10 Ways to Increase Customer Engagement With Your Email Marketing Campaigns

By ​Hillary Wilmoth

September 23, 2014

The Time is NowMost email calendars are planned months in advance, and that can make it daunting to try something new or make a change to a campaign that’s already planned. And if your emails aren’t performing as well as they used to, you might feel like you’re stuck in an exercise of futility.

You don’t need to feel that way.

There are a ton of techniques out there that will help you bring some life back to your email campaigns, and I figured I would drop you ten of them to get you going. After all, we’re closing in pretty quickly on Holiday 2014, which means there will be added pressures to stand out in your customers’ inboxes—regardless of whether you’re in retail.

So, here we go:

1. Use What You Know

These days, CRMs are full of great data points. They contain everything from loyalty club membership information, gender, preferred clothing size, and dozens of other important characteristics, often supplied by the customer.

But a lot of email marketing programs still limit their use of this data to merge tags, meaning they're just inserting first names or company names into the body of the email.

Really go for personalization, and combine all the data you have (including any data you’ve collected about what a customer does on your site and any real-time information you’re able to collect, like location, device type, even current weather) to target your message, images, or call to action.

2. Be Bold In Your Delivery

Most customers don’t read their emails. They scan them … and then read, if they’re interested.

Bold, dynamic content is the way to catch a distracted customer’s attention. It also creates a stickier campaign, which prolongs the time your message spends in the inbox. And, if you can create dynamic content that changes based on the time a customer opens your email or the on-site actions they took, you can get them to open the email more than once.

Bold approaches to email can give you more opportunities to convert a customer within a single campaign while also creating a positive lasting impression of your brand.

3. Test Your Heart Out

Holiday push or no, you want to make the end of the calendar big. As a result, its one of the most intensive times for your email marketing program: send frequency and opens are both up. That means it’s a great time to run tests.

If you’re trying either Step 1 or Step 2, you’ll want to find out what’s working.

To make this easier on you, find an email marketing solution that can automate your test and control group segmentation. It’ll help you measure the impact of your message, improve performance, and expedite delivery to your full audience, all with a single email send.

4. Phone It In

You already know that it’s becoming less common for a customer to open an email on a desktop, and it’s past time to adapt. Device targeting, and responsive email templates are one approach, but there’s another that isn’t getting much attention: Promote your phone number.

It’s old fashioned, I know, but the human element of your business still serves an important purpose. As a customer, sometimes, it’s just easier to talk to someone about about your request or your problem. If a customer opens on mobile, then, target a banner or button to connect your customers with support, your sales team, or a fulfillment arm to handle requests.

Also be sure to take advantage of any confirmation emails opened on mobile, highlight text alerts for tracking, or the phone number to reach customer service.

5. Skip the Store

As more customers chose to skip the store, branch, or agent and do all of their research or shopping online (Thanks, Internet!), there has been increased demand on shipping. And with shipping comes delivery timetables.

These are always important, but they’re amplified during the Holiday season. It’s not just the major events, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, that make it so, it’s also the prospect of inclement weather and the delays it can cause.

Being able to dynamically update your shipping information can save you lots of customer service calls and keep your customers apprised of what’s happening with their orders. And don’t forget about your international customers, in many cases shipping takes longer or has different options; use country targeting to change the timetables for delivery.

6. Zen Travel

Whether its everyday traffic on Philadelphia’s I-76 (arguably, and consistently, one of the worst roads in the US) or a local back-up due to an accident, if you’re asking your customer to leave their house, there’s an opportunity to make travel better.

Getting to the store, airport, hotel, train station is a nightmare this time of year, so actively updating information on delays, average travel times, or even local traffic arms your customer with the information they need, all within the context of your email.

Local and national news stations provide traffic advisories, alerts, and even live maps showing congestion. Pull that information into your email. And don’t do it by writing code. There are tools that will essentially snap the current state, and keep it up to date for when your customer opens the email.

7. Conditional Love

Weather targeting isn’t a new concept to marketers, but the tactic is usually done using an address the customer input to the system when they signed up.

If they’ve moved or are traveling for the holidays, though, your weather message could be undeniably wrong.

Instead, base your weather targeting on where and when your customer opens the email. Doing so will let you recommend the shopping option that’s the best fit for your customer, or change your promotional message to reflect the current conditions. And, if conditions are good, you could even show your brick and mortar stores some love by recommending the closest store location.

8.  Live Content

The last thing you want is for a customer to open an email that’s promoting this year’s version of Tickle Me Elmo, Xbox One, or the Cra-Z-Loom with a “Now In Stock” message... when, in fact, you actually sold out minutes ago.

(This principle, by the way, applies across industries: Would you want someone to tune into a football game that’s ended? Apply for a loan when the rate changed earlier today? Buy tickets for a movie that sold out?)

Pulling live content into your emails can help make sure your customer is never met with outdated message. If the content updates on your site, make sure it updates in your email. The trick is making sure to add a call to action that still continues the interaction, especially if there is a possibility of flipping to “out of stock.”

9. Show Your App-titude

Brands have adopted mobile apps to push special deals, coupons, and insider alerts to customers. Device targeting is an easy, and straightforward, way to promote downloads of the app itself, along with in-app engagement, onsite traffic, and coupon redemption.

If you notice a customer opens your email on a particular mobile device type, change which app download option displays in the message. Even though more than 50% of mobile phone are iPhones, it’s still a poor experience for an Andriod user to be offered a link to iTunes when they need Google’s Play store.

And don’t forget about users who’ve already downloaded an app: combine device type with the app type and send a friendly reminder about the benefits they receive when using the app, or use deep linking that drives them into the app environment.

10. Counting it Down

Since this post is a countdown of ways to improve your email, I couldn’t resist making a case for the countdown timer.

It seems basic, but there’s something about ticking numbers that builds urgency. No, there’s not an explosion or space shuttle launch, but, for many shoppers, the danger of missing out is simply nerve wracking.

Why not incorporate timers for shipping timetables, hourly deals, deadlines to opt-in, or to join a webinar or live broadcast? They’re all great things to promote via email, and it’s a good idea to continue that countdown on your site.

Of course, if you’re looking for a way to do each of these things, I think you should be looking at Monetate Engage. It can help you with each … and more.

Regardless of where you turn for help with this, though, it doesn’t change the fact that these types of tactics is where email needs to go in order to fight against disengagement, break through static content, and use relevant data to personalize and target your message to your customer. It’s a big challenge, and your ESP can’t accomplish this on its own.

"The Time is Now" image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Hillary Wilmoth is a former product marketing manager at Monetate. Having worked in merchandising, consumer products, financial services, publishing, and technology over the past 8 years, you might think she has ADD; but each marketing role was customer-focused and research-driven. Hillary is a native of Baltimore, and, no, it’s not exactly like The Wire.

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