DISCLAIMER: This blog post does not replace actual legal advice from an actual lawyer. This is a very high-level overview of some things you should look at when considering email marketing under the new GDPR regulation beginning in May. I’m not a lawyer—I don’t even play one on TV. Take these ideas and go talk to a real lawyer if you need to.
This May 25th is GDPR Day! For email marketers, this day is when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect. That’s a lot of words (and an acronym) for what? Let’s take a look.
This regulation is designed to protect the personal data of European Union citizens and extend this scope of protection and scrutiny to all foreign companies that are processing data of the EU residents. This regulation is legally binding for any company that collects/deals with EU personal data, whether the company resides in the EU or not.
So how does GDPR define “personal data”:
“Any information that could be used, on its own or in conjunction with other data, to identify an individual is considered as personal data.”
Essentially, as an email marketer, you really need to consider every piece of data you collect as “personal data.” And if you have the data, you need to have the “receipts” as well—meaning some record of an express opt-in, proof your subscribers know what data you collect, why you’re collecting it, how you’re using data, etc.
GDPR compliance is not just restricted to data collected after the regulation goes into effect, either. It’s retroactive to all personal data of subscribers in the EU that reside on your current mailing list, too. (There is a period that can be construed as “implied consent” for some companies for a period of time, but that clock is running.)
And to show you how serious this regulation is, noncompliance can mean a fine of up to 20 million Euros or 4% of your total revenue (whichever is higher).
Sounds Scary? Take a Breath…
Though GDPR sounds scary, it is actually designed to protect both data owners as well as companies who handle the data. And, if you’re handling your list the right way now, you’re not too far from compliance as it is.
Since you are required to specify what you can and can’t do with your subscriber’s personal data, this (forced) transparency builds brand trust. Subscribers may be more inclined to offer their personal data once they are confident about it not being misused.
Additionally, GDPR helps businesses and email marketers document cleaner and more relevant data–increasing overall mailing list quality and lowering unsubscribe rates (we hope).
Steps to prepare for GDPR compliance
Here are two things you need to do as soon as possible:
1. Bring your current mailing list up to speed
Now is the time to evaluate your mailing list and prune unwanted email addresses.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
Do I have proof of how I procured the email addresses?
Does my opt-in form ask for the express consent of my subscribers?
Do I use the data exactly for the purpose for which my subscriber gave consent?
If your answer is “no” to any of these questions, you need to make changes, stat. Some other changes you can make include:
Change to double opt-in and only send to subscribers who have completed the confirmation process. (Again, receipts…)
Set up a process for subscribers to easily have full access to their personal data. They must be allowed to refuse usage of their personal data, even in profiling or automated/triggered programs.
2. Implement clean communications with new subscribers.
For new subscribers joining your mailing list, once you have streamlined your onboarding process for your existing subscribers, new subscriber onboarding should be a breeze. Avoid practices such as pre-ticked opt-in boxes and confusing messages (such as using double negatives to convey positive act) on your opt-in forms. Any “disruptive” mechanisms are a strict no-no under GDPR.
Best Practices to follow:
Identify your loyal customers (and prospects) first and get them to opt in again. As May 25th nears, your subscribers are surely going to experience an influx of permission-based emails. Stand apart from the clutter by re-opting in your most engaged subscribers first. NOTE: This is essential if you can’t produce proof of prior opt-in.
Refresh your data collection methods. This will help you gather records on how you gained consent.
When re-opting in your existing mailing list, non-responders should be considered opted out (unless you can produce hard proof of prior opt-in).
Resell the positives. Show your subscribers the benefits/value of being subscribed.
Understanding GDPR is not rocket science, especially if you have already been working on the basis of true permission-based marketing. It can be an opportunity—one that you can take full advantage of by getting your business compliant.
Persuasive email marketing is all about convincing your leads to purchase from you. You only have a few seconds for your email campaign to create an impression on your subscribers. If done right, though, email marketing campaigns can successfully drive conversions.
Let’s take a quick look at the dos and don’ts of persuasive email marketing.
1. Be aware of your target audience
While sending out persuasive emails, you should be aware of who your target audience is. Write an email that matches their buyer persona and place in the sales funnel.
2. Define the purpose of your email
What do you want your subscriber to do? Define a particular goal for your email and make sure it’s obvious in how you place an enticing CTA.
3. Deliver value for the customer
Essentially, answer “What’s in it for me?” A good persuasive email is the one that helps the customer in some or the other way. Justify your email by providing a solution to a problem that they might be facing.
4. Leverage word of mouth
Include testimonials and user reviews for your products and services. This can breed a sense of trust in your subscribers and point them to evidence of customers made happy by your brands.
5. Use eye-catching language
Highlight action words that grab attention, like fast, improve, introducing, etc. Make them bold if you have to. The point is to grab the subscribers who will be scanning your message for something important.
6. Add your headshot in the email signature (where it makes sense to do so)
If your email is truly meant to be one-to-one, never forget that you are communicating with a real person at the other end of the email. Including a headshot in your email signature is a nice way of conveying that the email is from a real person just like the recipient.
Now, let’s shift our focus…
1. Use redundant words
2. Make the email too long
Your email should be as short and to-the-point as possible (unless you’re testing). If needed, break the email into smaller more readable (read: scannable) chunks. Include an interesting visual that matches your email purpose and conclude with a relevant CTA that stands out in the email.
3. Use technical jargon (unless required)
It’s a major turnoff for people when they read an email that is totally irrelevant and hard to understand. Give a clear idea about how you can help by using clear language and simple terms.
4. Forget personalization
Take into consideration past interactions and past purchases, if any. Draft an email specifically tailored to meet their requirements.
Create emails that your readers look forward to receiving and want to open. Deliver content that make your subscribers want to buy from you. That’s the whole idea of persuasive email marketing.
Hopefully, you started your holiday marketing preparation months ago. Yet, no matter how well you plan your holiday marketing campaigns, there’s still one big fear: Cart Abandonment.
Unfortunately, those moments where site visitors put items in their online shopping carts and abandon them are increasingly unavoidable. In fact, cart abandonment rates continue to rise, from 68.53% in 2015 to 69.23% so far this year.
As the number of abandonments rises, the question becomes: why do customers abandon their carts? As Per Statista, costs—whether they be shipping costs or other fees (or simply the total cost of the cart)—are the main contributor to cart abandonment.
As shown in the chart above, there are lots of rational reasons why carts are abandoned. It’s also important to remember that you’re dealing with human beings, not robots—so sometimes, the reason could be simple forgetfulness.
This is where a well-timed cart abandonment email comes in.
A description (and images) of the abandoned products in the cart
A discount offer (optional and situational)
A link to FAQs or customer service options.
All this, and your cart abandonment emails may need to be punched up a bit for the holiday season. Here’s how you can add some holiday flair to each element of your cart abandonment emails to potentially increase engagement and recover more “lost” customers.
Six Tips for Holiday Cart Abandonment Emails
Tip #1: Use a Holiday-Oriented Subject Line
Nothing is more warming than feeling the holiday cheer right in the subject line. Add some urgency here as well—an example could be “Finish your purchase now before your holiday cart expires.”
Tip #2: Create Urgency with a Countdown Timer
Countdowns psychologically trigger the ‘fight or flight’ instinct of the human brain. It’s increasingly common to see this tactic used in general promotions (like the FunkyPigeon example below), particularly for timed sales like Flash Sales and Weekend Sales. Utilize countdowns to push abandoners to complete their purchase.
Tip #3: Cross-Sell Products
Not all subscribers abandon due to high cost. Use this opportunity to cross-sell related products. It could be best-sellers and even a great use of a product recommendation engine. Starbucks has a great example below:
Tip #4: Get Up Close and Personal
If you collect the right data to enable it, personalization can go a long way. It could be as simple as “Dear [First Name],” or include key information like cart item names, pricing, and images. White Stuff has a nice example below:
Tip #5: Go Interactive
The use of interactive elements in email, including animated GIFs, is on the rise. These eye-grabbers can be effective in drawing attention into your email. This is an excellent opportunity to add a holiday touch to your cart abandonment emails.
Tip #6: Add a survey (and incentive for filling the survey)
Post-cart abandonment is a great opportunity to send a survey to see how you can improve your customer experience. Incentivize completion of the survey to better motivate recipients to answering questions.
(P.S: The data you collect from these surveys enables you to learn what your customers want and help you better plan your email marketing campaigns.)
One Email is Necessary. A Series of Emails is Better.
Putting all of your cart abandonment email eggs in one basket (one email) means you’re more likely to include some sort of discount. And frankly, some customers are savvy and will intentionally abandon carts to get the discount—effectively “gaming” the system.
While a purchase with a discount can be better than no sale at all, you run the risk of experiencing diminishing returns and destroying your profit margins. A great way to mitigate this issue is to put a series of cart abandonment emails in place. I generally recommend a three-email series.
The first email is a simple cart reminder email The overall tone of the email needs to be a reminder to the visitor that they have forgotten some items in their cart and include a direct call to action to complete the purchase.
Subject Line: Your shopping bag misses you!
In the above email, Dote uses humor to draw the attention of the recipient to the cart items. There is no extra fluff—just a headline, simple copy, a summary of the cart items, and a clear CTA.
The second email may be targeted to those visitors who abandoned the cart due to uncertainty, shipping concerns (not shipping charges), delivery concerns, payment issues, etc. Use this space to deliver a customer service-oriented message that drives recipients to FAQs, customer service phone lines, etc.
Subject Line: Items in your basket at dyson.com
The folks at Dyson include a link to contact a Dyson expert. The footer features reasons to shop at Dyson, including their price guarantee, return policy, and 2-day delivery.
This final email is a great spot to include a discount or other incentive.
Reminder: During the holidays, you are going to experience a substantial (we hope) increase in orders. If you are planning to offer free holiday shipping, make to align this offer and schedule with that of your cart abandonment email series so there is no disconnect in the customer experience.
The holidays are here. Between the early bird offers and last-minute discounts, there is going to be a huge influx of customers—and a proportional number of abandoned carts, too. Add some holiday elements to your cart abandonment emails to boost engagement and conversion rates.
Share your experiences of cart abandonment during the holiday season in the comments and start the conversation.
There’s just a couple of weeks left in 2017 (seriously), and the end of any year is usually a time for reflection and goal-setting for the next year. Last year, we talked about great ways to plan your email marketing budget for the coming year (and these are still great ideas, by the way).
This year, what better way to get a jump start on your 2018 email marketing program plans than to conduct an email marketing program audit?
An audit is a great way to take a deeper look at what parts of your email marketing strategy and programs are working well, what parts aren’t working, and gather insights and develop plans to improve your email marketing program for maximum ROI.
A great audit will look at things like:
Design, rendering, and proper coding for your (should-be) responsive email templates
Winners and losers for subject lines, calls to action, and testing strategies (for internal benchmarking purposes + top/lowest performer reviews)
Automated email programs (both existing and recommended new programs)
Data integrations and segmentation opportunities
Deliverability (if a problem) and list quality
An email marketing program audit from InboxArmy (we offer Audit packages starting at $450) will give you an independent, unbiased look at how your program is performing. We’ll identify opportunities for your program to improve, tell what you’re doing right, and… well… “call the baby ugly” if we have to.
Whether you decide to pay for a third-party opinion like ours, or do it yourself, now is the right time to conduct an audit of your email marketing program. And if you’d like our help:
A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak on a panel about email deliverability at the Campaigns and Marketing Summit. Speaking to an audience filled largely with political organizations (in Washington DC? You’re kidding!), the panel focused on how these groups can build their lists the right way, engage better and avoid the deliverability pitfalls that often create huge problems.
If you’re not the video watching type, here’s an overview of what we discussed:
Don’t Buy Lists
Good email marketing lists are filled with folks who subscribed to your mailing list. Purchased lists are often filled with bad email addresses, spam traps, honey pots, you name it.
Don’t Swap Lists
The quality of these lists *may* be better than purchased lists, but these subscribers still did NOT sign up for your list. I recommend against it.
Monitor Metrics and Look for Spikes
Most metrics suggest that on average, 30% of your email list will go bad in some way, shape, or form each year. People change jobs. People die.
Keep track of your opens and clicks. Establish benchmarks and look for downward spikes in these metrics. This could mean deliverability issues. Also keep track of your bounce rates, unsubscribed, and spam/abuse complaint rates. If you notice these numbers go up suddenly, you may have some issues with your list.
Taking this a step further, monitor these rates by domain. For example, if your list has a large percentage of, say, Gmail, you’ll want to monitor specific rates for your Gmail subscribers. Bad spikes here could hurt you at the domain level and cause damage to your overall reputation as well.
Find Ways to Re-Engage with Your Subscribers
Start small. Simply segment out your actives from your inactives. How you define actives and inactives depends on your frequency and business model. From there, send special email campaigns to inactives to generate interest.
Thanks again to Campaigns & Elections for the opportunity to speak at the conference.