How content quality and mobile use impact email open rates [interview]

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It’s becoming clear that quality and speed are at the helm of content marketing. This is because Google is developing sophisticated algorithms that are better at detecting whether sites are […]

It’s becoming clear that quality and speed are at the helm of content marketing. This is because Google is developing sophisticated algorithms that are better at detecting whether sites are publishing great content, or if they’re creating news and blog articles solely for the sake of SEO. And mobile device adoption is changing the way consumers interact with digital content. When reading on the go, the faster the better.

The point is that all brand messaging is being scrutinized with new standards. Brands that can tailor their collateral accordingly will leave their competitors in the dust. Brafton recently caught up with Dave Hendricks, COO of LiveIntent, who offered his insights into the email marketing game right now and what will matter in the future.

 Q: How has email marketing evolved and where does content marketing come into play?

Today, everybody is a publisher. If you’re a brand, you’re a publisher. If you’re a retailer, you’re a publisher. And content covers a lot of territory. It can be a tweet, a post on Facebook or Linkedin, an email newsletter, blog, website post or even a comment on Diqus.

You’re not existing in the same landscape that you were 10 or 15 years ago. You need to get the best content out there, whether it’s for your personal or business brand.

Q: Which content type is more effective: news or evergreen? 

You need to send out content that matches up with audience’s expectations. It’s not either, or. It’s how you mix it up so that it will surprise, delight and engage your readership. You can’t choose between two poles.

Q: Where does promotional content fit in the fold?

Always think about your audience. You can talk about yourself for a little while, but listeners will get tired unless you ask them questions and integrate them into the conversations. They will get bored if the content doesn’t apply to them, if it doesn’t look custom, or if it’s old.

 You can talk about yourself for a little while, but listeners will get tired unless you ask them questions and integrate them into the conversations.

Q. How do the Gmail tabs that section off promotional content impact open rates?

People think of Google as search, and Gmail has turned email into a kind of sponsored search. 

Now what they’ve done is created something that works for both parties – made opens much more valuable for retailers. When recipients click on the Promotions tab, they’ve already clicked an extra time to get into the message – which shows much more intent about what they’re going to do.

Of course, better content has an impact on open rates. Google does scan for engagement. If the content isn’t good, those messages might not even make it into the promotional tab.

Q: What does mobile mean for email marketers?

When we first launched this product, mobile open rates were in the 10 to 12 percent open range. Now it’s in the 40 percent range. And the use of mobile devices provides new information. For example, people click more on iPhones and iPads than they do on Internet Explorer, etc.

 If you notice that someone opens an email on an Apple device, you know to show apps for iOS devices. This additional context comes in many forms. One of the contextual things about mobile is that you don’t have a full keyboard. You need to provide viewers with direct conversion pathways because they may not have a lot of time to read.

It’s a highly engaged experience and you must match the content (ad) with audience. Someone in New York City on an iPhone will expect different results than someone in San Francisco on Internet Explorer. We’re going to be looking at some of that stuff as we plan for the future.

Q: How do you respond to the idea that the value of email is declining?

Our business is about targeting email and email is growing dramatically.

Email applications are No.1 on desktop consumers and smartphones. More importantly, spam has largely been eliminated through technology, so people aren’t receiving emails that aren’t targeted to them or intended for them anymore.

We just care about what people open. People love getting mail. It gives them a serotonin rush. They get bored and they check their messages.

It’s estimated that people receive 14 commercial messages per day per account. Somewhere in the order of 7 billion messages per day are sent in the U.S. alone.

Q: Where do you think email marketing will go in the future?

Have you noticed that every single thing you do requires an email address or username to login to?  What’s happening is all these publishers are starting to build ad exchanges behind login walls. It’s the biggest thing to happen in advertising and ad tech. It’s about the email address, which is an improvement to the cookie because you’re advertising to known audiences.

More data must mean more personalization

We’re living in an era defined by data, and smart marketers will tap into information about their content to advise their strategies in regard to email and beyond. You must be tracking open rates, measuring engagement and learning about your readers to continuously refine content to stay ahead of the curve.

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Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.
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