Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Email Search Optimization (ESO)

A friend of mine was pretty honest when giving me feedback on the emails my company sends him:
"I never read or open your company's emails."
It didn't sound like my friend wasn't interested in what my company had to say. He also didn't seem to be fed up with too much email or advertising from a company. He just said it as a matter of fact.

He continued:
"I do know that I have those emails somewhere in my inbox. And when I need to buy your product I find that email and I make my on-line order from your email onwards."
Now here's a way I hadn't looked at email marketing: Some customers just keep the emails in their inbox, un-opened, for when they want to buy something from you and they can find you.

I have always looked at email marketing as the company reaching out to the customer to try and pull him back to your site. With emails to customers, the company is in control: the company defines when to send, how many times they send, what products to include, if our clients are worthy of a promotion, etc, etc. We see the client as the passive receiver of the email, and he can do what the company wants (open the email, read the email and buy) or ignore your communications (which about 90% of your clients tend to do with your emails).

Now my friend was telling me a complete new way of looking at email: the client is now in control, and he doesn't want to follow the company's lead. He opens the email when he wants, he doesn't give a damn about how great your products, promotions or designs are. He just uses the email as a way to come to your site and to buy what he already knew he was going to buy. It's very similar to a bookmark: people keep preferred links to pages as a bookmark to come back to that page pretty quick.

It explains various things I've noticed over the last couple of years:

  • Outcomes of emails are sometimes very unpredictable: your email can focus on one product, or give the customer a specific promotion. But chances are that they just go on and buy what they were already going to buy and don't bother with your great design or splendid campaign.
  • I've seen people open their Christmas email in May and actually buy something, although the products announced in the email weren't available anymore.
  • In some cases I've noticed that more then 50% of the clicks on the email sent are on the header-logo: clients don't even bother to read or scan your content, they just open the email, click and move on from there.
  • A lot of what I wrote last week about the importance of transactional emails can be explained by this.
  • I've also seen that sending more emails can increase your sales of customers coming from emails, but it usually takes away sales from clients coming from other sources.

All this does put email better in perspective: your client is not a passive number in your data base that will jump up and do whatever you want them to do when you send them an email.

Email Search Optimization?

This also opens a new discussion of email-findability. Companies think that clients who already know what they want, search for your brand on Google. That's why company's spend so much time and effort of appearing on the first results in search.

But maybe we have to start thinking about how easy it is to be findable in the inbox of your customers. Everybody now has a spam-email where all the campaign emails enter. Your email will probably end there together with literally thousands of other emails. To be found there when your client is ready to use the email to find your site might require a different approach then sending your daily 'best offers' email. Maybe it's time to start a new sort of internet marketing. Email Search Optimization.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Transactional vs. Promotional Emails by Dolce Gusto

This week I came across this presentation by the Silverpop, experts in Email Marketing. They argue that transactional emails, like confirmation emails of orders or registrations, are pretty badly used by companies. They don't seem to get a lot of the attention, even though they are highly read and appreciated by clients.

This is especially surprising since companies invest so much resources and money into promotional campaign emails. These are the emails that announces offers or new products or try make you buy your mom flowers for Mother's Day.

Have a look at Silverpop's presentation, before I show you a case-study below.
Transactional Email Best Practices
(View more presentations from Silverpop here)

Case Study: Dolce Gusto

I found this example of the above discussed when I was buying coffee on the e-commerce of Dolce Gusto by Nescafé. We have this coffee machine at home and I wanted to order some capsules.

Here's an example of a campaign email by Dolce Gusto. Click on it to enlarge.
As you can see, the email has a nice design. You can see they have put some thought and resources in it:
  • The branding is clear and recognizable.
  • The message is personalized ('Hola Stefaan').
  • It comes with a nice promotion.
  • It's got a strong call-to-action button.
  • The message expresses urgency ('Only today' / 'Sólo hoy').
  • 3 advantages of on-line buying are highlighted.

It's not the best promotional email, though: I don't tend to spend much attention to promotional emails, and since the promotion is only in the text, I confess I missed out of it until I retrieved it for this post.

Now here's the transactional email I received when placing my order. Click on it to enlarge.

As you can see, there is a big difference with the campaign email. Dolce Gusto's transactional email has a couple of flaws.
  • The email is text only. That shouldn't be an issue but becasue of this, the email doesn't have a recognizable branding or logo.
  • The title is not correct: it says 'Order of confirmation' instead of 'Confirmation of order'.
  • The email askes me to revise the order and in case of any error it invites me to enter to my profile and change it or give Dolce Gusto a call. However, it doesn't have a link to my profile, it doesn't tell me until when I can update my order or what telephone I have to call to.
  • It doesn't tell me when my order will arrive, which would be nice for a confirmation email.
  • The promotional email tells us about a Return Policy, but the transaction email doesn't say anything about it. 

¿Missed chance? 

Apart from the flaws mentioned above, Doce Gusto doesn't seem to take advantage of the opportunity this confirmation email gives them. As an active client, I can tell that I looked with more attention to this email than to all the promotional ones combined, so Nescafé could make a lot more out of it.

Here are some ideas for Dolce Gusto's Transactional Email:

Voice of Customer
  • Ask your client to rate his experience.
  • Ask what would help your client to spend more on your site.
  • Ask what new flavours or other products he'd like to try out.

Anticipate on questions by clients
  • Link to his profile where he can amend his order.
  • Tell the client if and how he can track his order.

Tell a friend

  • Ask your client to tell his friends on facebook, or to share his experience on twitter.

Keep in touch
  • Ask your client to follow on facebook or twitter.
  • Aks your client to update his profile, so you know where to find him for other occasions.

Sell more
There are all sorts of possibilities for selling more in these transaction emails. In this case, I ordered about 70 coffees just so i didn't have to pay shipping costs. This means I probably won't be buying again for a while. Unless, of course, you give me some sort of incentive to buy earlier. For instance: free shipping if I order in the next 3 weeks.

The funny thing is: it doesn't stop here. Dolce Gusto sent me a third email, and a second transactional email, the confirmation of the shipping. Click on it to enlarge the image.

It's a pretty good transactional email for the following reasons:

  • It has a good design, nicely readable.
  • It includes relevant information about the delivery of my order
  • It includes the indications for a tracking system of my order.
  • It gives a phone number and a link to a web-form for questions.

The email doesn't do anything outside the ordinary transaction email, but still: it's a nice email.

Why so diffent?

It's a mystery to me why I receive these 3 emails from different accounts (emailing@dolce-gusto.es, info@dolce-gusto.es and info@dolce-gusto.com) and why they are so different in approach. Just like Silverpop point out in their presentation, I guess the problem is that different departments are in charge of these emails: the promotional email looks very Marketing & Sales, the order-confirmation email is probably from the IT department and the shipping-confirmation will be responsibility of Delivery & Support.

There is another reason that makes me think that different departments are in charge. On the same day I received my order, I got a promotional email telling me that only for ordering that day I would receive 3 free samples. I ordered just 3 days too early, and didn't get this promotion! What an epic fail: for this promotion, Dolce Gusto could have filtered out the clients who recently ordered. Or they could have send me the samples anyway, knowing that I would probably be not very pleased.

Anyhow, time for a coffee now.