Email: The Biggest Tool in Your Digital Marketing Toolbox

By: Susan DeMatei, WineGlass Marketing

It is 2019. We shouldn’t be having the conversation about whether you should email or not. If you feel you are bothering your customers, then the problem is with your content, not the delivery vehicle. Email is not dead, in fact it’s as relevant as ever. The accompanying infographic to this article contains what we found to be the most diagnostic recent statistics, including the facts that over three quarters of us prefer emails and the sweet spot seems to be around an email every other week.

The conversation now should be about how our customers want to read emails, how they consume the content, and how emails should be integrated into our communication channel with our customers.

Typical questions we discuss with our clients are: What is the best design for an email? How much copy is too much? How many emails should you send, and how often? What day of the week and time of day is the most likely to reach your customers.

Unfortunately, the answer for most of these is, “it depends”, as you can look at your own database’s open and click through rates to determine what type of content they want, and when they want to receive it. But there are some overall guidelines for best practices to follow.

THE MOBILITY EFFECT ON DESIGN

When we first started using email regularly in the workplace, it was before the PalmPilot, BlackBerry, or iPhone. We viewed emails on computers at our desks. Emails took the place of memos, which took the place of letters––so formal, long format text was the norm. With the increasingly fast pace of technology adoption, our lines between work and non-work on a computer have blurred considerably. We used to read work emails at work and personal emails at home. Now, even though you may have separate work and personal email addresses, they go to the same mail account and everything is mixed.

The speed and ease of glancing at email on mobile devices has revolutionized how we consume email, and we are reading more emails than ever. According to the 2018 Deloitte Mobile Consumer Usage Survey, the average consumer checks their phone 52 times per day.1  We use our personal phones at work and our work phones at home. We have access to email 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and there are few times when we are unable to open an email.

With over half of our emails read on mobile devices, we have changed the way we interact with promotional emails, and with this, our expectations have changed. We expect to be able to see the content on our desktops, tablets, and phones. This is what “mobile optimization” means. On mobile devices we require buttons to show large enough to be able to click them, we need to see the picture tightly cropped and close up,  and we expect to read the copy without having to scroll sideways. Remember that email is a tool to drive traffic to your website to purchase. If the email cannot be read on a mobile device, 80% of us are more likely to delete it than to save it to be opened on another device later. With people looking at their phones 50 times a day or more, there are multiple opportunities to capture their attention.

Paying attention to design in such a small space is critical to click through rates. While people are looking at their phones and therefore email more than ever, our attention spans are reduced. An email must be clear and concise while effectively communicating the desired message. As the old saying goes, a picture tells 1000 words. We recommend telling the story with images and a clear call to action rather than large amounts of copy.

Because emails are opened on a variety of platforms and devices, a responsive design is critical. Images should adjust to the size of the screen and copy should be limited to the most essential. The call to action must be clear and easy to see, with call to action buttons being the most effective.

Images must load quickly and be appropriate to be viewed on a mobile phone. Many of our clients wish to use full bottle shots in emails, but these do not view well on mobile phones. It is much better to use a tight beauty shot where the label can be clearly seen and read. We find that an image that combines the product, offer, and call to action that is clickable to be effective in increasing click through rates.

MOBILE USAGE DRIVES TIMING

For a long time, the belief was that the best time to send an email is at 10:00 AM on a Tuesday morning, and for the most part that still holds true. But, the overwhelming use of mobile phones to read email has us consuming content at different times and in different ways.

Data from MailChimp and Wordstream suggests that midweek – specifically Tuesday and Thursday are still the best days to send emails. Tuesdays get the most emails opened compared to any other day of the week, although Saturdays may also be a good day to send email for its high open rate, according to data from Experian and analyzed by Customer.io.

Why the conflicting data? While it is imperative that the email can be viewed on a mobile phone, we are still addicted to our computers. The behavior we are starting to exhibit to combine these two is interesting: If we like an email we open on a mobile device we may save it and open it again later. This makes sense if you think about how and when we use our phones. We’re in between meetings (or in a boring meeting) or on the bus or waiting in the sandwich line at lunch and we scan through emails, deleting ones we don’t want to read and saving ones we do. The business emails we deal with during the business day, but leave the personal emails for after work or on the weekend. This is why it makes sense that the largest open rates are reported during the weekday, but click throughs on the weekend.

The time of day is also affected by this complex pattern of consumption. MailChimp confirms with Campaign Monitor that sending emails later in the morning between 10 a.m.–noon will get you the most opens. It looks like the best time to send email is at 10 a.m. Campaign Monitor sums it up by saying that 53% of emails are opened during the workday between 9 a.m.–5 p.m. However, Customer.io found that marketing email opens are highest from 8 p.m.–midnight, with a second peak between 4–8 p.m. Customer.io suggests that while it’s a common practice to check email in the mornings, most people are just beginning their day and may likely avoid email marketing in favor of productivity.

This also supports why these second opens are so likely to result in conversion – because these are the emails we’ve saved. Whether they return to it on their phone or a desktop, they’re back to consider the offer and often click through to your website.

BUT NOTHING IS AS IMPORTANT AS TARGETING AND CONTENT

It should be noted that you can have the most perfectly mobile-friendly email sent at the perfect time, but if the messaging and target aren’t right, it won’t work. When used properly, emails should not tell the consumer everything they need to know, but entice them to your website where they find an appropriate landing page with the content and products from the email. For a consumer to purchase a product from an email they must first open the email, so the subject line is also very important. And some estimate targeting as 50% of the success of your campaign: sending too many emails across all segments can reduce open rates. We recommend using segmentation to reduce the amount of email one consumer receives and to drive engagement by matching the customer with the content they are most interested in.

So don’t be seduced by SMS and shiny digital channels: Email marketing is more important for driving ecommerce than ever. With the increased use of mobile devices, people are opening emails across multiple platforms and during all times of the day and night. With some consideration for mobile devices, you can keep your consumers informed and your email channel sales strong.

Susan DeMatei is the President of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. www.wineglassmarketing.com

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