For a long time, email was one of the easiest ways for businesses to reach their customers; it provided instant contact, and let them keep their clients up to date with new updates and news. Now, however, the market is changing thanks to the innovation of smart phones and applications.
For many years, the fundamental architecture of email remained constant: you send an email, people receive it and hopefully open, read, and click. But those constants are now a distant memory, wiped away by a litany of change that requires smart marketers to fundamentally shift how they use email. Email is at the heart of most brand-to-consumer communication programs, thus all big trends like smartphones, tablets, social media, and even alterations in how companies like Google handle incoming messages impacts email best practices…a lot.
Email Marketing’s Return on Investment
Before we go any further, we’d like to take a minute to look at email marketing’s return on investment. Email marketing’s return on investment is significantly higher than that for paid search and way higher than the ROI of social media, direct marketing, and every other channel. That’s because email marketing has a number of compelling and unique characteristics.
First, email is a one-to-one communication channel and used daily by nearly everyone, giving it unparalleled targeting capabilities and reach.
Second, consumers overwhelmingly prefer to receive commercial messages via email, because it’s less intrusive and more convenient, searchable, and eco-friendly than other channels.
Third, although other channels excel at raising awareness, acquiring customers, and fostering conversations, email marketing is THE power channel for retention marketing. Consumers strongly associate email marketing with deals, product information, and service notifications, making it good at driving sales and boosting loyalty. Fourth, email is immediate, thanks to the growing adoption of mobile devices and the fact that checking email is the No. 1 activity on smartphones—even more popular than making phone calls. Emails have gone out of style thanks to the filtering abilities. If people don’t want to receive emails from a company, they can mark them as spam, leave them unread, or even blacklist the email address. Companies aren’t getting the attention that they want and need to ensure their new products, or upgrades, are being noticed and being made worthwhile by the customers they think will benefit from it. It’s not unusual for one practice to come redundant and have it replaced with another as technology grows; before emails, companies used to call people up and offer them goods, deals, or updates – whether the customer wanted it or not. This was referred to as ‘cold calling’, and while it’s something that still happens – especially with telemarketers – it’s not a common way for businesses to reach out to you now.
Have you ever unlocked your phone and seen a message from one of your installed applications? Either promoting a deal or an event, or letting you know of something? That’s a push notification. They look like text messages, except they’re free to send and receive.
Push notifications are growing in popularity, and allow for companies to reach their target market, customise who gets sent what, and ensure they’re keeping relevant.
For example; if a customer orders an item from an e-Commerce shop, and they happen to have the application on their phone signed in to the same account, they will more than likely receive updates on their order to their mobile in the form of a push notification. They’re useful, as the customer is not having to log into their account just to get an update and instead can see it in plain text on their screen if their order is processed, despatched or out for delivery.
There are a good few advantages for push notifications and their usage. Some people might find them a pain, or invasive, but the majority of them can be helpful and keep you up to date on the things you actually want to know about.
- Opt in / Opt out
While this is usually the case with most marketing, with push notifications, you don’t have to send an email, or wait for the next time the company calls you to ask to be removed from their list. You just open the app, go to the settings, and you can disable all communication.
Receiving a push notification doesn’t cost you anything, nor does sending them out ( paid options available )
Compared to calls and texts – where the customer may be charged if they’re over their limit or don’t have a flexible plan – this is a much better option and keeps people happier. No one wants to be charged for an update they don’t necessarily want.
Unlike an email, where you have to log into your email client, open the email and read it (even if it’s on your phone), push notifications are delivered directly to the phone and the receiver can see it without having to click to expand. They simply read, and then swipe it away or click through if they’re interested. It reduces the risk of being ignored. This is particularly positive for the marketer.
Push notifications can work on location, time zones, or even target specific demographics of people – something that can be much harder to do on emails. Phones tend to come with location services which makes it a lot easier. If there’s a specific deal in a neighborhood? No problem – you can inform the people in the neighborhood and not waste everyone else’s time.
- Tends to save data/battery for clients
In the past, information was shared between apps through the user’s end. They would open the app, and this would encourage the app to look for new information – new location, or updates, which would use the client’s mobile data, and drain their battery. Now, however, push notifications work by pushing information from their server to the client, reducing the cost and intensity on the client’s device.
Of course, every marketing technique can have its downfalls and disadvantages when it comes to reaching out to their customers, no matter how sound and solid the strategy is. People react in different ways.
No one wants an application that sends them multiple push notifications per day. While ‘push’ is in the name, it’s usually a good idea not to actually try and push your clients or you’ll be helping them make the decision to go somewhere else and you lose revenue.
Some people download an app for a one off use and then pay it no attention; for those people, going into the app and opting out of push notifications is too much work when they can just remove the app entirely from their device. If you’re sending too much, or they’re not relevant, you could end up losing customers and seeing a negative impact.
- There’s no recall button
Unlike with emails, which usually give you a small window in which to recall a sent item, you can’t do that with push notifications. Once that text is typed and submit is pressed, it’s gone – potential spelling mistake and all. And once they’re out there, all the clients that you’ve selected will see it. There’s little chance of it bouncing back due to an incorrect email address.
Make Sure Email is Relevant
It doesn’t matter how special your offer is, or how beautiful your emails are. If your email marketing isn’t truly and inherently relevant to people at a singular, personal level, you’re in trouble, because relevance is the currency of modern marketing. What makes an effective Facebook post? Relevance (and resonance). What makes an effective tweet? Relevance. What makes an effective blog post? Relevance. The What’s in it for me? calculation is being performed hundreds of times per day, across multiple channels, by every single one of your customers and prospects.
Permission is ephemeral. Opt-in isn’t a lifetime Supreme Court appointment. It’s a temporary agreement between you and the recipient. Your ability to successfully email a person isn’t static; it ebbs and flows based on circumstantial relevancy.
The Unsubscribe Button
Your unsubscribe process is competing against the one-click, never-fail Report Spam button, so it’s in your best interest to make opting out as friction-free as possible to avoid spam complaints. The unsubscribe link needs to be easy to find upon scanning your promotional emails, so small text and light grey fonts on white backgrounds should be avoided. Use white space, bold text, and other typographical elements to make the link stand out.
The unsubscribe link should never appear only in the form of graphical text or an image-based button because it will not display if images are blocked. It’s best if the link text is the word “Unsubscribe” or a phrase that starts with that word, such as Unsubscribe or Change Your Email Address or Unsubscribe or Update Your Email Preferences, because consumers have been trained to look for that keyword.
Avoid a generic “Click Here” for your unsubscribe link. If a certain email that you send, such as your welcome email, is generating too many spam complaints, including an unsubscribe link at the top of the emails can often reduce complaints. If you do this, you should also include one in your footer, because subscribers are used to looking for opt-out links there. The unsubscribe process should consist of no more than two clicks—one on the unsubscribe link in the email and one on the opt-out page. Requiring subscribers to login to access your unsubscribe page drives up spam complaints. Requiring anything besides the subscriber’s email address to process an opt-out request is illegal.
Many companies are now utilising this and the results are speaking for themselves; emails are dying out when it comes to reaching customers unless they want to be reached, but a push notification to their phone that takes a second to read and decide on? It is showing excellent figures for retaining customers and even bringing older ones back.
Users can decide if they want them or not, they’re not invasive if used correctly and they’re a good way to keep people up to date with offers – especially if you have local events going on and can inform the people of that town or region. They’re proving to be a good way for companies to give something back to their customers while also helping out their figures.
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