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How to increase email open rates
Email open rates have long been lamented by email marketers, retailers and CPG brands. According to one expert the root cause of low email open rates is ad fatigue - consumers see so many ads on a given day that they just don't want to see more. So, what's an email marketer to do?
Kristina: Email open rates have always been a question for brands; Silverpop notes an average open rate of 20%. Why aren't open rates higher?
Jeff Nicholson, SVP of Pitney Bowes Software: In short, consumers are now suffering from a severe case of "ad fatigue." Their inbox is littered on a daily basis by marketing offers that someone, somewhere, has deemed to be relevant to them and as a result, consumers are using their spam filters, junk flags and even "dummy" email accounts to, in effect, outsmart marketers. In fact, a soon-to-be-published research survey from Pitney Bowes Software uncovered that that more consumers today feel that marketers are "adversaries" than the customer "advocates" that most marketers feel they really are. This issue is only compounded with the growing volume of email being sent, largely as a result of a mistaken impression that email is somehow free. I've spoken with several retailers that send emails to all their customers every single day, sometimes several times a day and now find themselves with the reality of a 50% net opt-out rate. While on a campaign-by-campaign basis the unsubscribe number may look small, it can have a very real compound "snowball effect" that can severely limit the brand's ability to drive lifetime value.
Kristina: What can brands do to increase open rates?
Jeff: Less is more - Send less email, focus on persuadable customers, don't spoil the communication channel by sending irrelevant material
Listen before you speak - Utilize preference management from day one of the customer relationship. Allow the customer to tell you what is important to them, rather than simply guessing. In short, allow the customer to opt-down, rather than opt-out.
Check the pulse - Don't just set your marketing or even customer preferences on auto-pilot. Customer preferences change over time. Ask your customer "Are we getting it right?" to make sure your dialogue is mutually beneficial. What's good for your customer is good for you.
Kristina: Getting the email opened is great; how do we get from an opened email to a converted customer?
Jeff: Your call to action is key. For example, time-based offers do well to create a sense of urgency. Note however that consumers, even within the very same segment, are different and will react to messages differently as well. Conduct A/B tests upon persuadability to ascertain which treatments will perform better at changing customer behavior. With this knowledge, use "uplift modeling" to predict which customers can be considered to change their behavior next. Once you've solved this, most organizations will find they can and should do a better job of tracking from anonymous prospect through to on-boarded customer. The latest generation of anonymous/known visitor analytics can be deployed to understand what the key success indicators are for that transition. The bottom line though is to resist the "email is free" mentality and focus on the individual customer - keep them engaged and opted-in by emailing only when it is truly individually relevant.
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