With 2012 behind us, we thought we’d recap the trends and stories of note from the past year. We saw a lot of new ideas being tested, such as symbols in subject lines, mobile-optimized emails and Facebook targeting, that all showed promise of moving from a trend to a standard.
- Pump up the email volume. Last year’s holiday email numbers were huge. Experian Marketing Services reported a 5% increase in volume over the 2011 holiday season. While marketers are becoming savvier with targeting their customers and shying away from “batch and blast,” they’re also upping the volume ¾ especially during the holidays. With an increase in volume, we also saw an increase in revenue and transactions. Experian Marketing Services reports that in Q4 2012, revenue per email was up 8% and the average order was up 12%. Key takeaway: Email is still one of the most effective tools at a marketer’s disposal and will continue to be throughout 2013.
- Obama wins with email. Reports show that a huge portion of his donations came through email marketing. To add to that, with subject line testing, the Obama campaign was able to improve engagement of its base. Studies also showed more emails and better inbox placement for the Obama campaign verses Romney emails. Per ABC News, “… Obama had 13 million email subscribers – five times as many as Romney – with a 68 percent inbox placement rate (evading spam filters). Romney’s placement rate was just 50 percent, according to the group, which based its findings on a random sample of 2 million inboxes between Aug. 27 and Oct. 10.” This is evidence that a strategic approach to email marketing will improve your marketing programs. The Obama campaign utilized email and voter targeting to drive a significant portion of their donations.
- Facebook goes public – with Custom Audiences. When Facebook announced that marketers could now tie Facebook users to their data, the industry jumped on the opportunity. Experian Marketing Services’ clients are already leveraging the power of this opportunity via Experian-owned Alchemy Social. Check out our Q&A on Facebook Targeting with Global CEO of Alchemy Social, Rachel Bergman.We anticipate more testing and optimization with Custom Audiences in the coming year, and foresee more ways marketers can reach their users on social sites like Facebook.
- Device optimization. With reports that over 40% of users are now viewing emails on mobile devices (topping 44% in November), it’s no wonder marketers are putting so much energy behind device-specific optimization. With new technologies like Movable Ink’s Device Targeter, responsive designand simple creative techniques, marketers are becoming more savvy and smart about their design. Experian CheetahMail testing has shown an increase up to 16% in click-to-open rates when using optimization tactics. We expect to see more emerging technologies to help the industry optimize their emails in 2013, as well as easier ways to talk to your customers across platforms.Be sure to register for our upcoming responsive design Webinar to learn more about device optimization through responsive design.
- Acquisition and delivery trends. As acquisition strategies became more aggressive, so did anti-spam rules. As we’ve seen all year, ISPs are tightening their rules, and bulking based on activity. Additionally, as retailers added more aggressive ways to collect users on their Websites (via layovers and pop-ups) and in store, Spamhaus became more aggressive in their blocking criteria as well. Around the holidays, Spamhaus began blocking retailers based on email addresses coming in from point-of-sale collection methods, specifically e-receipts. Their claim? The addresses were mis-typed and more than just transactional messages were going to an unwanted recipient or spam trap. (Read Spamhaus’ explanation. It’s also worth reading the subsequent blog responses.)To learn more about collecting email addresses at point-of-sale, download our white paper: Point of sale email: Managing compliance, privacy and deliverability with in-store email acquisition
One of the big points we have made to our clients is to secure a good data hygiene solution in order to help cleanse your list from the outset. These solutions, like Experian QAS, help to correct syntax errors, identify non-existent email addresses and have been proven to help with overall bounce rates.
Be sure to check out our blog post on recent email address acquisition trends, like site pop-ups as well.
- Integration of social. While not a new trend, we’ve seen just about every social channel integrated into email marketing campaigns and Websites over the last year. Pinterest was hot, gaining the most press, at least, with stellar numbers to back up promoting them in email and on Websites. Retailers, especially, saw increased conversions from users who came from Pinterest to their Website(s). We also saw momentum with Instagram, Twitter, Fancy and Tumblr to name a few.Social sharing also proved big on Websites. Amazon, Gilt and Giggle allow users to tweet or post purchases after a transaction, with some brands even providing incentives to do so. See our latest posts on incorporating Twitter hashtags and Instagram in to your marketing mix.
With more social sites springing up all the time, we expect to see some fall off of “Follow us” links for smaller or non-performing social sites and a “survival of the fittest” may ensue. We also look forward to seeing more integration of email from social sites. With Twitter and Pinterest sending out their own newsletters, we hope to see those emails become more targeted and evolve along with the social sites.
- Loyalty gets a boost. With so much competition among travel, cosmetics and clothing companies, it’s no wonder so many new loyalty programs are sprouting up. We know from our benchmarks that loyalty programs and loyalty emails are some of the best performersin a marketer’s arsenal. If you have a loyalty program or are thinking of starting one, it’s a good idea to read up on which campaigns perform the best so you know where to put your energies. According to our benchmarks, statement emails win hands down as the strongest performers, with the best open, click and transaction rates.Additionally, with the launch of Apple’s new iOS, we saw more marketers touting Passbook, an app that helps load and keep track of coupons and loyalty rewards. Sephora is already promoting their integration in the footer of their emails as seen below.
We expect to see even more loyalty programs in the coming year, and an optimization of current programs.
- Symbols, and more symbols: While using symbols in subject lines has been around for some time, the way marketers are utilizing them has shifted. From just plain hearts and stars to creative usage like the ones below, we like what we see in terms of creativity and increase in open rates. It’s not for everyone (and in fact opens rates didn’t rise for every client we tested with), but this seems to be more than just a quick fad from last year.
Here are some of the more interesting subject lines we’ve seen recently:
- ☊ What kind of HEADPHONE are you?
- ☴ 10 Hotels for Hiding Out in Style
- ✂—Your New October Coupons Have Arrived!
- ✈ + ☼ + ☂ + Golf = ♥ (25% Off Our Golf Gift Basket)
- Brooks outerwear is designed for all-weather running ☁☂☀
- ˚•* Rosé Bubbly •˚*it’s $17 making Champagne oh-so jealous
- ☁ ☂ ϟ Hurricane Sandy Sale! ϟ ☂ ☁ 20% Off Everything!
- Our stores are open & here to help! ❶ Gift Concierge ❷ Free Gift Wrapping ❸ Extended Hours ❹ Gift of the Day
- Create some inner ☮
We predict that we will continue seeing more symbols in subject lines in 2013, and we hope to even see some consistencies with how these symbols might render across email clients. Ensuring these symbols render and not just in one email client (like Hotmail) will continue to be top of mind when deploying these types of subject lines.
- Cross-channel marketing. In 2012, organizations started focusing more strategies around the customer’s journey, looking to optimize the customer’s experience through a smooth, relevant and consistent relationship that considers the client at the center of key marketing decisions across every channel. As an example, Experian Marketing Services’s client, Kirkland’s, demonstrated a successful acquisition of mobile members through in store communications and email marketing.In 2013, we know we’ll be seeing a lot more cross-channel success and see more marketers working toward a seamless cross-channel customer experience.
- Hurricane Sandy. While many marketers took advantage of technology to inform their customers of outages or geo-target those affected, we also saw some unfortunate campaigns that took a tone many didn’t appreciate. We blogged about this shortly after the event, giving examples of the good and the bad.What this shows us is that while we have technologies at our disposal to help us when disasters strike, it’s how we utilize those technologies and our marketing savvy that’s important.
Whether it was joining Facebook and email data, looking at mobile usage to determine how to optimize emails or slicing and dicing segmentation data to better target election donations, the most impactful of the stories above utilized data or testing to enhance and inform customer communications. The future of email marketing, mobile marketing and cross-channel marketing is not about a quick fix or flash in the pan trends, but about thoughtful planning and execution. It’s not enough to try new things, it’s equally as important to learn from what you’ve tested, as well as the successes and failures of others in the industry.
What strategies will you be using in 2013 that will set you apart, bring you forward, help your customers and surpass your goals? We hope some of the stories above inspire you and your programs and we look forward to seeing how we all push each other and the envelope even further in the coming year. Here’s to an innovative and successful 2013!
For more trends and benchmarks, pre-order The 2013 Digital Marketer Report. It contains actionable data and consumer insights across key marketing channels to shape an integrated customer experience and help you be truly customer obsessed.
Learn more about the author, Liz Gould