As Head of Future Email (yes, it is a real job title), I am often asked “so what’s next then?” Of course my answer is ‘Scratch ‘n’ Sniff’. Or moreover, click and sniff! As the festive season approaches, who wouldn’t like to interact with their Christmas weekly food email and have the smell of Turkey and roast potatoes emanating from their laptop or mobile? Or click on a destination and have the essence of sea breeze wafting through as you make your next holiday choice. Well you never know, one day I would like to approach the Development team at RedEye and ask them politely to make this happen before my next big campaign! For now though, it’s a pipe dream. There’s too many other, perhaps simpler, solutions for our clients that the team are working to create. But let’s back up a bit; the actual developments in email marketing and in other channels has been very progressive in a very short space of time, so maybe one day click and sniff could be a reality?
In the last few years, automation and customer behaviour have dominated the email marketing race. I think as marketers we’ve pretty much got this in the bag. Some clients however, are still struggling with this simple concept. Take the pain out of messaging your customers through automated segmentation, it’s basic stuff which will always be an ROI winner. But according to Econsultancy, only 20% of marketers use behavioural triggers in their email marketing!
What a shame! What a waste! A plethora of tools now exists to implement this with no expertise, but it will always upset me that ‘blanket emails’ still reign for some brands. However, moving on…
What happened more recently in 2015?
Finally! Finally, pretty much everything went responsive and about time too! If you still don’t realise that most of your content requires optimising on mobile devices and that customers shop in different ways via different channels, then you must have had your head under a massive DM stone.
In my view, this year has been about content, more content and outdoing your neighbours with very clever content. The buzz about agile went stratospheric, emails can now do things after deployment! Hurrah! They’re no longer static. They can move, change, update in real-time, be weather or geo dependant, device affected and give a wow factor not seen in many years (since the animated gif was created, overused and bombed!). What did we do before the faithful countdown clock to create that sense of urgency on Black Friday? All our problems have been solved! Well not quite all, but I’ll get on to that.
Other great advancements for 2015
Personalisation – This no longer means, in marketing terms, simply adding a salutation to your communication.
Dynamic – 50% of all emails RedEye send now contain dynamic content. Relevant imagery, CTAs, landing pages, subject lines, in fact every element an email can contain. This can be simple or very complex, but is very easy to implement. A massive tick in the box.
Proficient Preferences – The P phrase! Customers have now told us what they want and we have to use the data proficiently. We must respect this and comply. And we do.
So what didn’t quite happen as forecasted in 2015?
Well I think all digital agencies were trying to play catch up. Fabulous ideas about the future and a knowledge that consumers were behaving differently sent industry development into overdrive. There’s now multi-channel and omni-channel, phrases we banter around as if it’s all been sorted. The reality is that businesses tend to be either scared or sceptical. Resource is always an issue client side and it all sounds rather expensive. “I’ll do that next month or when I can employ an expert who knows html and can create mega buckets of content” (Html savvy people have also dropped off the planet this year – they’re all gaming experts somewhere in Middle Earth I hear).
So the next phase of multi-channel is on the horizon and it can look like a minefield. What can we do to take businesses from considering a follow up email (simple), to embracing the idea that their revenue generators have different touchpoints in their purchase cycle (significantly more tricky to deploy)? Slow steps everybody. One thing at a time. Pick one area, start slowly and methodically, then build on.
My predictions for 2016
So I’ll stop waffling and give you an insight into my predictions for next year. Firstly, making personalisation easy as mince pie; provide the tools to create simple segmentation across all messages, all channels wherever that individual lies in your customer lifecycle. Send your blanket-latest-offer-led email to your masses, but take one or two parts and change the message according to their recent behaviour.
This has to be a given. If I’ve been a loyal advocate and spent a fortune with your brand in the last six months, I want you to recognise this in my weekly email. If I’ve engaged and still not bought, then obviously I need to see a different offering. All this, but not at the expense of the client.
Secondly, timing can be everything. Right message, right content, right device, but wrong time. In the New World none of us have the luxury to see, like and purchase in an instance. Predictive timing where we can identify the optimum response time could be key. Even better, let your customers tell you to postpone this message until a more convenient time (yes, I have the solution). Real multi-channel experiences will continue to develop. Marrying those touchpoints together is the utopia of the single customer view we all treasure.
So my idea of ‘Smelly Email’ may be off the development roadmap for now, but if your email campaigns ‘stink’ in other ways there is plenty of opportunity in 2016 to optimise your communication with your customer base. Solutions that are cost effective and require minimal resource. No need for ‘Scratch ‘n’ Sniff’. Just take the plunge and scratch some obvious strategies already available.
By the way, this blog smells like sweet roses…