Smart Insights Digital Marketing > The Marketing Strategy Blog Fri, 03 Jul 2015 08:30:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to plan event-triggered automated email campaigns Fri, 03 Jul 2015 08:00:32 +0000 Using tables and flow charts to visualise and plan automated contact strategies

Research shows that behavioural email marketing is a powerful technique to automatically follow-up online customer actions to help increase conversion to sale at a low cost.

Here are some common examples of event-triggered email sequences:

  • Welcome sequence for a new subscriber or lead to an email list
  • Welcome sequence for new customer (onboarding)
  • Reactivation of customers or subscribers who lose engagement
  • Abandoned shopping cart follow-up emails
  • Shoppers browse or search on a site but don't buy follow-up
  • Time to repurchase or replenishment emails

However, the technique is still used by relatively few companies. One barrier to setting up these event-triggered email sequences is the time it takes to specify the sequences if it's a new approach to the company or agency.

The great benefits of event-triggered e-mails is that once set up and tested for effectiveness, they are a low cost method of boosting response. You can let the technology take the strain since there are too many triggers and layers of segmentation to manage manually. Mark Brownlow has more on the whys and wherefores of event triggered campaigns in this post on Email Marketing Reports.

I think that the reason event-triggered emails are underused is that maybe many companies are still in a campaign mindset. To setup event-triggered email does need investment in a project to work through the relevant creative treatment and targeting for different customer actions and position in the lifecycle. Many are maybe unaware that even low-cost email marketing tools may include this feature.

How to specify event triggered email sequences

To help marketers and consultants through the process of quickly creating a campaign we have created a email sequence planning template. It was initially developed for a client who needed an event-triggered "Welcome" email sequence based around a brochure download. It's a classic inbound/permission marketing lead generation approach which can be used for B2C or B2B campaigns where access to content or a trial service is given in return for an individuals details.

Some ideas to help develop contact sequences

In the remainder of this post I'll show some examples of how email sequences can be specified:

Example 1. Defining a simple welcome triggered contact strategy

This top-level approach shows the sequence of messaging in different media to be automatically generated in response to different triggers forming the business rules.


/trigger condition


Medium for




Guest site



·Encourage trial of site services

·Increase awareness of range of commercial and informational offerings

Post transaction page



1 month:


(i.e. < 3 visits)

·Encourage use of forum (good enabler of membership)

·Highlight top content

home page, side panels deep in site


cross-sell message

1 month

·Encourage membership

·Ask for feedback

E-mail or SMS



2 days
after browsing content

Use for range of services for guest members or full members

Phone or

Example 2.  Creative integration defined in contact strategy

This more detailed example shows how a personalised communication can be specified within different blocks of an template - it's part of our template for planning welcome sequences.

Email creative wireframe example from campaign

This is the creative that corresponds to the contact strategy defined above. It is simplified into clear blocks that can be tailored for different waves in the campaign. The left sidebar which has a high visual emphasis, so is good for response is fixed and covers both branding and response goals.

We like the simplicity of Balsamiq for mocking up these types of layouts.

Example 3.  Using a flow-chart to summarise campaign waves

This example gives a more visual representation of a multi-wave campaign through time showing the "Sense and respond" or "digital body language" approach where follow up triggered communications depend on whether the email has been open or which links have been clicked upon.

A super-intelligent approach assesses the value of the customer and their propensity to convert and then follows up with the most appropriate medium to gain conversion. So a high value customer may receive a phone call or direct mail which could maximise conversion.

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It’s not about the data… Fri, 03 Jul 2015 08:00:00 +0000 It's all about the story...

It’s a jungle out there, dog eat dog, and unstructured data is proliferating at an exponential rate. As a marketer you have to be careful, you don’t want to get sucked into this digital Wild West, even the quickest out there could get stung.

Yet, there are opportunities to be had, little nuggets of 24-carat gold that can provide your business with a cutting edge worth millions. Sounds like an opportunity, right?

However, just as the prospectors found it tough trying to make a buck during the 19th century Alaskan gold rush so businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to make sense of how to make big data pay. So even at this early stage of its evolution businesses are asking, what does the future of big data look like?

shawn o'neal

Image/Copyright Source:

There isn’t an easy answer but as Shawn O’Neal, VP of Global Marketing Data and Analytics at Unilever, put it at the HAVAS data festival in London recently: 'The number one lesson I’ve learned in 20 years of working in data and analytics and trying to convince people that the data is saying something is that it’s not about the data. It’s about how you tell the story and translate'.

'No matter how good the data is, if you can’t portray it in a human, connected way to business decision makers, it never has an impact. It’s about story-telling. The data could be 1% but it is the nugget that stimulates everything.'

Our own experience at Adoreboard, a data analytics technology spin out of Queen’s University, Belfast, has always been about insights and simplification of data. However, O’Neal’s comments struck a chord to envisage the future for digital marketers by looking at how to data could be transformed in novel ways to tell better stories.

How will data tell an engaging story?

In today's social and mobile world, businesses need to move faster and share knowledge more broadly than ever before. So they need to move quickly but also translate huge amounts of data, which can take time.

Nobel Prize winner and behavioural psychologist Daniel Kahneman explored the notion that we have two ways of processing data in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow. He theorised that we have two basic systems of thought, 'Thinking Fast’ is unconscious, intuitive and effort-free. 'Thinking Slow’ is conscious, uses deductive reasoning and is high-effort.

Ways of thinking

Image/Copyright: Eva-Lotta Lamm, Flickr

‘Slow’ likes to think it is in charge, but it’s really the irrepressible ‘fast’ that runs the show, making thousands of decisions and judgements every second.

The problem with analytics is that it’s all about ‘thinking slow’, it requires focus and laborious analysis.

The challenge is to move data analytics from ‘slow’ to ‘fast’, intuitive thinking. Going straight for the gold but armed with the knowledge of 100 geography professors.

In thinking about ‘it’s not about the data’ Adoreboard aims to do is to make it possible for the most sophisticated thinking system in the world to make a decision based on information presented by the best man-made computers in the world.

Copernicus changed the world when he came up with On the Revolutions of Celestial Orbis, yet he only had a limited amount of data available to him in 1543, it was intuitive insight that allowed him to make the imaginative leap and place the sun at the centre of our solar system.

And, we agree with O’Neal, that’s the future of data analytics, presenting the data in such an innately human way that it allows decision makers to make that all important imaginative leap and turn insight into opportunity.

But what does this look like? One of the biggest challenges for digital marketers in the next five years will be to create a bridge for people to understand what the data is saying.

Decision makers need the ability to digest and understand data quickly, often on the move, often through a mobile and definitely within a very short time window.

What if the prospectors of 19th century Alaska had the geographical knowledge that we have now and they could just point a mobile phone at a mountain and the phone translated the data and presented a picture of where the gold was? Maybe that is the future of data analytics.

Let’s look to the future

If the future is not about the data, how can we switch data analysis from thinking slow to thinking fast? Here at Adoreboard we’ve been experimenting with different ways of analysing data to tell stories. In doing so we’ve collaborated with world renowned innovators from Havas helia to Ministry of Sound, here are 3 examples...

Three campaign examples of experiencing and interpreting data

  1. Data visual experience

We analysed how the media and public viewed the highs and lows of golfer Rory McIlroy's eventful year and presented our findings in a full-blown brand sponsorship report (download it for free here) from which we produced an audio-visual data interpretation. From the break-up of his relationship with tennis ace Caroline Wozniacki through to a Ryder Cup victory in September and beyond, we charted and expressed publicly expressed emotion through a 2 minute music and data visualisation.

  1. Data music experience:

What if your brand had a beat, how would it sound and what would you change? Adoreboard teamed up with Ministry of Sound and Havas helia to create a house music interpretation of what Twitter users think about certain individuals and brand names. We used mathematical algorithms for 20 emotions expressed in tweets that turn them into melodies and rhythms. So feelings such as love, hate, anger, surprise, annoyance and trust each create their own individual sounds.

  1. Data avatar experience:

Through collaboration with Cantoche, a French base specialist in avatars, we created a virtual media assistant who could process the emotions expressed online and convert this into a facial expression. Facial expressions are something we, as people, have a natural ability to instantly interpret - it’s amazing how quickly we can understand something without communicating through words.

It’s not all about the data 

As a wise man once said, it’s not all about the data. If you can’t portray it in a human, connected way to business decision makers it never has an impact.

What are your thoughts? How can we move data understanding from thinking slow to thinking fast, so as to speed up the process of data understanding? How can data be portrayed in a more meaningful, humanistic way, appealing to the visual, auditory and kinesthetic communicators?

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How wearables are shaping marketing Thu, 02 Jul 2015 14:35:11 +0000 Wearable technology trends and the future of digital selling

Until what seems like very recently, wearable technology has remained on the fringes of consumer consciousness, with most people unsure what to make of it. 'What’s the point in moving the user interface two inches from my pocket to my wrist?' people rightly ask. 'But I’m terrible at multitasking, those glasses will just be another distraction…' Although wearables still have yet to gain widespread popularity, interest is stirring and 2015 may just be the year it turns a corner.

According to a recent report from Juniper Research, wearable advertising spend is estimated to reach just $1.5 million this year, but by 2019 is expected to hit a slightly more impressive $68.7 million. That’s a huge new market, and one that online marketers would do well to embrace.Smartphone vs wearable penetration

Source: Penna Powers

Three trends for the future or wearables

The evolution of the smartphone into wearable, multi-purpose tools will change the way we interact with each other and the outside world, which in turn will transform the consumer experience.

Here are three big changes that wearable tech is pushing forward:

  • 1. One of the most valuable changes, from a user experience point-of-view, is the new hyper relevance of search results and ad targeting. As consumers use mobile devices more than desktop, companies will be able to see precisely what customers are looking for at all times and where, based on a combination of previous search history, current location, and the general pool of data gained from the wearable device itself.
  • 2. Relatedly, voice search will continue to adapt and evolve, especially as wearables gain more widespread acceptance. Google Now on Android Wear, for example, can already answer queries in real time and provide updates on your local surroundings; all via some nice looking cards that are far easier on the eye than the traditional SERPs. Google’s Knowledge Graph/Vault is growing ever more sophisticated, to the extent that Google should soon be able to respond to all voice questions instantly (i.e. without users having to click through) and in full sentences.
  • 3. Wearables are perhaps most valuable to the user when the data gained from the wearable experience is integrated more broadly into an interoperable retail ecosystem, which allows marketers and customer service teams to be in-touch with the shopper at every point along their journey. The result of this system is that users will no longer be tied down by a single device when it comes to search, but will be able to pick up precisely where they left off.

Customer personalisation and the emergence of ‘super data’

Being constantly attached to the wrist, the smartwatch allows for incredibly precise, granular data to be collected about the user. This is likely to radically impact the retail experience as hyper personalised offerings become commonplace.

Wearables will soon be able to collect and feed numerous ‘super data’ back to retailers – data such as a user’s in-store shopping frequency, their basket size, value per item, length of stay and common dwell times – meaning that online advertising placements and scheduling can become more acutely defined.

In addition to this, wearables will also grant access to more holistic personality traits about the customer, such as what you listen to, what you “like”, and what you tend to browse. With this data, retailers should be able to connect all the dots between pre-purchase research and in-store behaviour, reaching a new level of interconnected retail.

A recent Econsultancy report in association with ResponseTap found that despite technological advances in the past four years, marketers have made little-to-no progress in joining the dots across their customer’s journey. It seems the arrival of wearable devices, which will likely make omnichannel retailing much more simple and effective, couldn’t come sooner.

Based on the numerous clues provided by the wearable device, together with pinpoint geofencing, customers will be treated to perfectly timed, astutely relevant, and emotionally on-point messaging, which ties into their entire browsing and buying journey.

Google Now and its impact on SEO

Being ranked number one will become much more important with voice search as Google seeks to provide just a single answer, rather than a list of site pages. Therefore, when optimising for voice search, it makes sense to pick just one, or possible two, main keywords and focus on ranking top for those.


Voice SearchFor other voice search queries, which tend to be longer, more specific, and more conversational than traditional search terms, you'll need to begin focusing on long tail key phrases and conversational search queries.

One technique would be to create a well-optimised FAQ section on your site, which covers all the main questions a user might ask about your business. Search engines are now looking for websites that provide the best and most specific responses for users: help yourself, and Google, out by becoming the most relevant resource.

Source: Google Blog


In terms of your off-site efforts, start developing your content marketing strategy around commonly searched-for phrases, rather than single keywords. But be warned that, with voice search, this is likely to be much more challenging to identify these commonly searched for long tail phrases.

Ultimately the prominence of specific keyword optimisation is likely to fade with the emergence of wearables. Instead, marketers will need to learn the exact requirements of their users, and provide content that answers these questions in context.

Designing activity-based brand experiences

It is hoped that wearables will bring greater relevance to the consumer when it comes to their spending habits, however this ultimately relies on the way marketers and retailers handle the data that this new technology is able to collect.

Being a highly personalised engagement platform, wearables create opportunities for delivering advertising with much greater context and relevance to the user—solidifying the trend away from advertising as interruption, toward native advertising – however if brands want to create truly positive and memorable experiences via these new devices they will need to get smart with two things:

  1. Personal data, i.e. using insights from a much wider data pool, whilst respecting customer privacy on a whole new level;
  2. Leveraging things that customers already use and like to get their brand message across in physically creative ways.

Since wearables essentially turn advertising into a form of activity-based engagement, brands will need to think about how to actively engage their users, rather than simply relaying generic brand messages.

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Email Marketing Myth Busted [Infographic] Thu, 02 Jul 2015 11:00:41 +0000 Don't fall-foul of these Email Marketing myths

Have you inadvertently bought into an email marketing myth? It is easily done, but you could be losing out.

Email Marketing works differently for different brands and industries, so in this infographic EmailMonks are dispelling the myths that Tuesdays or Thursdays are the best days for email campaign broadcasts.

They have collated 15 myths, backed by evidence, to share how email campaigns can be more successful through companies adopting specific email marketing techniques. For example...

Brands are doubling their open rates by increasing the frequency of their emails and and re-emailing with a change in 'subject line' to lift non responders.

15-email-marketing-myths-infographic emailmonks

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10 reasons you need a digital marketing strategy Thu, 02 Jul 2015 08:05:34 +0000 Using a digital plan to support digital transformation

Where do you start if you want to develop an digital marketing strategy? Well, I don't think it needs to be a huge report, a strategy can best be summarised in two or three sides of A4 in a table linking digital marketing strategies to SMART objectives. Yet despite this it seems that many organisations still don't have a plan.

Do you have a digital marketing strategy?

2015 update: Since 2012 we have run an informal poll to see how widely used digital marketing strategies are. Results have been quite shocking... with around two-thirds to three quarters not have a digital marketing plan. It seems that many are doing digital marketing without a prioritised plan of activities to integrate online marketing...

When we did the research for our free Managing Digital Marketing report published in 2015 we were interested to see how this percentage looked for a defined sample. This is what we found:

Digital Marketing Strategy 2015

So, the latest research suggests an improved approach to planning in this sample of marketers, with fewer than half without a digital strategy. Congratulations if you're one of these companies!

A recommended approach for developing a digital strategy

But what if you're one of the companies that doesn't have a digital strategy yet? Well, I think the two simple alternatives for creating a plan may suggest a way forward:

  • 1. No-specific digital channel plan.
  • 2. Separate digital marketing plan defining transformation needed and making case for investment.
  • 3. Integrated digital plan part of marketing plan - digital becomes part of business as usual.

So, what are the takeaways to act on here? It seems to me that:

  • Using digital marketing without a strategic approach is still commonplace. I'm sure many of the companies in this category are using digital media effectively and they could certainly be getting great results from their search, email or social media marketing. But I'm equally sure that many are missing opportunities or are suffering from the other challenges I've listed below. Perhaps the problems below are greatest for larger organisations who most urgently need governance. There's arguably less need for a strategy in a smaller company.
  • Many, a majority of companies in this research do take a strategic approach to digital.  From talking to companies, I find the creation of digital plans often occurs in two stages.First a separate digital marketing plan is created. This is useful to get agreement and buy-in by showing the opportunities and problems and map out a path through setting goals and specific strategies for digital including how you integrated digital marketing into other business activities.Second, digital becomes integrated into marketing strategy, it's a core activity, "business-as-usual", but doesn't warrant separate planning, except for the tactics.

If you don't have a strategy, or maybe you want to review which business issues are important to include within a strategic review, we've set out the 10 most common problems, that in our experience arise if you don't have a strategy.

10 reasons why you may need a digital channel strategy?

1 You're directionless

I find that companies without a digital strategy (and many that do) don't have clear strategic goals for what they want to achieve online in terms of gaining new customers or building deeper relationships with existing ones. And if you don't have goals you likely don't put enough resources to reach the goals and you don't evaluate through analytics whether you're achieving those goals.

2  You won't know your online market share

Customer demand for online services may be underestimated if you haven"t researched this.  Perhaps more importantly you won't understand your online marketplace: the dynamics will be different to traditional channels with different types of customer profile and behaviour, competitors, propositions and options for marketing communications. See online marketplace methodology post.

3 Existing and start-up competitors will gain market share

If you're not devoting enough resources to digital marketing or you're using an ad-hoc approach with no clearly defined strategies, then your competitors will eat your digital lunch!

4. You don't have a powerful online value proposition

A clearly defined online customer value proposition will help you differentiate your online service encouraging existing and new customers to engage initially and stay loyal.

5. You don't know your online customers well enough

It's often said that digital is the "most measureable medium ever". But Google Analytics and similar will only tell you volumes not sentiment. You need to use other forms of website user feedback tools to identify your weakpoints and then address them.

6. You're not integrated ("disintegrated")

It's all too common for digital to be completed in silos whether that's a specialist digital marketer, sitting in IT or a separate digital agency. It's easier that way to package digital marketing into a convenient chunk. But of course it's less effective. Everyone agrees that digital media work best when integrated with traditional media and response channels.

7. Digital doesn't have enough people/budget given its importance

Insufficient resource will be devoted to both planning and executing e-marketing and there is likely to be a lack of specific specialist e-marketing skills which will make it difficult to respond to competitive threats effectively.

8. You're wasting money and time through duplication

Even if you do have sufficient resource it may be wasted. This is particularly the case in larger companies where you see different parts of the marketing organization purchasing different tools or using different agencies for performing similar online marketing tasks.

9. You're not agile enough to catchup or stay ahead

If you look at the top online brands like Amazon, Dell, Google, Tesco, Zappos, they're all dynamic  - trialing new approaches to gain or keep their online audiences.

10 You're not optimising

Every company with a website will have analytics, but many senior managers don't ensure that their teams make or have the time to review and act on them. Once a strategy enables you to get the basics right, then you can progress to continuous improvement of the key aspects like search marketing, site user experience, email and social media marketing. So that's our top 10 problems that can be avoided with a well thought through strategy. What have you found can go right or wrong?

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Native Advertising can scare both publishers and marketers, but shouldn’t Thu, 02 Jul 2015 08:00:00 +0000 3 techniques to make Native Advertising more effective

Following the move made by many other online publishers in recent years, the picture-hosting site Imgur recently announced its plan to roll out native ads. The site bootstrapped for most of the past six years and built a loyal community, but — like most publishers — it has the need for a consistent revenue stream.

More publishers are riding the native advertising (definition and example) tide to monetize their platforms. For advertisers, native ads are a natural and effective way to boost engagement. In fact, Yahoo reported that, on average, users give native ads three times more attention than display ads.

But like all innovation, native advertising (definition and example) also follows an S-curve cycle of adoption and maturation. From display to search to video ads, each cycle inevitably brings a unique set of challenges and risks. And as native advertising matures, the issues advertisers and publishers face will also evolve.

native Ads

The Growth of Native Advertising

By now, most people are familiar with native advertising on social media in the form of promoted posts, tweets, pins, and pictures.

According to new research from the Online Publishers Association and Radar Research, nearly 75 percent of American publishers now leverage native advertising, and 90 percent have at least considered it.

Choosing the Right Ad Format

Publishers have endless options for offering native ads to supplement their original content. But having too many options isn’t always a luxury.

Consider a photo-sharing application, for example. Showing branded messages in the form of promoted photos might seem like the most obvious route. However, because this app likely has search functionality, it can also introduce native search ads and ask advertisers to bid on certain keywords so its branded photos appear in those search results.

Maximising Revenue Potential

While most publishers have a native ad strategy, getting direct-sold campaigns is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Working with multiple demand sources also comes at a cost.

We work with many publishers that deal with several ad networks and demand sources while building their direct sales strategy to secure immediate revenue. For every ad network, publishers need to integrate their software development kits, tags, APIs, etc., to display their ads. They also have to manage their priorities and fallbacks, visit several dashboards, and run spreadsheet calculations to understand the revenue native generates, which can quickly eat up valuable time.

Preserving Ethics and Trust

Given the potentially deceptive nature of native advertising, issues with trust will inevitably persist. To address these concerns, the FTC conducted a workshop last year to educate brands on best practices for disclosure.

Publishers have to worry about alienating their audiences with undisclosed or annoying ads and potentially misleading them with branded content. To avoid deceiving audiences, they need to follow these best practices, openly disclose branded content, and only work with brands that value their unique voice and audience. It’s a fine line to walk — one that some publishers are unwilling to attempt.

How Marketers Can Pave the Way

Despite the concerns with native advertising, it still has the potential to produce enormous engagement for advertisers and publishers. As you work with publishers on native ad buys, there are a few things you can do to simplify their jobs — and make your ads more effective:

  1. Focus on Quality

Most publishers are intent on upholding quality standards in their native ads. Imgur even strives to offer promoted posts that entertain and inspire like its original content.

As a marketer, you need to focus on delivering high-quality content. Your copy should be flawless, and each creative element needs to be well-executed. This will help publishers safeguard trust with readers and increase engagement with your ads.

  1. Test Relentlessly

The modern marketing adage should be “always be testing.” Constantly experiment with different elements in your ads. Try combinations of headlines, images, videos, and copy until you find the perfect fit.

Also test different forms of disclosures with your native ads, and measure their performance. If you’re executing a photo ad, for example, determine whether the statement “promoted photo,” “sponsored photo,” or simply “ad” elicits the most engagement, and stick with that approach. Publishers want your ads to succeed, so go the extra mile to test everything.

You’ll also need to shift your gaze from impressions, clicks, and click-through rates — which are great for bottom-of-the-funnel direct response campaigns — toward more appropriate metrics for evaluating native ad campaigns across the funnel.

  1. Design Ad Units Based on the ‘Native Advertising Playbook’

The look and feel of every platform will vary slightly, so be aware of the ad unit. Most publishers follow the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s “Native Advertising Playbook” to design native ad units for their properties.

Reference this playbook when designing your ad creative to maintain a seamless design. You can also consider working with a supply-side or advertising automation platform to help streamline the design process.

Native advertising is still in its early stages, and publishers and marketers stand to learn valuable lessons to make this new wave of advertising a success. By prioritizing quality, a seamless design, and transparency with audiences, both sides can start reaping the financial rewards of native ads.

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How do PR professionals engage journalists today [#DigitalInsights] Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:00:00 +0000 Which are the most popular channels for journalists today

For Marketers and PR Professionals, it's important to reach the right media influencers using the right media. Given the huge choice of communication channels available to us across social media, it's useful to know the preferences for channels amongst media professionals.

Cision's Social PR Study, using data from the Social Journalism Study 2015 reveals some interesting insight. So should you contact Journalists via phone, email or social media and are your current methods currently effective for contacting the right PR Professionals?

The survey reveals that '49% of PR Professionals prefer the phone, compared to 23% of Journalists'

How should you contact Journalists?

PR Professionals are reaching out to Journalists via email and phone, and social media is the third choice for pitching stories (amongst almost half of respondents).

So how do Journalists wish to be contacted? More contact via email, phone, social media and 8% would prefer more postal information. Contacting Journalists and Professionals

So, how positive are PR Professionals (PR) about their relationships with Media Professionals (Journalists)?

59% are happy with their relationship with Journalists and 48% still feel that contacting Journalists is still important for pitching their stories.

Attitudes of PR Professionals to Media Professionals

Though the survey has indicated that they felt social media has changed their relationship with Journalists.  As a result, Media Professionals are now less reliant on them and the report mentions that 'Journalists will use different digital platforms to source stories from social media thus bypassing PR professionals' so perhaps the PR Professionals need to take a step back and review their approach as it may change more in the future.

To read the full report, download Cision's Social PR Study 2015 (registration is required)

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Using triggered messages to boost your ecommerce sales Wed, 01 Jul 2015 11:00:00 +0000 Optimising your triggered messages - 7 common Mistakes to avoid

Sending triggered email messages or behavioural email marketing is a proven method for improving customer engagement and increasing sales for retailers. However, there is a lot of confusion as to what types of ‘on-site’ behaviours should trigger a message, how it should look and feel, as well as how best to measure the results. There is a big difference between doing the right things and doing things right, so here is a simple yet comprehensive overview that will help you to optimise your triggered messages.

How To Optimize Your Triggered Messages For Success

Using the right triggers for your messages

Ask people what constitutes a trigger and the first and often only response will be a shopping cart abandonment. However, these people are missing a trick and limiting their reach by not embracing browse abandonment.

This doesn’t necessarily mean targeting every visitor who leaves without placing an item in a basket without checking out. You may wish to base your criteria on those who viewed certain products or categories.

It is also important to note that high value / once in a lifetime products (where there is a need for deeper engagement between the customer and the organisation), warrants a different approach to browse abandonment. Using real-time customer profiling on your site will ensure that the ‘triggers’ of these particular visitors are identified and relevant message can be sent.

By using browse abandonment as an additional trigger it has been proven to deliver an extra 3% return on top of a more ‘traditional’ cart-only approach.

Knowing what should trigger a message is vital, but it is also worth being mindful of online behaviours that should not. I am talking about people who simultaneously browse sites across multiple devices.

A visitor flipping from a smartphone to a laptop should not receive a message as they have not abandoned (they may simply be opting for a larger on-screen display of your products). Only if they leave altogether without making a purchase should a message be sent -  especially if your message includes an incentive in the form of a voucher code! This leads nicely to one of the most common questions…

To discount, or not to discount?

It may make logical sense to include an enticement back to the website to complete an abandoned transaction. However, price may not have been the cause for their abandonment.

In a recent test (more on the importance of testing later) a retailer included a 15% coupon in their triggered messages and the results where fascinating. No nobody likes to pay more than they have to, so when the discount was offered it actually changed the behaviour with immediate buyers becoming delayed buyers. Visitors would intentionally abandon knowing that they would receive the offer soon after.  In fact, this tactic has become the topic of a recent television ad by Barclays. So, by looking at the results of their triggered messages in isolation you would think they had the perfect optimised strategy. But the truth was very different and overall sales where not improving.

However, creating urgency in a message can be a highly effective technique. If, for example the visitor was looking at a sale item which is due to end, then using a countdown timers to highlight how long they have to get the product at that price, can have a huge impact on click through rates and completed sales.

Avoiding the common mistakes                    

Blanket couponing is just one of a number of common mistakes that we often see having a big impact on the effectiveness of a triggered message. Others prime for optimising include…

  • A lack of personalisation (not just the salutation but also the content)
  • Not making the message instantly recognisable in the inbox
  • The message is vague and overly long, with no clear call to action
  • Failing to include images. Picture reminders of the products left in the shopping cart, as well as items they may be interested in based on browsing session history, or crowd-sourced trends
  • Not conveying the right tone of voice and brand image. Monitor your competitors, including those who aspire to be in your market position and those who your organisation aspires to topple. What do their emails look like? What copy are they using? Would it resonate with your customers?
  • Including navigation within the message. This creates an unnecessary distraction from the course of action you wish the recipient to take
  • Failing to adapt to layout revisions by web-mail providers and new hardware devices, impacting the style of the message. For example, if your customer-base are the type of people to have an Apple Watch, then you message needs to be optimised for its tiny display.

Another big issue is timing and specifically sending the message too late. This problem is often caused by ESP solution providers that have set times for distribution. Ideally, the message needs to be delivered within 23 hours of the session being abandoned for it to have relevance.

However, I would stress that relevance is, to a far greater extent, dictated by the time the recipient reads rather than receives the message. Real-time email content solutions provide a way to optimise content to ensure that what the recipient reads is most likely to be relevant to them at that exact moment in time.


Of course, the cornerstone for any triggered messages is making sure that you have the necessary information to be able to send a message in the first instance. This is not a problem if the visitor has logged in, but often this is done as they approach checkout, meaning you have missed all their prior activity that could have an impact on the content of your message.

Ideally, you want to be able to track their activity before sign-in.

This can be achieved through the use of pop-ups during the session inviting them to give their email address, encouraging early sign-in, as well as tracking if they have clicked through from an electronic communication to them.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure

Optimisation isn’t a one-off project it needs continual measurement and that means you need to clearly define what constitutes success. Sounds obvious! Yet many ESP solutions measure metrics such as clicks and opens, and whilst these are interesting, what you really need to know is ultimately how many purchases have been made as a result of your blood, sweat and tears.

There are two approaches you can take for ongoing testing. The first involves running one type of message one week and another a week later and measuring the difference. The other is a split test whereby 50% of visitors to the website receive one type of message and the remaining half a different type. Both have their pluses and minuses, but the key takeaway is no matter how you choose to test, it is the fact that you are testing in a consistent and continual manner that is key.

Also, don’t be afraid to make changes to your messages! Evidence suggests that any changes you make (of course within reason) are likely to have a positive impact. So, review and refresh regularly.

Finally, remember that by optimising your triggered messages you are increasing your chances of success, but for optimal performance you need to optimise all of your e-marketing and communications activities.

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6 types of welcome emails – are you exploiting them? Wed, 01 Jul 2015 08:10:00 +0000 Which type of welcome email is best for your business?

Welcome emails are key to establishing a dialogue with new email subscribers whether they are prospects who don't know you, or customers who have already bought a product from you. A well-designed welcome email sequence will keep new subscribers engaged and facilitate selling to them in future.

If no initial welcome message is sent, the open rate can fall by 25% a few weeks after signing up. So clearly welcome emails are amongst the most important you send and design, so are critical for subscriber and customer retention. In fact welcome campaigns tend to have the highest open rates of any type of email campaign, which makes them even more important to get right.

Developing a Welcome email strategy

So, the arguments for putting time into well crafted welcome emails are clear, but where do you start? Given their importance we have created a new guides for Expert members which gives best practices and examples, so they can set up more effective welcome email campaigns.

In this post I will be showcasing the various types of welcome emails used by different types of businesses so readers can get some inspiration for the features of a successful welcome email that could work best for your business. I’ve split welcome emails into 6 general categories, each of which come with their own set of pros and cons.

1. "The thank you"

This type of email keeps it simple and sincere. It thanks subscribers for signing up and gives them a bit of detail about what they will be receiving in terms of emails. The advantages of this are establishing trust with your subscribers and making them feel valued. However it may be less effective in driving e-commerce traffic as some of the other forms of emails we will look at.

welcome email

2. "The showcase"

This is a very common form of welcome email, where what the company offers the customer is showcased to the subscriber. This is good for engaging customers who will be happy to see the benefits of signing up, but make sure to keep it relevant. If you are scraping around to find enough good features that your subscribers can access and end up adding features that customers probably won’t be interested in, then I suggest you don’t opt for the “showcase” style of welcome email. Because it is so common, it may be less likely to grab attention that some other forms of welcome email, and sometimes a more minimalist style can be more effective when customers are becoming used to receiving large volumes of promotional emails. We like the way Karen Millen stylishly give their 'wall of benefits' as the psychologists call it.

Showcase welcome email

3. "The offer"

Simple but effective, this type of welcome email gives new sign-ups a special offer to try to get them to buy the company's products while they have attention. People like to feel they are getting a good deal, so offering a special discount can be a really good way to increase click rate and conversion rate from your emails. Just make sure your offer is enticing and try not to have it formatted as an image. 60% of email clients block images by default, so if your offer is the centre piece of your welcome email but is blocked on most of the recipients devices, then you are not going to achieve the desired click rate.

Offer welcome email

4. "The hello"

It might not always say ‘hello’, but that is the focus of this type of welcome email. It is about acknowledging and engaging with the customer, and giving your email a human touch. The Virgin America email in particular is just about saying hi and introducing how they will be communicating. It is simple and doesn’t bombard the reader with loads of different calls to action. This isn’t the best form of email if click through and conversions straight away is your goal, but if long term retention and engagement of your customers is what you value, then it is a good option.

hello welcome email

virgin hello welcome email

5. "The shopping cart"

Another fairly common form of welcome email, where the goal is clear; to get the customer to buy from you. If done right this can be the most effective way to convert leads into sales and deliver ROI. However because of the frequency of these forms of emails we receive every day, it is also likely to be ignored by a large percentage of recipients.

Shopping cart welcome email

6. "The Video"

Video in email can be effective and engaging or nigh on useless because it is so frequently blocked by email-clients. This impressively minimalist email from Path is beautiful in its simplicity, and so likely to engage users. However, I would advise testing click rates with video emails on a smaller batch of your subscriber list before rolling out as the main welcome email campaign, because blocking by the email clients of your users could leave your lovingly crafted videos unwatched.

video email

Welcome Emails can support the drive for long-term customer engagement

Customer engagement, retention or re-activation are all variations on a simple concept: getting existing customers to buy your products rather than searching for new customers.

Although ‘engagement’ can sometimes seem like a marketing buzzword, it makes cold, hard business sense. Attracting a new customer can cost as much as 15 times more than retaining an existing customer, and although the exact statistic varies between studies, it on average costs between 3 and 5 times more to find new customers than sell to existing ones according to the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

If you want a more in-depth resource to guide you through the creation of your automated email-communications strategy, check out our email sequence contact strategy template developed by Email marketing consultants Dave Chaffey and Tim Watson - it's available to our Expert members and one of our most popular downloads.

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4 ways the Smartwatch will impact email marketers in 2016 Tue, 30 Jun 2015 15:00:00 +0000 Email marketing is still highly effective, but the smartwatch brings with it a new challenge for marketing strategists

I've recently upgraded my watch to a Sony Smartwatch 3, but the Smartwatch 2, depicted below, is often cited by technology bloggers as being one of the devices that kicked off the wearables trend in a big way back in 2013. Life with a smartwatch isn't as difficult to get used to as I thought it might be, instead adding a lot of value to my day in ways I could never have imagined. As a copywriter I've penned many an email for many a marketing campaign, so the way the smartwatch began to change my behaviour as a consumer was of particular interest to me.Smart Watch

The smart watch will impact email marketers

I seldom read full emails or messages on my smartwatch (possible though it is with plain text versions - more on this in a moment), but it does act as a very nifty buffer between me and my phone, allowing me to glance at my wrist whenever an email pops through to see who it's from, what it's about and whether or not it's worth my time. With a swift swipe I can mark it as read or delete it, which means that if the smartwatch does take off (and the new Apple Watch has all but sealed the deal here), email marketers will have a potentially unwelcome challenge on their hands.
Email on smartwatch
The Apple Watch will in all likelihood herald a new age of wearable technology. One look at the how the iPhone kick-started the smartphone revolution and it's hard to disagree, particularly when you've experienced the form, function and sheer convenience of a smartwatch first hand. If you buy anything other than an Apple Watch, the likelihood is that you'll be using Android's rival operating system, Android Wear, which, after its latest update, has won over its critics and become the best of the bunch, for now.
Regardless of which smartwatch dominates the market, here are just 4 ways they're likely to change the way digital marketers think about their email campaigns in the coming year.

Short content will rule

While the smartwatch can already pack some serious punch when it comes to features and usability, tapping on links and browsing web content is a long way off and will probably never be considered practical. So it's important that the content you deliver provides immediate value and a clear indication of what's next. Long form content will most likely get discarded, marked as read and left to gather dust in a user's inbox if they're skimming through their emails while waiting to hop on a train. Make it short, pithy and engaging. Not always easy but always worth the effort.

Plain text will make a surprising comeback

Just because your subject, pre-header and opening message need to be short and concise for viewing on a smartwatch, doesn't mean that you have to dumb your emails down and put creativity back in its box. Plain text versions of emails are still best practice, and they're about to come back in a huge way thanks to wearable tech. Currently all smartwatches, to my knowledge, display plain text alternatives of your emails where possible. This means that pretty images and media content aren't going to make it through to your audience - at least not at the smartwatch 'buffer' stage. So make sure your plain text alternatives are just that - plain text and to the point - and you might just earn some screen time on a user's phone if they deem it relevant enough to reach into their pocket and take a closer look.
Make your emails too 'content rich' without a plain text alternative, and you risk zero engagement and a one way swipe to the junk folder.

smart watch email

Open rates will likely decline, but don't panic!

If the Apple Watch takes off and smartwatches become the new smartphone, open rates are going to take a hit. The problem is, as email marketers we might not know why. The previous two points give some obvious rationale behind the decline of open rates - we're going to have to get through what is essentially an additional 'checkpoint' before we get some serious screen time from the user - but it goes deeper than that. Most email clients tend to track opens with images, and because the smartwatch will only show HTML emails in their plain text alternative, tracking becomes a bit of a problem. Someone could read and digest your content without every 'opening' the email on their phone or computer. Combine that with the fact that you can't tap links or engage with content in any meaningful way on your wrist, and marketers have a real brainteaser on their hands.

So what's the answer? "Visit website | view on your phone" is a start...

view online
We've all seen that at the top of our emails. If an email doesn't render properly in Outlook or Thunderbird or any email client the user happens to be reading on, there's almost always the option to ‘view online’ at the top somewhere. If smartwatches become as ubiquitous as smartphones, then 'view on your phone’ could be the next big thing. If it's something that engages the user they would simply click the link to make it load in their mobile's browser - sort of a rudimentary bookmark to remind themselves to read it later. Either that or some more refined bookmarking system will take hold, perhaps making way for a new wave of apps that filter emails from your watch and queue them up for viewing on your phone at more convenient times.
If smartphones changed the rules for email, then smartwatches will change the game entirely. Watch this space.

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