Last week we spent the day with digital marketing leaders at IBM and various brands to learn about the future of Watson Campaign Automation (WCA) and shifts in the industry. IBM asked us to present email best practices to a diverse crowd of their customers and prospects and we were thrilled to have the chance to share our knowledge. There were several other sessions throughout the day, and I’ll cover my major takeaways here.
1. AI will continue to transform marketing
One of the most interesting features that’s on track to be released to WCA later this year is anomaly detection. The machine will be able to proactively notify you based on deviations it spots from normal behavior in your automated campaigns. For example, you’ll be notified if there’s a surge in clicks and opens, or if there’s a dropoff in the number of welcome messages you’re sending out. No more waiting until the month-end to discover that you’ve had a problem with one of your automated campaigns.
Along the same lines, AI will be able to provide subject line recommendations in WCA later this year. Currently you can use a variety of other tools—like Coscheduler—to pre-test your subject lines before you roll out with your actual test. This type of automated analyzer will be built into the WCA tool so you don’t have to open another tab to do research on what the best subject line or headline is.
AI will also work its magic in detecting contact fatigue, being able to track whether you’re sending too many messages or not enough.
2. Tools for the non-technical person
Email service providers recognize that someone running an email marketing program doesn’t always have the skills to dive straight into the HTML code to start tweaking and modifying templates.
Drag and drop tools for creating simple, flexible, responsive designs are standard in the email industry by now, and IBM was excited to unveil their major improvements in the user experience for creating campaigns. It looks like they’ll have plenty of template options when they launch, and you simply drag and drop images and fill in text boxes with your content.
Words From Our Client
“Thanks to SocioFabrica we were able to improve our dynamic email CTR by 21% and cut process timeline from 2 hours to 3 minutes.”
– Sergey Solorzano, Senior Email Coordinator, Big 5 Sporting Goods
3. Tools for the technical person
Just because there are easy solutions to get your email up and running doesn’t mean that more sophisticated tools aren’t needed. For those with technical chops, utilize efficiencies in creating highly dynamic and personalized campaigns. For example, IBM’s WCA allows you to use relational tables to feed content into a template.
Last year, we worked with Big 5 Sporting Goods to implement relational table data feeding into a responsive email template which allowed them to keep the program running constantly and removed the need for constant updates to the template. They saw an improvement in process time from 2 hours down to 3 minutes, the time it takes to upload a .csv file to the relational table with their content. They also saw a 21% CTR increase on the dynamic version of the email.
4. Don’t forget the basics
Many of the presentations were a great reminder of the basic elements of a successful email marketing campaign, like increasing personalization within the emails based on subscriber preferences. (Reminder: brands that personalize their marketing emails have 27% higher click rates and 11% higher open rates than non-personalized emails.) But the key is to figure out what your customer needs and when they need it, and to do this, you need the right customer data. So a big takeaway is to focus on collecting the right data that helps you meet the needs of your customers. Determine who your target audience is, and who it is not.
5. Purpose creates loyalty
There was a great session that covered the nine trends that are shaping digital marketing, and my favorite was #9: “In the Emotion economy, purpose creates loyalty.” Examples included Nike’s Colin Kaepernick gamble that resulted in a $6 billion stock hike for Nike, Bombas socks which donate a pair for every pair purchased, and Lyft’s carbon neutral rides. According to a 2017 CSR Study from Cone Communications, 87% of U.S. customers will purchase a product because a company advocates an issue they care about and 76% refuse to purchase a company’s product if it supports an issue contrary to their beliefs. So recognize and act on opportunities to express your brand’s mission and values through community involvement and activism.
Those are the highlights from the productive user group. A big thank you to IBM for hosting us in their offices in Orange County. It was a day packed with knowledge sharing and we enjoyed presenting alongside our IBM partners and our Big 5 client. Looking for someone to come and speak to your group about marketing, design, and technology? Hit us up!