Email marketing isn’t as easy as simply sending out an email. There’s a lot to learn if you want to keep up with the competition. But educating yourself doesn’t have to be difficult. With this article, we’re shedding light on the ins and outs of email marketing through 5 different data-backed strategies.

Be more human

So much of the promotional content in consumers’ inboxes is mass-produced and click-baity. If you’re willing to put in a little extra effort, you can stand out from the masses. In a recent survey, 70% of millenials said that they’re frustrated with brands sending them emails that they consider irrelevant. In another survey, 71% of consumers expressed frustration over impersonal-feeling shopping experiences. If your marketing emails are getting low engagement, you may benefit from adopting a more human-centric approach.

One place you can start is by adding testimonials to your emails. When surveyed, 88% of consumers said they place as much trust in online reviews as personal recommendations. You can use testimonials in your emails to highlight some of your more glowing 5-star reviews. You could also source quotes from your most frequent customers and feature those.

If possible, include authentic photos of customers using your products. For bonus points, hold an Instagram contest to source these photos. Using amateur-quality images may seem counterintuitive, especially if you’ve already paid for high-quality photos. But candid pictures invite your prospects to feel a sense of community with your other customers. They also help your leads remember what wants or needs attracted them to your business in the first place.

Optimize your subject lines for your mobile audience

As desktop computers have less and less presence over ecommerce, mobile devices have picked up the slack. Recent industry data shows that around 62% of emails are opened on mobile, and this will likely continue to increase. This means that more and more of your contacts have around-the-clock access to their inboxes (and therefore your emails). That’s good news for you. However, there are some unique design considerations if you want to get noticed on smaller screens.

On both desktop and mobile, the first part of your emails that your contacts will see is the subject line. On mobile, only 25-40 characters of your subject line will be visible, compared to around 60 characters on a desktop. If the subject line is too long, the substance of your message will get cut off. That means many of your mobile prospects may never even open your otherwise well-crafted email. What a waste!

Some marketers say the solution is to drastically shorten your subject lines to guarantee your message is seen. If this approach seems extreme, don’t worry–there’s another way. If you’re creative, you can get the most out of both platforms by taking a hybrid approach.

Consider this subject line for a made-up furniture store:

“Our fall sale is here! 🍂  Redecorate with 15% off store-wide”

At 60 characters, desktop users will likely get the entire message. Good for them, but what about mobile users? At a conservative 25 character cut-off, mobile users will still see:

“Our fall sale is here! 🍂  …”

By summarizing the main take-away of your email in a few words, and expanding on it further along, you can cater to both audiences without favoring one over the other.

Maintain good contact list hygiene

In email marketing, your contact database is your holy grail. You depend on it for reliable information on all your potential leads. For your contact database to remain effective, you need to weed out any unengaged or outdated contacts regularly.

Your initial instinct may be to keep as many contacts as you can, but this habit can harm your emails’ overall performance. The most important email success metrics, like open and click-through rates, are calculated from your total pool of contacts. This means that, as your list grows, and more of your old contacts and cold leads stop engaging, your metrics may get worse. This is particularly alarming considering that, on average, 30% or more of contact data decays every year.

Some clear signs that your contact database is decaying are:

  • Decreasing open and click-through rates
  • Higher than average unsubscribe rates
  • Increasing spam report rates (which also risk your emails being targeted by spam filters)

Once you’ve decided to clean up your list, your email software can identify garden-variety contact decay issues, like duplicate email addresses or hard bounces. You also need to decide how long an existing contact should remain inactive before you either launch a re-engagement campaign or scrub them from your list. This is a complicated decision that depends on the length of your sales cycle and how frequently you choose to clean your list. Some say every three months is best. As a general rule of thumb, if a contact has remained completely disengaged since the last time you’ve cleaned, it’s time for you to take action.

Help out your prospects (and yourself) with automation

A surprising 90% of consumers polled said they were willing to share their behavioral data if it made their shopping experience more convenient. This level of buy-in makes marketing automation a win-win for both customers and marketers. By collecting modest amounts of consumer data, you can use email campaign software to automatically send helpful, personalized emails to your contacts based on their interests and behavior. These personalized emails have been shown to be 6 times more likely to lead to conversions.

Make use of merge tags

One small action you can take to boost your email automation is adding fields to your email sign-up form to ask for additional contact information. Even just collecting first and last names can do a lot to make your emails feel more genuine. With most software, you can use merge tags (or “personalization tags”) in your email subject and body. These tags automatically pull and input unique information (their first name, for example), even when sending out mass emails. It’s much easier to get someone’s attention and hold their interest when your email subject line greets them by name.

That said, it’s important to not to ask for too much from your web visitors. Adding more fields also has the trade-off of reducing form completions, so it’s good to be conservative with how much data you collect. (This is a great thing to A/B test to find your sweet spot.)

Create customized workflows

If you want to get more sophisticated with automation, you can even set up specific emails flows to contacts based on their past interactions with your business. Whether you call these “trigger emails,” “email workflows,” or “autoresponders,” they can improve open rates by 152% over traditional emails.

A classic example of a useful triggered email is an abandoned cart reminder. These emails can be automatically sent out whenever a prospect adds products to their shopping cart, but leaves before completing their purchase. The email shows them the item(s) they picked out, along with a CTA to complete the checkout process. Not only does this remind them of the specific products that they were interested in, it also lets them quickly complete their purchase without tracking down all their items again.

Related reading: Email Marketing Automation: Five Examples & Workflows

Put your ideas to the test

If you’re uncertain about your next move, you can use an A/B test to clear things up. For the uninitiated, A/B testing is a simple way to apply the scientific method to marketing and design decisions, including your emails. In fact, some studies show that UX improvements based on A/B tests can increase conversion rates by up to 400 percent.

An email A/B test compares two versions of an email: the current version, and a copy with only a single change made (different subject line, different CTA color, and so on). You send both versions to an equal number of contacts and a winner is declared based on performance (usually open-rate or click-through-rate). Then, the winning version is sent to the rest of your email list.

If you’re interested in using these suggestions, all of them (with the exception of #3) can be scientifically evaluated with A/B testing. That way, you can say for certain whether a change helped or not. For more detailed help on getting started with email A/B testing, check out our guide to the basics of testing your emails. And if you want more tips on making the most of marketing automation, check out the other posts in our Essential Guide to Marketing Automation.

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