managers tend to have more competitive email programs.” But this is a field of high mobility and turnover, where expertise is highly valued and demand is competitive. Getting top talent, retaining it, and keeping it on the cutting edge is a constant battle.

The webinar featured several suggestions for tenuring a seasoned email program, from reverse mentoring of senior marketing leadership to alternative team structuring and incentive programs. However you choose to approach this challenge, the takeaway is clear: don’t get so focused on new tactics and tools that you lose sight of the human intelligence making it all work.

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Need some inspiration? Find real-world examples of these ‘hacks’ at work, plus more insights, in the webinar recording. Click here to watch it now

Ho, Ho, Ho! The 2018 holiday season has officially come to a close, and as we look back on all the fun and festivities, we wanted to highlight a few real-time holiday email designs that really “sleighed” this year.

Hickory Farms

Hickory Farms spread good cheer with an in-email poll asking customers if their shopping was finished. Recipients who voted “yes” were directed to a landing page featuring stocking stuffers, while recipients who voted “no” were directed to a page featuring Christmas gifts. In addition, recipients could return to the email for live poll results, adding a sense of community with subscribers and establishing the email as a living, evolving experience. What a brilliant way to engage customers in email and connect them with relevant content!

White House Black Market

As a gift that kept on giving, White House Black Market promoted 10 days of deals leading up to to their holiday event. For 10 days, recipients could come back to the same, elegant email and see a different deal every day. And on the final day, the image switched to “Hurry Ends Tonight” to create an even greater sense of urgency.

Pier 1 Imports

Pier 1 helped customers get their online shopping done on time by counting down the days to its Christmas shipping deadline, and then automatically switched to a reminder that it wasn’t too late to pick up purchases in a nearby store. So no matter when the recipient opened the email, they received the most relevant information.

ITV

Everyone loves a good holiday TV special. With this engaging and easy-to-read schedule, British network ITV made sure everyone had the chance to settle down with a cup of cocoa and get in the Christmas spirit with their favorite flick. This email uses LiveSlides to rotate through numerous shows, keeping the reader engaged and enabling the brand to convey a lot of information in just one email.

Taubman Centers

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, things can fall through the cracks. That’s why Taubman Centers’ option to add its “Photos with Santa” events directly to recipients’ calendars was such a wonderful (and helpful!) idea! Personalizing emails with location and timezone data is especially powerful for brands with large brick-and-mortar footprints. Pair that with a customizable calendar invite for a big event or sale, and you’ve got a potent recipe to bring customers in at a particular place and time.

We always want to help our clients improve their marketing results, whether it’s rethinking existing marketing challenges or using real-time email personalization strategies to accomplish new goals.

This is the idea behind our RealTime Email Innovators program, a series of topical case studies that offer a detailed look at how many leading companies are achieving success using Liveclicker solutions. Each case study provides real-world examples in our attempt to give you specific tips, tricks, and best practices to transform your marketing efforts.

We’re happy to unveil two new RealTime Email Innovators: Alfred Dunhill Limited and Hot Topic. Both of these leading retailers faced difficult challenges related to traditional marketing approaches. Fortunately, both brands were able to use real-time personalization to devise innovative new email marketing strategies to overcome past obstacles and improve the way they engaged their customers and prospects.

Dunhill Limited Creates a More Engaging Customer Experience

For example, Dunhill initially approached Liveclicker to improve the way it promoted its presence at the annual Fashion Week in Paris. Specifically, the retailer wanted to generate as much anticipation and excitement as possible for the showcase event of Fashion Week: the prestigious Men’s Fashion Show.

Dunhill’s marketing team used Liveclicker’s real-time email personalization platform and services to create a three-touch email campaign. The first email offered a full-motion video trailer to announce the brand’s presence at the Paris Fashion Week. The second email featured a countdown timer, which was set to 15 minutes before the show started and then revealed a live video stream of the fashion show. The final email contained a recording of the fashion show as well as various product images to encourage the audience to click for more highlights.

A Time-Based Strategy Overcomes Past Challenges for Hot Topic

Additionally, Hot Topic partnered with Liveclicker to create a time-based targeting strategy and highly dynamic product-centric emails that updated in real time to deliver a better customer experience.

Such an approach was needed as an improvement over past email marketing efforts. Hot Topic used to send marketing emails as soon as a product was available on its site, yet these products would often sell out before all subscribers even received the email. The entire experience was frustrating for those customers who couldn’t act fast enough to get the product they saw in email.

With Liveclicker technology, Hot Topic created an email using RealTime Email’s LiveImage capability that highlighted the fact that the product was now available in stores. Then, when the product also became available online, the image automatically swapped to offer a new link to promote online shopping. Hot Topic was even able to use a grayed out image to show when a product was out of stock.

Interested in learning more about these examples, and how you can use real-time email personalization to achieve powerful new business results? We invite you to download our RealTime Email Innovators case studies for more information.

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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.

Creating the perfect email isn’t a dream anymore.

In recent years, technology has opened new paths to consumer interaction in the inbox – bringing rich media and deeper content personalization mainstream. The movement of software and device maturation towards customer experience is helping marketers deliver better message content and template functionality. This move has positioned email as number one business-to-consumer channel of choice for almost all digital communications.

Email is the #1 activity on the Internet – even over using a search engine. It’s also the #1 activity on mobile devices” (Marketing Growth Strategies, Litmus)

Marketers consistently rank email as the single most effective tactic for awareness, acquisition, conversion and retention” (Gigaom Research)

Consumer experience is a key factor in email marketing’s growth. Static email content has grown to become dynamic and still grows as real-time functionality can identify recipient-level variables to deepen message personalization. Segmentation has also evolved – from historical to forward-looking demarcation.

A forward-looking approach is a cornerstone to basic inbox personalization at scale. Real-time information is used to trigger content delivery within an email template to heighten recipient interest. Segmentation in this process happens at the moment the email opens, rather than before the email sends. Each email is individually personalized based on live recipient data, rendering uniquely in each inbox.

How Does Live Data Scale Email Relevance?

With real-time email technology, live data pulls directly from the email recipient each time the email opens. The data is analyzed and filtered instantly, pushing back the most recent and relevant content to openers. By positioning segmentation at the inbox rather than before the send, personalization is fluid to the point of open, not limited to pre-send information within the campaign workflow.

Uncoupling segmentation from predefined lists allows more interactive content within an email campaign. Images, omni-channel marketing data, custom feeds, website content, and live CRM data are pulled in real-time to create the highest possible relevance for openers. Live data filters automate segmentation, reducing the need for list building.

Pre-defining lists for an email campaign comes with a certain amount of disconnection between the company and recipients. As data ages in a CRM, it has a natural amount of attrition that atrophies messaging personalization. Pre-defined segmentation also inherently ignores the context and setting of where an email opens regarding the recipients – diminishing relevance before deployment.

Where is Live Data Used?

Live data can be used to increase relevance for all types of email content. To date, companies using real-time email technology are leveraging time, location, device, and inbox client data to tighten email context. Live data helps recipients open more interesting emails, also giving marketers an edge technically on rich-media delivery. Device and software identification assists in delivering the appropriate video or animated image to email openers to prevent broken emails in the inbox.

What Email Elements does Live Data Affect?

Email elements with imagery are the most affected by live data. Because HTML text is hard coded into an email, contextual content technology does not currently change the text within an email template. However, live website, social media, or weather information pulled for an email are refreshed within embedded images, mimicking text-based content.

Example: Live Data in Email

Live data in email

Live data makes a big difference in email relevance and can be as simple as cross-channel inclusions, like Instagram photos. 

Can Live Data Replace List Segmentation?

Yes and no. Segmentation based on real-time variables that overlap with CRM information would need consideration, but live data does a better job of enhancing pre-existing data segmentation than replacing it. Using historical in conjunction with moment-of-open information is the perfect mix of context for the email recipient.

When is the Best Time to Involve Live Data?

Anytime.

Live data integrations into an email can be as simple as configuring the logic and pasting a line of HTML into an existing email template. Simple implementations like social media feeds or weather are implemented in less than a few minutes. Although, similar to any marketing campaign, customizing images and element display can take extra development time.

Advanced integrations like real-time account-level information delivered in graphical form naturally take more time to configure and test, but create a lasting impression on inbox performance.