Watch out for wearables

Wearable devices are all the rage at the moment. They can track your fitness, tell you the time and make the tea. You can mutter instructions to them, gesticulate randomly in public and leave them on in the bath. If you’re lucky, there may be a new phrase “never punch a man wearing Google Glass”. But are wearables relevant to email design?

What’s a wearable?
You mean like my watch? No. Well, kind of. This magical period of manufacturer experimentation has fed us a lot of cool stuff in recent months. I’ve even seen a video of Tony Hawk riding the World’s first functional hoverboard and I wasn’t even particularly disappointed.

Wearables come in several flavours at the moment:
  • The Paired Device. A watch or armband (even a ring!) that tells you some of the details that your phone has received without the need to strenuously remove it from your pocket and look at it. Best used in dull meetings.
  • The Face Accessory. A heads-up display for your actual head, Google Glass and the like give you information direct to your eyeballs. Voice and gesture control only, a great way to maintain your personal space on public transport.

Just a step away
In a sense, wearables create another barrier or step between someone clicking and opening your email. People feeling bombarded with unwanted emails can now delete the stuff they don't like before it even makes it to their normal inbox. Apple purport to use a “handoff” system where users of the Watch judge an email based on a few lines of text-only content, then either delete it straight off the bat or use another device to actually respond to it. This means it's more important than ever to get the subject line right.

As we already experience with people opening emails on mobile devices – some use their mobiles merely as an early warning system (sometimes known as Email Triage) and actually go back and open their email on a larger device to view it properly and click through. Given the limitations of wearables I would expect this trend to be even more prevalent in this sector.

Text only?
What will an email look like when opened on a watch or a pair of glasses? Given the smaller (for smaller, read tiny) screen sizes it seems that emails will be stripped down to text only for easy scalability. Depending on the device and the theme you’ve chosen it’s likely that all formatting will be standardised, so the end result may well be white text on a black screen regardless of how you designed it. Emails comprising of only graphics will just look like a subject line and nothing else. If they're not labelled as spam they will most likely be deleted without another thought.

Whether the weather will weather the weather
For a long time email weathered the mobile device takeover but in the ever- and over-connected world, early adopters have been using email in these formats from the off. With wearables in mind I think it’s prudent to ensure your email contains real text content and makes best use of the subject line and the first few lines of text

A guide to email marketing in 2015

Email marketing has fallen down the list of priorities for many brands over the last few years due to the popularity of social media, however, email marketing campaigns are still one of the most effective ways to increase your ROI.

So don’t let email sit on the side-line this year, instead follow these marketing trends to create a more effective email marketing campaign that will help ensure you reap the rewards.

Make it personal
Personalisation has long been a proven tactic for email marketers. One of the reasons why it’s so effective is because it engages readers on a (you guessed it) personal level. By treating your recipient as an individual and making them feel special you can encourage interactions and sales. Sending an email to John or Hannah, or inserting the company name may seem like an obvious thing to do but it can make a difference. In fact, email personalisation can boost click through rates by nearly 20%.

Start segmenting
If you don’t know who you’re talking to, you won’t know what to say. Segmentation is a key strategy for creating more personalised emails and a massive priority for marketers in 2015. While it's very tempting to send a generic email to your entire database, this won't produce the best conversion rates and may eventually turn your subscribers into non responders. By segmenting your database and targeting your emails, you'll be able to write about what your subscribers are interested in which will get a much better response rate. For instance you can separate you database into groups based on their gender, location or purchase history. This means you can target both genders with different email content, offer people information relevant to their area and recommend other products that may interest them.

Go mobile
With the majority of marketing emails now opened on mobile, it has become vital to ensure your email marketing templates and creative are effective on smartphone and tablet devices. Thanks to help from email service providers and growing industry knowledge, responsive design is getting easier to implement and use effectively. Here at NewZapp our responsive HTML templates give you the power to create campaigns which display perfectly on desktops, smart phones and tablets. This means your email will automatically display beautifully on all devices thanks to our amazing design team, leaving you free to concentrate on the campaign message without having to worry about responsive HTML.

Test, tweak and repeat
As with every part of your marketing efforts, the only way to know how successful you are is to the measure results and test different approaches. While A/B testing may seem like it adds more work and effort, it can actually save you a lot of time, and get you the most optimised marketing results for your business. Split testing subject lines is common practice but in 2015 it’s time to take your email experiments further. Other things you can test include delivery date/time, from name, copy length, image vs text hyperlinks – the options are endless.

A few tips to get you started...

So you've got your NewZapp account, you've got a template, you've written your content and you're raring to go! Let's make sure your emails look great every time you send with some best practice tips to get you started.

If you're copying and pasting content, keep it clean!
Whenever you copy and paste from an external source such as Microsoft Word or a website, you could be bringing additional coding into your email. Some email readers will refer to the code hidden behind your content instead of the text styles and colours that have already been pre-set for you on your NewZapp template. Outlook 2007/10 for example uses MS Word as it's html rendering engine.

The effect this can have on your email in some readers, is that content looks very different to how it looked when you were composing it, and in worst cases, actually disjoints or breaks the whole layout.

So whenever you're pasting anything into NewZapp and it asks you if you want to paste as plain text always say YES!

Use descriptive links instead of full links or email addresses
If you include full links or full email addresses as text within an email, you run the risk of being caught in a spam filter.  This is because the filter may detect that the link is not going directly to the link destination, but via the NewZapp servers first in order to provide you with tracking data.

  • To avoid this try using a descriptive link instead eg. Read more online, Visit our website, contact us.  

Using a descriptive link can also help you create a much stronger call to action, generating higher click-through rates.

For example, "Read here why our customers made the decision to use NewZapp" is a more inspiring and concise link than "Read why our customers made the decision to use NewZapp at"

Be polite
No one likes being shouted at, so follow the basics of email etiquette and avoid SHOUTING YOUR SUBJECT LINE as a means to make your email get noticed (it won't) or SHOUTING ORDERS AT YOUR RECIPIENTS like CLICK HERE!!!! (they won't).

Use a genuine and monitored "From" email address
Firstly, why would you not want to use a genuine "From" email address? If you've taken the trouble to invest time and money in email marketing, with presumably the purpose of engaging with your database and gaining new business, then anything they might want to tell you by clicking "reply" (good or bad!) should be important to you.

No, you are not going to be bombarded with bounced email server messages, NewZapp catches any for you.

Yes, you are going to receive some "out of office" replies on this email address, but if you use this address for other correspondence then consider setting up a rule on your inbox so that replies from your email marketing land in a folder of their own for you to review separately. This is also a great way to gauge responses from your email campaigns as it should help determine where the enquiry originated from.

If you try using a non-existent "From" email address then your email is pretty certain to be rejected by the recipient's mail server. So resist the urge to use one that doesn't exist like theresnoone@home.domain it just won't work!

If you don't want a personal email address as the sender, consider setting up a "friendly" non-offensive email address, like updates@, enews@, newsletter@ etc. These should be more readily received by recipients and email filters than sales@ or info@ and look a whole lot more polite than donotreply@!

Use a "From" name that your subscribers will recognise
If your recipients don't know who the email is from, they're unlikely to open it. Within NewZapp, you can set the "From" name of your choice for every email you send. The question to ask is, do your subscribers know you personally? (e.g. John Smith) or do they know your company, brand or product? (eg. Smith Ltd). We'd advise that you use whichever would be most recognisable to your subscribers.

How to get your emails into the inbox

There's no question the most important part of any email campaign is ensuring your email makes it into the inbox. Sadly there's no guarantee you'll be able to deliver one hundred percent of your emails, however, there are a number of techniques you can use to help avoid being caught in filters.

Here are our top tips to avoid the spam filter:

Watch out for the trigger phrases and words
To give your email the best chance of being delivered try to avoid including any words or phrases that might cause you to get caught in a spam filter. A few things to avoid include: over use of words like free, guaranteed, investment, and pharmaceutical. Overuse of phrases such as free delivery, money off and special offer.

Monitor delivery to accounts like Yahoo!, Hotmail and Outlook
When you set up your test group it's worth including a Yahoo!, Gmail, Hotmail and Outlook account. These email clients cover up to 83% of all the major email clients used so you have peace of mind knowing your email will deliver and render correctly across the board.

Ask your subscribers to add you to their safe list
Asking your subscribers to add you to their safe senders list will help ensure the subscriber's server won't catch your email in a filter and block it. Filters are updated and learn subscriber behaviour so being on a safe senders list will help ensure your emails are delivered every time.

Avoid using upper case font for entire sentences
Excessive capitalisation and punctuation is the equivalent of shouting at someone. It's also standard practise of spammers so avoiding this will help you get past the filers and into the inbox.

Don't over use bold text  
Unfortunately another standard practise of spammers so it's a good idea to avoid doing this. If you want to highlight a particular area or phrase of text, linking it to a relevant website page or PDF will serve you much better. This will underline your text and you can change the colour of it, helping it to stand out. A descriptive link will also help improve the click through rates.

Avoid using very large or very small font sizes
Large fonts size are again the equivalent of shouting at someone. Although they may get their attention, it might not be for the right reason. Small font sizes is another common practice of spammers where they are also trying to avoid the filters.

Never embed images in your email
This makes the emails very large and difficult to deliver. Arrange for your images to be downloaded once the email has been opened. Most Email Service Providers should do this for you quickly enough that your subscriber won't notice the difference.

Email service providers like NewZapp achieve higher delivery rates...
There are many ways to ensure high delivery rates. The most important thing you can do is choose a reliable email marketing service provider, they're able to achieve much higher delivery rates. Make sure your email service provider supplies you with the following:
  • Email templates tested for high delivery
  • Servers with excellent reputation
  • Regular server reputation monitoring
  • A team of experts who can advise on best practice
  • Feedback loop monitoring
  • Excellent relationships with major Internet Service Providers
  • Automated bounce cleaning to assist delivery rates
  • HTML coded for you in an optimised style by the system.

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3...

We all know that testing can help improve our marketing campaigns but sometimes it's hard to know where to start. So we've come up with three simple tests you can try.

Before you start, take a look at your current situation. What are your open, click through and conversion rates? Once you have these clearly identified you can start. It's important you only test one element at a time. Make sure you know what you've changed and the impact it has on your results.

With this in mind, here are three simple tests to try:

Test one: subject lines
"Description" versus "desire". A simple way to test subject lines is to split your database into two segments. To the first segment you will send an email using a "desire" led subject line. To the other, you send the same email with a "descriptive" subject line. It's important that you only change the subject line. Keep all the other elements of the campaign consistent.

The subject lines could take a structure similar to below:

  • "July Newsletter - Three simple sales techniques"
  • "You'll have more sales than ever before"

Notice the difference between the two subject lines. The first sets the scene and describes what the email is about. The second subject line plays on the recipient's desire to grow sales but doesn't clearly state what the email covers. When analysing this test we suggest you compare the figures for open rates and click-throughs to see which performs best overall. It is possible that changing the email subject line can increase opens but reduce click-throughs. It's important you analyse as many elements as you can. This will help you form a clear view of what works and what doesn't work for your industry.

Test two: email length
Many tests have been conducted on length of copy and the affect this has on marketing success. Many of these tests conclude that there is an optimum length for copy. However, they rarely prescribe a specific length for a specific target audience or campaign type. With this in mind, ask yourself if you have ever tested email length to see what works best for your business.
You can test short copy versus long copy in the following way. Segment your email database into two segments. try to make these segments as similar as possible. You'll then need to create two email campaigns. The first campaign will be the long version. It will have most of the information on the email and will almost certainly require the recipient to scroll down in order to read it. The second campaign will need to be much shorter. Preferably limiting the scroll to an absolute minimum.

You can reduce the amount of copy on an email by using landing pages. For example, rather than writing the whole paragraph, simply summarise it into one or two lines. Then have a "read more" link through to a landing page. Finally, you should send the campaigns to your segments at the same time in order to keep the test fair and consistent.

Analysing these campaigns can be difficult as the benefits of short and long copy are not always easy to identify. We suggest you look for the following key indicators of success:

  1. Number of opens per subscriber and as a total of all subscribers
  2. Conversions (the number of sales or enquiries generated)
  3. Contacts (number of people that reply or contact your business as a result of the email)

Click-through rate is likely to be misleading as the short email will inevitably have more links than the long email, but on the longer one you could try including a call to action link at the end of the email as an indicator that the whole email has been read.

Test three: image versus text based links
This test is extremely popular with email marketers. Research into this area has identified that there can be a significant difference between the performance of text links and image links. This depends on the environment in which the email is sent and the psychology of the recipient. Even though the environmental and psychological elements are difficult to control this test is still a very useful one to conduct.

Split your database into two segments. Make sure the characteristics of your segments are similar. You then need to create two email campaigns. The first using text links and the second using image links. These image links could be pictures or buttons. It really depends on what will fit with your email design. Deliver these two campaigns at the same time, on the same day and then analyse the results. Which campaign has the highest click-through rate? Which produces the most conversions or contacts?

There is another way to structure this test. Design one email, but next to every image link place an alternative text link (linking to the same destination). Positioning the images and matching text close together will help you identify which performs best.

In our experience text links often out perform image links, but until you try you won't know if that's the case with your particular industry and/or database of subscribers.