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The relevance of email marketing and what to really measure

This post is sponsored by Oracle.

Email marketing is highly regarded as one of the most effective digital marketing channel for companies across numerous verticles. It is known to generate revenue and give marketers a clear idea of their consumers. It comes as no surprise that email marketing has grown more prominent and sophisticated with marketers now creating personalised content and strategies, to ensure their segmentation practices are producing yield.

What are consumers prioritising in their experiences with brands that marketers should look out for?

Peoples’ expectations of brands are constantly changing, becoming more sophisticated and demanding. We expect services and products to be delivered in a way that is digital-first, on-demand and relevant. We expect a flawless and consistent experience that seamlessly blends our online and offline activity.

With customer demands getting more sophisticated and brands’ service mix only becoming broader and more complex, the job of keeping the customer experience relevant is never ending.

This is an exciting time for marketers with the rise of customer experience (CX) data-led businesses such as Grab, RedMart and Zalora changing the way they interact with customers and recreate the CX.

Increasingly, CX will mean the need for constant experimentation from marketers to find the right CX tools to attract and retain customers.

Today’s pace of change requires companies to make transformation the norm if they want to survive. This is especially so in a socially connected market such as Southeast Asia, a mobile-first region slated to become the fastest growing internet market globally by 2020.

Is social media advertising the only way forward for marketers?

Great marketing embraces technology and aligns with outcomes – it’s about driving more sales, bigger sales, faster sales and greater lifetime value, rather than acquiring more likes on your social media platform. While the latest video advertising study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, points at budgets shifting from TV to digital – the biggest winners of this shift will likely be social media channels rather than brands.

Rather than pooling all your resources on social media, marketers should look at how they can make more meaningful and profitable relationships with their customers across all channels with a single, personalised conversation. One smart CX tool to leverage is email marketing.

According to Forrester, “email marketing [is] the old salt of your digital toolkit and still the most cost-effective promotional channel”. Email has long been recognised as the most natural channel to deliver on the promise of personalised digital experiences, and it allows for a direct and intimate one-to-one relationship between a brand and its customers.

What’s important to recognise is email marketing provides the most value when it comes to creating personalised customer experiences across multiple channels, including on mobile.

For instance, Carousell, one of the world’s largest mobile classifieds marketplaces, adopted Oracle Responsys to orchestrate customer experiences and messaging, along with the added capabilities to personalise at scale. The end-to-end email service provider (ESP) platform enabled by Carousell allows the company to exponentially increase the number and complexity of its managed campaigns, resulting in more precise segmentation, and more powerful data utilisation to drive editorial content.

This approach also resulted in Carousell launching its lead scoring model within just 12 months of deployment. Leveraging the new insights uncovered by Responsys, Carousell has effectively increased its attributes for customer targeting from the previous 30 to more than 150.

This has helped Carousell to engage more effectively with previously inactive users, while encouraging new interactions with existing users on the Carousell app.

Where can marketers start with an email marketing campaign?

If you’re delving into email marketing, you should first determine how you’ll send messages, track responses and keep up with unsubscribers. You may also need to choose an email service provider or marketing automation vendor. Your choice will depend on your budget, feature requirements, sales process and the number of contacts in your database (and don’t forget to allow for database growth).

Building your list

Once you’ve chosen a solution for sending messages and managing responses, you’ll want to focus on building your email list. To be clear, email marketing is not spamming – it usually begins when website visitors voluntarily “opt in” to be added to a database of marketable names.

Targeting your audience

Once you have your database and a growing list of opt-in subscribers, you’ll need to monitor your communication volume and ensure the messages you send are targeted and relevant. This is how you’ll increase your conversion rates and decrease opt-outs.

Designing for today’s devices

It’s not just what you send, and it’s not just who you send it to – it’s how you design it. As more and more B2B and B2C prospects adopt mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, best practices for email design are evolving rapidly. That means, in a mobile-first market such as the Philippines, you should design your messages using basic HTML elements that will adapt easily to a diverse set of email clients.

Ensuring email deliverability

This is the art of making sure your emails actually reach their recipients without being flagged by spam filters. It’s an important topic, with many specific design requirements. Taking the time to implement best practices will boost the overall results of your email campaigns. You should also look into the deliverability ratings of your ESP, email marketing software, or marketing automation vendor.

Using analytics and reporting

Using the analytics built into most email marketing systems, you can test new email campaigns and analyse the results before sending them to a larger list. The most common metrics marketers look at are open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribed rates and bounce rates. It’s also interesting to look at the open-to-click ratio (or “effectiveness”) of your email, which will help you understand how compelling your content was for the people who opened it.

What is an overlooked measure to email marketing success?

Something that is often overlooked is the idea of planning ahead. Good email marketers will have started considering their email marketing strategy for the holiday season now, in the middle of the year.

Why talk about Christmas in the middle of the year? Because sending volume matters. To ensure the success of larger campaigns during the holiday season, marketers should start planning and prepping their lists. The last thing marketers want to face is a blacklist or block going into the holiday season.

Reputation damage, once it occurs, requires weeks of consistent sending to correct. Often by the time the damage is inflicted, senders don’t have time to recover before the holiday mailing season. Slowly increasing mailing volume, meticulously reviewing metrics to weed out and remove risky segments and contacts, and adhering to confirmed opt-in guidelines will help line up a successful holiday season.

What is the next frontier marketers must tackle if they want to be successful in the market?

Today, the market is fragmented with a variety of CX point solutions answering different needs. This is not the way forward in the omni-channel world your customers and prospects operate in. Here are five tips on how to go about being smarter about CX:

  • Start simple: Don’t try to take too much on, adopting new technologies as and when they come up. Start small, and then build on your success. Start with simple proof-of-concept use cases that you can measure easily. A good candidate here is message testing – but going beyond simple A/B type testing.
  • Match the right task with the right tool: There are some tasks that technology just does better than people. When you’re selecting machine learning applications to include in your marketing tech strategy, develop a list of areas where machines could make a difference.
  • Look for “10x” opportunities: Many of these areas above are also huge time sinks for most teams, where humans must sift through often large data sets and determine the best course of action. Ask yourself: where could we make the biggest impact in terms of customer response or savings? Often, machines can at least help human marketers improve decision-making; in some cases, you can just outsource the entire workflow to intelligent helpers.
  • Measure and improve: It’s vital to think about what your definition of success is for a given use of machine learning and how you’ll measure progress towards your goals.

Remember it’s about your audience, not just the tech. Your number one concern should be how to share a singular, personalised communication message with your end audiences. Technology can be super useful here, but not all technology and not all the time. Make a connection between the tools you’re using and how they ultimately lead to a positive customer impact.

The writer is Wendy Hogan is customer experience and marketing strategy director at Oracle APAC.