Back to basics with these 6 tips for foolproof email marketing

In a world dominated by social and mobile, email marketing isn’t shiny and new. Yet it remains one of the most effective channels a company has for reaching its audience.

The reason? US marketers report a median ROI of 122 percent from email communications — more than four times higher than that of social media, direct mail and paid search, according to a 2016 eMarketer report. That’s why the majority of marketers will be turning to email to engage with consumers this holiday shopping season .

Email marketing tips have been around as long as email itself, but with the holidays upon us, marketers can’t forget these basic (and often-overlooked) tricks of the trade to deliver curated consumer experiences.

1. Optimize for mobile

The average American adult spends almost three hours on their smartphone every day. They’re likely checking social media, toggling between apps and reading email. When it comes to email, desktop represents 16 percent of all email opens, webmail 30 percent and mobile a whopping 54 percent, according to Litmus. For marketers, this means optimizing campaigns for mobile is a must.

The first thing to think about as a marketer when it comes to mobile is obvious: Know your audience. Know the makeup of your mobile audience, which will allow you to deploy more cutting-edge tactics to try to increase engagement.

If your mobile makeup tilts toward iOS, you can easily add animations and videos to increase engagement. When adding images, they should be Retina-optimized, but not with the new iPhone X because the image sizes may grow to as much as four times the size for the new screens.

Last but not least, mobile buttons should have a minimum of 40 pixels around the button for the finger target.

2. Think beyond email body

The sender name is the first thing your audience will see, so don’t treat it as an afterthought. Instead of using the same sender name for each message, vary it to reflect the content — that alone can increase open rates.

The subject line is equally important . It should have a sense of urgency and, ideally, mystery. For example, instead of a subject line announcing that registration for an event is open, saying “It’s On” or “It’s Almost Time” is more likely to pique your audience’s curiosity. But don’t get carried away: Keep the subject line simple, with no more than 75 characters.

Preheaders, the brief text you see after the subject line on most emails, are also often neglected. This is your last chance to get someone to open your email, so treat it purposefully, and avoid just pasting a sentence from the email body. Rather, in about 120 characters, convey the value of opening the message.

3. Convey a sense of urgency

While web writing is generally passive, email content should be straightforward and drive action. Apply this approach when you’re trying to get someone to click on an offer or register for an event, and when you’re trying to deliver more value to a consumer over email.

For example, if someone just bought your product, say, a flat-screen TV, your follow-up email should encourage him or her to take the next step, such as buying accessories or hiring a technician, and include relevant offers.

The call to action for a reader is particularly important. Removing articles, such as “the” or “a,” can drive your message home: “Read e-book” or “Buy jeans” sounds more pressing than “Read the e-book” or “Buy the jeans.”

4. Get personal with AI

A one-size-fits-all approach to email marketing is a thing of the past. Personalized emails, particularly those driven by the predictive power of artificial intelligence (AI) , are much more effective at driving consumer engagement. For example, when our client, Aldo, focused on personalized messages, the shoe retailer saw a 131 percent increase in email conversion year over year. It makes sense: You’re sending people information they’re truly interested in, instead of making a blanket guess.

There are several ways AI can help with personalization. AI tools can help companies parse consumer data to create audience segments, allowing marketers to target each group with relevant messaging that speaks to their interests and previous shopping patterns.

Marketers also can use AI to tailor specific blocks of content, such as product recommendations, to individual subscribers based on information about their behavior and preferences.

5. Engage the unengaged

A common challenge for marketers is waking dormant consumers through targeted emails. The solution is quite simple: Deliver unique, curated content to consumers that’s aimed at reviving engagement. In addition, consider surveying these consumers about their interests or running a contest that requires them to indicate product preferences. These tactics can drive a consumer to interact with your brand and help you glean information to send more personalized messages.

While patient persistence often pays off, marketers should know when to call it quits. When consumers haven’t opened your emails for a long time — how long is up to you — take them off your list, and focus on those that are engaged. Otherwise, yourisk annoying people with unwanted messages and having them complain. That could reduce your “sendability score,” increasing the chances you’ll end up in spam folders. Worse yet, we’ve all seen what unhappy customers can do on social media.

6. Always be testing

Before running an email campaign against a large number of consumers, you want to ensure your message is landing and sticking with the intended audience. That’s where A/B, or split, testing comes in.

Send two different versions of your message to a small chunk of your audience — let’s say 10 percent receiving each. Then, deliver the one that gets the most responses to everyone else. Test every aspect of your content and design: subject lines, email body, font, layout, color, offers, frequency of messages and more.

Let the test run long enough to collect solid results. Most marketers wait 12 to 24 hours, but it takes up to 48 hours to gather robust data that informs smart decisions. The results will be worth it once you see consumers engaging with your content.

Marketing is in a state of evolution driven by consumer expectations for better experiences with brands. Because each and every person expects a personalized interaction with companies, many brands are competing solely based on consumer experience. Today, what makes or breaks a brand is how it interacts with consumers at scale — and email is no exception.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listedhere.

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