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Reality Points the Way to Email Marketing Success

Whether it’s watching entrepreneurs seeking a backer for their startup dreams or seeing hapless restaurant owners get verbally abused by celebrity chefs, there seems to be no end to the appeal of reality to the viewing public. But while ecommerce pros aren’t going to be breaching the fortified doors of armed and dangerous drug dealers like the men and women of “Cops,” they could be breaching an even more formidable barrier – attention spans versus email marketing.

Year over year declines in referral traffic and conversion rates from email (Q2 2012 to Q2 2013) demonstrated how online sellers need to rethink their approach to email marketing. While there’s no panacea to solving this issue, several different ways of structuring one’s campaigns exist.

Online store builder Shopify dug into their own inboxes to show off several ideas on email marketing campaigns that merit a look. One of those ideas hews closely to the idea of how elements of real life can appeal to consumers.

Shopify showed how pet retailer Petflow effectively tied in feedback from real people via social media, in this instance their Facebook presence, into Petflow’s email campaigns. Petflow coupled this real commentary and feedback on a product with a discount offer as well as a call to action in the form of a “Click Here to Order” button.

Two significant trust factors, “social proof elements” as Shopify notes, are featured in the Petflow email. First we see the rating and associated comment from a satisfied customer. Seller ratings have ascended in importance, most notably demonstrated by Google licensing StellaService ratings to bolster their ecommerce efforts.

The second factor comes from feedback commentary left on Petflow’s Facebook presence. This represents the word-of-mouth element, real people offering their positive perspective on the product featured in Petflow’s email campaign message.

In its blog, Shopify’s Mark Macdonald noted how this approach can be effective. “Word-of-mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchases, while 63 percent of online customers say they’re more likely to buy on sites with positive reviews,” he wrote.

Macdonald also expanded a bit on social proof, in a comment to EcommerceBytes. “Social proof is a powerful psychological mechanism by which we look to others to guide our own actions. It’s a way for us to make “decisions shortcuts.” For example, choosing the busy restaurant over the empty one,” he said.

Ecommerce pros who have embraced social media and product reviews already have the content on hand to build such campaigns themselves. Just as in real life, people find appeal in the real messages of online shoppers too.

David A Utter on LinkedinDavid A Utter on Twitter
David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.