What Emails Consumers Really Want

The Data and Marketing Association (DMA) has launched the 2021 edition of its acclaimed Consumer Email Tracker report. The report, sponsored by Validity, considers email marketing effectiveness through the eyes of recipients and offers invaluable insights into why email subscribers behave in sometimes unexpected ways.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly reshaped email behaviour as working practices changed and messaging needs evolved. These changes are clearly reflected in the report’s findings:

  • Recognition: Marketers invest a great deal of time and effort crafting effective subject lines, but there is another important factor that inspires recipients to open their emails. About 68% of respondents said “recognising the brand” is most important, followed by “the subject line” with 59%. This brings deliverability into sharp focus – subscribers won’t recognise emails they never see! It also highlights the importance of using consistent sending addresses and “friendly from” descriptions.

A very useful tactic for increased recognition is Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI). This helps senders stand out in the inbox by leveraging their DMARC records to display their logos next to the emails, which means immediate brand identification. It also promotes trust by confirming the sending domain has not been impersonated.

  • Relevance: When asked what they value most from marketing emails, consumers usually respond with “they contain offers,” but this has changed. The pandemic has created strong demand for useful information to help deal with factors like changes in trading hours and return policies. For the first time, “relevant to me” (55%) is the primary need subscribers want their emails to address, followed by “contain offers” (53%).

Email relevance means right person, right message, and right time. Reduced commuting and home schooling have recalibrated many consumers’ daily schedules. Optimising send times to ensure emails are top-of-inbox when subscribers are most likely to engage is important for improving open rates. Smart senders have responded by moving their broadcast windows and adapting their content to recognise the increased use of desktop/laptop devices.

  • Preferred action: Email marketers are generally focused on converting email opens into clicks to maximise website traffic. The report demonstrates that while click-throughs are a popular response to interesting emails (25%) there are other actions that are equally popular, including visiting the website or mobile app, going to a physical store, checking out their social media account, making a phone call, or simply saving the email for later reference.

This means any program using last-click attribution to measure effectiveness is almost certainly undervaluing itself! Email programs should make these alternative actions as frictionless as possible, like by prominently positioning contact phone numbers and hyperlinking them for mobile users. This also highlights the importance of rigorous render testing across multiple clients and devices to ensure these important “alternative CTAs” are clearly visible to users.

  • GDPR “Halo Effect”: When GDPR was enacted, many established best practices were effectively written into law. Stronger consent, greater transparency, and more choice has increased trust and marketing audiences have become more engaged. The report clearly reflects this from a consumer perspective: only 28% of respondents often wonder how a sender got their email address (41% in 2017); the proportion of emails deemed to be “useful” has increased by 12%; and unsubscribes driven by perceived lack of relevance have fallen by 17%. It’s also striking that subscribers are now three times more likely to use the opt-out link, rather than simply registering a spam complaint.

Improved data quality is the foundation stone for these improvements. In our Email Data Quality report, almost two-thirds of respondents said data quality is a highly important factor in determining email program success. Many of their most effective tactics (address validation, proactive data hygiene, and spam trap monitoring) are fully supported by Validity solutions like Everest.

Which brands do consumers believe “do email really well”? We were delighted to see nine of the top 10 programs named are Validity customers, and their commitment to email excellence is clearly reflected in the loyalty they generate. Even better news is their subscribers are net promoters who are very likely to recommend these senders to friends and colleagues, creating a virtuous circle of customer champions.

Want to learn more? You can access a complimentary copy of the full Consumer Email Tracker report here. You can also sign up for our next webinar, when I’ll be joined by Anna Frigerio from the DMA, Ed Tibbits from Wiggle, and Elliot Hogg from Validity. We’ll be dissecting the most interesting findings and coming up with creative ideas for how to harness them as new email engagement opportunities. Don’t miss it!


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