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4 better-than-best email practices for the holiday season

4 better-than-best email practices for the holiday season Chris Marriott

As email marketers gear up for the holiday season and the frenzy of shopping that accompanies it, they rush to implement new tactics to maximize their ROI from the season. After a certain point it becomes heads down, get the email out -- but since it's only October right now, there's still time to tweak your email programs. So today, I'm featuring four of the things we've seen our leading edge marketing clients roll out in their own programs. Each of these four examples involves taking a best practice one step further. Depending on your email platform, you may or may not be able to implement any or all of these. But benefits await those email marketers who manage to implement any of these prior to December.

Abandoned cart email

Hard though it is to believe, there are still a lot of email marketers who have yet to deploy abandoned cart emails, so it remains on the list of best practices. However, some of today's leading marketers are taking it a step further, and testing offer and cadence of their abandoned cart emails. For example, adding a rule that if an individual has received two abandoned cart emails previously and opened them without taking any further action, the next time you send them an abandoned cart email, add an offer -- say 10 percent off -- and put it in the subject line. Another tactic we've seen used is to vary the cadence of the abandoned cart email, so that if someone has not opened emails previously sent immediately after abandonment, wait 24 hours and then send the email.  Like any other type of email, different people respond in different ways. The more you can automate the learning of what moves individual subscribers, the more success you will have with abandoned cart emails.

Dynamic content

Creating email templates that can leverage predictive modelling to insert the right offer to the right person at the time of email assembly and send remains a highly successful best practice for many retailers. But some of today's leading retailers are taking it a step further in order to react to new data that comes into play between the time of send and the time of open by the subscriber. What kind of data? Things like a suddenly out-of-stock product, or a purchase by that subscriber. By shifting gears to populate the email with offers at the time of open, these leading retailers are able to maximize the value of that open to both themselves and to that subscriber. No one wants to feature a product in an email that is either no longer available or has just been purchased by that subscriber. Possibly even worse, no one wants to get an email with a coupon from a retailer immediately after having made a purchase. So if you're not suppressing that subscriber at send, it's better to replace that coupon with something else.

Optimizing for mobile

Making sure your email campaigns render properly on the range of mobile devices used by your subscribers remains another best practice that all email marketers should be following. There's no good excuse not to use liquid layouts or responsive design when creating your email templates. You know that may of your emails are being opened on mobile devices. And you obviously want to be sure that you've also optimized your website for mobile devices, as it makes no sense to give someone a good email experience and when they click through to the site, the experience suddenly take a wrong turn. But leading email marketers with mobile apps are taking things one step further. These retailers are deploying emails that can sense if they are opened on a mobile device and, if that subscriber has previously installed the mobile app, are sending them directly to the mobile app on the click rather than to the website.  After all, if you've gone to the trouble of building a mobile app, why wouldn't you want that to be where your customer is sent? And even the best-optimized websites don't compare as an experience to a mobile app when viewed on a mobile device.

Touch governance

There's always the temptation during the holiday season to pound your subscribers with every single message your company can produce. And if your company has several different divisions, the competition for that subscriber's attention starts in your own company. That's why is has become a best practice to apply touch governance rules that limit the number of touches your company can make over a certain period of time -- for example, no more than five promotional messages over a week. This not only limits the number of times you can send a message, it also forces your company to create rules that determine which five messages are the best to send. However valuable touch governance is in preventing subscriber fatigue, there is one drawback to the practice. It treats every subscriber the same -- someone who opens all five of the emails gets cut off in the same way as the subscriber who opens none of them. Cutting-edge email marketers are building flexibility into their touch governance to address this issue. They put rules in place that will allow a sixth and a seventh email over that same period of time to subscribers who were most engaged with the original five, while still cutting off those who weren't as engaged. In the practice of touch governance, this is what's known as the best of both worlds.

Each of these four examples are truly at the bleeding edge of email marketing, which means not every platform can enable you to do them right now. The place to start is to make sure you are -- at a minimum -- following the best practices outlined above. After you are at the best-practice baseline, then you should start working with your ESP partner to see if you can go further into the land of better than best practices. If you get there, your CFO will be thanking you come January.

Chris Marriott is the vice president of consulting and principal consultant at The Relevancy Group.  

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet. .

Chris is the President and Founder of Marketing Democracy, LLC. Marketing Democracy provides email marketers with a range of consulting services around vendor selection (RFPs), vendor migration, and email marketing optimization.  Clients...

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