It’s the dog days of August. Merchants of all stripes are putting the final touches on their plans for fall. As Back-to-School gives way to Halloween and Columbus Day, extreme profit pressure and declining list rental prices, the lowest rates ever in the Worldata Index, will prompt the most aggressive retailers to float Black Friday offers as early as mid or late October. There is a tsunami of e-mail headed toward us.
E-mail is the strike force medium for online and offline retailers because 95% of online users get it and receive an average of 416 commercial messages per month. 91% check their e-mail at least once a day and 70% say they always open e-mails from their favorite companies. Seventy-four percent say it’s their preferred channel for receiving commercial messages. Social media gets the buzz, but email delivers the traffic.
During Q1 2013, nearly one in every three e-mails was opened, the best results in recent history. Half open on mobile devices and as much as a third of openers act on the offers. In general, for every dollar spent on e-mail marketing, retailers get $44.25 in return.
The big tactical decisions are about frequency or cadence and offers. Some form of free shipping and a minimum of a 10 percent discount are table stakes. And 3-4 times per week between November 15 and December 24 seem to be the norm.
Six e-mail marketing best practices will separate the winners from the losers:
Write Telegraphic Subject Lines. For one-third of recipients, the subject line is the only criteria for opening. Put the offer and the CTA in the SUBJ line but understand that less is better. Subject lines with fewer than 10 characters have a 58 percent open rate and better than a 2.5% CTR. Shorter is always better. If you can work in the customer’s name and/or location, you can spike open rates. Everybody immediately responds to their own name.
Short & Sweet Content. Focus on the offer. Aim for 4 paragraphs maximum. Limit the possible CTAs. Click rate degrades with the number of links, so focus your customers on seeing a single powerful offer and direct them to click on a big colorful link or button or two. Avoid the urge to load up on logos and taglines. Present the product or service clearly. Find a stand-alone illustration or image to make your point and ask for the order. Adding a personal signature, evidence of human interaction, can increase opens by 5 times and clicks by 3.5 times.
Potent proven retail words like – free, coupons, sale, today, news, and special -- resonate particularly well. But since everybody knows this, your offer has to pay it off in a differentiating and motivating way to deliver a decent click through or click to open rate.
Time Your Send. Most e-mail is opened during business hours (10a-4p) and the majority of response happens in the first hour after delivery. More than half of mobile e-mail is opened from 5p till 8a. Consider these cycles as you craft content and offers.
Open rates peak mid week, on Tuesdays and Wednesday, though the highest click through rates are on Sunday. The most e-mail is sent on Wednesday so the burden to stand out midweek is greatest. Saturdays draw the lowest volume, maybe an opportunity to flank the competition.
There is a lot of click through action early in the AM. That’s why so many retailers transmit overnight to catch consumers when they check their e-mail first thing in the morning. Open rates generally peak at 10am and then gently slope downward throughout the business day.
Be Transparent on the FROM line. Twenty-four percent of recipients only open e-mail from names they recognize. Transparency works best. Use your brand name. The higher your brand awareness; the better your open rate.
Optimize for Mobile. Almost half of all e-mail is opened on mobile devices. Too many render badly and drive customers away. Design for smartphones with clear calls-to-action and big buttons for fat fingers. Aim for more elegant rendering on tablets, but expect buying actions to take place from home in the evenings.
Keep Sending. Consumers want options and choices. They are not bothered by hundreds of e-mails in their inboxes because, for the most part, they’ve asked for them. The more e-mail they get, the more control they have. High e-mail volume will not annoy customers and prospects at this time of year.
They won’t open or read everything you send. But they don’t want to miss out on a great deal. Consumers are expecting lots of offers and will eagerly sort them out and cull the ones that are most attractive. This is one instance where more is more.