Tuesday, February 16, 2016

7 Tips for Creating a Functional Email Experience

Chad White is one of the all-time gurus of email marketing Chad is the Research Director at Litmus and the author of Email Marketing Rules and thousands of articles and posts about email marketing.

His research and commentary have appeared in more than 100 publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Advertising Age, Adweek, Fortune, and MarketWatch.  

He recently wrote an article entitled called 7 Tips for creating a Functional Email and I wanted to pass on some of his insights as well as a few “KaploeKomments” interwoven in the mix.

Expectations are steadily rising in the inbox, and everyone agrees that sending more relevant messages is the key to staying in subscribers’ good graces. However, “relevance” is often talked about in vague, mystical terms or discussed within the narrow context of company-specific examples.

While relevance is indeed in the eye of the beholder, that doesn’t mean it’s indescribable or immeasurable. Relevance is about fulfilling all four levels of the Hierarchy of Subscriber Needs—that is, creating a subscriber experience that is:
1.             Respectful - the bottom tier used to email permission, activate accounts or customers and to set expectations, measured by open rate
2.             Functional - can be viewed acriss multiple platforms, measured by number of clicks to site
3.             Valuable - for testing, for segmenting, personalization and communicating live content (podcats, webinars, etc.) measured by number of conversions to a sale or a customer
4.             Remarkable - for exceptional deals, captivating content, measured by the number of forwards and social shares

 Whether you’re meeting each of these needs can be gauged by measuring common email activities: opens, clicks, conversions, and forwards.

Delivering relevant messages is a key to email marketing success. While relevance is typically talked about in terms of targeting and personalization, relevance is much bigger than content and targeting.

The Hierarchy of Subscriber Needs (above), provides a big picture view of relevance and illustrates the need for marketers to create a subscriber experience that is Respectful, Functional, Valuable, and Remarkable.

While marketers must respect their subscribers’ wishes by only emailing to those that have opted-in to receive communications, your emails can’t be valuable or remarkable if they are not first functional.

Functional email experiences are key for your subscribers to easily read and interact with your campaigns. If your emails aren’t functional, you run the serious risk becoming irrelevant to your subscribers.

Functionality is all about quality assurance. Or put another way, it’s about eliminating friction that can degrade the effectiveness of your messaging, erode the subscriber experience, and ultimately damage your brand image.

To create functional email experiences, ensure that:
1.    Your emails display appropriately across mobile, web, and desktop applications that your subscribers primarily use. You can use Litmus’ Email Analytics.  to determine where your subscribers are most frequently opening your emails. Then, use Email Previews to verify that your emails are displaying as intended in those email clients.

 2. Text is legible, particularly in the uncontrolled lighting environments where mobile rendering often takes place. For example, if you don’t use at least 13 pt. font sizes, Apple will auto-adjust anything under that size, often breaking navigation bars.

3.  Links are spaced far enough apart so they can be accurately clicked with a mouse or, more importantly, tapped with a finger.

4.  The content is clear and free of errors. Read—and re-read—your emails before sending. Also, it never hurts to have a second or third set of eyes look over it, as it’s more difficult for you to catch errors if you wrote the text.

5.  Any special email functionality has a good fallback for when that functionality isn’t supported by a particular email client. Using advanced techniques, like HTML5 or CSS3, should have proper fallbacks in place.

6.  The links in your emails take subscribers to the intended destination. You can use Link Check to ensure your links are working, being tracked, and going where you intended.

7.  Email landing pages greet subscribers with wording and images from the email so they know they’ve arrived at the right place to continue the interaction.
Creating a functional email experience requires a sustained effort because of the patchwork and non-standardized environment that is today's email inboxes. So what works in Apple Mail may not work in Outlook 365 or Gmail.

The email environment is further complicated by the number of devices that can now read emails—which currently include desktops, laptops, tablets, ebook readers, phablets, smartphones, and the Apple Watch, which recognizes a new version of HTML, watch for a new version ofHTML.

And thanks to the Internet of Things, email reading devices may eventually include your car, refrigerator, toothbrush, and light bulbs. (I’m exaggerating, of course, but time will tell just how much I’m exaggerating.)

You may not understand some of the technical stuff in this article, just understand the concept of functional emails and the need to measure how they are doing.  After all, emails are still the choice of communication among 72% of the population. So if you want more information on this or just want to get it done, hand it off to some of your “twentysomethings” or “thirtysomethings”.  They get it…and you will too.

Patience. Patience. Patience.