• 27 Nov 2020 4:39 PM | Samantha Metzroth

    The world of sports has its milestone events that span the corners of the globe, from Wimbledon to the Super Bowl, the Tour de France and eSports featuring the League of Legends World Championship to the Overwatch World Cup.

    In a year that has reshaped the very nature of all that was and has been, the world’s largest sports gathering since March 2020, has been the State of Origin rugby league match held in Brisbane, Australia, with 52,500 fans cheering on a glorified version of gridiron (without the armour).

    So, what does a pandemic-defined 2020 mean for retail’s biggest week of the year? Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Thanksgiving traditionally see consumers flock to their favourite stores to take advantage of sales frenzies, with retailers staffing their stores to accommodate the throngs of people. 

    The retail space has changed in 2020, as brands accommodate a “from our store, now to your door” approach, while others have capitalised on established e-commerce models, to engage with consumers digitally. 

    Driving the traffic, be it in-store or online, are the email strategists, marketers, designers, coders and analysts, who are living their very own Wimbledon or Superbowl, in one of the busiest and craziest weeks of the year.

    Email has proven its worth as the leading digital channel with a $42 ROI for every dollar spent, in a year that has seen email traffic increase at an exponential rate, not only for retailers, but for all B2B and B2C industries needing to engage with their customers.

    It is difficult for email geeks to penetrate the noise of a post-election, pandemic-plagued inbox in 2020’s Black Friday Week, but it is achievable. Here’s how:

    1. Avoid trigger words like ‘unprecedented’. It’s November people! The precedent has been set and we’re still ploughing through it (if this doesn’t become 2020’s most-used word of the year, I’ll be surprised).

    2. Spam … don’t be that brand. Check your cadences and suppress other campaigns so your audiences get the most relevant and timely message for your campaign.  

    3. Value exchange – we all love a good discount! However, empathise – not everyone can afford to buy at the moment. Why not offer an extended promotional period instead?

    4. Be authentic to your brand. Don’t be what you’re not. Keep your messaging true to you. Have a theme, sure, but the codification of your design and copy should be a reflection of the relationship you’ve built with your customer.

    5. Be realistic – your analytics are going to be different from last year, as will be the gross profit on sales. 

    So next time you check your inbox, spare a thought for the athletes of the email game, but also the behind-the-scenes water runners, trainers, and coaches, that deliver the action of your favourite brands’ to your mobile or desktop.

  • 24 Nov 2020 7:27 AM | Jennifer Cannon

    As early as April 2020, Google reportedly blocked nearly 18 million phishing emails. Nearly four million coronavirus and COVID-19 emails containing harmful content have been delivered— with just over one million clicks on malicious URLs occurring in these emails. You, your coworkers, your families and friends are all susceptible to falling victim to email-related scams. As email marketers, we should feel obligated to play a key role in communicating the warning signals to our subscribers. 

    With individuals becoming increasingly more dependent on technology — including email — than ever before, it should come as no surprise that malicious emails are reaching inboxes at unprecedented rates. Parents (and even college students), constantly checking emails for updates on their school districts’ changing policies, are particularly susceptible to these attacks, according to TechRepublic. 

    Malicious content trends. Initially, phishing emails containing the name of the virus were identified by cybersecurity firms monitoring corporate email servers. Emails containing stock market information were also popular in the early days of the pandemic, and when unemployment numbers skyrocketed, malicious senders leveraged phishing tactics by emailing fake job opportunities. 

    In mid-October, one cybersecurity firm discovered bad actors were sending fake COVID-19 surveys to university staff. The emails contain a Word document that reportedly contained ransomware that allowed malicious senders to steal encrypted files from their victims in an extortion attempt. 

    Increasing spam tactics. As cybersecurity experts work with both email marketers and their recipients (subscribers), they create numerous ways to block spam from ever reaching the anticipated end-user. But while these experts grow smarter, so do their counterparts on the hacker-side. It can sometimes be difficult to tell who is truly one step ahead of these bad actors, and some of the biggest firms devote tens of millions of dollars to keep them out of their business systems.

    Ransomware, malware and phishing. These are likely the most popular types of email attacks that your subscribers are seeing. Ensuring your subscribers that they can be 100%  positive an email that says it is from you really is from your brand.

    The “why me?” factor. Many people and organizations struggle to grasp why a cyber attacker would want to target them or their business’s emails. The bad actors who are coordinating these types of events are likely not targeting you or your brand directly — they target as many inboxes as possible. Once an end-user clicks the malicious link, they’ve unknowingly let the bad guys into the system or downloaded malicious content that will allow them to carry out their attack. In other words, it’s nothing personal.

    It is terribly unfortunate that people are using scare tactics related to coronavirus and COVID-19. As email marketers, we must ensure we drive crystal-clear, well-aligned information campaigns to our stakeholders, subscribers and customers.

    As an email marketer, it is critical responsibility to be part of educating your colleagues (and let's face it, our families too!).

    Do you have an email marketing related story — COVID-related or not — feel free to reach out to me with your story ideas or to qualify as a contributor. 

  • 23 Nov 2020 3:01 PM | Hanna Fray

    There are an overwhelming number of email service providers (ESPs) out there to serve email marketers’ needs. Depending on the sophistication of your email program, list size, industry, budget, support needs and size of your team, you may find more success with certain ESPs over others. While several third-party organizations, such as G2 or Email Tool Tester, provide objective comparisons between ESPs, there are limited resources out there that provide up-to-date deliverability performance comparisons.

    As such, many email marketers take on the task of determining deliverability success through the use of trials or segmenting their mail streams to test other services before committing to switching ESPs.

    My goal is to help you on your comparison journey by sharing some of the biggest mistakes I see when email marketers compare deliverability performance between ESPs, and also share the key metrics that you should be looking for.

    Different factors influence open rates. When comparing deliverability performance between ESPs, a popular trend is comparing open rates exclusively to gauge overall deliverability. Despite the appearance of an apples-to-apples comparison, open rates can be deceptive for many reasons, including:

    Contact lists or segments. If open rates are being compared between two different lists or segments, there is no guarantee that the lists or segments are weighted with subscribers who are equally likely to open. If the emails are being sent to the same list or segment, you've eliminated that variable, but introduced others.

    Take, for example, subscriber fatigue — many recipients simply don't open every email single they receive. If a contact opened your email yesterday, and today's subject line is similar or identical, they may see no reason to open today's email. If the subject lines are different, then you've introduced the subject line and content as new variables which may have also influenced the test results.

    Difference in send times of campaigns. The day of the week — and time of the day — of the send can sometimes make a serious difference. There are countless articles out there touting which day of the week or time of day are best to maximize open rates, but realistically the best time to send an email depends on your list dynamic.

    If you are using the same recipients to test metrics at both ESPs, you can't exactly send them two identical emails back-to-back from different ESPs. You've once again introduced new variables by staggering the sends and sending on different days and times.

    Variances with Mailbox Provider/Spam filters. If you've been sending for a long time on ESP A, your emails create a recognizable pattern to providers like Gmail, Microsoft and Verizon that decide whether to bounce or filter the message. Your emails from ESP B are unknown to the inbox provider — is this really you, or a spammer impersonating you? Emails from ESP B can be expected to be treated differently by mailbox providers and/or B2B spam filters.

    End-user preferences such as personal safelist/blocklist. Recipient-level filters will also influence your open rates. A recipient can set up filters that send your emails from email address A/ESP A to a spot where they're sure to open and read them but this filter might not apply to emails from email address B/ ESP B. S of course ESP A will appear to perform better. Your recipients don't know you're switching ESPs yet and to look for your mail in an unexpected folder.

    IP and Domain Reputation. There may be differences in the IP reputation from each ESP that are completely temporary. For example, if you're on a brand new account with your ESP, it's a very common practice to be placed in an IP pool with other new senders. Simply put, ESPs have to protect the IP reputation in the interest of all existing customers. Therefore until you've sent a few emails and set a cadence for your sending behavior and volume, the ESP doesn’t know the quality of your emails. So you're typically not sending out of your ESP's best IP addresses until you have a few sends under your belt and they know that they can “trust you”. Differences in IP reputation between ESP A and ESP B might not reflect the actual IP reputation you'll experience once there's enough data about your sending practices to assign you to your final IP pool.

    Authentication differences. Authentication is also a factor if you've authenticated email at ESP A and not at ESP B. This once again introduces a feeling of ‘suspicion’ on the mailbox provider’s end that could lead to filtering or spam placement. If you have a DMARC policy that requires domain alignment for DMARC to ‘pass’, in order to deliver your emails, and you begin sending from a source that has neither SPF or DKIM aligned, you will find performance will be very low.

    Metric calculation differences. Not all ESPs measure open rates the same way. For example, if ESP A measures open rates as Opened / (Sent - Bounced), and ESP B measures open rates as Opened / Sent, this will further confuse the issue. Some ESPs show you a default open rate of "total opens" whereas other ESPs show you a default open rate of "unique opens". Make sure the number you're comparing between ESPs is actually being calculated the same way.

    Varying levels of support. Many ESPs don’t have a centralized deliverability team to handle deliverability concerns, and even if they do, those individuals are not available to you as a resource, without an additional fee. Certainly consider an ESP or plan tier that offers all types of support, including handling your deliverability or compliance concerns. You want to be sure you know the best way to get started with a new ESP in terms of warming up properly, testing, etc.

    Overall platform performance/experience. The best test is what you can actually achieve with a particular vendor. If ESP A has higher performance today according to your testing, but ESP B has better tooling and reporting features - it's much, much easier to improve your deliverability on ESP B so that it's on par or better than ESP A, than it is to get ESP A's development teams to create and deploy the features to match ESP B's offering.

    You might take a temporary hit on open rates, but having more meaningful ways to engage with your customers and understand them better will pay a return that far exceeds that initial bumpy investment. Al Iverson (Director of Deliverability at Salesforce) has an awesome outlook that you can find here.

    Hopefully, will serve as a helpful resource around properly comparing deliverability between platforms. Overall open rates are clearly not an ideal way to actually measure performance between ESPs, as it's almost impossible to control all of the variables to a sufficient degree to get meaningful results. Instead, I would recommend seed testing - vendors such as GlockApps, Kickbox, and others offer seed tests that provide an unbiased (as much as possible with email deliverability) snapshot into your performance. Even then, don't take seed test results as your universal truth and use those results as part of a holistic approach to improving your deliverability; you may simply have not built up enough reputation on a particular ESP to achieve better results.

    The moral of the story? Consider the full picture when evaluating email service providers.

  • 13 Nov 2020 9:48 AM | Jennifer Cannon

    As the initial days of the pandemic played out, many brands emailed subscribers with words of encouragement and support, offering solidarity. Many smart email marketers, however, included vital pieces of information — specifically how the subscribers could engage with their brands across their web experience.

    In the spirit of the upcoming holiday rush, let’s take a look at how email marketing can help brands — large and small — connect with consumers while mitigating the challenges of this past year. A Rakuten study found over 70% of holiday shoppers do not plan to decrease spend on 2020 holiday shopping (compared to 2019), according to the report. Your team can still have a successful holiday season — and end 2020 on a high note.

    It’s not surprising that with global stay-at-home orders, varying quarantine protocols, and city-wide lockdowns that millions of people turned to digital channels for social support and connections in addition to more of their own consumer needs than ever. And as people everywhere became increasingly relegated to their homes, businesses have suffered unfathomable losses. Many brick-and-mortar businesses and small businesses were forced to close or limit hours and make significant changes to their locations in order to open their doors to the public.

    Numerous, inconsistent regulations — amid serious health concerns — have millions of consumers turning to digital channels to purchase holiday gifts this year, and data suggests that email became more popular than it has in years.

    A recent Mailchimp study on coronavirus marketing trends indicates that email engagement metrics increased significantly in 2020; click and open rates were higher in March and April than they were throughout all of 2019.

    The March rise in open rates was three points (16%) over February, but as uncertainty and instability grew through March and April, email marketers maintained strong year-over-year open rates, with a nearly four-point rise for both months from 2019 to 2020 — an increase of over 20%.

    Alignment and flexibility. Your holiday strategy is likely well underway, but if there is one thing we should all take away from 2020, it’s that flexibility and success go hand-in-hand will be key to your email and e-commerce efforts in the coming weeks.

    Connect with your counterparts in other digital marketing roles to conceive methods of aligning your overall messaging, offers, ad spend, and email marketing efforts to deliver a consistent experience to the customer. Any data that you can collect and leverage to improve your email and ad segmentation should be shared with all platform managers to catch consumers’ attention across their web experience.

    Remind your subscribers of your offerings for delivering gifts to loved ones far away this season. With many families and friends planning to stay apart this holiday season, one should anticipate that online shopping and shipping gifts directly to the recipient will become a more common practice this season. If you represent a small business trying to maintain the support of your community, let your customers know about your different shipping options. If shipping is new to your business, send out an announcement to proudly let them know that you can help them deliver your locally-purchased gifts to friends and family wherever they may be,

    Incentivize customers to purchase online. To minimize foot traffic and maintain a healthy, safe work environment, test offers with a segment of your most loyal customers with an appropriate shipping offer to encourage them to make their purchase online this year. This will be an effective method to reach customers who may otherwise forgo shopping with your brand completely because they want to avoid entering a store during the busy season.

    While we all adjust to our “new normal,” life is still moving on. Communication with your customers is critical, and in these crazy times, your emails might be just the distraction they are looking for. And, with the right calls-to-action, messaging and sentiment, your brand’s email program could be a saving grace for your business in 2020.

    A personal note to the Women of Email community: I hope all of you are staying healthy and busy! It goes without saying, but 2020 was a year that no one asked for. Shortly after my initial post, I unexpectedly went on early maternity leave — ten weeks early! Our son is thriving and we are all doing well. I apologize for my unaddressed absence and look forward to continuing to serve as your editor-in-chief.

  • 01 Sep 2020 11:53 AM | Jennifer Cannon

    Welcome to the official Women of Email blog! This resource aims to elevate the voices of women in our community, offer helpful resources to email marketers and give our members an additional opportunity to connect in a meaningful way.

    My name Jennifer Cannon. For the majority of my career, I have worked for brands including three National Hockey League (NHL) teams and large technology companies that provide email marketing solutions. I have also spoken at events and written extensively on the topic of email for industry publications to educate marketers and leadership teams on the value of email marketing — and educating businesses on how to manage strategic email marketing programs that produce positive results.

    As the former senior editor of MarTech Today and Marketing Land, I heavily focused on covering the email industry and developed the first Periodic Table of Email Marketing and Deliverability. I hope to share my own learnings from my 15-year journey with email marketing to inspire our wonderful community while sharing important industry updates and analyses, and sparking conversations around our industry’s best practices.

    If you are interested in contributing to our community blog, please check out the pinned post in the Women of Email community explaining how to submit.  Tell us what strategies and tactics you have discovered, your good and bad experiences with email and how successful your program is (or isn’t). We look forward to hearing from you!

    In email marketing solidarity,

    Jennifer Cannon

  • 24 Aug 2020 12:00 PM | Jennifer Cannon

    When we launched Women of Email in June 2016, we sought to bring women in our industry more visibility and opportunities in our beloved niche. We were tired of looking around at conferences and not seeing many women on stage even though industry research showed that our industry has an equal gender makeup. We got to work and we’ve largely addressed the conference issue in our four years with nearly every industry conference having gender parity and normalizing more women on stage.

    We’ve done other work too. We’ve mentored countless women, helped members get the raises and promotions they deserve through transparency on compensation and job specs. We’ve connected members via meetups all over the world and now regularly online, and we’ve been a powerful connector to women that needed to feel like they weren’t alone in issues that uniquely affect us. We did this while growing our association organically to more than 4,700 members on six continents. We’ve made progress happen and we’re really proud of that. 

    As a volunteer-only non-profit association, this was built on the hard work of the board and volunteers treating this as their side hustle with passion and fulfillment as payment. We’re excited today to announce the launch of the Women of Email blog to provide another outlet for members to showcase their work and to give them more visibility. Words are powerful and we’re thrilled that our members will now be able to use words to help our industry become better and smarter. We’re not just going to focus on email as a craft either. 

    We plan to use this medium to highlight where there’s still work to be done in our industry to achieve equality and fairness--not just for women overall, but also intersectional feminism through minorities, disabled, LGBTQ and other marginalized groups. We are excited to be an even stronger voice in our industry through launching this blog. 

    We couldn’t do this without the help of a member that will be dedicating her time to helping make this initiative a success. We are proud to announce our new Editor-in-Chief, Jennifer Cannon. Jennifer is an industry veteran with stints at Microsoft, Boston Bruins, and Salesforce, and most recently worked as a senior editor at Marketing Land and Martech Today. Her dual expertise as both an email geek and editor means we will be bringing you rich content that will help shape the narrative in our industry. We are so grateful to Jennifer for joining the Women of Email team and helping us grow even more through content. We truly could not have done this without her.

    We still have work to do and we’re steadily working hard to bring more of our vision to life this year. We have some other exciting announcements coming soon and can’t wait to share all the good news here with you. 

    Cheers from the Women of Email Board,

    Jen Capstraw
    April Mullen
    Kristin Bond
    Laura Atkins
    Aysha Zouain
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