Technological innovations give email marketing a new lease on life

Email marketing can sometimes feel like the odd man out when it comes to marketing efforts, but advances in technology are putting a new spin on this essential element of brand communications.

Alex Timlin from Emarsys and Kim Barlow & Martin Ruddy from Oracle joined a webinar this afternoon hosted by The Marketer to discuss innovation in email marketing, and I found the direction it’s moving in quite exciting.

Notes from Alex:
He started with a bold statement: evolve your email or die. Admitting that this may be an exaggeration, his point was that savvy customers will disengage when they feel content is no longer relevant. He said that our customers aren’t marketing segments; they’re individuals and demand to be treated as such.

Alex also made the point that email is simply one point along a cross-channel journey that the customers are on and should be fully integrated into the brand communication strategy. The data that is drawn from it should be incorporated into wider CRM practices and the lessons learned from other customer touch-points should be applied to email too.

He stressed the need to measure results based on the objectives of the email campaign, not simply running the same metrics each time. He also pointed out that email running in conjunction with ads on other platforms makes both activities stronger, reinforcing his earlier call for integrated comms.

Teeing up the session to follow, he said that emails don’t need to be static anymore. We can now use video or animated GIFs to capture the attention of the readers, countdown timers to create a sense of urgency and optimise each email for mobile devices.

Notes from Kim Barlow & Martin Ruddy
Reiterating Alex’s point, recent innovations in email design have led to the use of animated GIFs, embedded video and mobile optimised layouts. But Oracle is taking things a step further with their small group of coders who love the challenge provided by emails.

They are working with ‘kinetic’ design to increase readers’ interaction within the email itself, using CSS 3 media queries and animation to mirror the functionality of website carousels and calls to action.

The starting point for the team there is content. Brands need to have content on their website that is relevant and compelling. The more content, the better for kinetic design. In terms of layout, they buck current ‘mobile first’ trends and start with the desktop version of the email to see the bulk of the content laid out. They then look to see how this would play out across other devices.

They shared a few examples from their work with B&Q, and the emails were absolutely fantastic. The first email design they shared required no scrolling – all the content was shown in the body of the smartphone. Tabs along the top (and along the side on the tablet version) flipped through the content with the same ease and flow of a website carousel and each tab its own click through button with unique tracking.

The second email design they shared was an interactive image slideshow with plus signs positioned on objects in each picture that popped up an information window when pressed. The slideshow could be paused to allow readers to spend more time exploring.

Both emails delivered increase results in click through rates for both customers on the full mailing list as well as the loyalty mailing list. Not surprisingly, the time spent within the emails increased as did the number of repeat opens with customer returning to the content again and again.

Key takeaways:

  • Data-driven insights must lead the strategy behind the comms, but it’s all about having exciting content to deliver to readers
  • As with all digital marketing, test and refine to find the winning combination for your mailing lists
  • Get creative with colours and alt text to give readers a reason to download images in your emails
  • Don’t allow fear of the new stifle innovation; push forward, take calculated risks – they will pay off

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