I’d better keep this brief…as our attention spans are shrinking (down to less than eight seconds according to Joe McCormack author of Brief), even as I write!
Apparently the average professional receives 304 emails per week and checks their smartphone 36 times an hour. At work, we are typically able to attend to one task for about three minutes before we are interrupted by our mobile device buzzing or beeping with an email or message alert. So it’s no wonder that when it comes to email marketing, the old adage “less is more” has never been so true.
We’ve reached a point, thankfully, where it’s not about sending more emails, but all about sending better ones. Email content based upon preference data and previous purchases just isn’t enough anymore, as customers increasingly show a desire for truly dynamic, personalised, one-to-one conversations. This is demonstrated by the fact that 36% of global consumers are willing to share their current location with retailers via GPS, which is more than double what it was just one year ago (Marketing Magazine, Jan 2015). If this tells us one thing, it’s that customers want real-time personalisation in the emails they receive, which are specifically relevant to their location.
According to Econsultancy’s Email Marketing Industry Census 2015, one in three companies are already engaging in content personalisation, a 27% increase from last year, with 37% planning to include it as part of their email marketing activities. Additionally nearly two-thirds (64%) of organisations would like to do better at personalisation, while over half want to improve their segmentation (61%). An impressive 78% of businesses agree that all email communication will be personalised in the next five years.
Dynamic email content, which renders at the time of opening and not at the time of send, is one of the latest trends in local email personalisation. This emerging technology allows marketers to personalise email content based on factors such as the recipient’s current location, and the local weather forecast for that day. Content adjusts each and every time the same recipient opens the same email. Such truly dynamic content could be the holy grail of personalised, localised email.
British Gas recently used individualised dynamic content to encourage customers to visit its website. A number of its customers have a Smart Meter in their home that communicates back data on home energy usage. This data feeds into a personalised report produced on the website. British Gas wanted to encourage customers to access this report in their online account, so it dynamically published personalised graphs directly within customer emails. As a result of the approach, British Gas immediately saw a boost in all email metrics. Email open rates increased by 53% as customers realised that the emails were relevant to them specifically. Click rates increased with an uplift of 39%. Furthermore as the communications were relevant and useful, the spam/unsubscribe rates were reduced by 58%.
In addition to dynamic, agile email, we are also seeing a future where augmented reality and wearable technology will come together, and close the gap between online and offline brand communications. Wearables are set to be one of the most disruptive technology developments since the smartphone, and could reach tipping point at a far greater pace. According to ABI Research, the wearable technologies market will spike to 485 million device shipments by 2018.
Wearables seem likely to open up new and exciting opportunities for real-time and automated email marketing. Currently most companies use just a handful of automated triggers, but with its ability to deliver regular information to a customer, wearables could open up new opportunities for email marketers to create relevance based on the device wearer’s location, proximity to others, or even their mood when inside a local business. So for example, if a valued customer was feeling glum when they walked into a local restaurant, that business could send a triggered email, giving that customer a personalised offer which may go some way towards cheering them up!
Although wearables may still be a little way off, we have almost certainly arrived at a mobile-first email marketing environment. Over 50% of emails are now opened on mobile devices, which brings with it a wealth of opportunities for location-based personalisation. But according to recent research by Experian, mobile users behave differently to PC users, and are more likely to open emails but less likely to click through. Within its study, emails were 3% more likely to be opened in Q2 2015 compared with the previous year. But there was a 3% year-on-year decrease in overall click-to-open rate.
Personalisation is almost certainly the missing link in this equation, and is vital for achieving customer loyalty and retention. Furthermore a as businesses become more granular in their customer segmentation, location is set to become more important than ever in keeping content and targeting relevant, and holding their customer’s attention span.