Email Marketing Including A/B marketing

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Introduction

The Simbound game that was at the central of the Digital Marketing – LSBM200 – Course provided availed an inordinate opportunity for students to put into practice various digital marketing elements that were theoretically explained in the classroom setting. Among these digital marketing elements, is email marketing including A/B marketing. 

Email marketing is becoming increasingly dominant particularly in the contemporary highly dynamic marketing environment. Per se, email marketing can be described as the practice of sending commercial messages to various people via email (Leeflang, Verhoef, Dahlström & Freundt, 2014). The main intension behind the sending of the emails is to build reliance, loyalty, increase brand awareness, solicit donations and sales, request business, and advertise the existence of a certain product (Leeflang, Verhoef, Dahlström & Freundt, 2014). Considering this explication, virtually every email sent to an existing or prospective customer is email marketing.

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The practice of email marketing has gained ground in the recent past due to the growth of m-commerce. Consumers in regions such as the US and the UK are becoming comfortable using mobile phones, Personal computers, and other mobile devices to make orders (purchase products) or screen through the available list of products that meets their desires, preferences, tastes, and wants. The eMarketer (2017) projects that by 2021, the UK m-commerce sector will be valued at £58.80 billion. Entrepreneurs – and retailers alike – understand that the growth of these sector will translate to increased ease of marketing and avail to them a large group of potential customers. Thus, they are using email marketing to reach these customers as they are guaranteed that somehow, the customers will access the email even though a response or reaction to the email is not assured. 

However, while email marketing is gaining dominance, some organizations have failed to harness its full potential due to the sending of emails that does not fully capture the recipient’s attention and elicit some feedback. This is because the organization is sending the same boring promotional offer or newsletter designed and used 10 years ago, completely oblivious of the fact that the consumers in the digital era are entirely different from those that traditional marketers were striving to convince and win. Consequently, such organizations have received many clicks per visit and recorded millions of sent and read emails without registering a corresponding increase in their sales – sales have stagnated while the organizations continue to invest more resources in their email marketing strategies. This has necessitated the use of A/B marketing where organizations send control emails and experiment emails to various clients and assess or compare the feedback received (Leeflang, Verhoef, Dahlström & Freundt, 2014). A/B marketing has enabled marketers and business owners to actively keep with the new trends and changing dynamics of the contemporary consumers. In the “B” email, the marketer makes minor changes to the design of the email “A”, its color schemes, and/or subject lines, among other aspects and monitors how potential customers respond to the change. The design, color schemes, and/or subject lines that generates most feedback is considered to be most appropriate for marketing the organization’s products or services, and is, henceforth, adopted (Leeflang, Verhoef, Dahlström & Freundt, 2014). Through A/B testing and marketing, organizations have been able to identify their best promotional email colors, design, subject line, among other aspects and are using the emails to market their products to consumers that are enthusiastic and ready to react to note only the product or service being offered in the email, but also the design characteristics of the marketing platform (email). 

Survey of current practices in email marketing

Improving the performance of email marketing is the key question that marketers are pondering on. Marketers are striving to understand how to improve the performance due to the understanding that many people receive and read emailed promotional materials while only a few act on the information – despite the email containing a call to action (Leeflang, Verhoef, Dahlström & Freundt, 2014). Testing the impact of the metrics on the email and consumers is becoming an important focus – “Testing to improve email marketing performance is essential, but determining which variables have the largest impact on the overall effectiveness of an email campaign can seem overwhelming. However, a process driven approach to identifying success factors that lead to increased conversions will set your company up for success both short term, and long term” (Zeckman, 2012: n.p). This process driven approach is what many companies are currently utilizing to get the most out of email marketing. This has been necessitated by the fact that inboxes are busy and marketers must find a way of attracting attention. 

A common practice used to get the most out of email marketing is catchy subject lines. The design and font of the subject lines determines whether it will be visible enough to win the attention of the email recipient in the busy inbox (Kolowich, n.d). Today, most companies use darker heavy text subject lines that make the line stand out more than the emailed details or subsequent explanation. For instance, emails from Topshop usually have a darker subject line formatted in a font bigger than the rest of the email – “50% off from Topshop”. Such a subject line stands out and increases the chances that the customer will open and read the email leaving those that do not stand out. 

Rather than just standing out, the above subject line is short and catchy. A passionately pondered topic in email marketing is the length of the subject line. However, companies have tested with both short and long headlines and realized that short headlines generate the desired outcomes more than longer ones. According to a report published by the Return Path (2016), at optimal, the subject lines should have 61-70 characters – shorter ones are desirable. The 61-70 characters is just an overall guideline. To determine the best length, a company must undertake an A/B test. For the Topshop subject line, it is only 17 characters, and very effective. The company uses short headlines as it understands that most of its clients use mobile devices that show can only accommodate a few characters in the space allocated for subject line (Kolowich, n.d; Zapier, 2017; Kolowich, n.d). 

Another example of a company that uses short subject lines to appeal to its customers is BuzzFeed. The subject lines are always short and forceful and accompanied by impeccably fitting preview texts that answer the question that may arise in the customer’s mind once they read the subject line. An example of BuzzFeed’s subject line is “21 Puppies so Cute You Will Literally Gasp and Then Probably Cry” (Kolowich, n.d: n.p). This line seems to have been logically thought. As such, it sounds like a command, but the customers will be left with questions to ponder on. This will trigger the customer to start a conversation with BuzzFeed’s email marketing team. Through the conversation, BuzzFeed’s email marketing team will have an opportunity to tell the customer more about the product, and end up convincing them to buy. Similarly, in the Simbound game, attracting customers to view the Blackberry Tablet was in the beginning hard and the websites scores remained low until when the group decided to use a brief and easy to understand line that offers a description of the product being marketed – “Win a free blackberry tablet when you enter your email”. This line certainly encouraged more views to enter their emails with the hope of winning the blackberry tablet, an aspect that improved the score of the website. Thus, it appears that instead of simply using emails to market in the traditional style, companies are adding a gist to their subject lines, making them more of commands and hard-hitting lines. 

Recommendations

Before running an A/B test, it is important that the organization or marketer understands what it is testing and why (Zapier, 2017). In the Simbound game, the group was testing whether the key words used in the digital marketing campaign was appropriate. So, for the group, the “what” question with regards to A/B testing is the relevance of the key words to the product on offer and the marketing campaign. The goal was to increase engagement with the blackberry tablet by way of attracting more clients to the company’s website and follow links to the product via the user onboarding emails. The attainment of this goal saw more unique page views and high scores connoting an improved engagement with the blackberry tablet. Thus, the group’s “why” can be abridged to be increase product engagement. These aspects are closely linked to the open rate and click rate. 

Expressed as a percentage, open rate can be described as the number of subscribers that opened the emails that were sent (Zapier, 2017; Kolowich, n.d). This rate tells the marketer how active its subscribers are and whether the targeted consumers ever received the email (Kolowich, n.d; Zapier, 2017; Kolowich, n.d).

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Thus, open rate = Number of emails openedTotal emails sent-bounced emails x 100

According to Zapier (2017), the bounced emails are those whose delivery was not successful due to the fact that the email that the subscriber provided is not in use or is invalid. It is recommended that marketers use the open rate only when they ae testing message preview, sender names, and subject lines (Kolowich, n.d; Zapier, 2017; Kolowich, n.d). 

Click rate denotes the number of subscribers who followed the links provided in the email (Zapier, 2017). It shows the rate at which the company’s emails are attractive enough to make the subscribers open them and follow provided links to the product page or the company’s website. 

Thus, click rate = Number of subscribers who clicked the linkTotal emails sent-bounced emails x 100

Considering the nature of the click rate, it is recommended that marketers use it only when trying to test the effectiveness of the body copy and how clients are responsive to the call to action (Zapier, 2017; Kolowich, n.d). Considering the above recommendations on click rate and open rate, therefore, it is imperative that a marketer knows what and why they are testing even before starting the testing process as hypothesized by Kolowich (n.d), Zapier (2017), and Kolowich (n.d). 

 

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