From personalisation to mobile-first design, Think email consultant Adeola Sole explains how membership organisations can unlock the power of email.
Email is a highly powerful channel. It enables organisations to provide members with content that’s relevant, timely and tailored to individual needs.
Yet despite its ubiquity, email is often underestimated and underutilised as a channel, and it’s only in the last two years that marketers have begun to see its potential. We all crave a highly personalised experience and when used well email can deliver just that.
Marketing emails sent during the pandemic increased both in volume and conversion rate. According to email and SMS marketing platform Omnisend, email promotional campaign conversions were up 14% year-on-year in 2021. Now, email is becoming an integral part of content marketing strategies for many membership bodies. In our Re:member 2023 research, 34% of professional bodies reported an increase in the level of engagement on email across the last 12 months, with 39% of consumer bodies reporting the same. Clearly, it’s a key acquisition and retention tool.
But how can your emails be made even more effective? We asked Adeola Sole – Think’s email consultant and all-round eCRM strategy and customer-journey expert – to take us through seven strategies that can help membership organisations unlock higher email conversion rates.
For many organisations, email is a one-size-fits-all channel. However, this approach misses the opportunity to engage members with content tailored to their personal membership journey.
Emails are always more impactful when the content reflects the unique needs and preferences of the recipient. Make sure you spend time understanding the options that your data gives you for personalisation. Get to know the different segments of your audiences, and how active and engaged they are.
Once you have got to grips with the nuances of your database and member behaviour, you can develop email strategies that effectively target your key membership segments. For example, if you have high numbers of members with low or moderate levels of engagement, you could focus on bespoke methods of reactivation. You could offer incentives, interact in a more personalised way using content, or use more emotive wording within your emails.
Companies such as Amazon and Booking.com do this incredibly effectively, using automated triggers to send the right messages at the right time and learn about individual customers through their interaction with email.
By increasing email personalisation, you will probably find that you send fewer individual emails but that your engagement rates will increase.
Content is king
Despite its importance, the content part of email marketing often gets overlooked. Yet without the right content, your subscribers won’t click through to your website (which is usually the desired action).
If you start from the point of view that no one has time to read what you have to say, it will make you challenge every message before it becomes an email.
To ensure you’re delivering the most appropriate content, it’s important to perform A/B split testing – for example, testing different subject lines, body copy, personalisation points, calls to action (CTA) and imagery. You could also test the use of emotive content against a more standard approach.
Testing will help you understand what kind of content motivates your members to act, whether that’s clicking through to sign up for an event, reading an article or participating in a survey. Once you know more about your audiences, you can implement your learnings on subsequent campaigns and make more effective use of automation by applying your findings here, too.
Design for mobile
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of UK buyers shop using their smartphone, according to data portal Statista. So, it’s essential that email newsletter templates are mobile-friendly, with readable fonts and content that stacks correctly.
Templates should also be responsive – meaning they should change depending on what size screen they are viewed on – and use web-friendly prompts, such as cleverly designed CTA buttons that work cross-device, instead of more difficult to read hyperlinked CTAs. Always think about the user experience and the ease you want to create for your subscribers when designing for mobile.
Automation enables brands to create highly personalised emails that reach the right subscribers, with the right message, at the right time. But the technique is currently underused, undervalued and underrepresented. According to Omnisend, automated messages generated 30% of all email marketing orders in 2021, but accounted for just 2.2% of email sends. That alone should illustrate how important it is to include automation within your marketing strategy.
When implementing automation, don’t simply set up your campaigns and then ignore them. Use A/B split testing to continuously interrogate your automated campaigns. For example, if you have a welcome journey and you want to test specific imagery or content, have a split stream for that. The idea is to test all your automated campaigns to see which winning combinations drive the highest conversion rates.
Artificial intelligence (AI) tools can help you improve email open and conversion rates. They can, for example, enable hyper-personalisation by creating emails that are innately tailored to the personal preferences of subscribers. They can also analyse which combination of words in a subject line drives the highest amount of opens.
As AI can predict subscribers’ behaviour by looking at previous actions and patterns, it can also make valuable recommendations for cross-selling and upselling to certain segments. AI enables marketers to engage with subscribers in a more holistic way, creating new opportunities for them to buy by focusing on their behaviour, intent and propensity to convert to another product or service.
Dark mode is a setting for devices that uses light-coloured text and graphics set against a dark background. Dark mode reduces eye strain and exposure to blue light while helping to save the battery life of devices.
A poll conducted by online publication Android Authority found that 81.9% of its readers use dark mode on their phones, in apps, and wherever it’s available. Already, many brands are designing emails that work in dark mode as well as in normal view, and this will continue to be a major customer experience trend going forward.
Keep it clean
Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), you are able to process subscribers’ personal data on the basis of ‘legitimate interests’. Membership organisations, in particular, have an opportunity to communicate information to subscribers who may not have technically signed up to receive said information in the first place. For example, subscribers may have signed up to receive a newsletter, but you could also provide them with content relating to events or continuing professional development.
If you have a legal department or external legal advisers, it is worth having a conversation with them to explore what ‘legitimate interests’ could reasonably cover in the context of your own organisation.
You should also be aware that it is considered best practice to not contact any subscriber that has been disengaged for 24 months or more. Practising good list hygiene is important not only from a GDPR perspective, but also to maintain good deliverability and sender reputation.
Email is a top performer in the marketing mix. Not only does it give membership organisations the opportunity to speak to members in a personal way, but it also helps teams learn more about their members. So, take a step back, look at the data and perform a health check to benchmark your current emails and determine how you can make them more effective.
Remember that one size doesn’t fit all. You are likely to need different email newsletter templates for different subscriber segments, depending on their personal preferences and where they are on their customer journey.
To realise the full benefits of email marketing, it’s important to be consistent. If you say you’re going to send out an email newsletter once a week, then do that. Don’t start with good intentions and then let the frequency dwindle.
If you apply the seven strategies outlined above, you’ll be well on your way towards building a strong, long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with your subscribers. Now that’s a great result.
Or, if you want to check how well your emails are performing, book a health check with us by sending us an email.
Adeola Sole is an email and data expert having worked on digital marketing programmes for The Guardian, Eurostar, Pandora, Samsung and fashion retailer All Saints. At Think, Adeola has undertaken email projects for the National Trust for Scotland, Petplan, Forestry England and British Gymnastics, among others.