I am at war against manual processes.

This Fantastic quote from Dan Grech of Trendeo in the latest Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide goes to the heart of why our Content Automation solution makes such a difference to email marketers lives. Do you spend Friday afternoon building the emails for the weekend? Do you spend days editing dynamic content scripts in your ESP interface? Does this sound like your working environment:

‘….juniors, freelancers, interns are extracting CSVs of personally identiable information about customers from one system, running some queries and cleaning, then uploading it to another system’.

Dan Grech p. 18 of Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide

Do you sometimes have to stay back at the office to re run an personalisation upload or manage the editing of an image because a price or offer has changed? Every single one of these examples of stressful, error-prone manual processes can be removed, yes removed, by using Kickdynamic Content Automation.

I find it frustrating that many thought leaders in email still ignore the manual work required for building content to match what we can now do with data. As this Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide shows in many places e.g. this from p.3

‘Alongside this evolution, automation and machine learning are further freeing the marketer from hours of data manipulation and analysis.’

Yes, in some cases, this is true. Some retailers have invested heavily in CRM infrastructure and are well down the track of the recommendations by Michael Leander, CEO of consultants GIDMA on p. 5 of the Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide

‘First, create a solid and committed strategy backed by top management. Next, aim to establish one data repository, a strong content and offer strategy aligned with the interests of the target audience across the customer lifecycle. The ability to track and use behavioural and transactional data, and automate certain processes along with a realistic view on which resources are required to get results.’

If you now have a CRM infrastructure that is capable of making meaningful product and messaging recommendations for your customers, you are in a very exciting position, you can move beyond segmentation. But, how will you create content that matches all those thousands of individual recommendations? You are used to creating one email or maybe 4 variants for 4 different segments. Now, you need to be able to slot in content for thousands of variables. You need more than a ‘strong content strategy’ you need a content automation solution that allows you to match up relevant live content with those customer recommendations. Even if you just want to move beyond 4 segments to 8 segments, you will need to change your approach to content building. It needs to stop being a manual process.

When we think of building automated content – we think of production recommendations, right? There are lots of solutions that will produce a strip of products, based on best sellers, for example. This is not what we mean. Sure, automating the right product images is important, but you also need to automate soft content like blogs, recommendations, social content and so on. For example, look at how P&O Ferries has used Kickdynamic to automate soft content in their emails.

Kickdynamic image tags build images for email live at the time of open. Kickdynamic can build images based on results from an API query, or product feed, live at the time of open. By simply merging a customerID into the Kickdynamic image tag, Kickdyanmic can submit that ID to an API, live at the time of open and receive recommended Products as a result. Kickdynamic can then build personalised images for each recipient at the time they open their email. We recommend replacing a static mail merge for all recipients at time of send (current process) with Kickdynamic tags building images via an API query or from a product feed. This also opens up possibilities for using Browse data to match recipients with products they will be interested in and to prioritise products displayed, based on conversion rate.

Elevate email engagement with User Generated Content

banner-for-blog-1We come into contact with User Generated Content (UCG) on a daily basis, so much so that it’s easy to forget that it’s a form of advertising.  By definition, UGC is any form of media content, from blogs to images, that has been created by users of a product or service which is made available freely usually via social media platforms. This translates into a huge amount of content which sees people like you and me promoting brands rather than brands promoting themselves.

As much as we don’t always like to admit it, social media continues to be part of our everyday lives (if you disagree with me, I don’t believe you!).

With the huge rise in social media, aided by the mass use of smartphones, there has been a noticeable shift in companies, particularly retailers, strategically utilizing the content produced by their customers (and why wouldn’t you – it’s free advertising).

Through the use of social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, customers can jump on a hashtag and within hours produce numerous innovative, unique images which have the potential to reach a wide-spread audience. It’s no wonder retailers are then building these images into their advertising as a means to promote their products.

ugc-header-690x212

Why you should be using UGC. . .

As we move into a society where social proof and approval are high on agendas, as a marketing tool, UGC created by real life customers is extremely powerful. It instantly allows both existing and potential customers to see how specific products look in everyday life, by everyday people. Consumers are gaining more influencing power over how a brand and its products are portrayed on social media. This content is highly successful because it shows a range of personalities and often provides inspiration for others.

In 2015, 78% of B2C companies were already incorporating UGC in their marketing strategies and this figure has only grown since. However, what inspired me to write this piece is the distinct lack of UGC (nevermind live UGC) in email.

When I’m online shopping, I see so much UGC built into websites, with customers showcasing their recent purchases. However, despite the abundance of incredible UGC available online, there is a lack of it making it to email and this hugely disappoints me.

Many companies who already have UGC displayed on their site are missing an easy opportunity by failing to roll this out in their emails.

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 16.15.35

How to generate UGC. . . 

If you are new to the UGC concept, there are tonnes of ways to encourage users to generate this content. A great idea is to run a special seasonal competition or giveaway. Who wouldn’t take 5 mins to get creative and take a cool picture/selfie with the potential to win some goodies?!

Example: Birchbox

Birchbox, a monthly beauty subscription service, asked it’s customers to upload a picture with their most recent package for the chance to win £450 worth of beauty products. In doing this, over 25,000 images have been uploaded to Instagram. Whilst there is almost half a million images tagged with #Birchboxuk.Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 15.00.41

How you could be using UGC. . .

Now here’s the best part… incorporating UGC into your email campaigns is not only extremely cost-effective, but it’s also compelling, inspiring, and makes your brand, products and services more relatable in your customers’ eyes (basically it’s a no brainer).

Make it Live!

Using a Kickdynamic Tag in your emails to display UGC will allow you to display automated, engaging content live at the time of open. If you already have UGC on your site, then typically the content has been monitored, filtered and pre-approved. Kickdynamic serves images live at the point of open, as the UGC is approved and updated, it will appear within the email and update live, at the time of open.

It’s as easy as 1,2,3 . . .

  1. Identify your curated feed & connect in the Kickdynamic platform
  2.  Design your template to make on brand
  3. Generate Tag and insert into your HTML

This only requires a one time set up and would ensure that the most recent images are displayed at the time of open.


Miss Selfridge, a British clothing brand, has great UGC on its website, however it doesn’t get used within their emails. I received this email recently and simply mocked up how they could add their UGC, which instantly makes the email more engaging.

Screen Shot 2017-01-27 at 11.26.32

 

lightbulbTop Tip: Inspire your email recipients to shop the looks/items other customers post. You can pull the content from a curated user generated feed, or pull it straight from your site into your email to show the latest user generated content, each and every time the email is opened.

What do travellers want from pre-travel emails?

A pre-travel email or a pre-travel automation series should provide all of the valuable information that a traveller needs to make a successful trip. What’s surprising is that whilst these automated emails do include information about the booking such as flight numbers, departure info and so on, the content of these ‘pre-travel’ emails really hasn’t progressed in the last 10 years. With travel booking rolling into peak (bless those January blues) I decided to analyse the last 20 flights I took (basically my travel itinerary from the last year) and realised, somewhat disappointedly but not wholly surprised, that the Top 5 UK and US airlines that I’ve flown with in the last 12 months sent me really poor pre-travel content. Here’s a few examples of pre-travel emails myself and the team have received recently:

First-gallery

Second-galleryIn the travel industry, email can be leveraged to deliver highly personalised, time-sensitive, value-laden communications that are completely relevant to a traveller’s upcoming trip. Customers have gone through the booking process so you have a lot of data that you can use, so why are Airlines and the travel industry as a whole, not using the data to its fullest?

There’s a very real opportunity that many airlines and travel companies are missing out on. Capitalising on opportunities to generate additional revenue between the booking and the date of travel/check-in is a must. Equally, it’s really important to deliver high quality, valuable content in that pre-travel period.

For an airline, if the flights are booked, there’s time and opportunity to promote additional add-ons of third party offers such as live car hire ability, live hotel availability and more. You know the dates and destination of travel so delivering content in emails based on this will increase revenue from the channel. Likewise, including live currency conversions, promoting the latest exchange rates is a powerful addition to email. Leveraging Open Time content to deliver the latest, personalized content at every open is proven to increase revenue.

Alongside revenue opportunities, Open Time technology also saves email teams significant time. It’s no longer necessary to build out bulky dynamic content rules with content that needs frequently updating and managing. All of this can move to an automated approach, where the latest content is built on the fly at open time based on the data you know about a customer.

Take this Thomas Cook example, which was setup over two years ago, and runs as part of a fully automated campaign. The Open Time tag was added to the HTML back in 2014, but continues to show the latest exchange rate based on the recipient’s destination at every open.

Thomas Cook

Here’s an example of the live tag:

Airlines and hotels may want to consider incorporating live elements into email around upgrades and room/seat availability to drive urgency and prompt customers to upgrade. For example, an airline could show the number of upgrade seats available, and even the exact seats available at the time of email open.

In the immediate days before travel it’s a key time to build a relationship with your customer and to really cement your brand in their mind as being a great travel partner. At this stage, you really should be using what you know about a recipient and automatically display content that is only relevant to their trip. I need to know useful things like the weather, what time online check-in closes, what the exchange rate is and so on.

As part of the automation program, send an email a couple of days prior to travel with an automated countdown timer, counting down to the closure of online check-in for their flight. From this you’ll see an increase in the number of people checking in online and as a knock on effect see less queues at your check-in. Here’s a great example of this from Aer Lingus:

AerLingus

In the same email you could include a live weather forecast showing me a live 5-day forecast at my destination for my date of arrival and then ongoing from that point. Every time I check back in with that pre-travel email, I’ll see the latest weather forecast for my trip. Whilst this isn’t a revenue driver as such, it’s a good way to connect with the customer and deliver content that they need. Here’s an example from IHG:

IHG-pre-stay

Here’s an example of the live weather Tag:

Finally, it’s a good opportunity to promote live currency again, especially if you work with a partner that offers a click and collect option to buy now at a rate and collect at the airport. Show the live exchange rate from the home currency to the currency at the travel destination.

Whilst every pre-travel scenario is different, there may be days, weeks or many months before the date of travel, what is consistent is that every customer needs to receive relevant and up-to-date content before they depart. It’s no longer enough to send a transactional email for confirmation and then treat the pre-departure period as a promotional window to bombard the traveller with content totally unrelated to their trip. This is unlikely to yield engagement or encourage further booking, in fact it could have the opposite effect. Cleverly crafted, strategically thought out content delivery that well-timed and always up-to-date is something that all travel companies should be looking to do in 2017.

Here’s an example of what my perfect pre-travel email a couple of days before my trip would include:

– Personalised boarding pass image to include: firstname, surname, flight number, airport code.

– Link to self-check-in with timer showing time left to check-in (expect to see higher number of online check-ins and reduced queues at the airport)

– Device targeting to encourage me to download the app for paperless travel (expect to see more people checking in via the app, more trees in the rainforest, less bits of paper left on the plane).

– Live exchange rate for my destination so I that I can buy my currency. Stress-Free.

– Weather at my destination for a few days (I need to know what to pack and what to book).

– Last minute live car hire/hotel availability & prices (for people that leave it until the last minute).

– Activity suggestions based on date of arrival, availability and weather at destination (because this is cool).

– Get me to the airport – GPS directions to the airport for when I’m ready to leave home.

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.

Save time & resource with automated email content

See this:

imagetemplate

This is a what we call a live image template. It is being built in our new Content Automation product. It may not look much, but this image template, and the power behind it, is going to change how email marketers build automated & personalized email content.

For the last 4 years we have been working with email marketers to build a platform that allows us to send email with more engaging and higher converting content. We built the first contextual personalisation rule builder, developed industry first live content email widgets and now we have created a seriously powerful new product called Content Automation.

Using Content Automation email marketers can build a live image template to automate content in business-as-usual email and/or lifecycle programs quickly and easily. Automating this content allows you to reduce your email build time dramatically freeing up time to be more strategic.

So how does it work?

We have built this new product to be fully self service, so there is no customization required and you don’t need to wait until your IT team is free. Directly in the interface you can build your live image in 3 steps:

1. Connect a json, xml, csv or webpage content source.

This is the source of content that you want to take information from to display automatically in your email messages. Content source examples include:

  • New in womenswear page
  • Latest blogs
  • Product catalog
  • Movie listings
  • TV schedule
  • Live hotel prices

As an example, we have created a API call containing 3 products from Argos. It looks like this:

[

{
id:1,
description: “LG 49LF590V 49 Inch Full HD Freeview HD Smart TV.”,
image: “http://argos.scene7.com/is/image/Argos/3912339_R_Z001A?$TMB$&wid=312&hei=312”,
link: “http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/3912339.htm”,
fasttrack: “y”,
special: “5”,
price: 359.00,
regprice: 399.99,
quantity: 10,
discountamount: 10

},
{
id:2,
description: “Philips 22PFH4000/88 22 Inch Full HD TV.”,
image: “http://argos.scene7.com/is/image/Argos/3917547_R_Z001A?$TMB$&wid=312&hei=312”,
link: “http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/3917547.htm”,
fasttrack: “y”,
special: “3”,
price: 119.00,
quantity: 2,
regprice: 119.00,
discountamount: 0
},
{
id:3,
description: “Bush 32in HD Ready LED TV/DVD Combi White”,
image: “http://argos.scene7.com/is/image/Argos/4240031_R_Z001C?$TMB$&wid=312&hei=312”,
link: “http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/4240031.htm”,
fasttrack: “n”,
special: “6”,
price: 169.99,
quantity: 1,
regprice: 949.99,
discountamount: 150
}
]

(Don’t worry about it looking techy – it is just a list of products and their associated info such as price, description etc).

This is a test API, a normal API would contain 1000s of products updating with new items and changing the product information.

Notice that two products are on discount; discountamount: 150 and discountamount: 10
and two products are viable as fast track; fasttrack: “y”
and also notice the stock level of a product; quantity: 10

All products have different information associated with them, and this information will change frequently. Content Automation allows you to reflect the different product information directly in the same image template. When this changes, such as stock level, it is updated at the time of open.

2. Build a live image template based on the content source.

Now you build how you want your live image template to look in the email. This is the size, layout, colours, call to action and more.

I’ve built the below live image template with each area connecting to corresponding data-point for a product item.

Data-feed-live-image

So, at the time of open, the live-image template takes the appropriate info for the product from the feed and updates the content of the image – live and instantly. So if the price above changed from £119.00 to £99.00 – it would be reflected automatically.

Using the Content Automation editor you can customize the exact layout of your live image. You can also add a call to action, and change font sizes, colours and more – you have the control.

3. Magical visibility rules

Now in step one, I asked you to note the following:

Two products are on discount; discountamount: 150 and discountamount: 10
and two products are viable as fast track; fasttrack: “y”
and also notice the stock level of a product; quantity: 10

This information on a product changes from product to product. How do you represent this in the same image template? Easy, you use visibility rules. Visibility rules allow you to show or hide image information based on data in the feed. For example, if I want to show the number of items left in stock when quality is 3 or less I do this with visibility rules.

The results is this:

If product 1  has stock quantity of 10. We have set the visibility rules to not show any stock level information or callouts:

ca1

If product 2 has stock quantity of 1. We have set the visibility rules to show a stock call out with the amount left:

ca3

If product 3  has stock quantity of 2. We have set the visibility rules to show a stock call out with the amount left:

ca4

This is the same image template repeated for 1000s of products automatically!

The final step – creating the Tag.

Now you have your automated live image-template you can create a TAG to add to your HTML. At this stage you can filter or sort what products to show in email based on other information in the feed. For example, only display products over £100.00 price:

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-09-39-13

Unleash its power

This level of content automation has allowed brands such as ASDA, P&O Ferries, Holland & Barrett, save serious email time on their email build, and keep email constantly fresh and up to date. Automating email content this way actually allows you to start moving towards being able to send 1-2-1 personalized messages. Now I’m Kickdynamic CEO and Co-Founder so would say that, but don’t just take our word for it:

Asda has reduced email build time by up to 9-days per month by asda-200x200automating their daily alert email campaign resulting a signifcant impact on ROI.

“It is amazing that this project began as a response to a business challenge and now this Kickdynamic technology is LEADING THE WAY to automating our emails and getting us to true 1 to 1 personalization”

– Guy Smith, CRM Manager at Asda

poferriesP&O Ferries personalise and automate all content from from weather and blog sources to ensure the latest content is displayed in every email.

“We were thrilled the moment Kickdynamic explained the concept of Content Automation and took us through it the rst time. It has given us incredible flexibility and is quickly becoming our go-to method of getting live content into our emails.”

– Kim Valinder, P&O Ferries

It’s fully self-service, setup directly in the Kickdynamic platform no IT team or customisation required. No web cropping and therefore design flexible. Read more in the one pager.

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.