Monday, May 27, 2013

why open rates aren't a good measurement of success

you spend hours putting together the perfect email - creative, message, coding, uploading, execution. everyone agreed this was the be all end all of your campaigns but it failed...why?
two words - mobile readers.... recently my twitter feed and my inbox has been filled with articles and webinars about designing for the mobile inbox, so if you're like me you know how important this is and how smartphones and tablets are changing the way we have to address our readers. part of this is adaptive design, and the other crucial component is designing for images off. how can we trick readers into giving us the data we crave to determine success?
lets start with the one thing that has guided us for years, the open pixel. but when you boil down a pixel to it's basic construct it is an image. it dawned on me this morning as I was looking at my smartphone that a lot of the messages I get, look like they don't include images, even the simplest of branding, but yet my phone is asking me to download images. i can click links, I can view landing pages, so why download the image and sacrafice more of my limited data? guess what, that image that my phone wants to download is the open pixel, the one thing so many of us have used to determine as a success metric. by producing non-branded emails, we're producing failure.
on the flipside of that, we're producing conversion failure too. how can that be you ask? well look at it this way, my phone renders the message fine, if the message is appealing i decide if I want to look at the link now or later... i may even decide to click on display images and then come back later to view the click. if that's the case then since I've already downloaded the images the open pixel fires again when I go view it again - two opens and a click thru... in this simple example you just got a 50% ctr, not bad...on the opposite side of the equation is the habit of looking at the email and just clicking through to your offer... 1 click divided by 0 opens is still a zero-percent click through, or if you determine your ctr by clicks divided by sent/delivered, you get that sinking feeling that something is wrong. because lets face it, we get caught up in opens and clicks, the data we readily have...very rarely do we have access to the sales numbers, so we don't tie clicks to total sales and we think the numbers are wrong or that it's a failure.
as mobile becomes an ever more important part of our customer's lives and bridges the digital divide, we have to rethink our success metrics. open rates will still be important, but they'll also be a "symptom"...of you're ability to write a good subject line and of deliverability, but the diagnosis of success is going to be the ability to close the loop, get all if the information and tie conversions to clicks.
the take-a-way here?
1. brand your messages, give the consumer a reason to download the images to get a better indication of open rates on mobile devices.
2. design for images off display, use engaging goofy alt image tags, i'm going to start using tags like "come on you know you want to download me" and "really, stop looking at the world in black and white"... personality-filled alt tags will make the reader engage and want to know what the image is.
3. when you're designing the campaign, define your success - if that's 700 clicks, design for success and build those relationships with sales and information tech to get the data you need to verify your success.
4. know you're audience...not just from a shopper habit point of view, but also from a platform point of view...use a sending tool that can tell you how many mobile users you have and what kind, and design to that.
5. analyze your current data, if campaigns that have worked for a while aren't getting good open rates, you could be experiencing deliverability issues or an explosion of mobile users.

Friday, May 24, 2013

your email sucks - proof your email creative it could be costly

i'll admit, i suffer from inbox overload - i sign up for lots of emails...mostly to look at layouts and keep up with emerging trends, but to also find fodder for my blog.

today in my inbox was this, typical deal offerings from kgbdeals. nothing unusual about these, i think i get one each day, and sometimes two, usually they are pretty good and include deals that i think about for a little while, and then decide that i really don't need, but i don't unsub. kgdeals' editors are pretty on top of things too, but like everyone, occasionally something slips through. (let me admit this right now: i'm not without my faults by any means, and i am much better at editing others work than i am my own...)
this one slipped by kgbdeals...
the issue with this email is that both the subject line and headline say that the e-hookah pen is $8... but the text within the email, under the picture says that it is $6. for what it's worth, 73% off the normal retail of $29.99 is indeed closer to the $8 price than it is the $6.

this was a typo - or probably what happened is that the vendor provided content and kgbdeals just floats the content into their templates based on purchased placement and so forth, so benefit of the doubt falls on the content providers, but either they or kgbdeals failed to proof their content.

what's so bad about this? in the grand scheme of things, nothing - especially not worth producing an "oops email" - because the correct price is quoted in the subject line and in the headline text, but there are probably a few people in customer service who are fielding calls and emails, wanting to know if they [the customer] can get it for the $6 price.

when i used to work retail, if a price was mismarked, we had to honor the lowest price, if not because it was the right thing to do, but to keep arguments at the register to a minimum. luckily in a brick and mortar retail environment, you can go pull the inventory off the rack and re-price them accordingly, but in this electronic world...we don't have that ability.

this could impact the bottom line, not just for the vendor, but also for kgbdeals. not only from a contract point of view, kgbdeals probably sold this based on opens or impressions - most likely paid in full - but if they make a deal to accept the price of $6, then kgbdeals could be left holding the bag, having to pay the vendor $2 for each item sold. and to make matters even worse if this a typo on their [kgbdeals] fault, then they'll may have to deliver the dreaded "make-good", which is running the ad again, for the same number of impressions, in the same position for free. not only does this result in a freebie and lost ad revenue, but it could cost man-hours in that kgbdeals may have to juggle production schedules and sales reps have to make calls and renegotiate the contract.

so what looks like a small little typo could blow up to cost big bucks in not only lost revenue but also in man-hours. the moral here is the more sets of eyes on a document, the better and to always keep documentation, because if this situation is indeed the submitted creative from the client the argument for not paying the difference and for not having to deliver a make-good are easier to make.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

congrats to mauge or always a bridesmaid

yesterday (may 18, 2013) i had the honor of being a bridesmen for a person that I consider to be one of my best friends in the world, monique maugue - well scott now - and the experience was amazing, and one that will stay with me for years to come.

mo, niki, mauge, orangejello, or monigue as she is known has grown into an amazing person over the years. she and i met when we worked to keep some crazy menapausal women in check at the collegeboard. and the adventures that we had are at times are horrific and at others pants-wettingly funny! she taught me the importance of a filter (notice i said the importance, not how to use one) and i hope i taught her the importance of not having one. our relationship is so close that she was my back-up plan - not to ward off loneliness in my past-sellby date years, but to ensure that as a gay man my social security would go on to a dependent.

i didn't have to make a toast, but if i did, this is what i would have said:

"Mo you've been my partner in crime for so long, from hospital visits to discussion on monthly maintenance shaving to left nuts and camels, we've been through so much that i consider you my bestie and the little sister i never had, you're the lisa to my bart. i've never seen you look as stunning or as happy as i did yesterday. thank you for being my friend and letting our relationship grow and never feel forced. as you and myke build a life together, I look forward to hearing about all the adventures and want to remind you of a few things: smile along the way knowing that you're loved and a part of so many of my memories, laugh because even when it's not appropriate it's okay - it's the timestamp on the memory, argue when you're right, argue when you're wrong-it teaches us to say that we're sorry, scream along the way it lets others know you're scared or having the time of your life...and most importantly always always pack scissors when you travel you'll never know what kind of hotel carpet repair you'll have to make!

and to myke, know that you share your wife with so many and that she is not just the foundation of your new life, but she is the rock and cornerstone in so many other's lives. you didn't just marry mo, you married a community of people who love her and see her as daughter, friend, "little sister", confidante, niece, cousin, "first wife and office spouse". you by extension are not just myke scott, but myke scott-mauge-tindel-gray-the list goes on and though we may have our differences, we all love you just as much as we love her because you'be given her something none of us see mauge was always a complete person, she needed someone to compliment her life, dreams, and do just that. you've got big shoes to fill, but I think you can do it! Take your time, remind her to laugh, remind her to smile, remind her to argue, remind her to grow and you'll be fine."

so how do you close a post like this? i don't think you can, I think the best way to end this is to see how those two pick up the mantle and build a life worthy of the memories that i carry with me, and to wish them the best in the years to come, and to let them know, I can't wait to hear the adventures and be a part of their new life. love you guys...

Monday, May 13, 2013

why mobile optimized email is suddenly more important to me

my last post was about optimizing your email or designing your email for mobile devices... and what to know and consider when your readership hits the tipping point... today i want to blog about why mobile optimized email is now important to me.

if you've followed my blog for any amount of time you can gather that i'm a bit if an apple fan, but i've made the jump to an android phone, i've not left the fold fully, i still own and use my macbook, my macbook air, and my ipad mini. but now, i'm the owner of an htc one, which is by far the "iphone killer" that android has been trying to produce for a while. i say this because finally there is a phone of enough build quality and design, a polished version of the droid operating system, along with supporting apps that i use all the time on my phone to make the transfer to a new piece of equipment and platform easier and worthwhile. think of what you went through when you went from pc to mac, and you'll know what i am getting here.

that said, android isn't without issues, perhaps later this week, i'll tell you what i miss and what i like better, but for now, i'm embracing the htc one... but mobile optimized email is suddenly even more important to me...why? unlike the iphone, the android devices don't autoscale the emails like i am used to. in a lot of cases, i have to not only scroll up and down, but also have to pan left and right to see and read most of my incoming html based email.

that is, until i discovered the scaling option in the gmail app. the gmail app, not the native android mail app, will allow you to autoscale the emails and they'll look very similar to the way they looked on the iphone. but that doesn't mean that email marketers shouldn't be looking at ways to push their email designs and to forego adoption of adaptive design principles and practices. the more of us that exploit that technology for the greater good, the sooner email clients and apps will make it easier for all of us who read and open email on our mobile devices by supporting adaptive email design and autoscaling.

Monday, May 6, 2013

the problem with mobile email design

so if you're anything like me, you've seen the latest mind-blowing statistics on how much email is opened in the mobile environment. and if you're anything like me, you've been approached to make your email programs mobile-friendly. but what do those people mean when they say that, and how should you arm yourself to make mobile-friendly campaigns?

data. you should ask yourself how many people are reading your campaigns on mobile devices, some sending platforms can tell you this, others have partnerships with providers like litmus and return path that can embed a pixel into your emails and determine what platform and client your readers are using to open and render your emails. knowing this information is critical in knowing how to mobilize your emails and when.

my current readership is now at the tipping point for mobile optimization and the majority of those readers are using apple devices to read their emails. great, i now know that my readership is a mobile one. now i know from a design and execution point of view that i need to optimize my emails for mobile readers.

but what does mobile optimization mean? does it mean designing for a mobile inbox or does that mean making an adaptive email... well, to me, an optimized email is one that is designed to 640 pixels wide - the apple devices will auto scale them and they'll look good on the limited real estate provided by those devices. but there are design rules that go along with that - minimum font size, maximum font size, white space, graphics, button size, button usage versus links... the list goes on and on.

here is where i get on my soap box.

there are two main strategies, mobile optimization and responsive/adaptive web-design.

when the iphone and android devices hit the market, users had only the stock email clients to look at their emails on. apple got it right, android didn't. but consumers want choice. now we have a whole host of email clients - the stock ones, mailbox, the gmail app, yahoo email app, sparrow (if people even still use it) and the list goes on and on. users now have the option of picking an email client just like they do an email provider. this is a great thing, everyone develops their own habits of using these apps and their way of dealing with inbox overload.

but (soap box continues....) here's the kicker. out of the major email clients out there now, only a handful of them support media queries - meaning only a handful of them support adaptive design.

here's what i mean about adaptive design - it's the counterpart to responsive web design. so why am i not calling it responsive email design? because i believe that as marketers we need to be responsive to the readers not to the platforms - inbox technology isn't keeping pace with the web world.

it's important for a marketer to know the difference and to know their readers. just like we need to know the mobile readers, to successfully make use of our time and limited budgets, we need to know what app our readers are using to open their email in, especially if the majority of them don't support adaptive design.

i've been looking and there isn't a product out there yet (i have a great idea if anyone wants to help - patent pending) to get to the app level. return path can get me the mobile readership, but not the app. i have to make assumptions that my mobile readers may not be tech savvy and therefore are using the stock app to read their emails, which leads me to doing optimization.

so why is this my latest obsession? i'm a one man shop - design, coding, strategy and more. where do i spend my time? how quickly do i need to ramp up my program to use adaptive design and media queries to render "look-a-like" emails, when I can simply continue down the same road now and design the optimal email to be rendered in multiple platforms. without insight i don't know where to turn - argue with the boss of prove to the boss that we're already mobile optimized based on our majority of mobile readers.

i think without the technology in place, on the front end with the clients support adaptive design and the back-end with sending platforms finding this information out, that we as marketers are getting caught up in the hype. i've attended numerous web casts and seminars where mobile is pushed down my throat, but the only supporting stats are that the email is opened on a mobile device. all i want for us as marketers is to know which app they are using now, so that we can either progress the further adoption of adaptive email design or abandon it all together.

so these are the questions to ask yourself when you think about mobile-optimization for your email campaigns:
1. what is my audience make up?
2. do we need to optimize or adapt?
3. are we being asked to do this because the boss has a blackberry and can't read our email or is there a genuine business need?