Email Deliverability Unfiltered – Episode 6
Host: Lauren Meyer, VP of Industry Relations & Compliance at Kickbox
Guest: Kath Pay, Founder of Holistic Email Marketing
Meet Kath Pay
Kath is an email marketing veteran, frequent speaker, and CEO of boutique consultancy, Holistic Email Marketing, which delivers data-driven email marketing strategies that focus on the entire customer journey. Her new book, titled Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionise your business and delight your customers, is available on Amazon now. I’ve already finished my copy and highly recommend it!
Customer Experience and Email
Email marketing is a channel that, more often than not, is the chief driver of traffic, conversions and revenue for a brand. It has an average Return-On-Investment of 42:1, which is 4-10 times higher than any other digital marketing channel. And when fully optimized, email can show even greater returns than that!
But too often, the experience an email audience goes through when first introduced to a brand is not a positive one. Experiences like…
- Recipients’ inboxes being flooded with irrelevant content from day one
- Waiting 2 weeks (or months) to send a welcome message
- Receiving mail that a recipient did not sign up for
These kinds of negative experiences can severely impact your ability to build a loyal following for your brand, and your ROI from email will be nowhere near the average. In fact, your chances at hitting your sales goals through other channels are likely also at risk. According to a study by Vonage, 59% of respondents (aged 25-34 years-old) share poor customer experiences online, and 58% of customers will never use a company again after a negative interaction. Whereas, after a positive experience, 69% of customers would recommend the company, and 50% would use the business more frequently.
Safe to say, this is an important topic for any email marketer to understand. Let’s explore how customer experience and email marketing tie together and ways you can improve the experience for your email audience and future customers.
Defining the Customer Experience
What is Customer Experience?
Customer experience, or CX, is the impression that you give your customers, which results in the perception they have of your brand. This perception is the result of multiple communication touchpoints throughout their journey, from navigating your website to buying and interacting with your support team.
Since CX influences your brand perception and your brand perception influences long-term success or failure of your business, understanding and improving it is vital to success, even outside of email. For now, though, we’ll highlight some ways that email marketing influences the CX journey.
How does email marketing impact the customer experience?
Email plays a big role in defining some key processes that underlie customer experience. For example:
- Defining the signup process
- Setting and fulfilling expectations of prospects and customers
- Defining the design and content for both emails and landing pages
- Personalizing the customer journey
- Providing privacy, security & trust
What types of emails impact customer experience?
From early on to late in the customer lifecycle, transactional or nurture, emails are sent for several reasons, but all impact the overall customer experience:
- Early on (exploration):
- Welcome Emails
- Onboarding (similar to Welcome)
- Educational emails introducing your product line, benefits, uses, features, and real-world users
- Browse / Cart Abandonment
- Middle stages of the customer lifecycle:
- Product or new feature announcements
- Cross-sell / Upsell emails
- Feedback requests, surveys or polls for existing customers/subscribers
- Referral and Loyalty programs
- Late Stage
- Re-engagement / Win-back
- Product replenishment
These emails are not only part of an email journey but a series of interactions that reach outside of the marketing department. How do they fit into a larger strategy that helps us as email marketers achieve our goals?
Why is a Holistic approach important in email marketing?
Although an integral channel for marketers, email is only one component of the number of interactions that your customer has with your brand. Instead of developing email marketing messages within a silo, holistic email marketing views email as part of the entire customer journey and empowers email to be more effective as part of a larger picture.
By taking a holistic approach, you not only pair email goals with business goals but engage in “helpful marketing” that equips your customers with what they need to succeed.
As Kath states in her book, “CX email marketing is built on the idea that marketing in general, and email marketing in particular, serves to benefit both the customers and the company” because “When you help your customers achieve their goals, more of them will help you achieve yours.” That’s her definition of a win-win situation, and we love it.
To achieve this holistic approach, it’s important to balance three key elements: helpfulness, personalization, and a strong customer focus.
To strike the right balance, it’s helpful to know some Do’s and Don’ts for any automated emails you plan to send.
Do’s and Don’ts of Email Automation
Email automation allows you to provide a comprehensive (and consistent) email experience for subscribers, no matter when they join the list. This is particularly helpful for small businesses who are managing multiple roles and can’t dedicate themselves full time to email. But it’s just as great for large organizations who are managing a lot of new signups, sales activities and more.
If this is not done incorrectly, though, automation can backfire and lead to unwanted or unhelpful emails being sent, a poor customer experience, and high churn. To avoid this, let’s start by understanding the do’s and don’ts of automation:
- Automate as many emails as you can while still having a human touch – For example, onboarding series, education campaigns (webinars, getting started, etc.), notifications based on an activity, cross-sell/upsells, feedback requests (surveys, polls), stock replenishments, referrals, reward program emails and more.
- Regularly test your automations are working properly.
- Review your stats – automated doesn’t mean on “auto-pilot.”
- Iterate – Even if you can’t create entire sequences right now, start with a single email (e.g., an abandoned cart email). Once you test a single email, you can apply those lessons to other emails in a sequence or other stages of the customer journey.
- Set it and forget it – email deliverability and recipient engagement are not static things! Review your results and adjust your program accordingly.
- Put every subscriber through the same journey, regardless of lead magnet or buyer persona.
- Automate responses to user complaints and/or recipients who give feedback via email replies. It’s difficult to predict what those folks might be saying, so a human response crafted with care is required.
Now that we know the Do’s and Don’ts of automation, let’s explore how to improve CX.
Tips for Improving Customer Experience with Email
If you’re an email marketer, delivering a quality experience should be at the forefront of your mind since it improves recipient engagement & inbox placement. There are a lot of potential elements to focus on to improve CX, so we’ll break down the basics:
Perform an audit on your customer experience.
Before you start changing things, you’ll want to take inventory of what’s going well and what isn’t within your current email program.
There are so many potential improvements to be made within an email program, but not all of them will have the same impact from one brand to another. It’s important to narrow your focus to what really needs to be tweaked. That’s where data comes in!
Monitor your email metrics and other correlating stats (like website traffic, conversions) to understand what your email audience responds favorably to. Be sure to focus on all of your metrics, including user complaints and even a lack of engagement, because hyper-focusing on only one metric, such as opens, can lead to a poorer CX. For example, you might notice that the email in your welcome series that generates the highest opens is also leading to a lot of list churn.
If your metrics are not where they should be, or you’ve noted a decline in results over time, it’s often a problem of not setting and meeting the expectations of your subscribers. Check out our recent episode on permission and expectation-setting for more guidance on this incredibly important aspect of email marketing.
Some brands choose to review their results quarterly or at year-end, whereas others are regularly evaluating performance and making adjustments in an attempt to increase revenue. The frequency is totally up to you, as long as you’re staying close enough to the data to understand how well your email program is working (or not).
Always be testing!
There are multiple types of tests you can run to better understand the customer experience of your email program.
As Kath describes in her book, one version is used for the quality assurance process that happens before an email is sent. Another is the formal process of testing different versions of an email message to determine which one is more likely to drive the actions you seek, optimizing emails for maximum conversion. A third type of email test we recommend is to ensure your program is working as intended.
A few tips:
Test your onboarding experience.
Does it work as expected? Does it make sense? Run through it yourself, but also consider asking a friend to test it out so they can experience your welcome program with fresh eyes and share candid feedback on the overall experience.
Run A/B Testing
By developing a “continuous optimization” mentality, brands can quickly identify aspects of their email marketing that resonate best with their audience. The length of your testing period can vary, depending on the sample size at hand, but once the data has been collected, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about how to proceed. And once one variant wins, don’t stop there. Use it as a control and test other variants. You’ll never know what works best until you try a few things!
Lock down your QA Process
Before an email goes out, it’s important to check and recheck each detail so that you can hit ‘Send’ with confidence. Broken or spammy links, typos and design errors can hurt not only your short-term engagement but also your sender reputation.
At the very least, set up a few test accounts of your own so you can see how your emails look before they go to your full audience. Using the pre-send tools available within the Kickbox’s Deliverability Suite can help to avoid those blunders and improve the efficiency of your QA process.
Providing a good customer experience through email is vital to not only your email program but your entire organization and its long-term success. By taking inventory of your current CX-related data and improving upon it through focused, iterative improvements, you will have a loyal subscriber base that opens your messages, converts, and refers other future raving fans of your brand.
Stay tuned for the next episode
Don’t forget to check out Kath’s new book Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionise your business and delight your customers and stay tuned for the next episode, where we’ll bust some common deliverability myths!
Not caught up on the series? Check out our last episode all about email permission, why it’s important and how it impacts deliverability.
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