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October 2, 2014

Automated email in the modern marketing mix

What place does automated email hold in the modern marketing mix?

In an ever-changing world where technological advancement is moving at an incredible pace, it is perfectly conceivable that certain traditionally strong channels of your marketing mix may stop performing. Some might even become completely redundant.

Regional press was once central to most retailers plans but the well publicised decreases in circulations and subsequent title closures saw marketeers invest their budgets elsewhere. Other channels such as television, while threatened by declining audiences initially saw decreases in investment. However, better content as well as technological advancement allowing more targeting and a more personalised approach is seeing them really buck the trend (please see the blogpost on Sky Adsmart).

So where does email sit within this? We have seen a real decline in direct mail over the last few years and email could be at risk of suffering a similar fate but this need not be the case. While buying cold lists and sending blanket mails may not be the right choice for your business, email marketing can make a huge difference to your bottom line. It is just a case of harnessing it in the right way.

The basics of segmenting your database can make a huge difference performance and is something that all eCommerce businesses should be doing as a matter of course but beyond this, there are some great technologies available which can make the medium far less labour intensive. In addition to this, they will help to ensure that you are delivering more engaging content which will illicit far better responses. Automated ESPs such as Dotmailer and Bronto offer the ability to quickly and easily integrate with platforms such as Magento enabling you to efficiently define segments which will auto-populate when the users meet certain criteria. These will then automatically send an email or a series of emails to take the recipient down a specific customer journey.

Both of the aforementioned solutions offer extremely user-friendly interfaces and responsive templated designs with dynamic content which will guarantee that your consumer has a good experience, regardless of the device they are consuming on. This is increasingly important as circa 49% of emails are now read on mobile devices according to Litmus.

Abandoned basket e-mails are an obvious use of this but with the right strategy and approach, you can define key groups and tailor your messaging to them. So you might look to define a VIP customer group who may receive more offers and be encouraged to further increase their basket size or perhaps their frequency of purchase. There is nothing new about the concept of how these will work to improve sales and indeed, you could manually segment the data and use a more traditional ESP. The difference here is that the automated ESPs make it so much easier for the user. For companies with limited resource, these can be a real godsend and in effect play the role of virtual team members.

That said, they do come with a price. While they are not dramatically expensive, as with any expenditure, it is important to ensure that there is a business case for it so you really need to ask yourself whether with the size of your database they will offer the returns required to drive real incremental profit.

This is only half of the story though. It becomes truly interesting when coupled with personalisation solutions such as Nosto, Peerius or Smart Focus which are solutions that are able to make intelligent recommendations based on the items that the user has been looking at. Here you will see websites with this implemented serving different content based on what you have been looking at. You may go through to their homepage and the carousel you are served contains a product you looked at but did not purchase. If you integrate this functionality with your ESP, they can facilitate sending out highly personalised e-mails to users of your site based on the actual items that particular user has been looking at.

In terms of sending personalised content, we really do see this as the future, ensuring that your e-mail recipients are truly receiving the most relevant content to them.

You will see some impressive numbers about increased open rates and improved conversion rates quoted and some of our clients have seen very positive improvements but ultimately we always recommend taking a commercial view and you always need to ensure that the potential gains are worthwhile at this point to justify the investment.

Your e-mail database can be a real untapped resource, so before looking to potentially expensive acquisition channels. It may be pertinent to ensure that you are extracting as much value as possible out of this.

Consumers are becoming more savvy and will really pick and chose the content that they consume and engage with. With other channels becoming more personalised and targeted, those who do not keep up with the trend may be at risk of missing out and disengaging their database so it is certainly something that should be seriously considered by any eCommerce business.