How to use video in email

The first time I came across a video within an email was in 2011 when I received a Game of Thrones email from Sky TV in the UK. Even though I was using Outlook 2007 at the time and had images blocked, I was still pretty amazed to see a real working video when I clicked on the “Can’t view this email” link.

As a fairly geeky email marketer, I viewed the source code to see what magic was going on.

I quickly identified something that looked like this:

<video width="640" height="360" poster="https://www.campaignmonitor.com/assets/uploads/https://www.campaignmonitor.com/assets/uploads/fallback.jpg" controls="controls"> <source src="http://mysite.com/videoname.mp4" type="video/mp4" /> <a href="http://mysite.com/"><img src="https://www.campaignmonitor.com/assets/uploads/https://www.campaignmonitor.com/assets/uploads/fallback.jpg" width="640" height="360" /></a> </video>

If you’re wondering what that code is, it’s actually HTML5 video tag which I can tell you was very advanced stuff at the time. Campaign Monitor co-founder, Dave Greiner blogged about this snippet of code back in 2009 and came to the conclusion that it was the best way to embed a video within an email, but still lacks support from most email clients.

According to our friends at Email on Acid, videos in email will work in Apple Mail, older iOS versions of the iPhone and Outlook.com. So, if you happen to have a high number of subscribers using one of those email clients, you can consider including a video within your emails, otherwise, it’s not something we would recommend. You can easily check what the most popular email clients and devices are among your subscribers with our email client usage report.

To solve for all the other email clients, we have some alternative options for using video in email in this post.

Optimizing your video for email

If you determine that you have a large Apple Mail/Outlook.com subscriber base and you want to try embedding an HTML 5 video in your email, there are a number of things you can do to optimize the experience for your subscribers.

Keep it short

It’s likely that half of the subscribers who open your emails spend less than 10 seconds reading them. Don’t bother trying to display a full feature film within your email. We recommend keeping your video under 60 seconds.

Keep file size low

Another good reason to keep your video short is that you also want to try and keep the file size as low as possible so that the video doesn’t need to buffer to start playing. Keep in mind that many people open your emails on mobile devices which might not have the fastest download speed.

Turn the sound off

People don’t expect sound to come out of their emails. So make sure that you turn the mute sound option on within your code.

Use video for the right reasons

Don’t use a video in your email just for the sake of doing it. Make sure that you have the right audience for the video and that it actually adds value to the email. Some good use cases might include event announcements, new product launches, exclusive interviews, etc.

What’s the alternative to embedding video in your email?

While embedding video in email isn’t a great idea for most due to the lack of support across email clients, there are other solutions you can use to bring videos to your emails including the following:

Animated GIFs

The obvious alternative to video within email is to use an animated GIF. These are easy to make, lightweight and are supported by most email clients. That’s why so many emails you receive from retailers includes an animated GIF of some sort.

Here’s a fun example from Australian retailer, Trelise Cooper:

Static image with play button

Using a play button on top of a static image is an incredibly easy way to link to video content hosted on sites like Wistia, YouTube or Vimeo. Like the animated GIF option, this is a great lightweight solution. And unlike embedding your video in the email, you’ll be able to track your clicks to see how many people are viewing the video from the email.

We did this recently in our Campaign Monitor newsletter with a slick video for Jaybird:

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Animated play button

To add a little extra emphasis to their play button, Harley Davidson of Australia & NZ used an animated play button to draw attention to the video in their email campaign:

Using these alternatives is very easy and has none of the drawbacks of embedding video in email.

Wrap up

Whether you choose to get more technical and use HTML5 video in your email or choose to use one of the alternatives outlined in this post, using video in email can be an engaging way to bring compelling content to your subscribers.

About Kurated

Andrew+King.png

Andrew King has designed, coded and deployed hundreds of emails (to millions of people) and most recently consulted on email strategy for some of the world's largest retailers, non-profits, financial institutions and publishers. He occasionally speaks at industry events and can often be found in San Francisco pondering the future of email. 

Follow Andrew here:

4 ways professional sports teams could improve their email marketing

Who doesn’t love receiving emails from their favorite sports teams? I know I definitely do! However, I’ve noticed that not all sports teams are created equal when it comes to a couple of key areas of email marketing, specifically the sign up process, automation and email design. So, here are four key things that professional sports teams could do tomorrow to improve their email programs.

1. Improve your email sign up process

Have you tried signing up to receive emails from your favorite professional sports team lately? Probably not because professional sports teams seem to be universally terrible when it comes to email address acquisition, with most teams hiding their subscription form in a drop down menu or registration page. Once you do find the sign up you’re then asked to fill out a ridiculous amount of information such as your physical address, phone number, date of birth, gender, favorite player etc. Here is a fairly typical example from the San Jose Sharks:

There are some shining exceptions, though. The Golden State Warriors (Go Dubs), for example, do everything right when it comes to email acquisition and I’m sure their list size is sky rocketing compared to other NBA teams because of it. And to be clear, they aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary, they are just following many of the same best practices that ecommerce companies and publishers have had implemented for years now such as pop-up modals, they have a big call to action to sign up on their homepage, and they only ask for your name and email address.

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I suppose it could be argued that ‘real’ sports fans would find a way to sign up to their favorite teams email list, but I personally think that’s a poor excuse. Even fair weather fans might want to receive emails from their local teams, so why make it so difficult?

My recommendations for email acquisition:

- Make your sign up forms more prominent
- Don’t ask a million questions at the point of sign, just collect email address and name
- Ideally trigger a welcome email with a link to a preference center. This is where you can collect additional details about your subscribers such as date of birth, favorite player, address (if you’re actually going to use it)
- Try out a pop-up modal

2. Set up automation to drive traffic back to your site and engage your audience

Disappointingly, most professional sports teams don’t seem to have much in the way of automation. The most I have seen is a one -off welcome and birthday email.

Here is an example of a welcome email from the Dallas Cowboys. Ideally I’d like to see more information about the team in this email. I feel like there is lots of evergreen content that a professional sports team has access to which would be perfect for new subscribers such as a history of the team, player profiles, or links to other parts of their website.

I also haven’t seen any sports teams who have a series of welcome emails, which I also think is a huge missed opportunity. New subscribers should be nurtured within the first few weeks with a number of emails which drive them back to the website, encourage them to follow the team on social media or buy merchandise. These are typically very simple tactics which could have big results.

This birthday email from Manchester City Football team is actually one of my favorite emails of all time as they have used dynamic content to include facts about the club from the year I was born. This is super interesting content for subscribers and doesn’t seem like it requires a lot of data other than date of birth.

There are many other types of automation which sports teams could take advantage of. What about a series of automated emails with interesting facts about key players on the team, re-engagement triggers, cart abandonment, post game survey’s etc.

My recommendations

- Implement the basics first - Welcome program and birthday email should be easy to setup
- Try asking people to sign up for a series of emails on their favorite player or interesting facts about the team. Set these up as automation's so you don’t have to remember to send them as manual campaigns.
- Set up progressively more complex automation's such as cart abandonment or re-engagement emails.

3. Optimize your email design

Many sports teams actually do a lot of things right when it comes to email design, often using a good mixture of HTML text and images, and making sure their design is mobile optimized. However, I think there is still a lot of room for improvement as I don’t look at many emails from professional sports teams and think ‘Wow, that’s a nice looking email’. Most teams seem to have a fairly basic looking template which does follow best practices but ultimately looks pretty boring after a while. Here is a fairly typical example from the Boston Bruins:

Luckily, there are a few sports teams leading the charge with innovative, interesting email designs that really do standout in the inbox. The South Sydney Rabbitohs is one team that comes to mind first, with their use of huge, edge to edge background images which look especially awesome of large computer screens.

The Vancouver Canucks have taken a similar approach and also used a large background image and layered their content on top. This may seem simple, but I feel like it really adds to the overall impact of the design.

The other team that I think has done an amazing job with their email design is Manchester City Football Club. They literally do everything right when it comes to having an email design that looks professional, includes ALL of the best practices, and responds well on mobile. Their email content is also on-point.

Subscribers to Man City will have probably noticed that their email design has changed quite a bit recently, compared to the above. I’m personally a fan of the old design...

My recommendations

- Try to spice up your email design every once in a while. Small things like background images and new layouts will keep things interesting for your subscribers.
- Don’t try to replicate your website exactly, email is a different channel which presents its own set of challenges which you should be optimizing for.

4. Monetize your email with programmatic ads

Occasionally I have seen sports teams who place static ads inside of their emails for their main sponsors, but I’ve never seen sports team place a programmatic ad from a provider such as LiveIntent or PowerInbox inside of their email. I’m sure there’s a reason that sports teams don’t do this, maybe it’s politics or something to do with how their sponsorship packages work, but I feel like there is huge potential for sports teams to monetize their newsletters in this way.

This email from the NFL shows how they are monetizing their email program with ads from PowerInbox:

My recommendations

- Professional sports teams typically have a large number of highly engaged email subscribers. They are missing out on revenue by not monetizing their email programs with programatic ads.

Hopefully there are some interesting ideas in there for sports teams. If you work for a professional sports team, I understand that it’s not as simple as I’m making it sound when it comes to making changes! There are often politics, traditions and established ways of doing things. I also realize that some sports teams might not even be in control of their email program, as it might be outsourced or centralized with their league. However, there is hope as I’ve also seen individual sports teams in pretty much every sport who are killing it when it comes to email marketing. Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to sports emails for more inspiration.

How to Deal With Common Email Marketing Mistakes

As an email marketer, you’re probably aware of the myriad of mistakes you can make any time you create and send your campaign. From spelling mistakes to broken links, or inaccurate segments, things can go wrong for even the savviest of marketers. This is probably why many marketers experience that all too familiar, knee knocking fear before pushing “send” on a campaign.

It’s inevitable that at some point a mistake will happen, so let’s take a look at some common reasons for sending ‘oops’ emails, see some real-life examples, and examine how to deal when you find yourself facing an unfortunate error.

Common email marketing mistakes

Incorrect links

It’s somewhat common to come across emails that contain broken or incorrect links. Although this may sound like a minor issue, it could cost you if the problem isn’t caught and rectified. This is why sending a test email prior to sending out your email is vital. It provides you a chance to test all the elements in your email from the subject line to CTA buttons and of course, your links. Make it a habit of clicking on every link in your test email to ensure your links go where you want them to.

CycleSurgery chose to send this email to subscribers who had already clicked on their email that had a broken link.

Technical difficulties on your website

Technical troubles seem to be one of the most common reasons for sending an ‘oops’ email, especially among e-commerce companies. This can often be an unforeseen problem, where a website goes down due to increased traffic, or technical issues. In this case, it’s a good best practice to get back to your subscribers as soon as your website is back up-and-running with a small incentive to say sorry.

This example from Reebok gets straight to the point with a short and snappy message and a 30% discount. Notice how they even use the word “Oops” as the promo code:

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Park Seed ran into issues when they updated their website and rewarded their subscribers with a 20% discount as a consolation. Again, they use a clever promo code with “All is Good.”

Incorrect segment

Sending to the wrong segment or no segment at all has the potential to confuse your subscribers and harm your brand. Shutterfly sent an email to its entire database of subscribers, congratulating them on their newborn children. Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, it was picked up by media and discussed at length on Twitter and Facebook:

Shutterfly swiftly followed up on this mistake with a formal apology email from their chief marketing officer, who explained what happened and invited concerned subscribers to email the company.

Sending the incorrect version of an email

Brands often create two different versions of an email, with the intent of sending one version based on the result of a game, event, or vote. Unfortunately, it seems like every year we see an example of when the wrong version is fired off. This can be a high profile and potentially damaging mistake to make, depending on what’s said in the email. If this happens to you, you’re usually best off sending an apology email with an explanation ASAP to those affected.

The Cal Bears Shop made this mistake when they prematurely sent an email celebrating a win and offering a discount on hats before the end of a game. Unfortunately, the other team came back to win 49 to 45. Cal followed up with an apology and promise on Twitter that the discount was still valid.

Planning for mistakes

Rather than reacting after a mistake happens, it’s best to have a plan in place, in case things go awry. This will ensure that you can act quickly and calmly if you run into trouble.

Email mistake response checklist:

• Make a list of all potential issues – Typos in the subject line, broken link, incorrect price, slow website, wrong segment, broken HTML, etc.

• Determine which potential issues require a response – Spelling mistakes, broken merge tags, or an incorrect image don’t usually need to be addressed or could be fixed without any attention being drawn to them. Any issues which could hurt your brand or reduce your conversions should be addressed.

• Define how you plan to respond to each of the more serious mistakes – Will you send a follow-up email, apologize on social media channels, send a physical apology letter, or do all of those things? Set appropriate response times with your marketing team and make sure that everyone knows the plan.

• Get agreement – Formal sign-off from your boss and the marketing team on your response plan will ensure that everything goes a lot smoother when something does happen. This also gives you the opportunity to set reasonable response times.

• Outline the creative approach for each type of apology email – Will you simply change the subject line, insert some text in the pre-header, add some text above the primary content, or create an entirely new email?

• Prepare an ‘oops’ email template – Have a few “audible-ready” templates for different scenarios; one for light-hearted errors with appropriate images and a discount code ready to go, and another more formal template for serious issues.

Originally published on business2community.com

Email Segmentation, Personalization, Automation: Getting Important Data Into Your ESP

As an email marketing consultant, I frequently talk to marketers about the benefits of segmentation, personalized content and automation. Marketers are generally in favor of all these things and usually agree with most of my recommendations.

However, when it comes to implementation, we frequently run into the issue of how to get the required data into their email platform. This issue doesn’t just come up once in a while; it comes up all the time.

So, I want to discuss the types of data that you should be uploading into your email service provider (ESP), how this data can be used to enhance the relevance of your emails, and finally, how to get that data into your ESP.

Useful Types Of Data
Demographic
This is your basic A/S/L (age, sex, location) data that you might collect from subscribers when they sign up or make a purchase. This type of data generally doesn’t change very often; people don’t change their name, gender or location too often (although all of those things could change), which makes this type of data ideal for basic segmentation, personalization and automated emails.

Name
Age
Location
Gender
Preference
Preference data is usually collected through a preference center that your subscribers fill out during the signup process and might include data regarding their preferred products, services, brands, size or frequency of mailing.

You need to be careful how you use this data as it can go out of date very quickly. For example, someone might tell a travel company that they’re interested in visiting Thailand, but that doesn’t mean you should only send them emails about Thailand for the next two years!

I also want to note that many people won’t update their preferences if they do change, unless prompted, so it might be worth setting up an automated email to remind subscribers to do this periodically.

Product
Service
Destination
Category
Size
Frequency
Transactional/RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetization)
Liberating your transactional data from its e-commerce platform prison is one of the best things you can do for your email program. Importing this data into your ESP will dramatically improve your segmentation and personalization, and opens up a new world of automated emails.

This data allows you to identify who your best customers are, who’s about to lapse, or who hasn’t made a purchase yet.

First purchase date
Last purchase date
Total amount spent
Number of purchases
Average order value
Past products purchased
Behavioral
Recent behavioral data is the most reliable indicator of what your subscribers are interested in right now. This type of data might be collected from an email (opens/clicks) or from your website (pages browsed/items carted).

The most common type of behavioral email is a cart abandonment trigger, which usually goes out within 24 hours of subscribers abandoning their cart. However, many technologies are now available which allow you to follow up pretty much any action that a subscriber takes on your website. That sounds a bit stalker-ish, but I assure you that it can be used to send helpful, relevant emails based on the products, services or topics they have recently browsed.

Product/Service/Web page browsed
Cart abandonment
Form abandonment
Email opens/clicks
What Are You Planning To Do With This Data?
There’s no point in doing a data integration if you don’t know what you plan on doing with that data — unfortunately, this is a far-too-common scenario.

I suggest that you create a very specific plan and mock examples of what you’d like to do with the data available to you and then work out how you are going to get the required data into your ESP. Typically, your ideas will fall into segmentation, personalization or automation.

Segmentation
Having a rich data set within your ESP opens up some great opportunities to create highly targeted segments, which combine demographic, preference and transactional data.

For example, you could target people of a particular gender, who are interested in a particular product category, have made a purchase in the last year, and spent over a certain amount. Now that’s a targeted segment!

Hotels.com used segmentation to send this email offer to some of its best customers:

Personalization

Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates than non-personalized emails, but 70 percent of brands fail to take advantage of that, according to Experian Marketing Services. I assume this is due to a lack of data, easy-to-use personalization tools in many ESPs, and the time-consuming nature of testing personalized email content.

However, with the right tools and data, it can be very easy to implement. A few examples of how I’ve seen brands use personalization include:

Offering discounts in bulk emails which only certain subscribers can see
Personalizing the content of a birthday email, based on the year that the subscriber was born
Showing products based on the subscribers brand and size preference
Aggregating data from mobile apps for end of week/month/year summary emails
Fitbit has integrated the data from its mobile app with its ESP to send this highly personalized weekly summary email. (Disclosure: Fitbit is a client of my employer.)

Automated emails

Sending automated trigger emails would not be possible without data. Whether it’s an email address entering your list, a birth date or a cart abandon, data is required to trigger the correct email.

The timeliness of these emails is also extremely important — there’s no point in sending a shipping confirmation email after the package has arrived. This is why you ideally need an automated way of uploading your data into your ESP as frequently as possible, ensuring that these trigger emails are delivered on time.

Illy Coffee takes timing seriously when it comes to its automated emails. (Disclosure: Illy is a client of my former employer, Lyris.) The example below is sent within hours of a subscriber browsing its website and not adding anything to his or her cart or making a purchase. As you can see, the company has taken a customer-service approach to seeing if the subscriber had any issues finding an item or making a purchase.

How Do I Get This Data Into My ESP?!


Now that you’ve determined what data you have access to and what you’d like to do with that data within your emails, it’s time to figure out how to actually upload it into your ESP. I wish there were an easy answer to this question. Unfortunately, there are a lot of variables, and it will most likely depend on how easy it is to get data out of one system and into another.

Generally, these will be your main options.

Manual upload

Manually uploading data into your ESP is by no means an ideal solution. However, it still seems to be a fairly common practice, as it is easy and anyone can do it. I don’t recommend this approach, though. It can be very time-consuming if you have a large list; it increases the risk of making a mistake; and it doesn’t allow you to send automated emails in a timely manner.

If you need to justify to your boss why this shouldn’t be an option, add up the amount of time that you’ll spend in a year manually uploading your data and estimate how much that will cost your company. You can then compare that amount to the cost of a one-off integration project. The savings should be substantial!

FTP batch data upload

This method involves your IT team setting up an automated process to drop your data onto an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) site at an agreed upon time each day. Many ESPs offer a built-in upload from the FTP feature, which simply allows you to input the FTP location details, or you should be able to use an API call to upload the data into the ESP from the FTP.

API

Most ESPs provide developers with an API (Application Programming Interface), which they can use to upload data from a variety of locations. This solution will require a developer to hardcode specific API calls to pick up and upload the data into your system.

It’s a good solution for email marketers who have access to a developer. But because the process has to be hardcoded, it can become painful if you want to change your systems or add additional data fields.

Connectors

Connectors are pre-built integrations between an ESP and the main e-commerce, analytics, ERP and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems. Many ESPs are now offering these pre-built connectors to make it easier for marketers to execute an integration without the help of IT. These types of integrations work great, unless you have a homegrown system or very specific requirements.

Hopefully, I’ve helped outline the huge benefits of having a rich set of data within your email platform. I know that an integration can seem like a very daunting task for many marketers at first, but it doesn’t have to be overly complex — even simple pieces of data such as location, gender, and product preference can open up a number of possibilities.

Remember to determine what data you have access to in your other systems, outline exactly what you plan on doing with it, and then develop a plan with your IT team to help you import that data on a regular basis.

Enhance Your Emails With Advanced Analytics Data

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a number of specialist email analytics tools crop up that provide analytics data which can be used to improve the performance of email campaigns.

These tools can give marketers a better understanding of where their subscribers are opening emails, which email clients they’re using, and how long they spend reading their emails. This data is most commonly aggregated and displayed in attractive reports for the marketer to analyze.

This aggregated data is obviously super useful for marketers — who doesn’t want to know what percentage of their subscribers read their emails on an iPhone 6 or how long they spent reading a special offer?

Additionally, this data can often be tracked on an individual email level, which opens up a whole host of additional possibilities if that data is uploaded into attributes within your email service provider (ESP).

For example, if I know that you open my emails on an iPhone 6, I could use that information to develop segmentation, a trigger and/or dynamic content.

Following are some interesting ideas on how you  can improve the performance of your email campaigns using various types of data.

Email Client/Device

Which email clients and devices did your subscribers open your email on?

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Knowing this information can allow you to enhance your email campaigns in a variety of ways:

Targeted App Promotion. Instead of promoting your iOS and Android apps to everyone (wasting valuable email real estate), why not dynamically insert a relevant button or banner based on the device that your subscriber has used in the past?

Triggered Emails. You could also use client/device information for triggering a dedicated email about your app or for segmentation if you want to do a one-off send. This also allows you to customize the links within your email, ensuring that you send your subscriber to the correct app store.

Engagement Metrics

Your engagement metrics show how long your openers spent reading your email. This is typically categorized as glanced, skimmed or read (though the terminology will differ depending on your email marketing software).

Re-Mail People Who Glance/Skim/Delete Your Email. It’s fairly well-known in the email community that re-mailing subscribers who don’t open your email can often result in a good uplift in conversions. This simply involves re-sending your email to non-openers; you may want to slightly change the subject line and creative / copy of the email.

Unfortunately, there is one critical flaw with this re-mailing method. You’re excluding all of the people who did open your email, but merely glanced or skimmed it. It may seem counterintuitive to re-mail these people, since they technically opened your email and obviously weren’t interested in what they saw.

However, I feel that a glance or skim read doesn’t necessarily indicate disinterest in your email, it may just mean that they didn’t have time to read your email at that point in time. There are a million things which could have interrupted them. It’s definitely worth trying out or split testing.

Dynamically Insert Messages For Subscribers Who Glance/Skim Your Email. Do you have subscribers who regularly glance at or skim your emails? Maybe you aren’t sending them content or offers that interest them anymore. Using your engagement metrics, you could dynamically insert a banner asking these subscribers to update their preferences or show them a more attractive offer.

Geolocation

Geolocation shows you where in the world your subscribers opened your email. You can often view this broken down by country and city/region.

Trigger Local Store Locations. Say that a subscriber always opens your emails in San Francisco, but suddenly opens your next email in New York. Based on that piece of data, you could trigger off an email to the subscriber with the details of your NYC stores and an attractive offer if he or she visits. This could be an extremely contextually relevant email for your subscribers.

Dynamically Insert Local Store Locations. I’ve worked with companies in the past who dynamically insert local store details (address, phone numbers, etc.) based on preference center data. The problem is that people often move! So your emails can quickly become irrelevant. Using real-time geolocation data will ensure that you are usually inserting the correct details into your email.

Personalize Content/Offers Based On Location. This could either be done with dynamic content or through segmentation. Either way, personalizing content and offers based on the subscriber location is a powerful way to increase the relevance of your emails.

Conclusion

So there you have it, a few practical ideas on how you can enhance your email program with advanced analytic data.

One thing that I haven’t mentioned throughout this article is the importance of keeping this data as fresh and clean as possible. Ensure that you update your ESP with this data before every send or ideally upload it automatically through a data feed sync.

Originally published on Marketing Land

Email face-off: Patagonia Vs North Face

The story of how the founders of Patagonia and The North Face, Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, got started in life and both ended up starting two of the biggest outdoor clothing brands in the world is fascinating. The legend of how these two guys started these companies and lived their lives is truly epic, and I recommend watching 180 degrees south if you want to learn more about it. For now, though, let’s take a look at how their email marketing programs compare to each other in my first email faceoff!

The North face

Email Sign up

Like many ecommerce websites, North Face has implemented a pop-up subscription form for new visitors to their site. The messaging is on-brand, to the point and descriptive enough in my opinion.

Email content

I have to admit that content isn’t the strongest area for The North Face. Like most brands, they focus on promoting new products and sales in pretty much every email. Occasionally there will be some content around events or something other than product, but it’s few and far between. For me personally this is a real turn-off as I’m not typically looking to purchase something new every week, so I tend to only open their emails occasionally.

Sending frequency

North Face usually send between 8 - 13 emails per month, with more sent during the holiday season. This is a pretty common frequency for a clothing company, but as I mentioned earlier, their email content is mainly focused on new products and doesn’t include much value added content such as tips, interviews or other editorial led content. Unfortunately there isn’t a preference center or option for reducing the number of emails you receive, so I feel like they must have a big drop in opens after a few months.

Animation

The North face uses animated gifs in several ways within their emails. The first way is to show off the different variations or colors of a product or even how it’s built, like this example below. I would call these functional gifs and they definitely enhance the content of their emails.

I have also seen less functional, yet very beautiful gifs within their emails like this:

Image blocking

The team at Northface know what they are doing when it comes to image blocking! Many of their emails have a good ratio of HTML text to images and they usually include HTML navigation bars, descriptions and Alt text in images, although they could probably work on some more creative Alt text descriptions. What I also really like about their emails is that they often do some interesting things with background colors, large HTML fonts and bulletproof buttons.

Automation

Sadly I haven’t received any automated emails from North Face, not even a welcome email! This is obviously one area that they could make some major improvements and probably generate a lot of additional revenue.

Overall Strategy

The North Face have a fairly typical email marketing strategy, focusing on one-off campaigns which promote the latest products and offers. This probably works fine for them, I’m sure they still have great open, click through and conversion rates, but it seems like a layer of automation could really help them uplevel. Unless I’m missing something, I’d suggest implementing a welcome program and cart abandonment email ASAP and then look into more advanced types of triggers based on their customers buying lifecycle.

Patagonia

Sign up

Nothing too out of the ordinary here. Very similar pop-up light-box used by North Face. It's quick, to the point and does what it says on the tin. They also have some nice sign up calls to action within the header and footer of the website. 

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Content

Patagonia hands down has the best email content of any brand in my opinion. Their emails often feature interesting blog posts, interviews, details of film tours, or information on social issues they are trying to raise awareness for. Of course they also have promotions and updates on new products, but they do a great job of keeping people engaged when they might not be looking to purchase.

Not only does Patagonia nail it when it comes to great content, they also have a preference center where you can update your basic demographics and email frequency.

Sending frequency

Patagonia has a similar sending cadence to The North Face, sending 8 - 13 emails per month depending on seasonality. The key difference between the two brands really comes down to their email content. As I already mentioned, Patagonia has some of the best content in their emails around, so I actually have a reason to keep opening, even if I don’t want to buy something. That’s why I think Patagonia can get away with this fairly high sending frequency.

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.30.26 PM.png

Animation

Patagonia also uses animated gifs to show off product colors or variations and occasionally just to add some liveliness to their campaigns. Overall I have noticed that they use animated gifs far less than North Face. It’s something I’d personally love to see more of in their emails.

Nice subtle cinemagraph

Image blocking

Surprisingly both Patagonia and The North Face have really put some effort into optimizing their emails for image blocking, which is awesome to see! Most of Patagonia’s emails follow a similar approach to North Face, with lots of HTML text, background colors in table cells, styled Alt text and bullet proof buttons. I’d say the main difference is that North Face is a bit more creative with their table layouts, which makes their emails stand out a little bit more with images blocked.  

Automation

Patagonia have a couple of really well executed automated emails, starting off with this great welcome email which seems to follow most of the best practices - All of the text is HTML, expectations are set about when you will receive your next email and they remind you what you will be receiving from them in the future. There is also some nice value-added content on Patagonia’s mission, social responsibility, and their new food products.

Welcome Email

Cart abandonment

Great to see that Patagonia has implemented a cart abandonment email, although it could be more personalized. As you can see, it doesn’t include any of the products I abandoned, but does at least have a link back to my shopping cart where I can easily complete my purchase.

Overall Strategy

Patagonia does a lot of things right. They obviously get content marketing and realize that their subscribers aren’t going to stay engaged if they JUST send them new products and promotions. The buy now, buy now, buy now approach doesn’t work long term and Patagonia puts a lot of effort into keeping their subscribers engaged with interesting blog posts, events and social issues which they support. They also have great email design, follow the best practices when it comes to email HTML and have some automation. The only thing I’d change is the amount of automation that they have. More lifecycle triggers wouldn’t hurt before and after someone makes a purchase. Otherwise, keep up the good work!
 

Winner: Patagonia

How To Stay Relevant When Your Email Subscribers Are Always On The Move

It’s common knowledge these days that emails you send could be opened anywhere and at any time. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of stats about the percentage of email opens on mobile devices — in general it’s over 50% for most companies and sometimes much higher.

What’s not discussed as often is how mobile devices and general global mobility are making many of your emails irrelevant. For example, I would bet that your last highly targeted email campaign assumed that your subscribers were in the location that they inputted into your preference center.

But, with international travel and migration increasing every year, it’s highly likely that many of them were nowhere near that location. In fact, approximately 232 million people live outside their country of origin.

A good example of why it can be dangerous to rely on this type of preference data too heavily is this email that I received the other day from Arsenal Football Club in the UK. As you can see, it’s promoting its new credit card in the UK. Problem is that I haven’t lived in the UK for more than two years now, so that data they hold on me is getting pretty old!

Screen-Shot-2015-06-30-at-6.50.37-PM.png

Luckily, there are a couple of things that you can do to ensure that your emails are relevant, wherever your subscribers happen to be.

Segment Based On Open Location


Traditionally, email marketers have used preference centers to determine where a subscriber is located along with other important demographic data such as age and gender. Unfortunately, many subscribers will only ever update their preferences once, meaning that this data can quickly become stale.

(Traditional preference center from Allen Edmonds)

This is why it makes much more sense to segment and personalize your emails based on your subscribers’ last seen location rather than where they said they lived when they signed up. Many ESPs (email service providers) allow you to do this now because they track the IP location of where your subscriber last opened.

In the example above, I am targeting people who opened within 36 miles of San Francisco, rather than just those who said they lived there in the preference center. This is going to give you a much more accurate picture of where your subscribers reside and allow you to include the people who live nearby and might otherwise have been excluded from the segment.

Of course, there are some downsides to this. For example, if I visit another city, state or country and interact with an email, I run the risk of being placed in the wrong segment and receiving an irrelevant message, but I think the overall benefit greatly exceeds that one pitfall.

Use Geo-Targeting To Personalize Your Email Content


Another option that some innovative email marketers have recently started exploring is contextually relevant email content, based on the subscriber’s location at the time of open. This works by looking up the subscriber’s IP address at the time of open and then dynamically serving relevant content, based on that location. This is an amazing way to enhance the relevance of your email, especially if you have a brick-and-mortar store or run events.

Movember used geo-targeting in this email to promote upcoming events occurring in and around where the recipient opened the email.

J.Crew dynamically inserted a map, address and phone number of the nearest store location to where the recipient opened the email.

Allen Edmonds used Movable Ink to personalize email content based on weather conditions. If a recipient opened the email in temperatures greater than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the creative on the left was displayed; if the temperature was less than 40 degrees, the creative on the right was displayed.

As you can see, using IP location and open time personalization are currently two of the best ways of ensuring that your emails are relevant, no matter where your subscribers happen to be. I can imagine that this type of technology will become exponentially more sophisticated in the future.

In the meantime, it’s worth taking a closer look at your preference center data and asking yourself how accurate it is. If you’re interested in trying out live email content, then I suggest you check out these providers: Movable Ink, Kick Dynamic, and Monetate.

Why Manchester City's emails are premier league quality

Professional sports teams in general seem to leave much to be desired when it comes to digital marketing.

They all seem to have overly complicated looking websites with giant splash pages, big background images and loads of advertising.

Many teams also seem to follow no best practices when it comes to email marketing, with hard to find sign-up forms, no segmentation and terrible designs.

There is one sports team which continually scores highly in my books, though: Manchester City Football Club. Here’s what I like.

Easy to find email sign-up call-to-action

You’d be surprised how hard it is to find the email sign-up form on most of the other Premier League team websites. It seems like most of them don’t want you to join their mailing list. Man City make it easy with this big, bold call-to-action on their homepage.

Unfortunately, the sign-up process isn’t as smooth as I would hope, with 12 mandatory fields to fill out on the sign-up form. As we’ll see later, they do at least use some of the data that they collect.

Other Premier League teams could definitely take a lesson from Man City on email design and coding. They have all of the elements I would expect to see in a best practice newsletter template, including:

  • Pre-header text.
  • Navigation.
  • Social media integration.
  • Primary message with just the right amount of text.
  • Customized calls-to-action.
  • Great text-image ratio.

The main thing that they could do to improve their design is to optimize it for mobile devices. A responsive design would work really well with their current layout. 

Interesting Content

Most sports teams take a very narrow view when it comes to email content, focusing on game results, new players and interviews. Man City, of course, include a lot of content about what’s happening on the field as well, but they also include exclusive behind the scenes videos, competitions and social media content.

This content feels like it would appeal to a much broader audience and seems more likely to create a sense of community among fans. Even if you were a casual City fan, you’d probably still enjoy reading their newsletters.

Detailed safe sender instructions

To ensure that Man City fans are receiving their newsletters, a dedicated email asking subscribers to whitelist their email addresses was sent earlier this year (possibly because they changed the addresses they were sending from).

I’ve seen this done many times before but never with such attention to detail. The above email explains why subscribers should do this, what they can expect to receive from Man City in the future and best of all, highly detailed instructions on how to do it for eight of the most popular email clients.

Take a look at the instructions and you can see that adding an email address to your address book isn’t the easiest thing to do, so I’m sure many subscribers found this useful. A link to this email can now be found within the header of all Man City emails for future reference – that’s smart!

Relevant birthday emails

Man City sends one of the best birthday emails I’ve ever seen. Not only do they wish you a happy birthday, they also customize it with facts about the club from the year you were born, which makes this email so much more interesting.

They top it off with a two-for-one deal on stadium tours. 

Rate our emails

I think I’ve outlined fairly well why I think Man City have the best email marketing in the Premier League. So it’s good to see that it isn't becoming complacent.

The most recent emails have been asking subscribers to rate them so that they can continue to make improvements to their design and content.

This is an unbiased article! Just in case you’re wondering if I’m a hard core Man City fan, I’m not. I’m more like Roy and Moss from the IT Crowd: did you see that ludicrous display last night? 

Originally Published on Econsultancy

Email code easter eggs

If you’re an #emailgeek then I’m sure you’ve spent a bit of time perusing the code of other people’s emails, maybe to see what media queries they use or how they achieved a particularly complex layout. I’ve always loved looking at email code myself to learn new techniques and to get ideas that I can apply to my own designs. Over the years I’ve found some pretty cool things hidden inside of email code including job ads, ascii art and links to helpful blog posts. Here are a few of coolest examples I’ve seen. 

Nest: Ascii art featuring their email dev team

If you receive Nest emails you’ll know that they have one of the best email dev teams around! Not only is their design awesome, as you would expect, but they also incorporate interactive elements such as carousels, toggles and animation. Anyway, the reason I mention them here is mainly because their email dev team is featured in ascii art at the top of all of their emails. How badass is that! Nice work Eric and team :)

Litmus: Job ad posting

We all know that Litmus send some of the most innovative, crazy emails around, so it only makes sense that they advertise their email dev and design jobs within hidden code comments. That’s one way to weed out non-emailgeeks. 

ActionRocket: Social media promotion and changelog

The team at Action Rocket have quite a few things going on in their email code, as you would expect. Firstly, I love that they are promoting their twitter feed in the code of their email. They have also incorporated some cool ascii art and a changelog so that they can keep track of updates to their template, smart! 

HBO: Links to useful blog posts about font fallbacks

If you work on a large email production team then it makes sense to appropriately comment your emails so that everyone is on the same page. One thing that I’ve noticed more and more is links to useful blog posts within these comments. Super useful for others on the team or new people joining. 

Zappos: Warning about Outlook 2013

Come on Outlook 2013!! Stop blowing our @$%& up!

Whatcounts: Screenshots of how the HTML should look

Whatcounts has links to screenshots of how their email should look, hidden within their comments. I’m not entirely sure why they have done this or how it’s used, but I thought it was pretty interesting. 

There you have, a few of my favorite email code easter eggs. Hopefully you found a couple of these ideas useful. Have you seen anything cool hidden within the comments of emails? I’d love to see more examples. 

It’s Time To Spice Up Your Email Content

I don’t know about you, but I’ve become pretty desensitized to promotional emails after the recent holiday break. In fact, you could probably slap me over the head with a 99 percent discount, and I’d still ignore you. I’m just not in the mood for more shopping, no matter how good your sale might be!

I’m sure some of your subscribers feel the same. This is why I want to talk about value added email content — an extremely important, yet hugely overlooked segment of email marketing.

Benefits Of Value Added Content

  • Gives your subscribers another reason to open and read your emails
  • Keeps your subscribers loyal to your brand
  • Gives you the opportunity to position yourself as an expert
  • Product recommendations can be intertwined with your content

I’m not saying that you should abandon your beloved sales emails; they are probably still making you a lot of money! However, I do strongly believe that you need to include value added content in your emails to foster long-lasting, and ultimately more profitable, relationships with your subscribers.

When you only send sales emails, it tells me that you don’t really care about providing any value to your subscribers. You just want our $$$. So let’s take a look at a few great examples of emails that have really engaged me and provided some value.

Provide Useful Information Related To Your Product/Service

Why not try providing some interesting / useful content related to your products, services or brand? Whole Foods is a company who has mastered the art of mixing promotional content with genuinely useful and interesting content such as recipes, healthy eating tips, and even food tourism advice, among other things.

These emails obviously also contain promotional messages about gift cards and items on sale; however, it’s the value added that keeps you coming back for more.

Go Behind The Scenes

Your subscribers may have signed up for your emails because you enticed them with a discount, but they are probably also interested in your brand and company as a whole. So, why not create a behind-the-scenes blog post and email about your latest photo shoot, video, or product launch? This kind of content may seem boring to you because it’s your job, but it can actually be super interesting and relevant to your subscribers.

Everlane is a San Francisco-based clothing company whose mantra is “Radical Transparency,” so they often send me behind-the-scenes emails explaining how their products are manufactured. I particularly like the below email, where they invited their favorite instagrammers to take photos of their LA factory. This seems like a genius way to get some great photos and create some interesting content to me!

A Little Humor Never Hurt Anyone

Humor is actually a great way to engage and interact with your audience. There are a few newsletters I subscribe to that often include jokes or funny anecdotes within them, and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t read them very often if it weren’t for that.

This email from Lyft combines a useful ride sharing etiquette tip with humor: “Front or back seat is okay, Ghost Riding is not.”

Share Some History

Has your company been around for a while? Why not develop some content around the heritage of your company and its products/services? This may take a bit of research and be a bit longer to create than other pieces of content, but you might be surprised how interesting and relevant it can be.

Levi’s has a long and interesting history, so it’s great to see them actually creating content around it. The email below looks almost like an infographic and shares some fascinating tidbits on how they invented women’s jeans.

End Of Week/Month/Year Summary

You know how you have all of that Big Data — well, here’s your chance to put it to good use! I love summary emails, especially when they are personalized and based solely on my data. You’ll often see these types of emails coming from wearable tech companies like Jawbone and Fitbit or social media companies like Twitter and Linkedin.

Blue Apron is a food delivery service that provides you with all of the ingredients you need to make a delicious dinner. I was pleasantly surprised to receive this summary email from them, reminding me of the first meals I made with them and outlining some interesting stats, based on the ingredients I used. Apparently I zested 13 lemons and minced 59 garlic cloves!

Now I know what you’re thinking: This is all great content, but I don’t have time to produce anything like this right now. That’s okay! You probably already have a lot of great content which could be reused within your current email program. I suggest you start small by simply adding recycled content into your sales emails.

Recycled Content Sources

  • Blog posts
  • FAQs
  • Company history
  • About pages
  • Datasheets
  • Analysis
  • Videos
  • Reviews
  • Testimonials
  • Social media interactions

Ideally, you should try to build up a library of content that can easily be pulled into any email. This will at least give your subscribers who aren’t looking to buy right now another reason to open and engage with you. Have you seen the benefits of including value added content within your emails? Please feel free to share any success stories below.

Who Created Your Email Strategy? It’s Time To Own It

Who created your email strategy?” is an interesting question.

I’ve worked with a lot of organizations that have been sending email marketing campaigns for a very long time (10+ years), but no one has ever really stepped back and asked themselves why they are sending certain types of email, nor have they ever re-evaluated their overall strategy.

Organizations are so caught up in the minute detail of email marketing, such as creating hyper-targeted segments, super-responsive designs, sophisticated deliverability tactics, etc.

While these things are all important, there should be an overarching strategy that guides your program.

Quite often, I find that companies have no real strategy in place. The email contact plan was created by an intern in 2006 and hasn’t changed since. There also always seems to be a director with no knowledge of email marketing who needs to send an irrelevant campaign to everyone ASAP.

Does this sound at all familiar? If so, it’s time to fight back and own your email strategy!

4 Steps To Owning Your Email Strategy

1. Create A Mission Statement For Your Email Program — I haven’t met many marketers who have done this, but I really like the idea of creating a mission statement which outlines the core purpose of email marketing for your organization.

Whether it’s to generate revenue, nurture leads or collect donations and renewals, it should be very clear in your head — and everyone else’s — what your mission is.

2. Set Yourself Some SMART Objectives And Track Them — I’m sure that many of you know what SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely, but how many of you truly have set SMART objectives?

Make sure that your objectives are aligned with your overall mission and what you ultimately want your subscribers to do, and ensure you’ve set up ways to track performance against these objectives.

All too often I meet email marketers who are too focused on tracking and improving email-related metrics, such as opens and clicks, that they forget about the metrics which actually matter to their business – conversions, average order value (AOV), total sales and leads generated.

3. Develop A Comprehensive Contact Plan — A contact plan is a hugely useful way of mapping out the sequential order of the emails that you want to send, your segmentation and frequency.

Think of it as the who, what and where of your email strategy. It’s important to ask yourself and your wider marketing team why you send certain types of email and to think critically about what actually provides value for your subscribers during this process. Obviously you should seriously consider removing anything superfluous.

I personally find it easiest to map out this type of plan visually on a whiteboard first. Start at the very beginning of your funnel and keep in mind that you may have several different funnels for different types of customers or products, so make sure that you clearly define who you’re creating this contact plan for.

Depending on your business model you might begin with lead nurture emails or, if you’re a B2C company, a welcome program. The idea is to map out the sequential order of emails in your current program and then expand and improve from there.

4. Present Your New Strategy And Get Buy-In — As I alluded to earlier, you should have included your wider marketing team and any other key stake-holders in this process as this is going to make things much easier when it comes to getting internal buy-in from management and other people within your organization.

I suggest that you initially hold an educational training session on basic email marketing best practices and concepts for any internal stake-holders or managers who aren’t familiar.

I often find that these are the people that request irrelevant, untimely campaigns to be sent at a short notice. So giving them that knowledge is super important for getting them on-board with your new strategy.

You should now be ready to present your overall contact plan to the entire business. Be sure to clearly outline to everyone your new Mission Statement, your objectives and how the new contact plan is going to help you get there.

I know that this probably sounds like a lot of work on top of what you are already doing! And to be honest, it should take you a good chunk of time to complete this. However, I think it’s an important process to go through if you really want to improve your email marketing.

It’s easy to sit back and go with the status quo, but it’s much more rewarding to go back to the drawing board and own your email strategy.