In a crowded inbox, uninspiring emails will be tossed into the trash without a second thought. While context in email marketing is king, it’s easy to forget that surprising and delighting customers can also make a lasting impression.
Email marketing is your go-to touchpoint for customer interactions. It shouldn’t just be viewed as a promotional engine, but rather a channel where brands can take advantage of customer context and build advocacy through hyper-targeted, relevant messages that inspire readers to act.
While it’s important to feature your product offering, it’s more important to showcase your intelligence and understanding of customers. These qualities drive brand credibility and loyalty, respectively. Think of it as a strategically refined sales approach.
1. Play with context
To drive relevance, you need to prioritize situational messages over canned ones. The former packs more of a punch, fosters advocacy and drives revenue. By leveraging rich customer insights – such as buying behavior and location – you can contextualize messages, tying the customer journey back to the individual’s environment. Irrelevant messages make email recipients likely to not only ignore email, but to take negative actions, such as marking it as spam.
Communications that ooze brand personality and resonate with customers are proven to maximize their engagement and prompt them to take the desired action. For example, you can send weather-related messages to contacts based on a live forecast which recommends products that complement the weather in real-time (barbecues when sunny, raincoats when drizzly, and accessories for your snowman to don when blizzarding).
2. Exceed customers’ expectations
To foster genuine advocacy, brands need to continually push the boat out. Today, simply delivering on your brand promise isn’t enough; you need to overdeliver in a meaningful way. Giving subscribers something when they least suspect it can truly enhance their experience. Three ways to nurture brand affection in this way are:
A surprise sign-up gift
Thank subscribers for joining your mailing list with a surprise gift. It’s common practice for brands to use incentives as a prop to lure people in at the sign-up stage. However, the positive effect can be greater if you hold back and surprise prospective customers once they’ve joined your list; for instance, by sending them a coupon for $10 off their first order. Subscribers will feel like they’re getting something special for nothing – a gift rather than an exchange for data.
Rewards for feedback and reviews
To make customers’ experiences more memorable, surprise them with a gift for their feedback. Most consumers expect a simple thank-you message for their time, but you can exceed expectations and foster loyalty by delighting them with a free delivery or reward points.
Offering a free product (e.g. a sample or voucher to redeem in-store) to lapsed customers can awaken their love for your brand. To strike the perfect balance between relevance and randomness, thank the recipient for the last purchase they made using historical e-commerce data. It’s a great talking point, and by making someone’s day, you’ll hopefully generate some exposure for your brand through positive social posts and word-of-mouth recommendations.
3. Celebrate random holidays
While it’s common practice for brands to email customers over popular holiday periods – such as Halloween or Valentine’s Day – your messages run the risk of getting lost in all the noise, endangering your engagement metrics. However, capitalizing on a holiday that isn’t as widespread can give you a competitive advantage in a quieter inbox.
In 2009, Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba adopted "Singles Day" – an anti-Valentine’s Day celebration – as a prime online shopping event during what’s considered a traditionally low volume sales period. Driving relevancy to the millions of singletons in China, Alibaba made a colossal $25.3 billion in sales on Singles Day 2017. This goes to show that brands can popularize unfamiliar holidays and make significant gains.
Another example is "Dress Up Your Pet Day." Aligning one of your email campaigns with this unofficial holiday is a great way to widen your social media presence. For instance, you could invite customers to enter a pet photo competition in exchange for a prize draw entry; hopefully it’ll amplify your brand’s presence through social shares and deliver some great user-generated content.
When applying randomness to your email marketing, it’s important that the topic still resonates with customers. Make sure your campaign of choice marries up with your brand’s personality, provides a topic of conversation that inspires social sharing, and drives customers to take your desired action.