March Eventful Inbox: Email Spring Fever
Spring has sprung... Though it really started springing in January with early spring catalog previews. The fever pitch (or shall I say "spring fever" pitch) truly started to bubble up after Valentine's Day and President's Day promotions started to fizzle. Note that these graphs show the percentage of spring related emails as they have been distributed throughout the year and are not compared to overall email volume.
Summer doesn't quite have the early swing compared to spring. Spring and summer transition more easily compared to the more contrasting seasons of winter and spring. Coats and sweaters give way to short sleeves and bathing suits. Summer also has more events that help anchor promotions. Think Memorial Day, Dads & Grads, July 4th and Labor Day. Spring has Easter, Mother's Day and well, not much else. Seasonal themed messages are more prevalent.
Speaking of Easter... the first messages with an Easter theme started in late January with a focus on goods that require customization like monogramming or engraving. The holiday also saw a post-Valentine's Day boost. Marketers take note of when you should plan your 2014 emails to make sure you are reaching your customers early!
I observed an increase in review requests over the past month. No two requests for reviews were alike. Many underwhelmed, overwhelmed or just left me confused. While it seems straight-forward to ask customers for reviews, you need to have a well thought out plan or things could go off the rails. Decide whether you are going to ask all subscribers for reviews or limit the request to customers you know have purchased from you in the past. The former will help increase the quantity of review but will increase the risk of lower-quality reviews because many subscribers may not actually own the product. This is especially true if you offer an incentive. This example from The Container Store offered subscribers a chance to win $750 for submitting a review. I received this email though I have never purchased from them. I figure why not view a product, blindly give it a few stars and see if I win. Not the best approach if you are going for quality and accuracy.
Northern Tool used customer reviews in this email... perhaps too many reviews! The email, while visually interesting, was overwhelming for me. Balance product videos, reviews, photos, demos and related products to give customer enough information to entice shopping without bombarding them. (View full email.)
Springing in Color
Spring brings out the colorful emails. This email from Blair caught my eye not just for having a clever design and composition but for the underlying data collection opportunity (which I hope they are taking advantage of!). This email gives subscribers the click-opportunity to view products that match their color and personality profile. Are you "red hot" or "mellow yellow?" People love self-identification and this email probably had nice engagement metrics as a result. For the brand, the click data from the email could be used to set color and profile preferences for future messages. Knowing which customers are "green goddesses" versus "peachy keens" could really come in handy as new promotions are launched.
Sears sent their "Shamrock Specials" email for St. Patrick's day and switched up their typically product-heavy designs. Openers had to scroll through the rainbow to the pot of gold to find out about the offer. Very clever interactive element. Horizontal-scrolling emails pop up every now and then but a new twist on the traditional vertical layout is refreshing.
Communicating the Value Proposition
Communicating the value proposition for your promotion in the blink-of-an-eye attention span of an inbox can be challenging. This month two emails stood out about the other 5,000. bareMinerals used a side-wipe animation to show a before/after or in this case "pretty/amazing" result of their broad spectrum spf20 foundation. Animation is often used as a novelty or to mimic video playback. This before/after use is compelling and worth trying if it fits with your products. (View animation.)
Maidenform is a brand that was established for it's attention-grabbing advertisements. That held true for this shareware email. If you ever wanted to show how one could benefit from the product, this email really gets the idea across!
Bronto client, Envelopes.com featured one of their clients in their email. While testimonials and product reviews are excellent ways to add oomph to a product-heavy email, dedicating an email to showing how one of your customers uses your product helps show the value of shopping with your brand while inspiring customers.
At first glance, I loved this email by J.Peterman Company. Promotional codes are usually buried in an image or sliced out as a string of text. Not the case in this email! The opener had to fill in the blanks. While easy enough to figure out, it was a bummer to see the full promotional code revealed in the fine print. This was probably due to some legal need but the interactive element could have been carried through to a fun landing page.
There were two emails that gave me pause and a chuckle. The first was from Domino's Pizza who encouraged their customers to step out of their comfort zone by trying something new. The hilarious featured image is great but the video you see when you click through is even better. (Watch the video.)
The last is an email by Bergdorf Goodman featuring Alexander McQueen designs. The Honeycomb Patent Lace Hat is just, um, amazing. It's only $2,000. I will gladly post images of various Bronto team members modeling the hat if you would like to donate to the cause.
Manager of Marketing Research
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About the Author
As an expert in email, mobile and social strategies, Jim Davidsonbrings over 14 years of experience in online marketing, managing email and cross-channel programs for top retail clients. From strategic vision to implementation, Jim has led clients to successfully meet aggressive revenue and performance goals. As Bronto's Manager of Marketing Research, he regularly publishes industry-focused white papers, research reports and contributes to the Bronto Blog. His articles can be found in publications such as DM News, ClickZ, eM+C and Multichannel Merchant.