2021 Tips for Optimizing Email Marketing
By Sally Smithwick, Managing Editor
Communicating with shoppers is an ever-changing landscape, and on the heels of a pandemic, this is even more true. Email marketing is a tried-and-true method to reach your customers. Marketing experts agree 2020 was a big year for email campaigns and predicted it will remain so for 2021. Here are some tips on how to optimize your email distribution, achieve higher open rates, increase ROI, and build a relationship with your audience.
Build and maintain your email list(s) with integrity. There’s a lot of competition in your inbox! We all sign up for lists regularly, and often find ourselves frustrated by too many emails. It is important to respect your audience by making sure you don’t send too many campaigns and that whenever possible, those emails are targeted to your list’s interests. Always use double opt-ins to ensure emails are valid and active and that there is a genuine interest in your content. As a general rule, names should never be added to your list without this method. And always provide an easily accessible way for people to unsubscribe. You don’t want to deal with spam reports with your email marketing service as they can quickly shut down your account if there are multiple abuse reports. You’ll also want to make sure you keep an eye on bounce rates and regularly clean your lists to avoid reports. In addition, when you are building forms for signing up, you can create fields that help you segment your list and target campaigns. For example, you can add a few checkboxes for interests such as health and wellness, new products, family meals, senior shopping, or cooking/recipe demos. This is great information to have on hand when you have something specific that you are marketing.
Subject lines can make or break you. A poorly written subject line can mean your audience never sees your campaign because it goes straight to junk mail. Always check for spam words in your subject line and rewrite as needed. There are multiple sources on the Internet for these lists. In addition, there are ways to check for helpful words as well. Omnisend Email Subject Line Tester is a great example of a free service where you can paste your subject line and test for spam words and useful words that help increase your open rate. This tester will also alert you when your subject is too long and has mixed case issues. Make a goal to only use subject lines that score 80% or better and take time to adjust anything lower.
Keep your eyes on content trends. While experts say email marketing is alive and well, you’ll want to make sure you are on trend with your topics and visuals. We are hearing more and more about personalization as a trend in the retail world, and this rings true for email marketing as well. This doesn’t just mean using merge tags to include each individual’s first name, it also means taking advantage of those interest fields you collected and targeting your emails to those specific audiences. When choosing visuals to include, you can also make sure your images are relatable and current. For example, people social distancing and working from home may relate well to images that evoke feelings of coziness, family, enjoying the outdoors, or cooking at home. Another trend for 2021 in email marketing is interactive campaigns. You can include quizzes, games, and polls that help you gain more insights on your shoppers, but also provide a little entertainment for your readers.
Mobile vs. desktop. Most statistics from marketing experts show about half of people report that they read their emails on their mobile device. If you are using a service such as Mailchimp, you can easily track how your campaigns are being read. In addition, you’ll be able to see what email clients your audience is using (Gmail, Outlook, etc) or what type of mobile device they are using (iPhone vs. Android). One interesting trend with iPhone users since the pandemic is an increased number of people are switching to dark mode in order to soften the weariness of eyes looking at bright screens all day. If the majority of your audience is tracked as using an iPhone to read your emails, you may want to consider campaigns that are visually compatible with dark mode.
Learn from your open and click rates. Every time you send an email campaign, follow up in a few days to see what your open rates and click rates look like. Your email service will provide industry benchmarks for comparison, but even further detail on which links produce the most clicks will help guide you in building more compatible content for your audience. Set small goals to increase those rates regularly by trying to focus on areas of higher interest, but also experiment with content length. Maybe, for example, you have too much content, and breaking it up into separate emails sent out on different days is more effective. If your social media buttons aren’t getting a lot of action and that’s an important part of your goal, try moving them to the top of your emails. Pay attention to the relationship of timing to your content. It’s difficult to predict exactly when your audience is most likely to read emails, but what if you think about it more in terms of the content? For example, are you sending out a health and wellness campaign? Monday may be a good day to make the most of this type of campaign, because people are more motivated and focused on health goals at the start of the beginning of the week. Or a campaign about fresh cocktail ideas or grilling recipes may work better when sent out closer to the weekend.
Email marketing takes experimentation. Put yourself in the shoes of your shoppers. What emails would you personally enjoy reading? What makes you hit that delete button quickly, and what compels you to open an email? And lastly, always invite feedback and express gratitude when appropriate. A simple “How can we do better?” or “Thank you!” will go a long way with your readers.