3 factors for delivering ROI from email marketing

Amongst newer technologies such as social media and AI, email marketing is a veteran digital marketing channel. Despite competition from emerging channels however, email marketing continues to be a vital weapon in a business’s arsenal.

Our love affair with email marketing is due in no small part to reliable performance with marketers agreeing that it delivers the best ROI compared to other digital channels. Additionally, emerging technologies have expanded the capabilities of email marketing thanks to advanced behaviour tracking, personalisation and automation. These same technologies also mean measuring the success of this tool is easier than ever, and email marketing data can feed back to inform other marketing decisions across the business.

More opportunities within email marketing equal more knowledge and creativity needed to leverage them for ROI. For many businesses running their own campaigns, this has created a gap between ambitions for their email marketing strategy and current capability.

To help bridge the gap, we’ve collated three key factors for delivering ROI from email marketing today. These three factors all utilise the new capabilities of email marketing and are all achievable with the right know how and a bit of creativity.

Mobile

If it isn’t already, email marketing should be at the forefront of your mobile first strategy. In recent years email marketing has surpassed desktop and webmail in terms of opens, with mobile now accounting for 55% of email opens. While most email marketing tools include mobile responsive templates, there are some additional best practices that can be employed to optimise email campaigns for mobile devices. Plus, most of these best practices are true for desktop too.

Shorter subject lines

Shorter subject lines in general tend to score better open rates, but mobile devices show just 30 characters compared to desktop’s 60. This varies depending on the email client and device, so tailor subject lines to suit your subscribers by looking at your data. Most email marketing tools such as MailChimp should provide data that shows which email client your subscribers use most and which device they usually open their emails on. You can then use some additional A/B testing to further refine your subject lines.

Use pre-headers

The pre-header is the first line of your email copy and is used underneath your subject line in email inboxes. The pre-header provides important additional characters that can help give your email some context and entice subscribers to open if your subject line didn’t quite do it. Rather than just an introductory line with little information, use your first line as another header and make it interesting for readers.

The pre-header provides essential additional characters to help push even more opens and potentially better ROI from email marketing.
Image source: Campaign Monitor

Be image conscious

Poor signal, slow Wi-Fi or data settings often result in email images loading slowly or not at all. This is where image heavy emails, while pretty, may fall short. To ensure none of your mobile opens are a wasted opportunities make sure you use images wisely throughout your email. Ensure the main message or promotion is visible in plain text and include images as an optional approach rather than an integral part of the message.

Short and concise copy

As with subject lines, mobile devices constrict the content of the email. Having concise copy that makes the most of the space should be a standard best practice but is even more important with mobile opens. Mobile readers could be on the go or rushed for time, so ensure copy is laid out in easy to digest chunks. Bullet points or short, clear paragraphs to separate topics are a must, and text should be in an easy to read font and size.

Easy call-to-actions

Just like the rest of your email content, CTAs need to be clear and easy to see and click. Along with standard best practices, such as choosing a bold colour, opt for CTA buttons that run the full width of the email or are at least 44 x 44 pixels. It’s also a good idea to place your CTA near the top of the email so readers don’t have to scroll, and ensure there is plenty of white space around the button to avoid any annoying miss-clicks.

This email from top shop shows how images and text should be balanced and used to optimise emails for mobile.

Responsive landing pages

Mobile ready shouldn’t just stop at the email. This is hopefully already true for your entire website, but now is a good time to double check that all your landing pages are mobile responsive. Any pages that aren’t mobile ready are just a waste of precious email opens and clicks.

Finally, make sure you test your landing pages and your email before every send. Look at it on as many devices as possible and without images to make sure your content is appearing correctly and the message is clear.

Automation

Email marketing automation has become a must have when it comes to choosing an email technology provider. The right email automation makes the most of every opportunity in your customer's journey, whether it’s the sign-up process or post purchase. It’s also come a long way from the basic onboarding email or purchase confirmation. Now it’s possible to set up ever more complex workflows to create your own customer journey and guide subscribers to take the actions that positively impact your ROI.

Despite the advances in automation many still aren’t making the most of this important aspect of email marketing. Even with some basic familiarity with the capabilities of automation, it’s possible to set up more sophisticated and successful automated workflows. Regular experimentation can help to generate plenty of ideas over time, but here’s a few to get the creative juices flowing.

Win back unsubscribers

With automated workflows, an unsubscribe can become a new opportunity rather than a lost one. This workflow from Adestra shows how a series of automated emails can be set up to win back a subscriber. After an initial email, follow up ones can be scheduled if no action is taken to further entice the subscriber back. Depending on your business, this could be a discount, a gift, a free subscription or simply highlighting your USPs again.

This example from Adestra shows how workflows can be used to win back unscribers and retain customers.

Improve the onboarding process

You can also use automated workflows to improve the onboarding process if the initial email fails and encourage more subscribers to take those important first steps. This can include follow up emails that aim to get to know the subscriber more, share your USP’s and maybe finish with a special offer.

The social media management tool MeetEdgar starts off with an introductory free trial period. If there is no response, the follow up email reaffirms the previous message and adds some testimonials for additional reassurance. If there is still no response, a final follow up email offers a specialist to answer any concerns the subscriber may still have.

This automated email marketing workflow uses a combination of selling points from the company to inspire that first important step.

Keep your current customers

Your current customers are just as important as new ones and can be much more valuable to your bottom line. Automated workflows can be used to keep these customers engaged first and foremost, and eventually ready to purchase again. Bodybuilding.com does this by sending a follow up email a week after an order has shipped to check the customer is happy and to introduce some content, in this case the exercise part of their website. This content could also be a blog post or a product, possibly even related to the customer's purchase. Finally, they send an email a month later with a special offer if there still hasn’t been a purchase.

These emails from bodybuilder.com are not only a good example of email automated workflows but are also highly personal in tone of voice.

Basic automation

If you’re still struggling with the idea of workflows you can still improve your automated email marketing with some creative one-off email ideas. Behaviour tracking can allow you to send targeted emails in response to almost any action or inaction. If a subscriber has spent a long time on your FAQ page, you could send an automated email asking if they have any specific questions and highlighting contact information. Many of these email automations will inspire additional workflow opportunities in time.

Personalisation

For many, personalised email marketing stops at the subject line or the introduction. While adding a name to an email subject line does result in more email opens, using custom personalisation with a data point along with the subject’s name can almost double this open rate. Despite this many are still not realising the full potential of personalisation.

Fortunately, behaviour tracking has advanced personalisation even more so than automation. Utilising existing behaviour tracking, subscriber data and customer data can reveal a wide range of opportunities available to target subscribers with more relevant content and more enticing offers. Below are just a few ideas for personalising your email campaigns, though a look at your own data will reveal even more ideas that are unique to your industry or business.

Product recommendations

Sending automated follow up emails with personalised product recommendations has been made a more popular technique by big brands such as Amazon. These emails can be sent at various points in the customer journey, for example immediately post-purchase or after a period of customer inactivity. Product recommendations should also be easy to do with even basic customer data. Like Amazon, Airbnb also employs this personalisation tactic with a retargeting email that lists suggestions from the same location as the subscriber's previous search.

Airbnb uses personalisation to email further suggestions in the same area as the subscribers previous search.

Cart abandonment emails

Cart abandonment emails are also a popular personalised email and even easier to set up than product recommendations. If a subscriber enters their email and gets part way through the checkout process but leaves without purchasing, a follow-up email can help nudge them to complete the order. There are various ways to do this, such as by highlighting limited stock to create urgency, offering a small discount or simply highlighting USP’s like the Chewy example below. Additionally, showing the items or including a CTA that leads directly back to the abandoned cart helps to minimise the friction between the subscriber and the purchase.

Chewy uses personalisation to remind people of their abandoned cart, linking directly back to their cart for ease of purchase.

Recognise and reward key customers

Customer data can also reveal loyal customers or highlight key milestones in the customer journey. Personalising emails to target subscribers at these milestones can nurture important relationships and drive customer lifetime value. The most basic example of this is offering a special discount or gift after a certain number of purchases. Alternatively, if you have a loyalty scheme you can keep customers up to date on how many points they have and show them what those points can buy, or even reward them additional points once they hit a milestone. In the example below, the Fitbit like product Withings emails updates to subscribers when they reach certain fitness goals and unlock badges. They can also share their progress on social media with friends and family.

These personalised rewards to commemorate milestones in the customer journey as they use the app helps to build a highly personal customer relationship.

Birthdays, events and content

Behaviour tracking along with asking the right questions during the sign-up process can result in personalised emails that focus on nurturing the customer relationship rather than the direct sale. This includes emails to celebrate their birthday as well as the other more generic special holidays, along with email updates with blog posts or information that match their interests. You can tailor this content based on topics and themes from their purchase history, or simply by asking them to check the content they’re interested in during the sign-up process.

Even just wishing customers happy birthday can make them feel appreciated and keep them engaged with your brand.

Consistency and creativity

Innovative technologies and ideas, from AI to big data, are constantly opening new doors for email marketing. Keeping up to date and familiar with email marketing techniques is the best way to inspire creativity and produce consistently successful email campaigns. Developing new ideas and innovative email workflows will also help differentiate your business from competitors as well as providing a better understanding of your own customer base to achieve better ROI from email marketing.

If you want to start optimising your email marketing strategy for better ROI but don’t have the time or confused by all the jargon, contact one of our team today on.

Katy Smith

Katy Smith

Digital Marketing Executive

Katy is a Digital Marketing Executive at Netmatter with a degree in Marketing. She has so far gained experience in various areas of marketing including email, copywriting, social media and SEO.

Comments and feedback

Have something to add? Join the discussion and let us know your thoughts via the comments.