deliverability

Your email subscription process: it’s just as important

Jason Sisley, President & Chief Strategist

Jason Sisley, President & Chief Strategist

It’s about this time of year, every year, that I jam up my inbox with new email subscriptions in search of holiday deals. I don’t often pay that much attention to the subscription process (I also rarely actually make purchases), but this is the first year that I’ve really noticed a lot of marketers paying way more attention to what goes into the emails and the lack of attention put into the actual subscription process.

Not lying, I spent 15 minutes on a well known retail website, after registering for an email, trying to figure out how to change my preferences and profile information. Even worse, I couldn’t, because the email I registered for wasn’t part of the subscription center.

Another example is another well known retailer that has a “special” email for the holidays. First off, it was assumed I was interested in getting the new email because I subscribe to a particular email of theirs, but when I went to unsubscribe the only option was to be removed from everything, not just the new email. I emailed their customer service department about this and was told that I’d need to go back and resubscribe after Christmas, when the promotion ends. It’s unlikely I’ll remember, or want, to do this. I doubt I’m alone.

Now, I don’t think either of these scenarios are because the retailers are trying to trick me, or dissuade me from unsubscribing. I do think they just put way more thought into the email, without considering the registration process, or subscription center an integral part of the holistic program.

iStock-481685900 - Subscription Center 2a.jpg

When working with clients the first thing I do is get familiar with their subscription process, the profile/subscription center and the unsubscribe process. This is such an important piece of the program and is often viewed as necessary, but less important. It’s likely the first (sign-up) and last (opt-out) interaction they’re going to have with you. You should be making each just as simple. Whatever you do, don’t hide the subscription center as a means for making someone search long enough that they just decide to keep receiving emails because they gave up. Instead, work on giving them a reason for not unsubscribing, or for customizing their subscription. I like a good challenge and surprising someone with the options for keeping their emails, but customizing when they come too often, or on an inconvenient day or time, can easily persuade a frustrated customer into giving it another shot.

With the host of daily deal sites that are out there now, best practices are out the window when it comes to frequency. While that might be fine when a customer first registers, they’re bound to get tired and overwhelmed as more and more emails flood their inbox. Not giving the ability to customize the frequency is basically giving them an all or nothing option. When an unsubscribe is legitimate, meaning they intend to not do business with you anymore, it’s a good thing. I’d consider it an amicable break-up. When it’s done because they just can’t keep up or are losing interest, it’s your chance to win them back by saying you’re committed to changing.

In summary:

  1. Make the subscription, modify and opt-out process simple
  2. Give options for opting down (decreased frequency, different time of the day) and honor it
  3. Include subscription options for every email that has a theme (normal marketing vs. special promotion)
  4. Make the subscription center link easy to find on every page on your site
  5. Most important, when developing new emails, consider the subscription process as an important part of the program
  6. Also, don’t assume someone wants to receive everything that you have the ability to send. Ask if they’re interested. If they aren’t then you’re not wasting effort (and money) on less engaged customers.

These may sound simple, but it’s increasingly rare to find this combination.

Back to cleaning up my inbox.

Happy Holidays!

Our gift to you -- more effective emails through the holidays

 

Brent Hartings, VP Email Operations

The holidays are coming! And it’s a great opportunity to connect with your customers. But it’s also an idea that occurs to quite a few marketers at this time of year. 

So how do you stand out among the crowd of emails vying for attention in your customer’s inboxes? In the spirit of the holiday season, we at Den Aviary are sharing our top 11 tips to make the most of your holiday email program. 

1. Don't underestimate the number of messages your subscribers can handle during the peak shopping season. Yes, it’s true that people get a bit deluged at this time and because of this, your unsubscribes will likely spike a bit. But you will actually come up ahead in a cost/benefit analysis. Typically the holiday season’s ability to generate so many new subscribers, who may turn into longer-term customers, will offset any increase in unsubscribes.

2. Identify which subscribers don’t mind more email over the holiday. Review individual subscriber email engagement rates to see who can handle additional sends. For example, one can surmise that those that have an open rate of 40% over the last 6 months are more inclined to engage in additional messaging volume compared to those with a 2% open rate.

3. Segment and target the customers who tend to engage even more heavily during the holiday season. Review your order data from the previous year’s holiday season and find those who are truly holiday shoppers. Don’t rely on recent engagement as a predictor of their holiday engagement.  

4. Don’t risk ISP blocking. If you plan to increase your send volume during the holidays, ramp it up slowly, starting in early November. A sudden spike in volume will raise concerns at ISPs and increase a risk of blocking. 

5. Monitor your delivery rate and sender score obsessively. Nothing can be more catastrophic to your holiday email revenue than a deliverability issue. It not only prevents your messages from getting into the inbox, but as you emailers know, it's a time suck - time that could be spent figuring out how to make tomorrow's send better than today's.

6. Be proactive about preventing unsubscribes. If you have unsubscribe spike concerns resulting from increased send volume, create a holiday opt-out option.

7. Be unique. One way to do this is to monitor trends and go against them. If everyone is sending at 7 am, try 11 am. If everyone is including a snowman emoji in their subject line, melt them away with a sun character. Test out a holiday-themed “From” name. Do whatever you can to stand out.

8. Plan your message schedule around your product/service delivery times. Physical products require the most lead time, followed by services and ending with gift cards. By syncing your messaging with delivery, you can be more timely and urgent with your messaging.

9. Agility is the key. Of course you should have a plan, but be able to modify and optimize it at anytime as you learn new information. Test your strategy with a small, sample email run and if you learn something significant, incorporate it into your larger send.

10. Outdo competitions’ offers. Know what your competitors are doing and prepare yourself to top any offer they serve up. You should have a pre-set notion of how rich of an offer you are prepared to deliver to your subscribers in order to beat the competition.

11. Make the purchase cycle as easy as possible for your customers. A majority of customers are reading your email on a mobile device, so make sure that they can initiate and complete a purchase cycle seamlessly and successfully. 

Companies can make or break their budgets over the next two months, and it's important that every channel, specifically email, is optimized and working at its best. As long as you maintain the same kind of control testing you use year round, you can now look at your holiday email program as an opportunity, rather than a challenge.