When your business’s promotional email frequency is high during its peak season, chances are that your email program is almost exclusively focused on getting that next email out the door. However, you generally have more time to think about your strategy and invest in lasting improvements during your off-season—as well as during slow periods like the one that some businesses are experiencing now because of the coronavirus.
“View slow periods as opportunities to reinvent your business,” says Kyle Sjoberg, Senior Strategic Consultant for Strategic & Analytic Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “Focus on projects that are typically pushed aside in the day-to-day hustle and bustle.”
Not sure which improvements your organization should focus on? To help you out, we surveyed Oracle CX Marketing Consulting’s more than 500 digital marketing experts, asking them which of 16 email marketing improvements they’d recommend most right now.
Here’s a countdown of the top eight email marketing improvements recommended by our consultants to make during slow periods:
Data is the fuel that powers digital marketing. If you have poor control over your data and poor data hygiene, then it undermines all of your data-driven capabilities, including segmentation, personalization, inactivity management, and others that are Proven Essentials to succeeding today.
“This is a great time for better data hygiene,” says Aaron Campbell, Account Manager at Oracle CX Marketing. “Since this is often put on the back burner, why not bring it to the front and start cooking with some real heat?”
Businesses have extra motivation to improve their data governance and hygiene as many are still not in compliance with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which will start being enforced on July 1, despite calls for a delay due to coronavirus.
Email development and production typically takes weeks to complete, but better controls and better tools can shorten that timeline so you’re spending less time on each email build.
“This is a great time for brands to increase efficiencies throughout the email development process and create a better experience for their customers,” says Allie Pietro, Designer with Creative Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “Brands should use this time to develop templates, update existing designs, and create more targeted and personalized content.”
For example, we migrated an online travel agency to a modular build architecture and it saw a 25% reduction in their email build-times. It also made it easier for it to run tests, allowing it to increase the number of tests that it does by 10%.
But better email production workflow isn’t just better design systems. You can also shorten production by establishing clearer rules for everyone involved in production, setting tighter deadlines for review feedback, limiting the number of people who are involved in email reviews, and making other changes to the people side of the production process.
When you’re sending fewer emails, you can invest more time in each one, adding interactivity, animation, or Email Annotations for Gmail. You can also invest your time in making longer-term optimizations, such as optimizing for dark mode for email, making your emails more accessible, or embracing inclusive design.
“With people stuck at home during the COVID-19 crisis,” says Cathie Richter, Design with Creative Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting, “now is the time to ramp up email design because so many people are looking to their digital devices as their window to the outside world.”
But be careful. While most slow periods might seem like a good time to test out new designs and see how your subscribers respond, now is not the best time for testing, says Jen Healey, Director of Strategic & Analytic Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting.
“This is not an ideal time to test as consumer behavior is certainly not indicative of ‘normal’ times,” she says. “But we can implement learning from earlier in the year and instead focus on projects that can’t be tackled during peak.”
“The biggest issue with my clients—who are mostly in retail—is that they’ve lost a primary channel for email capture with the closure of their stores,” says Brian S. Sullivan, Senior Account Director at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting.
Many B2B brands are in a similar position now that they can’t hold in-person events. That means that businesses need to be careful not to drive up list churn, while also looking for ways to increase signups. Thankfully, our data shows that unsubscribes are down dramatically, so businesses can focus their attention on improving the signup process to boost list growth.
“Opt-in experiences can be more complex to update due to the UI and data flows required,” says Sara Lapworth, Senior Strategic Consultant for Strategic & Analytic Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “However, if marketing has slowed, this is a good time for updates because of the lower risk of missed opportunities.”
Think your email signup and account creation processes are okay? Then prove it, says Wade Hobbs, Senior Strategic Consultant for Strategic & Analytic Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting.
“Now is a great time for everyone on your team who manages the customer experience to know firsthand what it is like to become a subscriber and make a purchase,” he says. “I’m always amazed by how many marketers have never been a customer of their own product. A good test for your signup, unsubscribe, and purchase process is: Would you take pride watching your mom, spouse, best friend, or child go through the experience? If not, now is your opportunity to improve it.”
Whether you’re exporting data and pooling it manually or you’ve centralized your data across channels and departments through integrations and APIs, aggregating your data in one place allows you to see the big picture and take action based on those insights.
“Data is the heart of every client’s email program and is their most valuable asset,” says John Briggs, Account Director at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “Centralizing your data and making it more available to your email marketing and other systems will help ensure that no opportunities are missed, especially when your slow period ends.”
Pretty much everyone has access to basic email marketing performance stats like open, click, conversion, and unsubscribe rates. But there’s a whole world of deeper, more meaningful stats like subscriber lifetime value, the velocity of various metrics, and return on investment. We consider access to advanced performance analytics a Competitive Differentiator.
“During slow periods, there is no better time to invest in the relationship with your subscribers,” says JT Capps, Strategic Director of Strategic & Analytic Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “The extra time can provide opportunities to better understand subscriber preferences that can be inferred through improved analytics and reporting. This intelligence can pay huge dividends when the slow period ends, and it becomes time to execute on all cylinders.”
Having better insights is closely tied to having more accurate data, more timely reporting, and insights that are presented in a more easily digestible form, so there are additional angles to improving your analytics that you can also devote time to.
Simple segmentation is great, but more detailed customer modeling allows for targeting that’s extremely powerful, as well as versatile. For example, while most marketers think of customer modeling as a growth strategy, it can also be used defensively to protect your deliverability.
“Subscriber engagement is a major influencer of deliverability,” says Daniel Deneweth, Head of Email Deliverability Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “Senders can manage their deliverability by driving engagement metrics through effective audience segmentation strategy.”
Regardless of your goals, customer modeling takes considerable time, says Ian Rotondi Gray, Account Director for Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “Slow periods are the perfect time to leverage your increased bandwidth to tackle customer modeling, a high-ROI project.”
Of all the improvements that a business could make to their email program during a slow period, improving triggered email campaigns was our consultants’ No. 1 recommendation. Again and again, our consultants pointed out an unfortunate pattern of businesses settling for good enough with their automated programs when they shouldn’t.
“Investment into automated emails provides probably the biggest ROI a marketer could ask for,” says Reed Pankratz, Senior Strategic Consultant for Strategic & Analytic Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “Partnered with a strong A/B testing plan, this is without a doubt in my mind the best way to improve the channel’s financial performance.”
And yet, as Adam Tosh, Senior Account Manager at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting, points out, “Companies often struggle to invest time in these campaigns since they’re ‘already running’.”
Don’t treat these as static, point-in-time campaigns like a promotional email that’s deployed all at one time. Treat them as the living, ongoing campaigns that they are, deployed again and again over years in some cases. That means that they not only need care and maintenance to continue working properly, but they need optimization through updates, redesigns, and regular A/B testing. Of course, in addition to managing existing automated campaigns, you can also launch new ones that address other points of friction or opportunity in your customer’s lifecycle.
What you do during your off seasons has a huge impact on your performance during your peak seasons. So, when your business slows down and you’re sending fewer promotional emails, re-task your team to invest more of their time into strategic and structural email marketing improvements that will help your company outperform when business heats back up.
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Need help with your email marketing program? Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting has more than 500 of the leading marketing minds ready to help you to achieve more with the leading marketing cloud, including Database Management & Compliance Services, Creative Services, Strategic & Analytic Services, and Campaign Automation Services teams that can help you improve all aspects of your email program.
For more information about email marketing, please visit: https://www.oracle.com/marketingcloud/.