When Gmail introduced its promotions tab in 2013 to help consumers keep their inboxes organized, marketers feared that their messages would go unseen. Four years later, the change hasn't impacted the effectiveness of the email channel for reaching and converting Gmail subscribers. In fact, subscribers regardless of ISP are actually looking for marketing emails from their favorite brands.
According to new data from Yes Lifecycle Marketing, new subscribers made up 6 percent of marketers' subscriber base in Q1 2017. That's up 8 percent year-over-year (YoY), 30 percent over the last three years and 17 percent since Q3 2013, right after the Gmail promotions tab was unveiled. These new subscribers are not only joining brand mailing programs but are also opening brand messages: the average open rate is now 16 percent, up 4 percent quarter-over-quarter (QoQ) and 9 percent YoY.
While the number of new email subscribers is growing and so are open rates, email engagement doesn't follow this trend. The average click-to-open (CTO) rate decreased 13 percent YoY and 22 percent over the last two years, indicating that while consumers are eager to open brands' messages, the content within these brand emails isn't compelling enough to drive the same type of growth in engagement.
Gmail's promotions tab certainly hasn't hurt subscriber growth or open rates over the years. But how can marketers keep eager new customers, as well as regulars, engaged beyond the initial open? Here are a few tips that have proven to be effective:
Keep timing top of mind
Brands can combat declining engagement rates by tracking and analyzing email engagement and conversion patterns by day of the week.
In Q1 2017, Yes Lifecycle Marketing's "The New Age of Email Marketing" benchmark report found that weekend emails led the pack in terms of performance. Fridays boasted the highest open rates and CTO rates at 18.2 and 10.8 percent, respectively. Saturday emails garnered the highest conversion rates, with 3.6 percent of all email clicks turning into a purchase. This isn't an anomaly, though: Saturday emails have generated the highest conversions three out of the last four quarters, the only exception being Q4 2016 (largely due to Black Friday and Cyber Monday).
With this data in mind, marketers can capitalize on day of the week trends by sending some of their best-performing campaigns on Fridays and Saturdays. There is no blanket best day of the week to send marketing emails; it is dependent exclusively on a brand's industry, goals, and audience, so analyzing the timing of successful deployments can help brands develop effective strategies and boost engagement and ROI.
Experiment with triggers
Triggered campaigns offer low risk and high reward. Designed to elicit an immediate response, they are informed by specific consumer actions or data points and deployed within a set timeframe. Triggered campaigns include welcome emails, transactional messages like shipping confirmations, lifecycle milestones like birthdays and anniversaries, and even emails that factor in real-time events like weather or sporting events.
Despite the effectiveness of triggered campaigns, a vast majority of marketers aren't taking advantage of them. Triggers made up just under 7 percent of total campaigns marketers sent in Q1, yet they generated almost 5 times the click rate, almost double the open rate and almost triple the CTO rate of business-as-usual communications. Additionally, the average order value for non-triggered retail emails in Q1 was $56.34 compared to $61.54 for triggered ones.
Because they are timely, relevant, informed and actionable, triggered emails drive serious engagement and yield a significant return on investment. While brands should always keep the content that will best resonate with their unique subscriber base top of mind, introducing triggers is befitting for nearly every mailing program.
Email content doesn't have to be (and in most cases, shouldn't be) dry. In general, marketers should be creative with campaigns as long as they are relevant to an audience. Cookie-cutter emails may intrigue customers at first, but they aren't enough to keep them around for the long haul.
To keep content engaging, marketers must consider context. If a consumer lives in the Chicago area, for example, tying local sporting events like Cubs games into content or a list of upcoming summer events in the area will make a reader feel more connected to the brand, and hopefully, more inclined to make a purchase.
All in all, consumers want to see marketing emails from their favorite brands in their crowded promotions tabs, and we can only expect new subscriber numbers to grow. To keep them wanting more, marketers need to go beyond enticing subject lines and ensure that what consumers find after the open is relevant and meaningful to them.
About the Author Ivy Shtereva is the director of marketing for
Yes Lifecycle Marketing, a marketing services provider giving marketers an integrated and optimized approach for delivering relevant messages from a single vendor. The data included in this article can be