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Monday Catch-up: ‘Creepy Data,’ Subject Lines & Enhancing the In-Store Experience

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Welcome to Monday – and Happy Halloween, marketers! We hope you receive many more treats than tricks today. Here’s a treat from us to get you started – some of the latest email marketing news from around the web.

Don’t spook your recipients with ‘creepy data’

In a Halloween-themed article at ClickZ, Ryan Phelan offers advice to email marketers about how not to alarm recipients with what he terms “creepy data” – information you have about them that they don’t expect you to have.

“Data misuse affects people lives and tarnishes your brand image,” he writes, citing a crisis Target faced after a misfire with pregnancy-related messages. “Some big data houses have 300-plus data points on each person in their database: demographic, psychographic, behavior and more. Customers don’t expect that data to be out there for marketers to access and use. Many companies buy third-party data for profiling, segmentation or modeling. These are proper uses of data, but it’s easy to overreach.”

Phelan suggests email marketers can begin to head off trouble by asking themselves a simple question: “Do my customers know I have this data, and would they want me to use it this way?” He also offers a three-step process for marketers to identify if they have “strayed into the creepy-data zone.”

The first is to “trust your instinct and change course” if you get a “funny feeling in the pit of your stomach” about how you intend to use customer data. The second is to “never refer directly to data you get from a third-party source if your customers didn’t give it to you.” And he also advises creating a customer advisory group to consult “when planning marketing programs using complex data integrations or advanced segmentation.”

“Creepy data doesn’t go away like Halloween. Data gets creepier the more often we use it recklessly. Always recognize your data can hurt real people’s lives. No fancy data integration is worth that,” he concludes.

Analysis shows subject lines can make all the difference

“For your email marketing campaign to be successful, it needs to add value for the recipient – and a subject line offers the perfect starting point,” writes Andrea Lehr at Search Engine People, adding that subject lines “need to prove that your email can show something new, is highly personal, and relevant to what interests the receiver.”

Lehr shares the results of an analysis of 26,988 emails that sought to determine “what the most popular subject lines have in common – along with what the most ineffective subject lines share.”

Lehr’s number-one tip for a successful line is “prove that you have something your recipient can see before they even open your email.” She writes that “considering that more than 60 percent of the population are visual learners, it makes sense that a great subject line should reveal how your content can show something,” adding that her analysis indicates the words “image,” “chart” and “show” are particularly successful at attaining high response rates.

Lehr advises crafting subject lines that “tap into the power of geographic ego bait” by connecting them to the recipient’s location; indicate how content relates to the recipient’s specific interests; are less than ten words long and do not draw attention to dynamic content. Regarding that last point, she writes that “the words ‘video’ and ‘interactive’ were two of the lowest-performing subject-line words” and suggest that “instead of focusing on how your content is presented, tailor your subject line to what the recipient can learn from it (i.e. what are the key insights that will benefit them).”

How email marketing can enhance the in-store experience

“With the holidays right around the corner, email can be the way to bring a stronger differentiation to your store experience,” writes April Mullen for Media Post’s Email Insider. “Many shoppers are flocking to e-commerce for the convenience, but brick and mortar is still an important part of the omnichannel experience for those customers that want to touch and feel your products in person.”

Referring to email as “the glue between the web site and physical stores,” Mullen writes that email “is often a critical part of creating a seamless path from site ordering to store pickup” and points out its utility as a both a “digital receipt” and the valuable role it can play in replenishment, such as expediting prescription refills. She also notes because email is “location-and-mobile savvy” it can be used to share store locations, leverage the potential of geofences and deliver offer “instant coupons” to customers who share their email addresses while in the store. She also sees email as playing an important role for consumers who chose not to download and use branded apps.

“With the holidays coming, retailers that bring digital to physical and vice versa will beat their competition,” she concludes.

Minimizing the risk of annoying consumers

According to a recent Adobe survey, which Tereza Litsa reports on at ClickZ, nearly half of consumers prefer to receive marketing offers by email. On the other hand, about the same percentage say they are sometimes annoyed those very same marketing offers.

The survey found that consumers’ top pet peeves about email marketing include receiving too many messages from a brand (which is most concerning to respondents 35 and older and females), emails that are too wordy or poorly written, offers indicating the marketer has incorrect data about the recipient, being asked to purchase a product or service that the recipient has already purchased, and poor design.

The survey also raised specific issues associated with reading emails on phones. They include having to wait for images to load, layouts not optimized for mobile, emails that require “too much” scrolling, messages with too much text and font sizes that are too small.

“Respondents also said that less than 25 percent of emails are interesting enough to open, indicating that marketers need to up their game,” Litsa adds. She suggests that open rates can be improved by relevance, an appealing headline, paying attention to message timing and the use of language “appropriate” to the recipient.

“Email marketing is still effective and it’s encouraging that users prefer it as the method to receive messages from brands, but they are still demanding enough to expect relevant and interesting content,” she writes. “It’s useful to keep in mind what they find annoying and create a checklist of all the mistakes you can avoid by listening to your readers’ needs.”

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