Today’s marketers have moved beyond the one-off email blasts that blanket subscribers with promotional emails and deals to entice them to convert. Subscriber lists are now carefully segmented to elicit a specific response from a specific audience with targeted campaigns.
And those efforts are greatly improving email engagement. Couple that with advancements in automation and drip campaigns, and brands are making sure the content gets to the right audience at the right time.
Take BuzzFeed, for example; it’s becoming one of the more popular sites for users with over seven billion monthly content views and 200+ million monthly unique visitors. If BuzzFeed treated all those users as a single audience, their engagement would suffer terribly.
Instead, Buzzfeed has developedover 20 email newsletters for specific audience interests to personalize their experience with the online brand.
However, to use features like segmentation and automation, your online brand needs to pair up with the right email marketing platform first.
Why The Platform Is Important
Not all platforms are bundled with the same features. In some cases, the features that are important to your online brand may be available but require an additional investment if they’re considered an add-on premium feature.
It’s not just about feature availability though; some email platforms are just better at some features than other brands.
It’s important to understand exactly what you want to get out of your email marketing, your goals, and how you plan to promote the newsletter before making a selection.
The features you need most for your email marketing platform are largely dependent on your goals and how you intend to use them.
Around80% of retail brands indicate that email marketing is their best driver for customer retention next to social media, but only about7% of retail brands use email marketing as a brand building tool.
Establish your goals and what you want to get from your email marketing, and then review the following features that you should consider when choosing the platform.
A/B testing is also known assplit testing email campaigns. If you’re running any kind of conversion campaign with transactional emails, then find a platform that offers this.
You can do it manually with a bit of legwork, but A/B testing built into the platform means you can quickly run a campaign side by side with different variables to see how it performs with similar audiences/subscribers.
You’re not limited to split testing transactional emails. Really, you can split test any email campaign for things like:
Subject line variation
Call to action buttons
While your audience shares similar interests and problems, each contact is unique. To ensure your emails have the most impact, you want to get the messaging right.
You can only segment based on the data you have (or assumptions), and it can be done manually by splitting your contact lists sorted by specific data—like creating one list with all of your subscribers who purchased in the last 30 days and another list of customers who haven’t purchased in over 90 days. You can further break those segments down into customers who downloaded a digital product, who live in specific regions, etc.
It can get tedious trying to manually handle all that, but it’s something you want to do.
Find a platform that makes list segmentation easy, sorting your contacts and communication with those segments in just a few clicks.
Customizable Sign-up Methods
Having an opt-in form on your website or subscription option during checkout is a given, with email marketing, but you’re missing out on opportunities to gain subscribers.
Leverage every opportunity to get new subscribers by using an email platform that gives you a wide range of sign-up forms. This includes:
Social media tabs
Adding a sign-up button on Facebook
Lightbox pop-up opt-ins
Footer opt-in forms
General landing pages (link from email signatures and other places)
Exit intent popups
3rd Party Integration
Integration may not be a necessity for small businesses and startups but, for larger online brands, you need automation to keep your marketing and communication running smoothly.
3rd party integration with your email platform eliminates or greatly reduces manual input. The integration you need greatly depends, again, on how you’ll use your email platform, but it can include things like:
Social integration for developing target ads and retargeting campaigns or social promotions
Integration with content management systems and eCommerce platforms
Integration for importing Gmail
Google analytics or integration with other analytics platforms
Subscriber/Campaign Insights … and Lots of Them
There are far too many marketers who zero in on growing open rates and click-through rates but disregard other metrics that should be tracked, monitored, and used to enhance the performance of email marketing campaigns.
Every decision you make concerning refining and improving your campaigns should be driven by data, so choose an email platform that offers the most robust data reporting.
This way, you can also effortlessly monitor and review:
Bounces (broken down by types of bounces like hard and soft bounces)
While data-driven marketing is important, it can only take you so far. You still need to read that data and make educated decisions (and best guesses) about the meaning behind some of the data.
Sometimes the best source of information is right from the customer—that’s where surveys come in handy. Knowing exactly how customers feel about any particular topic lets you use that feedback to improve your business, your products, and theoverall customer experience.
Built-in survey tools or survey integration simplify the process of targeting specific audience segments and even sending automated surveys to solicit feedback when they hit a certain point in the buyer’s journey.
Automation and Response Handling
For online retail brands, there are some common automated emails that get sent out, like order confirmations, follow-ups and review requests, and abandoned cart triggers to win back lost customers.
The right email platform will give you far more control over building stronger relationships with your customers via email automation. Here are some ways you could use automation and respond handling to improve and streamline your email marketing:
Welcome email or onboarding email series for new customers
Behavioral triggers to automatically email content related to what contacts view in your funnel
Expanded engagement workflows for contacts that return regularly
Lead nurturing emails, especially for products that have a longer buyer cycle, such as high-value products
Re-engagement workflows for customers where engagement and purchases have fallen off
Upsell workflows based on past purchases
Automated email series specific to survey responses and customer happiness
Scalable Pricing and Features
The ROI on email marketing can be substantial with the right approach, but you still need to factor in the costs of your email platform, along with the frequency of emails and how much revenue they can generate—or how much they can add to the lifetime value of your customer.
The subscription cost for email marketing platforms is typically based on the size of your email list and the number of emails you send monthly. Those prices can vary widely from one platform to another.
Whatever email platform you choose, do so with growth in mind. What features will be important as you continue to grow your list and expand your email marketing strategy? Will the service be able to support your growth?
Some platforms are better suited for SMB, while others are designed specifically to serve enterprise-level organizations.
Here’s an in-depth take on Mailchimp pricing and all available plans and offers. (You can insert this under the section of Scalable Pricing and Features)
User-Friendly Design Templates
According todata shared by HubSpot, two-thirds of emails are read on a smartphone or mobile device. You want to ensure that any emails you create are going to be consistent in design across various devices as well as email clients.
A good email platform gives you the ability to design your emails from scratch, but should also come loaded with a variety of premium templates that are mobile friendly and easily customizable.
A collection of templates makes it easy to select and test designs for different campaigns based on your goals—because you don’t want to slam everything into the same single-column email and hope for the best.
Of course, templates are no good if it’s not easy to customize them. The best email marketing platforms provide a simple visual editor for dropping in and customizing elements.
The best email marketing platform will be the one that provides the most value based on your marketing automation and content needs. Taking the time to define your goals and your plan and how email needs to integrate with your business (and where) will make it infinitely easier to make the right choice.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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