Enabler provide best practice advice for implementing dynamic content within your email marketing template, from a multi award-winning digital agency.

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s Kinetic Email!

“Kinetic email… what’s that?” we hear you say. “That must be the latest in email development!” Well… actually, despite sounding like a new type of superhero, Kinetic emails (or as we sometimes call it ‘Captain Kinetic’), have been around for a few years now.

Kinetic email was coined by the Oracle Corporation in July 2014 for their B&Q email marketing campaign. The email they produced used HTML5 and CSS3 and contained an interactive hero image carousel, which was triggered by mouse hover buttons.

B&Q had great results from their debut Kinetic email;

  • 18% increase in responder-to-open rates, with 32% increase among club members.
  • 42,000 click-throughs to the website.
  • 30% decrease in time spent on email.

(Click here for the full marketing report from Oracle.)

The clever part of using a kinetic carousel image which housed all the information and links meant there was less time spent in an email by the user.  A regular email format would have seen users scrolling down through different sections, with the information and links spread out across the email – the Kinetic Hero, however, had everything in one place.

B&Q successfully decreased the time spent in email and upped the click through rate, by directing the user (via the interactive carousel), without the need to scroll through the whole page.

The Power of Kinetic

So the basis of Kinetic images within email is the use of CSS3 transitions and animations, which opens up lots of possibilities for captivating or interactive emails.
Some dynamic content examples that Kinetic email might utilise include:-

  • Hamburger style menus
  • Forms
  • Graphs
  • GIFs
  • Polls
  • Tap to reveal
  • Flip / hover / carousels or slideshow images
  • Embedded video and more…

As you can see, Kinetic Heroes have a lot of work to do.

Kinetic Heroes And Their Many Disguises…

Just as superheroes have their different identities, i.e. Spider-Man and Peter Parker or Superman and Clark Kent, Kinetic emails can be broken down into three different types:

1. Kinect

These are the emails that utilise CSS transitions and animations. A good example of this is the auto scroll carousels.

2. Kinetic Interactive

These type of emails are where the user actually interacts with the email. The example below has a collapsible hamburger menu. Other examples could be a carousel where each slide has a clickable button.

An API (Application Programming Interface), believe it or not, is an interface between two software programs. It essentially allows the two programs to make use of each other’s services and resources, and interact with each other. You can think of them like tunnels between programs that allow them to work together… and all without exposing their inner programming!

You might not realise it, but you will probably use APIs nearly every day of your life. For example, an API would let you open a chat window inside an app, or let you run a map program on your website. Being totally honest with you, it’s really hard to get really excited about APIs themselves, (my development team are shaking their heads in dismay as I write this), but what is worth getting excited about are the benefits APIs have for marketing purposes.

Most email systems today will have some sort of built in API functionality where, with a little effort, you can link your company data systems to your email service provider. This is something we do with Enabler’s email marketing software, allowing is to provide the option of adding bespoke APIs completely tailored to your data needs.

From an email marketing perspective, APIs allow you to do some really cool things that allow you to deliver much more targeted messages to your consumers, helping with both acquisition and retention.

APIs and Automation

API integrations allow your data that’s being stored elsewhere (i.e. CRM system) to be drawn down into your email system.  Giving your email marketing software direct access to your customer data has big benefits for enhancing and deploy your emails, especially when it come to marketing automation.

Let’s take a look at an API example in action.

eBay:

eBay utilised an API integration to send out a daily product email to their customers. Each deals displayed within the email is being automatically drawn from the eBay product pages. The deals changed daily on the website, and because an API was set up between the website and the email campaign, it meant the email deals changed also to reflect the website. This meant that the marketing team could send the same daily emails without so much as a single edit to the actual email content, and know that everything in the emails would be automatically updated to reflect the current deals.

The smartest thing about this API integrated email is yet to come however…  If a recipient opened this email the day after it was sent, they would see the content for the day they opened, not the day it was deployed, meaning they always saw the latest deals.

The reason API integrations are so powerful is because the data being pulled through the API already exists, and as a marketer all you are doing is bringing that information into your campaigns.

Other uses for API content within email:

  • Customers of airlines and ticketing venues can select or upgrade the latest seats from within an email.
  • Restaurant guests can receive special deals and reserve seats in real-time within a few taps.
  • Doctors appointments could be made from within an email simply by displaying an up-to-date list of appointment times.
  • Hotels could send loyalty emails to their customer base and guests could reserve a room directly from the email.
  • Sending a welcome email to a customer when they sign up on your website.

APIs and CRM management

API’s also serve another function in the world of email. Let’s say you have a fantastic CRM system, but sadly it doesn’t send email…now in the old days this would have meant exporting data from that system, uploading it into your email tool, sending an email, exporting the unsubscribes from that email, and re-uploading into your CRM. I don’t know about you but I get exhausted just thinking about that process. Luckily, those days are over! You can now use APIs to help manage your data across multiple systems.

When transferring data between systems, an ‘API call’ is made. An API call is an individual interaction between the two applications through the API, for example when a request for data is made from one system to the other using the API. This allows the two systems to keep your data up-to-date across both systems simultaneously without any manual intervention.

APIs and Security

Each time a data transfer happens, lots of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is being handled, so security is vital (especially with the GDPR updates coming in May!). Best practice for security when it comes to APIs is to assume that everyone is always out to get your data. Now, it’s also good to remember that not all APIs are equal, and not all vulnerabilities will be preventable. An API gathering weather data does not need to take the same precautions as an API that is sending patient’s private medical data.

The best way to ensure this data is kept private during transfer is by using encryption. With sophisticated key management strategies, or encryption key management strategies, the data can become accessible on a need-to-know basis.

The process works something like this:

1. Authenticating with the web server before any information is transferred

Authentication is used to reliably determine the identity of an end user, while Authorisation is used to determine what resources the identified user has access to.  Authentication and Authorisation are commonly used together.

On the web, Authentication is most often implemented via a dialog box that asks for a username and password. For added security, software certificates, hardware keys and external devices may be used.

2. System decides which resources or data to allow access to

Once the user is authenticated, the system then decides which resources or data to allow access to. For APIs, access tokens are commonly used, either obtained through an external process (for example when signing up for the API) or through a separate mechanism. The token is passed with each request to an API and is validated by the API before processing the request.

The best solution is to only show your authentication key to the user once. It’s their responsibility to hold that key near and dear. Think about it this way – would you trust someone who kept losing the spare keys you gave them…?

This all sounds great, why doesn’t everyone do it?

API setup can be complex, especially if you are navigating your way around big data and different systems and teams. More and more however, companies are realising that API integrations are the way forward for making your marketing campaigns truly personalised, more interactive and the most enjoyable experience for your customers, and are investing time and resource into getting APIs set up. Additionally, from an internal perspective, they will save your team and company time in the long run.

If you want to chat to us about how Enabler’s APIs could take your email marketing to the next level, please get in touch.

Email marketing has undergone some fairly dramatic changes in the past 10 years, both from a strategic and technical standpoint.  Gone are the days of sending mass emails to your entire database which include generic product pushes, which are about as inspirational as the ‘one size fits all’ label on a piece of clothing.  One of the driving forces behind this change is that it  is now commonly accepted by marketeers that segmentation and personalisation of email campaigns are the ways to drive higher ROI, brand awareness and loyalty.

So how do we make sure every email we send is tailored to the personal needs of our customers?  We believe there are three things that have to be in place for this to be achieved:

  • Knowledge about your customers – Without understanding your customers, how do you expect to give them relevant content?  How do you determine what is relevant to them?

  • Data – How do you implement the right email strategy without the correct data in place?

  • A fantastic ESP (Email Service Provider) – that enables you to implement and successfully deliver a decent targeting strategy. (See Enabler’s functionality to see how it could do for you)

 

 

Knowledge About Your Customers

Your customer knowledge can come from your existing databases looking at the data that’s been gathered from previous customer activity (i.e. through forms, surveys or events), or it could be gathered from the customer’s email behaviour (opens, clicks, unsubscribes). However, even if you are starting from scratch, there are ways that you can build up a picture of your customers.

When it comes to using your customer knowledge to create effective email campaigns, we would highly recommend a personas led approach,  where you create profiles describing a particular group of your target audience based on their shared interests.  Grouping together these valuable pieces of customer information, such as challenges, goals, needs, pains and responsibilities, will help you create a ‘character profile’ which you can use to tailor your marketing so that you offer a personalised, valuable service. This information goes beyond normal demographic data and provides real insight into the customer’s life. If you want to enhance your understanding of your customers, check out one of Pancentric Digital’s Design Thinking workshops.

 

Data

Having the data that enables you to achieve your customer personalisation goals is imperative. For tips on how to acquire data click here. If you want more information on how best to retain your current customers try this one. However you decide to get your data in place, we’re going to assume you have done a great job of it, and skip ahead to the part everyone is waiting for….’How do I turn my data into relevant, personalised emails for my customers?’.

 

 

Dynamic Content

Dynamic or ‘Conditional’ Content allows you to use your customer data to create one email that displays different, unique content to each individual email recipient depending on their customer data. As the marketeer, you set pre-defined rules based on your customer data, so the customer only sees the email content that matches their data. Without this in place, you would have to create multiple emails with every possible content variation of based on your customer profile data (which is messy and time consuming) or just bulk email everyone with one message (which isn’t personalised and far less effective).

Sounds a bit abstract, right? So let’s look at a live example coming to us from the insurance industry. Full transparency here, the example we’re going to show you is an Enabler client, but they are using dynamic content in exactly the right way, so are the perfect example of how you should use dynamic content.  The company in question are Petplan, and we will take you through some examples of how they have used conditional dynamic  content successfully in their automated quote and buy email campaigns.

Below you will see an example of one of PetPlan’s emails with elements of the conditional code sitting within the template. From first glance, it looks like a fairly messy, basic template, however I’m going to show you just how clever this template really is.

– Email Template with Dynamic Conditional Content in Place –

Everywhere you see the phrase {conditional:xxx}, is a section of the email that will change based on the customer it is being sent to. This means, as soon as this email gets uploaded into Enabler, all those sections will look completely different and, most importantly, 100% personalised for each individual customer. Conditional elements can comprise of text copy, images, or a combination of the two.

Secondly, wherever you see {recipient_x_number}, that part of the email will also change to include a personal detail about the customer. This could be anything from their policy ID number to their name (or in PetPlan’s case, the pet’s name. )

Now let’s take a look at what that email would look like for a customer. (For the purposes of this, we have set created a fake customer within the Petplan system).

– Email Template with Customer Data Controlling the Dynamic Content –

As you can see, this looks like a totally different email. You will notice that images and copy have sprouted in all areas of the email, causing the look and feel of the email to change.

Let’s walk through the different elements which change based on the dynamic conditional content set up within the backend system of Enabler:

  • Images – the co-branding logo, pet image, roundel, and plan details all change based on customer information.

  • Alt text – the copy sitting behind each of those images will change based on the image itself, providing a fallback option if the customer has their images set to not display.

  • Lists – the ticks and bullet points in the two lower sections all change based on customer information.

  • Copy – there are too many instances of these to point each one out, but everything from the pets name, down to whether a sentence says ‘need’ or ‘needs’ changes based on customer information.

  • Terms and conditions – depending on the co-branding on the email, an extra paragraph will feature in the terms and conditions of the email. This will not be visible if co-branding is not in place.

  • Cover section – this whole section changes depending on which plan the customer has chosen. For this example, I have not chosen a plan, so I’m seeing all the options. However, let’s assume I had chosen the Covered For Life® 12k option, it would look more like this:

The best part about conditional content within Enabler is that you have a fallback option. This means if for some reason not all the data is held about the customer, (for example they are not sure which plan the customer has selected as in the example above) they will see a default view. This can be carefully chosen depending on what next step we want customer to take.

 

Benefits of Using Dynamic Content

Aside from the massive time saving benefits from an email deploying perspective, this style of email set-up will also save time in the future. Imagine having set up one template per customer variation. Not only would you be wasting time creating and testing all those emails, but when it came to updating them, you would also waste a lot of time. Even if you had one line of copy to change in each email, you may have to do it upwards of thirty times. In these conditional templates, you make the change once, and can then generate mass tests from the one template. Similarly, if you need to add something new to the emails, you are doing it once, rather than across a large number of templates.

Petplan are really at the forefront of creating dynamic templates, both from a strategic and build standpoint that put their customers first. From an agency standpoint, this is something we love to see, and the templates are also great fun (for an email nerd anyway) to put together.

However you choose to do your conditional content, make sure your data is in place, you have a great ESP solution in place, and you fully understand your customers before starting to build.

If you are interested in following in Petplan’s footsteps and bringing your email campaigns into the future but your current ESP doesn’t provide the necessary functionality, why not switch to Enabler.

Email marketing traditionally has the highest ROI of any digital channel and is one of the most effective tactics to use within an integrated marketing mix.

In an era when existing and potential customers are accessible 24/7 via a smartphone, not optimising your email campaigns for mobile devices could mean you might be missing out on some great opportunities.

You might be surprised to hear that the average adult spends over 20 hours online per week – more than doubling in a decade.  As well as having on average three social media profiles to maintain, your potential customers are browsing online for almost everything. From grocery shopping to booking flights, streaming their favourite programmes or making bank transfers – your customers are doing anything and everything online – so having a strong digital presence is vital.  Although I’d suggest using an integrated marketing mix to target your customers using at least three channels, I’d like to focus on the benefits of one of those core channels: Email Marketing.

Email campaigns are not only designed to generate sales but also to inform, increase brand awareness, advocacy and trust. The most common forms of email marketing are newsletters, lead nurturing, paid email and so called ‘triggered’ email to mention just a few. All of these campaign formats come down to creating content that is of interest to your target audience.
Simple!  Or is it?  It all depends how well you know your target audience.

 

Before you press send: Set your goals

I can’t stress strongly enough the importance of setting campaign specific goals. This helps you to keep your campaign on track, gain meaningful analytics and gauge return on investment.
Before you start planning your email campaign, ask yourself: what do you want to achieve? You may want to drive traffic to your website or social media channels, or promote a product or service. Whatever your goal, setting targets helps you to measure engagement and ROI, draw conclusions, and implement any necessary changes to help improve future campaign performance.
Once you have set clear goals for the campaign, you can start planning content. Although it seems that content is king, there are still many companies out there who do not target their content effectively. There’s nothing more off-putting than wasting a customer’s time by offering them content of no interest to them. It’s also the quickest and most effective way of losing some great prospects by prompting them to press the ‘unsubscribe’ button.

 

Content: Be relevant and be informative

‘What’s relevant content?’  I hear you ask… Well, it depends on factors such as industry, data available, creativity or the abilities of your agency. There are many ways of creating great content.
For the fashion industry it could be all about seasonal trends, latest collaborations or ‘dress to impress’ tips. A company that operates within the steel industry could send their customers a useful guide to different steel grades, examining steel’s strength, parameters and the heat resistance of steel components for relevant industries.  Other ideas for relevant content could be recent changes in legislation that could affect your customers or advising customers about your new products and services.

The simple rule is to do some research on your target audience, via customer satisfaction surveys, seminars, social media monitoring and so on, so they can tell you what content they are likely to engage with.

 

Testing, testing…

Once the email content is finished and the campaign is ready to be sent, it’s time for testing. There are two ways of testing and I suggest you use both methods. The first one is to enter preview mode from the menu to get an overall idea of what the campaign will look like. The second and most accurate method is to send a test email to yourself and your colleagues. You should ask them to proofread it and give feedback on:

•    Subject line
•    Images/ design/ font
•    Links and call to action

When testing, inbox rendering should also be taken into account and that doesn’t mean just sending a test to your smartphone and email. Most customers don’t use the same device as you and as so the HTML will display differently on their device. It is a good idea to send a test to an email rendering service website that enables you to preview how it will display with different email providers such as Outlook, Android, iPhone etc.

Other aspects of email testing are dynamic and personalised content. It’s a good idea to do test sends to ensure all the merge fields like firstname display correctly when sent, and even better to preview test the different data your dynamic content is centred on, i.e. gender, industry etc, to see how the template responds and if it requires adjustment. Once you are satisfied everything looks great, all the links and CTA work, and everything renders correctly, you’re good to go and send your campaign!

 

Time to send

Timing is everything they say and your email campaign is no exception. Depending on your customer base, industry and the time of year, there will be certain times when your email campaign should be sent out in order to be most effective in terms of open rates and responsiveness. There’s numerous blogs out there, each giving you different days and times of when you ‘should’ send your campaign, but the best practice is to track your own campaign data.  Send customers your emails on different days of the week and different times of day, track when the open and click through rates are at their highest – your own data will tell you when’s the best time to send your campaign.

 

Bounce Backs or Unsubscribes?  What to do next…

So you’ve created the right content, chosen the right software and sent the email campaign. But you received an ‘undelivered’ message and your email bounces back. If this happens, common practice is to investigate why the email address is not valid and update it.  The ‘unsubscribed’ list should also be updated after each email campaign. Although it is a shame to see a customer opting out of email communications, it’s essential to update our customers’ preferences after each campaign in line with their request.

 

Tracking is vital

Your email marketing software will have a tracking tool built into it so you can work out what happened once you hit the send button.  As with any other marketing activity, tracking is crucial for measuring campaign success. The most relevant data to capture is delivery rate, open rate and click-through rate.  If you’ve got trackable links, then you should also be recording the traffic and leads your email campaigns have generated to really gauge their ROI effectiveness. Consequently, the more attention you pay to tracking your current campaigns and implementing changes, the greater the chance of future campaign success.

 

Don’t leave it with an email – Follow up

Follow up activities are crucial, especially for product-related, sales-orientated campaigns. Some organisations will gather the list of customers who opened and engaged with the email and follow it up with an additional piece of comms via email, a phone call, snail mail etc to discuss if the customer would like some more information or place an order.

 By contacting those customers who engaged with your initial campaign content, you can start to build relationships with your potential customers and generate new leads.

Moreover, following up enables you to put a voice to your brand that reinforces your campaign message, which should give you more trust with your customers, making them more likely to respond to any future emails you send them and therefore less likely to unsubscribe.

Using these simple tools, you’re sure to build targeted campaigns with content that’s engaging.

Email is just one string in the digital marketer’s bow, but it is probably one of the most vital in helping you build and maintain relationships with your customers and generate revenue.

Email is a huge part of most companies’ marketing mix but many brands are still swinging and missing when it comes to delivering great campaigns. Email is an integral part of many marketing campaigns. We use it every single day. The first thing I do when I sit down at my desk in the morning is check my email and it’s also the last thing I do before I leave. It’s the one thing that stays up on my screen for the whole day.

When we’re dealing with something that impacts so many people day to day, we can’t afford to be getting it wrong. So, what are the challenges of email and how do we overcome them?

1. Getting noticed in peoples inboxes

  • Subject line testing
    Every data list is different, so there’s no magic solution to email subject lines. The best way to achieve results is to test subject lines through A/B testing and then roll out to the rest of your list. For example, send 20% of your emails to one subject line and 20% to another. Leave it 24 hours, assess the results and send the winning subject line to the rest of your list. Over time you’ll get a sense of what engages your audience and what bores them to tears.

  • Do something a little different
    Emojis in email subject lines can work really well when used cleverly and sparingly.

  • Know when to send
    Different databases respond to different send times. At Enabler, we find that 9am, 11am and 2pm work really well as send times for B2B. This enables you to catch people as they start work, on their morning coffee break and during the post-lunch slump. Again, the way to find out what works best for you is testing. Split-send to your list at different times of day and compare the results.

  • Know how often to send
    No-one wants to be spammed with emails after they’ve signed up for a newsletter. With the introduction of Gmail’s inbox tab system, which separates everything into primary, promotions, social and updates you don’t want to be stuck in the junk section! A way to deal with this is to ask your users what they want; find out what they’re interested in and send them that.

 

2. Ensure your emails are rendering correctly

There is nothing worse in the world of email than opening up your inbox to find an email that hasn’t rendered correctly. Maybe you’re missing half an image, maybe you can’t see images at all. Maybe you’re missing half a call to action button on your Outlook client because a lazy developer didn’t run the email through an email testing client before sending it to your inbox. The key to making sure you get it right is to test on each email client before hitting the send button. I prefer Litmus because it allows you to email your HTML directly to the program and shows you how your email will render on both mobile clients and desktop clients. It also shows you all the versions of the clients rather than just the latest ones. Top tip: Outlook 2007 and 2010 basically support nothing.

 

3. Keeping up with trends

  • Mobile vs desktop
    Know what percentage of your list are opening your emails on mobile. I generally work to the rule that if it’s more than 10% you should definitely be using responsive design and if it’s anything over 2% you should definitely be at least considering using it. We’re a society of mobile users, and that’s only going to grow. With that in mind, email marketers can’t afford to delay making their content accessible to mobile users.

  • Dynamic content
    Gone are the days of building 30 emails, one for every category you have in your database. It’s all about building one email, and using conditional content conditions to ensure each user sees what you want them to see upon opening your email. All decent ESPs will have this functionality built in, so what are you waiting for?

  • Rich media
    Knowing how to make your emails stand out is more important than ever. Emails can drive sales and brand awareness as well as provide platforms for event attendance. Explore GIFS, Video, Twitter feeds, Social sharing and more to support your email campaigns. With technology developing so rapidly, it’s important to be creative to ensure you stay on top of your game.

  • Be practical
    This is a big one, there’s no point sending great content to your database if they won’t be able to see it, and the email therefore loses all meaning to them. It’s imperative to know, for example, that Outlook won’t support your animated GIF and will freeze it on the first frame. Or that Gmail won’t display emojis in your subject line and show them as little boxes instead. Make sure you do your research and find out what will and won’t work, before you get creative.

 

4. Managing your data correctly

  • You can’t have good email without good data
    Understanding what you can do with your data is every bit as important as keeping up with the latest front end coding trends. You can segment your data by age, region, gender or anything you know about them – all you need is the right tools to collect that data and the right tools to use it to code a great email. Never miss an opportunity for data capture and always employ the Pokémon tag line ‘Gotta catch ‘em all’. (‘em all being the bits of data).

  • Know what to do with that data within an email.
    Personalisation is key but get it right – no one wants to see ‘Hi First Name’ at the start of an email. There’s no point personalising if your data isn’t correct. I’ve seen brands put the wrong merge code into an email so the policy renewal ID was swapped with the recipient first name. This gave the effect that the company was referring to one of its customers as a number, not a name.

  • Be creative
    You’d be surprised how many people actually miss this out of campaigns. It seems like common sense, until you sit down in front of a computer and start trying to plan, at which point your brain might give you… nothing. So how do we get around those creative email mind blocks? First work out what you are trying to achieve. Do you want people to buy from your site?Do you want to increase brand awareness? Do you want to encourage people to enter a competition or play a game or simply visit your site?

 

Once you’ve worked this out you can start working out how you’re going to achieve it. Don’t be scared of doing some competitor research to get you started. Most importantly, have fun – email is great, you should be enjoying yourself!

Is email a dying channel?

In short, no! Email has been around since 1971 when Ray Tomlinson sent the first one on the ARPANET system. It was the first system that was able to send mail between users on different hosts connected to the ARPANET. Since then we have seen the evolution of email as a channel to the point where many of the functionalities mirror what you can do with websites – which is remarkable when you think about it. Considering everything you code into email has to sit within tables… within tables – the amount it has and continues to achieve is outstanding.

Think about how many other internet based fads email has remained a constant throughout. Email saw the birth of MSN, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Mobile apps… and it’s still going, still developing, still adapting. There are conferences all around the world dedicated purely to email and how we can keep developing email.

Online sales have skyrocketed in the last few years and now remain at a consistent high. A huge part of what drives these online sales is email. Email drives people to websites. Email makes sales. Email is awesome.

Email is constantly evolving. As email marketers, part of the fun of what we do is exploring new ways to engage audiences with email. It can also be a struggle at times. Email inboxes are increasingly crowded with promotional emails as more and more companies use email to communicate.

To help the end user, organisations like Google have customised their inbox layouts to include the segregation of promotional emails from the primary inbox, social media emails and general updates. These updates make it trickier for your emails to get noticed in subscriber’s inboxes, so it’s important to make your campaign attention-grabbing. One of the best methods we’ve seen over the years is by introducing dynamic content into email campaigns.

Dynamic content is essentially using what you know about your customers to provide them with content that is relevant to them. This can be anything from knowing the gender of your users and using the information to show them female/male specific products, to using birthday information to create a personalised birthday message for them each year. This technique allows you to send highly targeted information to your subscribers, and the best part is you can do it all through one email.

What are the benefits?

Higher levels of engagement
It might seem simple, but it also makes a lot of sense. Why would subscribers be interested in your campaign if it’s not relevant to them? To engage people, you need to provide content they find useful or enjoyable (or hopefully both!).

Saves time
Before dynamic content existed, companies would spend unbelievable amounts of time creating separate emails for the same campaign. It was the only way to do it if you wanted to try and personalise. Now, the only bit which takes any time is the creation of the main email and then positioning your content in a dynamic setting.

Shorter emails
This might seem like an odd one but many users don’t actually scroll all the way down to the end of an email; they scan for a couple of seconds and if they don’t find what they want they close the email. Goodbye to your click thru rates. Dynamic content enables emails to be shorter as you’re not trying to squeeze everything into one email in the hope that everyone on your database will find something interesting.

It’s technically interesting!
One for the front-end nerds out there. Dynamic coding is pretty fun (this is system dependent, of course). We’re very lucky with Enabler because it makes coding really easy to do. Enabler, like some other systems, will allow you to view the email in situ as anyone in your database would. This means no messy test emails, and no time wasting!

How can you get started?

The number one thing you need for dynamic content to work is information about your subscribers. There are lots of types of data you can use to make it work and you can even be inspired by your data:

Behavioural data – what have your users done before? What have they bought or read? When they were last on your website, what caught their eye? This data is incredibly useful when planning your campaigns. It can allow you to distinguish marketing to your leads and to your existing customers. It can influence what call to actions you use, where you use them, and other content placement decisions. It can also be used to influence pre-emptive emails based on previously purchased content.Groupon

Transactional data – what did your customers spend their money on? How often do they do this? Are they abandoning their baskets at checkout? Transactional data gives you incredible insight into the buying potential of your customers. Using this information, you could send reminder emails to customers who have left products in their baskets, remind customers of special offers based on content they’ve viewed, and provide buying recommendation emails based on previous purchases.

Demographic data – what gender or age are your subscribers? Where are they based? Knowing a customer’s gender can be really useful for something like fashion based emails, knowing their location can help with events promotions or deals in shops local to them. One of the best examples I’ve seen of this is Groupon:

They send out daily emails which are targeted by region. All the offers in their emails actually contain deals which are near to the post code I provided them with, and the copy reflects this. Check out this ‘Afternoon tea for two’ offer (right). It tells me how far from me it is, what the discount is, mentions the word Londoners and it really pushes the personalisation of the email in the top banner.

If you want to take all of this a step further, once you have completed your dynamic campaign you can also do some reporting on the campaign to find out what worked, then tailor your next campaign based on this information. Remember, with all of these options, testing is key.

The final checklist for dynamic content success

1. Accurate data – there’s no point trying without this. Why use information about your database if it’s not correct?

2. An Email Service Provider that supports dynamic content (if you want more information about Enabler, get in touch)

3. Knowledge of your customer database – what sort of targeting do you think will work on your list? For fashion brands, the key one is gender, for insurance we’re looking at regions and preference based sending, but what will work for your brand?

4. Testing – keep trying new things, A/B test to your hearts content. Never stop testing your email campaigns!

In today’s market, there is no better way to improve results of your campaigns than through dynamic content. Dynamic content is to the email marketing world what Dumbledore is to the wizarding world. Pure brilliance.

The Christmas email campaigns have been in full swing since November. Fran, one of our email campaign managers, gives us her analysis of the festive emails.

I’ve been berating the early arrival of ‘Christmas’ into our lives for a while now. Not in an Ebenezer Scrooge-esque, bah humbug way but in a ‘this is ludicrously early’ way.

It seems that Halloween is barely over before the Christmas references start creeping into marketing messages. Plus, email – my joie de vivre – has been filling my inbox with uninterestingly designed, completely impersonal content and, most importantly, subject lines that aren’t even a little bit enticing for the festive season. Here are a few of the different areas that demonstrate how people are overthinking the minor details but not engaging the necessary focus – especially when it comes to content.

So, Halloween is over, the fireworks have finished, and now as the days get darker and begin disappearing rapidly without warning, we seem to be propelling ourselves head first into winter. That being said, it would seem that this year it’s beginning to go a little too far, just about everyone and everything has become about Christmas – even the toilet bleach:

Yet, although the decks have been ready for purchase as early as July this year (thanks Selfridge’s), it’s not hard to get confused with the recent mild weather that it might still be September – but alas the shops, the background noise, the lights, and – dare I say it – our email inboxes are a daily reminder that we are getting closer to the big festive day.

Can we honestly say that the world of email is hitting the nail on the head and drawing in those festive consumers? Taking evidence from my own inbox – I think not!

Let’s take a look at two of the key areas that campaigns are still struggling with this year, and a few handy tips for fabulously festive emails that perform.

Most unenticing subject line:

‘Francesca, it’s the season for 25% off 6 bottles of wine’

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love wine. It’s a staple in my fridge so they’ve got my attention. However, ‘season’? Does this rather large high street supermarket chain realise that there are four of them? In my humble opinion, every day (let alone season) should have 25% off 6 bottles of wine.

As an email professional, I highlight this key point for increasing user engagement: your subject line should be the prime area of focus in any campaign, at any time of the year.

As a rule of thumb you shouldn’t use any sales based words such as, ‘offer’, ‘free’, ‘sale’, ‘deals’ or icons like !, ?, £, or % in your subject line, as spam filters are highly likely to pick them up and throw the mail straight into the junk folder (hence I found the above one in my spam folder).

Keep it punchy, make it unique and create intrigue. When writing subject lines, consider the recipient – will it entice them? If there’s any doubt, then you need to rewrite it. Finally, if you’re going for a theme then go all in. The email feels half-hearted when you do it half hearted, and I don’t think you can ever over eggnog the Christmas pudding (sorry – had to).

Here are a few more subject lines that have found their way into my inbox/spam box that are lacking a little bit of get up and go:

  • ‘Shh…Keep this to yourself…’
     

  • ‘Make Christmas Your Own: Personalised Christmas Story Book £2, Santa Cutlery Holder
     

  • Sets, Luxury Santa Sack, LED Candles and More’
     

  • ‘Alert! 3 For £18 Christmas Gifts [3 Hours Only]’
     

  • ‘Is your home ready for the holidays?’ (Received the beginning of November… bit early?!)

Content that’s stuck in the dark ages (and also has no tact):

I don’t even think I need to explain why this spa wins the least personalised, most unresponsive template award and – more importantly – most contradictory Christmas theme of any winter themed email I’ve ever read.  This seems to be more the sort of email you might expect when detox season kicks off in January.

This brings me to my next point: if you manage to entice a reader to click into your email then you need attractive, interesting and relevant email content that’s going to get them reading, clicking through and opening up again next time. In my opinion, there are three main areas:

Personalisation: whether this is personal details or content based on consumer analysis (see Sophie’s blog the other week for hints and tips).
Short copy: less is always more when it comes to words in emails. Short is good.

Beautiful visuals: images should relate to the copy and be high-quality and eye-catching.
Email marketing is still one of the most successful ways to reach your audience, with evidence showing it’s the number one way to reach millennials.

To be successful you need to make sure your campaigns are carefully considered and relevant. There are so many different and wonderful things you can do with content now, yet I regularly receive emails that are stuck in the dark ages.

​​A festive email campaign that really caught my eye this year came from Watergate Bay Hotel, a spa hotel in Cornwall. Their festive email campaign had a simple concept, on-point branding, and excellent integration. They used wintery graphics and a snowshaker concept to create a daily competition with cleverly chosen prizes from local or partnership brands that fit with their brand.

The competition runs through the whole of December with a different prize each day and three chances to win. If you’re not successful after ‘shaking’ the snowglobe three times, you receive a discount code to use in their online shop. This is a nice touch that will encourage users to purchase Christmas gifts from their online store.

Sign up is required to enter the competition, a great method for data capture and for driving users back with follow-up emails (particularly as the prizes change every day, maintaining interest). Watergate Bay also reinforce their brand and persona through the choice of graphics and the companies they have partnered with to offer prizes.

The entire effect gives you a sense of what the hotel is about, it’s festive without being cheesy and also places the hotel in their potential customer’s minds at the right time to be considered for their 2016 holiday.

Watergate Bay hotel have nailed the three areas we highlighted earlier: personalisation, short copy and beautiful visuals – plus they continued their theme throughout every element, from the original email to the landing page.

So, when it comes to creating email campaigns – think outside the box. Don’t just stick to the norm or the drab, do something that will get you noticed. All this takes is having the baubles to commit to the theme and be creative!

Top tips for email campaign success

1.    Commit to your design. If you’re using a theme – use it, don’t only use a tiny bit of it.

2.    Limit content headers/links. That way you shouldn’t have an email that means lots of scrolling – especially on a mobile device.

3.    Have clear calls to action.

4.    Make sure you’re using a mobile responsive template.

5.    Try not to repeat a story/product/event etc, try something new.

6.    Use behavioural data – you have access to all of the data you could ever want. Data analysis is key to creating the most engaging content for your audience.

7.    Testing – always test different things in your emails. Subject lines. Content copy. Images. CTAs. Design… you should never stop testing. There are always new things to try and with it consumer behavioural data to be analysed.

8.    Use beautiful, engaging and relevant images, or create simple and effective infographics.

9.    Be personal.

10.    Make sure you’re branded correctly, effectively and in a memorable way – no matter what you do.