EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 343 - September 22, 2013 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 6

Email Marketing Tips for Online Sellers: Engaging Your Customers

By Julia Wilkinson

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A recent study by Yesmail revealed that almost half of all brand emails were opened on mobile devices, but when it came to interacting with those promotional messages, consumers still prefer to do so on a desktop computer. This suggests that many marketers are not optimizing their promotional emails for mobile devices. Only 11% of people click on an email after opening it on a mobile device, vs. 23% for on a desktop PC.

Mobile usage is not only here to stay, but is growing. While customers may not be clicking within newsletters on their mobile device as much as online marketers would like, the trend is and has been that more and more people are viewing the emails this way, says Kristin Kleweno, Customer Strategy Director at Yesmail. "It's interesting; in the last couple of years we've seen it jump," she said, The percentage of the email opens from year to year, for the past five years, has about doubled every year, she added.

Optimizing Emails for Mobile
So how do sellers, especially small ones without vast resources, ensure their marketing communications are optimized for mobile devices?

First of all, the small seller should know what their communications look like on various platforms. "So if you don't, that's a really good thing to make sure you understand," Kloweno said. At Yesmail, Kleweno says they have teams who ensure they know how the emails are rendering in these devices.

At a minimum, sellers can check their newsletters on their own PCs, tablets and smartphones. And if you have an iPad and an iPhone to check out your content, it's worth borrowing a friend or employee's Droid phone to give your email a once-over as well.

A majority of consumers - 82 percent - are using Apple iOS devices to read emails on the go, but Android platform is second with 17 percent of mobile email opens, according to Yesmail's study. (Blackberry, Windows Phone and other devices combined account for less than 1 percent of mobile email opens).

From Opens to Click-Throughs
Once you know the email is rendering OK in mobile platforms, then you need to think about not just open rates but actual click-throughs within the communication.

"The best mobile newsletters out there are clear, they're easy to see, and there are very distinct calls to action that makes sense based on the fact that it's mobile," said Kleweno. If the email is just easy to see but without clear calls to action, you might get customers who will open newsletters because they're loyal to that brand, but "the clicking through was the problem, so that click-through rate plummeted."

If you're not sure of what your open or click-through statistics are for given platforms, Kleweno advises checking with your email service provider. "If you've got one, it's certainly worth asking them, because it's definitely starting to become more standard of an offering, but it's important," she says.

Calls to Action
So if a consumer needs clear "calls to action" to interact with your content, what would that look like? One example is a "click on our Facebook page"-type message. That is "very quick, very direct," says Kleweno.

It can also be something like "download our mobile application," because "that's something people do on their phone that's starting to become a big one."

It may also be an "add to calendar" action, and of course it may be a quick sale, where the consumer is going to buy.

Another one is "learn more": you open your phone and you know you can see it, just a couple of different words: "learn more," she said.

And should these calls to action be at or near the top of an email message? Not necessarily, says Kleweno. She says some of Yesmail's clients "will actually put some of the good stuff at the bottom." However, in general, most of the clicks are usually at the top.

The Personal Touch: Small Sellers More Nimble
Another thing you can do to be effective in general is to feature specific customers or mention them in other ways within your emails. While very large brands have vast resources to run and analyze email campaigns, Kleweno said it's actually the small sellers who are the most nimble and close to their customers. "In fact, a lot of the things they do is being up-leveled to corporate brands, because they want to be closer to their customers," she said, and it can be hard to get close your customer when you're a huge brand.

"So we've seen a lot of our bigger clients move in the newsletter space into, for example, have Jackie be the editor here...we're going to put her face on this newsletter."

Three to Seven Times a Week: An Optimal Frequency?
A big question on email marketers' minds is always, how often should I send them out? Although Yesmail's study indicated that sending emails three to seven times a week is the most effective frequency, Kleweno says she thinks there is no real magic number to frequency.

"You talk about the bigger brands that have daily deals, and (if) you have programs that support that kind of thing, that frequency that makes sense," she said. "But we do a lot of frequency checks, and it really just depends on the business and how often you need to reach out to them."

At a minimum, however, you want to reach out at least once a month, she says. "But then on top of that, it's really up to you: look at what your competitors are doing; look at what the marketplace is doing; get your share of inbox."

While the "big guys," like any of the big-box retailers like Banana Republic, GAP and Macy's, are usually sending messages daily, they are also able to strategically target those messages, so, for example, a given customer may not get the "men's suits" promo on Tuesday, but might get the "Wednesday pots and pans" promo.

Yesmail's study does corroborate that large companies with databases and the highest percentage of active subscribers (21%) email at least once every other day.

Tuesdays and Fridays? Best Days and Times of the Week
Aside from frequency, many marketers want to know if there are specific days of the week or times of day which are most effective for getting higher opens and click-through rates.

Although Kleweno says Tuesdays and Thursdays generally pop, and Fridays are good if you have a business where you're trying to stir traffic on the weekend, the real answer is, it depends on the business and industry. The best thing a seller can do is to run tests on your own list, and "such a test is an easy thing to do," she says.

But worrying about days of the week and then even times of the day is secondary to what should be your main concerns. "If you want a higher open rate, you need to look at who you're targeting and what you're giving them," says Kleweno. And then everything else falls underneath that. "You have to have that audience, you have to have that offer; those two are what's going to drive engagement."

"And then you start tweaking with subject lines, day of the week, and time of day," says Kleweno. But they are tweaks; they won't solve for bad content. "It's kind of moving chairs around the Titanic. You can touch them all day long, but at the end of the day it won't change the bigger problem, which is you giving them crap."

Strategies that Drive Conversions
So is there some kind of content or offer that drives conversions the most? "You're talking about the big marketers' dilemma," says Kleweno. "What can I put out there?"

Free shipping and percentage off are two of the key ones, she said. "And I think in the holiday season what's real interesting is there are a lot of tactics to increase conversion by building up interest in the products and brand. That's where you see a lot of the "12 Days of Christmas," "wish lists" and "Ten ideas for Your Dad," she said. And although the email may not be focused on, say, 10% off, the education is there. So that the next email may make the conversion.

What to Look for in Email Reports
What should email marketers be looking for in their campaigns' reports?

The main thing, says Kloweno, is the delivery response reports. "Then what you really need is the trend. You need to know that hey, in this past year I sent ten messages and here they all are lined up, and I can tell what the trend is." Are they up or down?

"It's critical to see trends," she says, and any email service provider should have a reporting capability that allows you to do that.

But at the end the day, deliverability is key. As Kleweno sums up, "If you're not getting your email delivered, then you're wasting your time."

We'd like to know more about how you use email to market to your customers. Please take our survey on SurveyMonkey and we'll share the results in a future issue.

About the author:

Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.

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