Content Feeds- The Hot Topic of 2017

There are two hot topics going down in the KD office; one – the disaster that is Lent, and two, the brilliance that is content feed connection.

Firstly, let’s tackle Lent…

biscuit-ban1

The nemesis ‘Lent’ has made quick work of the Kickdynamic office this year… all remaining Hobnobs have been swept away never to return, the chocolate stash replaced with apples and oranges, and a strict ban on afternoon ‘biscuit runs’ is in immediate effect – Coffee seems to be the only hope!

However, it’s not all doom and gloom – Lent also gives us the opportunity to set a challenge for all Email and CRM marketers – so, our challenge to you is:

challenge‘SEND A TRULY PERSONALISED EMAIL CAMPAIGN IN THE NEXT 30 DAYS’ (emphasis on the word ‘TRULY’).

This challenge quite nicely brings me to my next order of business – The HOT TOPIC of 2017 – yes, Content Feeds. Now I know you’re probably thinking “hmmmm, how is a feed a hot topic?”- and I don’t blame you. This is new for many, but once this concept is introduced and understood, Content Feeds are quickly becoming the most optimum way of achieving fully automated email and sending truly personalised content.

Content Feeds are rich in valuable product data that is updated frequently (typically daily or hourly in some cases). To name a few data categories: Product Category, Brand, Price, Stock Level, Colour, Gender, Sale Price, User Ratings. The phrase ‘The World at your Fingertips’ doesn’t necessarily do content feeds justice – combine this with CRM data and we are edging close to the Holy Grail for all E-Marketers.

At this point, for those still eating chocolate and have sugar in the tank to keep reading 😃, will be thinking, “ok, sounds interesting, we have a content feed, we have CRM data-  but you can’t get this into email without days of build time or plenty of custom interjection”…. WRONG – getting this into email is simple, quick, and requires no customisation what so ever – hence being the Hot Topic of 2017. Many are now connecting up data feeds, fully automating email content, and creating content rules to show products based on user data live at the time of open.

How this works in the Kickdynamic platform:

  1. Set up a Template with ‘Content Blocks’ connected directly to the live feed (this only has to be done once!).
  2. Apply visibility rules to change the design when required (i.e. show the ‘Was Price’ when item is on Sale).
  3. Set up a Campaign linked to the Template you’ve just designed.
  4. Apply Rules: Add in a ‘Merge’ rule that will filter the content feed at Open Time based on the merged in user preference (i.e. Previous Browse was ‘Beats Headphones’ – The Tag will merge this in and show products from the feed containing ‘Beats Headphone’ at open time).
  5. Copy the auto generated Tag into your Email HTML and you’re done… simple.

Unlike screen cropping, favoured by those like Movable Ink and Liveclicker, feed connection (which requires NO custom intervention) finally gives brands the quick and easy ability to put CRM data to work.

For those looking to build Feed Connection into their strategy our advice is to follow 3 simple steps –

  1. Automate to free resource – (I like to call this stage the Breath of Fresh Air) in most cases, time and resource is a huge challenge due to the BAU build and send process. Rather than applying a lean methodology to streamline the existing process, with what we have, this introduction of new technology will remove the old BAU process of email build. In the past we have seen this bring build time down from 10 days to just 1. Thus opening time to focus on personalisation and creating truly great email.
  2. Truly Personalise – all those great ideas that have been collecting cobwebs- dust them off! Email and CRM teams will now have the time and technology to easily personalise. Kick off your mission for Truly Great Email by taking personalisation ideas, such as Open Time Brand Preference and roll out. Test this – we expect to see +5% uplift in revenue in many cases.
  3. Lifecycle: Work Automated Personalisation into all email – Staying relevant all the time is effortless when true personalisation is so easy, why not share this love in all emails.

Feed Optimisation companies such as Golden Feeds, Passion Digital and Lengow are great companies that are helping many brands get their feeds in order, not only for email, but for all areas of e-Commerce. We highly recommend reaching out if you haven’t done so already.

Wishing you all a splendid March! 😃

Christian

The Power of Personalization

Personalization is a top priority for email marketers; from contextual levels to more obvious name or product specific personalization, there are many different ways to do this. Send highly targeted, well personalized emails to your subscribers and you will see an increase in your opens, and better conversion rates. Ultimately you’ll build a better relationship between your brand and your subscribers, however, despite all of these benefits and the many methods of personalizing email, a huge 60% of marketers admit that they struggle when it comes to personalizing content in real-time.

A prime example of this is a recent email which I received from British fashion retailer OASIS with the subject line:

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-14-50-44

Working in this industry, it instantly caught my attention (not just because I’m on the lookout for a personalized clutch bag) but also because I was intrigued at how they may have personalized this email. With such a specific subject line, I presumed SURELY there would be some sort of individual personalization happening…

I was wrong…

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-14-52-13

Now, I doubt I was the only person in OASIS’ subscriber list who was disappointed upon opening this email. What a wasted opportunity!

As well as the lack of personalization within the email, there is also no obvious indication of how limited this ‘limited’ time is for.

This would have been an absolutely perfect time to add a personalized name to the image to actually show potential customers exactly how their bag could look.

With a few simple customizations, this email could have really stood out of the inbox and enticed more readers to purchase the product.

 

Firstly, this would have been a perfect opportunity to personalize the image to show readers what their bag would look like. Using a Kickdynamic Tag, this is easy to set up and implement and has a great impact on readers.

Secondly, to create the sense of urgency of the limited time this product is available, it would have been a great addition to include a countdown timer within the email. The urgency of the offer would be driven by the seconds counting down live. Additionally, when this offer/option has expired, swapping the image to an ‘after’ image, or showing a 1×1 gif in place of the timer, would ensure the content is relevant and always up to date. Ensuring the most up to date offer information is shown to the recipient will improve their customer experience and affiliation with the brand.

From this:                                                          To this:

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-14-37-46

 

What do you think? Would seeing your name or initials over the product image have encouraged you to click through and complete a purchase?

Purchased on site, live in email

There’s so many ways to use live images in your email programs to keep content fresh and to reduce email build time. Increasingly email marketers are turning to user generated content for its flexibility for keeping content automatically up-to-date and on-trend. Live Instagram and Twitter feeds are becoming a more prevalent and commonly used feature in email for the latest automated content. User Generated feeds such as curated hashtag specific Instagram posts are starting to filter into email too as they provide a fantastic way to bring word-of-mouth to life in email. In the next few months keep an eye out for live hashtag sections in email; they’ll probably look something like this:

UGC

Whilst these fantastic examples of open time email content are really starting to become standard email components, especially in automated campaigns, there’s one great open time opportunity for retailers to feature in email but it’s not something that I’ve seen anybody do just yet.

Check out the homepages of many retail websites you’ll notice a live feed of products that have just been purchased on site. Most recently I’ve noticed it on the Net-a-porter site:

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-11-29-48

And on the Oasis homepage:

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-11-30-21

Personally, I’d love to see real-time website purchases feature in email, leveraging open time technology to show the latest products purchased on the site every time an email is opened. Not only is this a new and innovative way to add live, socially driven content to an email, it’s also really quite easy to achieve.

Aside from the fact that visually it’s very strong and lends itself well to email, ‘purchased on site right now’ also has a wide range of additional benefits. First up is the opportunity to extend your range of discoverable products. Typically, email is limited to a certain number of products – there’s only so many products you can feature in one email. Usually this is around 20ish products. Incorporating live images based on web sell-through data massively increases the number of products that are discoverable from your email, even displaying products that might never have been visible previously.

Use case: At open time, the most recently purchased products are displayed, the recipient may not be interested in those, but if they check back in with the email at a later date, different products will be visible and they may be of interest.

It’s also a great inspirational piece, particularly around peak periods in the year. Take Christmas for example. We’re all after that great gift for that one tricky person. Showing the latest purchases from your site, in email, will provide ideas, inspiration and show off more products than you could hope to display in one email.

Top tip: Throughout peak, think about including a ‘trending right now’ or ‘what customers are buying’ section in your Christmas product level emails.

It’s also a great way to build your recipient’s trust in your brand. We’re all suckers for social signals and word of mouth, so displaying what other people have purchased on your site in-email will increase trustability, not only in your brand but in your products too. A live purchased product feed is instant social proof that you’re a reputable source; it’ll go a long way in convincing recipients to click through and complete a purchase.

Although this isn’t something I’ve seen in email before, it is easy to get setup and running. The great news is that once you’ve set it up, you can use the live images in multiple emails and automated programs. You only need to set it up once for live products at open. All you need is a ‘purchased product feed’ from your site. Many websites have this available, it’s just a case of surfacing it. Once you’ve got the feed, connect it to a content automation template, design your live image and then generate a tag to add to the html. Each time the email is opened the latest products that have been purchased will be shown live in the email. Each product image can click through to the individual product page to make adding the product to the customer’s basket quick and easy.

This Christmas and into 2017, retailers should be looking for new and innovative ways to automate email content and to make it live without any additional resource. Next year is going to be the year where markers push the boundaries of open time technology to diversity product visibility and bring a real on-site experience to life in email. As a result, more customers will convert from email programs with no additional strain on resource.

Live Product Availability in Email for Black Friday

On shopping days as big as Black Friday it can be a toss up for Marketers. Do you fire out generic promo emails promising big savings on every product whilst stocks last, or do you take a more refined, product based approach?

Understandably you may be wary of taking a more product-centric approach. What happens when the products in your email sell-out for example? Chances are, that on high-volume shopping days, products promoted in-email will have a higher sell-through rate than usual.

To overcome the very real problem of promoting sold-out products you can leverage live data to provide a great customer experience. The case for only including available products in email is obviously strong. Those that click through are doing so because they’re interested in the product and possibly have an intent to purchase. Only including products available to buy at the time of open is going to drive revenue.

You can also drive product sales by providing open time product availability in email. Using an API, or other data source, pull in live product stock levels and the latest pricing, delivery and product information at every email open. Each time the recipient re-opens the email the stock level and product information will automatically update.

Here’s an example of a live product feed generating email images that are live at open time:

example-product-feed-live-images

Use layered visibility rules to create image layers for stock level callouts and discount stickers as required. As the data source updates with real-time availability, discounts, prices and available products, the images in the email will update at every open with the latest, up-to-date content. For example, you could show a live stock availability call out over an image when the stock level dips below a certain number. This stock availability is live at every open, meaning that products featured in your email will always be available to click through and buy. For example, show a stock call out sticker over the image when there’s only 10 left. When the stock level drops to below 5, change the messaging on the stock call out to introduce urgency, such as ‘Hurry! Only 3 left.’. If a product goes out of stock, we’ll automatically swap it, on open, to display the next available product. Likewise, all product information will automatically update too, so if the discount amount changes or the price changes throughout the day, the email will reflect these changes live too.

Here’s an example of live products with stock level callouts:

live-stock-example

Not only does using Open Time Content Automation give you to flexibility to promote products that are in-stock and available to buy at email open, it also enables you to automate much of the email content. You can create on-brand product images from a data source for your email without requiring any support or resource from your design team, perfect for those on-the-fly campaigns that you’re likely to need to send out as Black Friday and Cyber Monday unfold.

How many emails are out of date in your inbox?

As an email marketer I’m signed up to a lot of mailing lists. I receive emails from all of my favourite brands on a daily basis. Whilst I might not always open an email the moment it lands in my inbox, the chances are that I’m interested in the email content – if I wasn’t interested I would have unsubscribed. So, at some point I will open it.

What continues to amaze me as I monitor the email content of well-known and successful brands is how often, and how quickly, the email content goes out of date. Frequently, if I don’t open the email within a few hours of receiving it the content is out of date. As a result of the outdated content, I’m less likely engaging with the message from the brand as it’s no longer relevant – so there could be a lost opportunity.

Try it yourself.  Monitor the email content of 5-10 of your favourite brands. Leave the email un-opened for a few hours before opening it. See how often the content isn’t up-to-date or is no longer relevant.

Here’s some things to look out for:

1) Time sensitive offers that you’ve missed. This is a bit of a bugbear for me. I’ve lost count of the number of emails I’ve opened with offers that I’ve already missed. Emails promising ‘Sale now on’, ‘Extra 10% off until 12pm’ or ‘20% off everything’ are guaranteed to go out of date.

Take the email example below from Jack Wills, I opened the email after 12am and missed the sale, even though the message in the email said I had 12 hours left. A simple image swap rule, promoting different content, or even a different message, after the expiry and I may have clicked through. The same applies for the Yours Clothing example, if I open the email in 2 months time I’ll still see mid-season sale offers when they won’t be available, luring me into a false sense of security that I could get myself a discount on an early Christmas party dress.

Tip: Don’t give your email content a shelf-life! You spend a lot of time lovingly collating the content, designing, coding, populating and honing the emails you send. Don’t limit your email – make the content relevant whenever it’s opened!

2) The same applies for free delivery offers or next day delivery windows. Usually free delivery is limited to a short time frame, with the message content something along the lines of ‘Order by 2pm for free delivery’. Is that free delivery before 2pm every day? More often than not that isn’t the case. It’s usually a one time promo for a quick sales boost. Using timers and timed images around offer like this is a far better way to promote such time-sensitive offers. Add in the countdown to really drive the urgency.

3) This one is perhaps not quite such an obvious one, but it’s something I come across quite a lot. Often, the products listed in an email as being ‘new in’ are actually no longer the latest. They may not even be available anymore depending on how long ago the email was sent.

For opens close to the delivery date, this isn’t a problem. The content is pretty up-to-date and the products are probably still relatively new. However, if a recipient goes back 6 months and opens your email, the products in there are probably not available any more, and they certainly aren’t the latest. This is easy to solve though using ‘new in’ Open Time Content Automation. At the point of email open, pull in the latest new in products automatically. This means that the products in the ‘latest’ section of your email are actually new in, making it totally up-to-date, relevant and shopable content.

4) Price. Anybody that works in retail knows how quickly prices change. There’s often a disconnect between the price in the email and the price on the site when you click through because the price in the email isn’t updated at open time.

Really there’s no reason why your email content should every go out of date or be irrelevant – whenever it’s opened – be that 2 hours, 2 days or 2 months after it’s been sent. It’s not a great customer experience subjecting subscribers to old content and it’s so easy to avoid. Why give your email content a shelf-life when you can make it relevant over a prolonged period using open time technology? If you do use Open Time marketing, each and every time the email is opened the latest and most up-to-date content will display. This gives your emails far more longevity. It can be as simple as setting up a rule to swap to a different image once a sale has ended. Take the emails below; if both of these emails has automatically swapped to a different image when the sale has ended the content would have been relevant when I opened, whenever I opened, making me much more likely to engage.

 

Jack Wills Offer Email

I opened this a week after it landed in my inbox, however it’s still showing I have 12 hours left to shop the sale.

 

 

Yours clothing sale emails

I received this email but it gives no indication how long the sale is on for.

Dynamic Content 2.0

Kickdynamic Open Time Content Automation is the next generation of Dynamic Content for email. It gives you all the power of highly targeted and engaging content but saves huge amounts of time in set up, maintenance and management, leaving you and your team more time for marketing. Traditional Dynamic Content is a great concept – you can personalize email text and images down to the individual recipient level, using coding language provided by your ESP. This means that if John has browsed smart shoes last week and you have that information in your ESP platform, you can use Dynamic content to merge in some smart shoes in the email you send to him today. You can do this without creating loads of segments. Dynamic Content is particularly useful in transactional or triggered email. You need to go beyond Dear %%Firstname%% to get a good response to your email. So far so good.

So why doesn’t everyone use Dynamic Content in email?

Many marketers do use Dynamic Content, but it does come with a number of challenges, principally:

  1. Setting up Dynamic Content scripting and testing it can be a long process
  2. Maintaining Dynamic Content (keeping it up to date, repairing it when it breaks) is labor-intensive
  3. Dynamic Content can cause send out speed problems

Kickdynamic’s solution addresses all three of these issues by managing and creating and serving image content on a separate system (not the ESP), with its own management interface. So, the set up can now be done by marketers with no scripting knowledge. Maintenance is automatic, as data (such as pricing/products/blog content) can be taken automatically from a feed or website. Using Kickdynamic separates out the database activity required for sending email from the database activity required for personalizing content. This means you can send out highly personal email at the same speed as ‘flat’ HTML. This is particularly important when it comes to peak season for retailers and we are fighting for inbox real estate on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Furthermore, Kickdynamic’s Content Automation creates the content at the moment of open, rather than the time of send. This means that key information such as price and stock availability or offer expiry will be correct at the time the recipient reads the email. The content can also be adapted, in the moment, to the recipient’s context: to their device, place, time or weather conditions. Because the content is created at the time of Open, it can also reflect the most recent browsing behaviour, for example, products or categories browsed after the email was sent, but before it is opened.

Here is a useful summary of the differences between traditional Dynamic Content and Kickydnamic Open Time Content Automation:

Traditional Dynamic Content Open Time Content Automation
Content produced at time of send Content produced at time of open
Scripts produce personalized content for every single recipient Personalized content produced ONLY for those who actually open the email
Uses ESP scripting

Uses ESP database

Content Automation handled by Open Time image server, not ESP

 

Slows down infrastructure of ESP when sending because content production and send out use the same Database and infrastructure No impact on send out speed because all personalization handled at image level
Can personalize ‘system text’ in emails

 

Can personalize text in images but not ‘system text’
Cannot reflect offer expiry, latest offers, stock levels or price changes

 

Can be in complete synchronization with website on pricing, stock and offers, even once the email is in the inbox
Requires IT team involvement Can be done without IT team
Needs to be set up again if you move ESP You can take this from ESP to ESP with no extra set up
One time set up then send out requires no creative, coding or testing – only infrastructure management for speed One time set up then no creative, coding or testing – no worries about speed of send out
Bring in best selling products at time of send Bring in best selling products at time of open
Show recommendations based on browsing behaviour up to time of send Show recommendations based on browsing behaviour up to time of open

Use Follow up email to increase the return on your campaigns

Do you deploy follow up emails as part of your campaign process? If not, this is a significant opportunity for you to increase the return on your campaigns.  Don’t worry, you are not alone, a surprising majority of email marketers do not send follow up campaigns. What are follow up emails?

The main types are as follows:

  1. Text only to non-openers sent 24 hours after the main send
  2. Category follow up to clickers-not-purchased 24 hours after the main send
  3. Abandoned browse emails to browse-not-purchased 48 hours after main send

The results of these emails are extremely good. In my experience the click-through rate on ‘text only to non-openers’ is often just as good, sometimes better, than the original campaign.  Why so? Well, text only emails are treated more like transactional emails by recipients, webmail providers and spam filters. They land in a different place in our consciousness and in the inbox. You will find a text only email is more likely to be in Gmail’s primary folder, rather than the promotions tab. Text only emails do not feel as salesy, and if well written and pertinent, can hold the attention for longer because less open to skim reading than an image-led email. Text only emails look great on mobile phones.

An objection to sending text only follow ups, that I sometimes hear is: ‘we don’t want to bombard our recipients with email’. My view is that if they haven’t opened the first email, they will not remember it from yesterday, so they won’t feel bombarded. The first campaign email either went to the wrong place (spam folder, promotions tab) for them, or they skim read the subject line and rejected it, or they simply didn’t have time to read yesterday’s promotional email. The proof is in the stats. If people felt bombarded, they would unsubscribe from the follow up email or spam complaints would increase. In my experience there is not a higher unsub rate on text only follow ups neither does the spam complaint rate rise.

These emails are simple to send. Any ESP will allow you to segment on non-openers. Crafting a two paragraph text email with CTAs and a couple of links, should be natural for any marketer.

Category follow up to clickers-not-purchased is also a very successful email. You segment by category or product clicked, and send an email with more detailed information on that topic. Will recipients feel bombarded? Not if they’ve clicked through, that means they are engaged, actively interested in the topic and will welcome further email on that subject. The proof is in the statistics: open rates of 50% + and no rise in Unsub or spam complaints.

This superb campaign tool is very rarely used and is such a surefire winner. Why don’t email marketers send these? Generally email marketers find the content creation process for one email campaign to be a lot of work: you need to come up with campaign strategy, brief a designer, commission the design to be coded up in HTML, test the HTML in Litmus for rendering and spam score, send the email to your boss for sign off, send out and then gather reports and present. Now if you have to do this for 4 emails in one campaign (the original, plus follow ups) you have more than doubled your work. And you have a small team and plenty of other tasks to complete by the end of the week.

This is where Kickdynamic can help: using Kickdynamic Content Automation saves you massive amounts of time. The process of creating your first campaign email is much easier, it takes minutes not hours to set up the HTML and images. They are all pre-approved, the HTML is pretested, so your process has slimmed down from 4 days to a matter of hours. This gives you time to work on the follow up emails. Kickdynamic Content Automation allows you to send one HTML email that automatically picks up category clicked from the previous email and selects the best images for that category at the time of open. So it will always show the best offers, with products in stock. This approach is now being taken by UK retailers, such as Holland and Barrett and Asda.

You can sit back with the extra time on your hands and watch your results climb.

 

 

How do you personalize when you have no data?

Personalization is a top priority for marketers this year according to Econsultancy’s Digital Trends 2016 report (and every marketer we’ve asked too!). ‘Personalization is a priority’ is often followed by ‘but it’s hard to do’.

The phrases ‘big data’ and ‘single customer view’ are frequently bandied around, and tend to make personalization sound like a difficult beast to tame, especially when it comes to dynamic content and actually using your data. After all, how can you possibly personalize an email when you’ve got such complex data structures (or unstructures in a lot of cases), and, even if your data ducks are in a row, is it even possible to use this data in your ESP in a useful way? It suddenly becomes tricky.

But here’s the thing: It’s actually never been easier. You can achieve significant and effective personalization without ‘big data’. You can use the recipient context (location, time, device) to personalize a message even if you have absolutely no data.

The next step is to use recent browsing behaviour to personalize a message. If the recipient has been looking at dresses, show them your best offers in your dresses category, or the newest dresses, just in. Suddenly, from ‘no data’ you are confirming a great brand experience. All of this is possible within a couple of weeks of set up and requires nothing more than access to a tag manager or Google Analytics.

 

An all new kind of trigger

Imagine this scenario: You send out your weekly promotional newsletter to your database. This email generates revenue but you want to find a way to make this email generate more. How do you do it?

Think about this. Would you generate extra revenue by sending a timely triggered email to recipients that have showed very specific engagement signals? For example, if you could send a timely follow up to a recipient that’s opened your email on two different devices within 4 hours, would this generate revenue?  You could trigger an email to recipients that have opened twice within a pre-determined time frame, or to those that have sent 90 seconds reading your email.

These triggers can be set to send after the second engagement has occurred; the point in time at which your brand is fresh in their mind. These triggers can include anything from the latest products, products they’re recently browsed, hot products, or even products related to past purchases that recipient has made. The content possibilities for the triggers is endless, but the best bit about the suggestions I’ve listed are that all of this information can be pulled in, and personalised, automatically using Open Time Marketing Tags. Every time the trigger is sent it would contain the latest, in-stock products at the moment of open. Hopefully you’ll agree that this new approach to triggering is interesting, and that it does present a realistic revenue opportunity.

Although this type of trigger will be low volume, you’re targeting real, engaged recipients. So I guess you’re wondering how many recipients would actually meet this ‘engaged’ criteria? To find out, last year we tracked over 100 million opens across multiple retailers. The results were impressive. We discovered that 4.5% of the recipients that we tracked opened twice (on two devices or with more than one hour between each open). That’s 4.5% of your recipients that could be truly engaged – I’m sure you’ll agree that could represent a significant revenue opportunity.

Basing triggers on web behaviour is proven, which makes it surprising that very few marketers (I’m not even sure if there are any at this point) are sending triggered emails based on email behaviour. Sure, they may be sending triggered emails based on lack of behaviour – lack of engagement, no opens in X amount of time and so on – but they’re not using their email data to trigger timely follow ups.