How Marketers Can Increase Engagement & Sales With Real-Time Email
Think big real-time data is just for display ads? Think again. Columnist Jason Warnock explains how to apply timely data to your email programs.
For years, companies have been betting big on social media. A recent BIA/Kelsey study found that U.S. corporate spending on social media advertising topped $5.1 billion in 2013, and researchers expect this number to reach $15 billion by 2018.
While a staggering 72 percent of U.S. adults use social media, according to Gallup’s 2014 State of the American Consumer report, they are not using these channels to connect with brands. Only 29 percent use social media to follow trends or find product reviews and information. Additionally, 62 percent of consumers said social media has no influence over their purchasing decisions.
Although social media is a powerful medium for understanding consumer opinions and learning about events as they happen, brands still struggle with driving meaningful engagement and aren’t seeing significant results from social activities.
However, the real-time nature of social media represents a significant growth opportunity for companies when applied to other channels, particularly email.
The Business Case For Real-Time Email Marketing
Email is much more effective than social media at capturing consumer attention and driving online sales.
According to a 2013 study by Custora, customer acquisition from email has quadrupled in the last four years, and customers which visit a business as a result of an email marketing campaign tend to have a higher lifetime value than customers coming from Facebook or Twitter.
Although many marketers recognize the effectiveness of email to reach target audiences, many companies are missing the mark with their email campaigns.
The most recent iteration of our company’s Email Marketing Compass report, a quarterly study of email marketing activity across a range of companies and industries, discovered that while email volume grew 9 percent year-over-year, unique click-through rates actually declined 14 percent.
This is due to a hyper-competitive email marketing environment and increasingly selective consumers.
With advances in email marketing automation and concepts like intelligent trigger campaigns, marketers can improve email performance and motivate consumers to take action with more personal, relevant and timely messages.
On average, we’ve found triggered email campaigns generate a 2.5 times higher open rate and double the amount of clicks than traditional promotional email communications.
How Intelligent Trigger Campaigns Work
With an understanding of consumers’ current experiences and environments, marketers can automatically deploy targeted and relevant email offers in real time based on certain events and circumstances, such as:
- Weather: Weather triggers can include temperature, precipitation and wind speed ranges, as well as conditions such as clouds, fog, freezing rain, hail, snow, sun and thunderstorms. For example, apparel retailers can offer discounts on winter coats and gloves via email if the temperature drops below zero degrees. Bars or restaurants with an outdoor patio could offer half-off drinks or appetizers on sunny days.
- Sporting Events: Brands can also deploy intelligent trigger emails as a way to participate in local, regional, national and global sporting events. For example, they can program them to automatically distributing email offers and content after a specific outcome, such as a certain time period in the game (half time or end of a quarter), points scored, or the final outcome of a game. Instead of simply sending out a tweet congratulating the Denver Broncos for winning the Super Bowl, local retailers or national chains like Sports Authority could send a triggered email campaign with an offer for discounted Broncos apparel for fans in Denver. Restaurants and food chains, such as Domino’s, could trigger an email that goes out at the end of the first quarter of a football game to notify customers that if they order a pizza in the next quarter, they can have it delivered by the end of the half-time show.
- Geography: Aside from weather conditions and sporting events, marketers can deliver triggered emails based on geographic location. This enables marketers to send email campaigns based on local news or events, such as a 5K or community festival. If a company sponsors a 5K race for charity, for example, it could deploy triggered emails to consumers who live in the surrounding ZIP codes offering discounted products or services after the race. Again, brands are talking to a very targeted group of customers in real-time.
With deeper situational awareness, brands can participate in real-time conversations with consumers via email. By customizing triggers, marketers can schedule routine campaigns and take advantage of more timely, unpredictable events and opportunities.
Leveraging Social Media As A Complement To A Real-Time Email Marketing Strategy
Marketers can add another layer of contextual relevance to triggered email campaigns with social media integration.
By incorporating social attribution in email campaigns, marketers can encourage recipients to share an email with their social networks in exchange for a bigger discount. This increase marketers’ reach, subscriber base and revenue, as well as improves their ability to track results and identify the most engaged subscribers.
Since the “intelligent trigger” is a new concept in email marketing, we can only expect email marketing to continue evolving in the future, expanding to additional circumstances and scenarios beyond sports, weather and geographical contexts.
Marketers that adopt this method early will gain a competitive advantage and foster a more engaged subscriber base.