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Tagged: customer engagement

Email Analytics: Dig Deeper to Uncover Customer Insights

December 7, 2016

email analytics reporting tells you more than just opens and clicks.The line between customer experience management (CEM or CXM) and traditional marketing responsibilities has been blurred, and email is a great example. Email campaigns need not be just about generating business or converting sales. They’re also a useful platform for building and continuing customer relationships. Email analytics tell you a lot about how customers are receiving and reacting to your messages.

Email analytics 101: The basic measures of the success of an email marketing campaign include Opens, Clicks, Bounces, and Unsubscribes. Email marketing software records these types of reader behavior within a customer relationship management (CRM) database. The level of detail of the data collected will vary from provider to provider – for example, what device or operating system your readers are using. From within that CRM tool, you can generate reports and track trends in each rate over time. That said…

Email analytics tell you more about your customers than their email reading habits.

You just have to know where to look.

What links are customers clicking on?

What topics, subjects, or messages are getting the most attention? Where are they positioned within your template design? How were they presented – as text, as images or icons (e.g. a button)? These small but significant factors can all have an impact on engagement.

With this information, you can: tailor the content and/or design of future campaigns to best match your customers’ interests and visual preferences.

Who are your most frequent openers and clickers?

Are they current customers, or prospects? How did they get on your list? Did they sign up voluntarily, or were they added automatically through another process? Pay attention to infrequent engagement, too – whose name is new since last time you sent a campaign? And who never opens or clicks – do they belong on this list, or is their information out of date?

With this information, you can: follow up with more personalized messages targeted at your most engaged subscribers, and make adjustments to your list-building strategy, including cleaning outdated or inactive subscribers.

When are your customers reading and engaging?

Typically, open and click engagement rates spike in the first few hours after a campaign is delivered. Some internet users still jump at every incoming notification or try to keep their inboxes clear of unread messages. But if you are varying your delivery times (as you should be), you may see that timing makes a difference. Review the timestamps on opens and clicks to see when your readers are most likely to open, and whether they click through immediately, or come back to the message later.

With this information, you can: optimize the timing of your regular campaigns for when users are most likely to engage. You may even be surprised by what you find; it may seem counterintuitive to send emails on a Sunday night, but if the analytics support it, go for it!

Was there a sudden spike in a given metric?

Outliers – campaigns that defy your typical averages or medians – are worth your attention. A spike in Opens could indicate that you hit the sweet spot with your subject line. Spikes in Clicks can reveal a hot topic or an effective graphic. A bump in Bounces is a red flag that your list needs some cleaning up, while high Unsubscribes warn that something you did got under your customers’ skin.

With this information, you can: optimize future subject lines and inside content in favor of the tactics that produced the spike – unless you’re talking Unsubscribes – and clean your list so that the next delivery only goes to valid subscribers.

PRO TIP: Some email marketing providers ask Unsubscribers to indicate the reason they’re opting out before their contact information is deactivated. Use this information!

Have you tried an A/B split test?

A split test is a great way to gauge the effectiveness of different email techniques. This involves splitting your list into two (or more) groups, each of which gets a different version of the same message.

With this information, you can: learn which variables – subject lines, template design, inside content, special offers – get your subscribers’ attention, and apply that learning to future campaigns.

PRO TIP: This works best with very large lists; if you have fewer than 500 contacts, it’s harder to get statistically significant results.

Where did customers go after clicking through?

Click-throughs might be the most valuable action a customer can take from an email, but that’s just the start. Ideally, the content they landed on will keep them engaged for a while. After a campaign is delivered, check your website analytics and follow the trail of breadcrumbs. (Again, your mileage will vary depending on the sophistication of your website analytic tools.)  

With this information, you can: make improvements to the landing spots linked to from your emails to pull customers further down the funnel or encourage them to take a desired action.

Bottom line: Email marketing is not a “set it and forget it” endeavor.

There’s a time and a place for automation in your customer communications. But if you are running email campaigns, why not use the email analytics they produce to learn more about your customers?

Data is at the core of CSP’s services, practices, and philosophy. We can’t emphasize this enough: analytics are only as powerful as what you do with them. In this age of Big Data, knowing how to use the infinite information at your fingertips makes all the difference.


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The 4 Pillars of a Customer-Engaging Email Marketing Strategy

November 30, 2016

4 pillars of customer engaging email marketing strategyOf the many communications channels that weave together to form an omnichannel customer experience strategy, email continues to be relevant and valuable. Email marketing isn’t just about marketing; it’s a way of maintaining your customer relationships in between more direct touchpoints, like transactions and customer service calls. Like social media, email reaches people where they already spend time – in their inboxes.

But just like any other tool, it all comes down to how you use it. Email marketing is a blank canvas, and there are many ways to go about creating campaigns that help you meet your goals. These four fundamental practices will create the foundation for engaging customers with email content.

1 – Great engagement comes from great content.

Content is hands-down the most important factor in getting customers to engage. In the email marketing world, “engagement” translates to Opens and Click-throughs. Great content is what compels each behavior, followed by the design and presentation of the content. So if you’re going to have an email marketing campaign in play, build it on a foundation of excellent content.

Content is an umbrella term that describes a variety of media that can populate emails. Blog posts, articles, whitepapers, e-books, infographics, video, audio, Tweets, copy/text, and photos are all different kinds of content at your disposal. And it’s a good idea to use as many as you can, especially those that are visual: content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images [source]. 

2 – Prioritize content that is mobile-friendly.

More and more of the digital world is revolving around mobile devices, and email is no exception. At the time of this writing, two thirds of emails are being opened on mobile devices (emphasis on smartphones), compared to desktop email usage. But on the back end, most email campaigns are being designed and run from desktop computers. Template design, list management, and campaign delivery are all easier to achieve on a full-screen device.

Don’t become mobile-blind. When you’re ready to test an email template, make sure you’re viewing it on a mobile phone as well as your computer. You can recruit others in the office who have different devices (for example, Apple vs. Android operating systems) to make sure your content and template design translates well across platforms. And make sure the content you are linking to from your emails is also mobile-friendly. A sales landing page, a blog post, or a document download have no value to a customer who can’t view them easily and clearly.

3 – Try to balance predictability and surprise with your content.

It’s a good idea to be consistent with your email delivery: consistent timing, consistent quality, and consistent design. Customers should have some idea of what they can expect when a new email from you lands in their inbox. If you create an expectation of content that provides value, not purchase pressure, customers will continue to open your messages and engage with that content. Regular quality content also means they’ll be more accepting of the occasional hard sell or special offer, and not feel they’re being spammed or pressured.

But within this context of consistency, there’s also room to try new things or mix up your approach.

  • Vary your header images. Put unique imagery at the top of each message, along with a compelling headline, to grab customers’ attention.
  • Vary your format. Are you delivering a monthly newsletter featuring several recent blog posts? Next time, try just featuring one meaty, valuable post and letting it be the star of the show. Or try different things with your subject lines, like questions, humor, provocative statements.
  • Vary your timing. If you regularly deliver your campaigns at the same time every week or month, try throwing in a one-time message that lands on a Sunday evening, for example. Ideally this message should look a little different than your usual content (see above). The break in routine can catch the attention of readers who have gotten used to a certain pattern.
4 – Make sure you are complying with spam regulations.

What does this have to do with customer engagement? Well, if you run an email program that isn’t compliant with regulations, you soon won’t have an email program to run. Customers can and do report unwanted, bothersome, or low-value emails as spam. These complaints have weight: email service providers use the reports to hone their spam filtering software. Bad behavior can get you “blacklisted,” and there’s little you can do about that once it happens.

The regulations you need to be familiar with are covered by the federal CAN-SPAM Act, which oversees commercial email communications. Technology makes it very easy, and thus very tempting, to do the exact things that CAN-SPAM prohibits – intentionally or accidentally. However, if you are found to be in violation of these rules, the penalties are hefty: you can be fined per email that you send, so the bigger your list, the more you risk.

 

These tips cover the “Before” and “During” stages of running an email marketing program. The “After” stage – how to make sense of, and make use of, your email marketing analytics – is covered in detail here. Don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter for regular updates, or visit the CSP.com homepage (and scroll down just a little) to sign up for our monthly email newsletter!


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Benefiting from the “Halo Effect” of Corporate Philanthropy

November 22, 2016

The holiday season often puts philanthropy and charity top-of-mind in the public consciousness. People seek ways to give back to the community by giving their time, attention, effort, and financial support to worthwhile causes, in keeping with the spirit of generosity that the holidays inspire. For businesses, corporate giving and other cause-related initiatives are not only good PR, but opportunities to engage the customer and generate positive sentiment to carry on into the New Year.

Consumers Reward Corporate Philanthropy …

corporate philanthropyCharitable activity reaches customers in a way that traditional marketing efforts don’t. When a business or brand publicly engages in something that is not directly self-serving, it gets special attention from current customers, potential customers, and the media.

One example in 2015 is outdoor retailer REI’s announcement that all 143 of its stores will be closed on Black Friday and encouraging people (and paying its employees) to “opt outside” instead. In this case, rather than a charity, the cause is the more abstract idea that quality time outweighs profit, and specifically, that the company is willing to forgo profit to “walk the walk” of its stated mission.

This clearly resonated with consumers: within 24 hours, over half a million people signed on to the #OptOutside sentiment on social media. It seems this sentiment carried over to the following year. In 2016, retailers made headlines for their decision to not be open on Thanksgiving, when just a few years ago, the opposite was true. 

There are plenty of other models for generating goodwill through philanthropy: hosting drives for clothing, toys, books, and food; offering matching contributions to charities; donating a certain percentage of every purchase, or giving customers the option to donate the register; organizing or sponsoring community events in partnership with non-profit organizations; and encouraging employees to give or volunteer. All of these can create a “halo effect” in customers’ eyes.

… But It Has to Be Authentic.

We’ve written before about the importance of authenticity to customers, and if anything, it’s even more critical when engaging in corporate philanthropy. Nothing leaves a bad taste in the mouth like the notion of a business using a cause simply to enhance its own image. You may have heard of pinkwashing, a term used to criticize companies who sell pink merchandise in supposed support of breast cancer awareness, without actually contributing much of value to the organizations doing the work. Because of phenomena like this, consumers have learned to be cynical or suspicious of brands claiming a philanthropic purpose.

So be prepared to have to earn customers’ trust before they’ll take your efforts seriously (and if you don’t, you can expect them to call you out!). Brandon Sawalich, senior vice president at Starkey Hearing Technologies, offered these five tips for engaging customers in philanthropy in an article for the Business Journals:

  1. Lead by example, with buy-in from the top down. Make philanthropy part of the company culture year-round.
  2. Invite customers to participate directly in the program, rather than just informing them of what you’re doing behind the scenes.
  3. Supplement the ‘hard facts’ – statistics, data, and information about your cause – with pictures, videos, and stories that show the difference being made.
  4. Provide tools and materials to help customers spread the word. These days, that might include an online option to alert a customers’ social media network when they make a donation or pledge.
  5. Empower customers to pay it forward, or to bring their own causes, ideas, or special cases to your attention and work together to look for solutions.

Do you have advice of your own to add to the list? Good or bad experiences with corporate philanthropy? Share them in the comments section or Tweet them to us at @csprofiles.

8 Do’s and Don’ts for Engaging with Customers on Social Media

August 2, 2016

Customer service via social media has been a growing trend as more and more businesses realize the power of these platforms. But conducting yourself as a business on social media is far from self-explanatory. Here, we review eight tips for engaging with your customers on social media. 

If you’re a business with a social media presence, you want and expect customers to engage with you online. Nearly three-fourths of the U.S. population had a social media profile in 2015, and that number is expected to grow. Figures like that are telling; social media presents a significant opportunity for interacting with your customers. You can gain meaningful information when they react to what you publish. But, whether you intended it or not, customers also often treat social media profiles as alternative customer service channels.

The twist is, unlike phone calls or visits to your location, customer service interactions on social media can be very public — all eyes are watching. And because certain industries like finance are highly regulated, addressing these comments publicly can be challenging.

Following these do’s and don’ts for using social media to resolve customer inquiries will help you provide excellent social care while building a stronger commitment to your brand.

Infographic Engaging with Customers on Social Media

DO Employ These Strategies When Using Social Media to Resolve Customer Inquiries
  • Do go where your customers are on social media. For many organizations, the heaviest hitters are Facebook and Twitter. But sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn rank higher for certain industries. Make sure you’re concentrating your efforts on the right channel so your engagements are mutually beneficial for you and your customer.
  • Do have a social media policy and ensure the right employees are trained on it. Your policy should outline how your organization will interact over social media, and what employees can and cannot post. Ensure your legal or compliance department weighs in so the policy meets the necessary industry regulations.
  • Do regularly review engagement analytics. Pay close attention to how people respond to your content via comments, shares, and video watch time. Study what’s working well, and what’s not. Understand the issues being raised and use that information to help you identify priorities, plan staffing accordingly, and arrange appropriate resources.
  • Do maintain the same high standards of customer care on social media that you do on other customer service channels. Respond quickly (studies show many social media users expect a response the same day) and clearly. Avoid ambiguous answers. Once a problem is resolved, thank the customer for reaching out.
DON’T Run Into These Social Media Customer Service Pitfalls
  • Don’t run afoul of regulations. Certain industries like banking, where customer accounts contain highly sensitive information, have strict rules for how they communicate with customers online and how information is transmitted when operating digitally.
  • Don’t neglect comments. This leads to high rates of user dissatisfaction. A study by Conversocial showed that 88% of respondents would be less likely to buy from a brand whose social media site contained unanswered customer complaints.
  • Don’t be inconsistent. Ensure your customer addressing you online receives the same resolution for the same question as the customer calling over the phone.
  • Don’t let issues linger too long. If a posted comment leads to a lot of back-and-forth or requires that personal data be shared, take it offline onto another channel, whether that be direct message, live chat, email, or a phone call. The ultimate goal for both you and the customer is a resolution.

Managing social media customer inquiries successfully requires teamwork across a number of disciplines, including marketing, compliance, IT, and customer service. According to Bain & Company, “customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20% to 40% more money with those companies than other customers.” When you consider those figures, it pays to create a cohesive plan for managing your social media comments.


RELATED: How Loyal Are Your Customers?

Customers who engage with companies over social media, reports Bain & Company, “demonstrate a deeper emotional commitment to the companies, granting them an average 33 points higher Net Promoter Score℠, a common measure of customer loyalty.” Read 4 Things a Net Promoter Score Can Do for Your Business.