OPINION: How to overcome email fatigue and boost engagement

Sam Wright

Sam Wright is Head of Media Planning at marketing data and insight company REaD Group. In this piece she discusses how financial service providers can use email marketing to engage their customers and prospects.


The past year has placed huge limitations on organisations’ abilities to communicate with their customers and prospects. Channels such as face-to-face marketing, outdoor advertising and event-based marketing all but stopped, with many organisations instead having to upweight marketing spend in both digital and traditional channels in order to reach the consumer at home.

This has presented increased opportunities: a captive audience who may arguably have more time to absorb messaging and engage with a brand. But it has also resulted in some new challenges: the need to improve technologies to cope with increased demand, as well as decreased share of voice as online marketing became an increasingly competitive environment.


Engagement is key

Gone are the days when mass market email campaigns provide acceptable levels of return on investment; consumer awareness has increased significantly, and they now expect brands to offer relevancy in their marketing content, rewarding the consumer’s brand loyalty.  It’s all too easy for the recipient to opt out of future communications, so content must be content is engaging, offering the recipient a compelling reason to firstly open, but then crucially, absorb the content.

One of the most common mistakes that businesses make is ignoring the range of analytics available to them when conducting email campaigns, and then using these learnings to improve their ongoing communications.  It is possible to see which pages are viewed, the dwell time on that page, the type of device that they are using to view the site, core demographics of the user as well as a whole host of other useful metrics, enabling them to effectively analyse the whole customer journey, from the page where the visitor enters the website to where he or she exits.

Applying these learnings in order to customise the targeting of different consumer groups is relatively simple, but is still ignored by many.  Tailoring the messaging or the content shown to a consumer using their previous history with your brand will automatically uplift your conversion statistics, and at the very least, improve engagement with your audience.

Another common error made by brands is creating content based on their own views of what consumers want, rather than using the wealth of analytics mentioned above, or obtaining customer feedback in order to deliver more relevant content to their customer subgroups.  The success of a brand is dependent upon the engagement of, and usually sales by, their consumers.  To ignore wider customer opinion, engagement and transactional data available is to alienate your customer and risk opt outs.

So, how to better engage with your audience?  Deploy a marketing strategy that is consumer-centric, using all available analytics, and segment your audience to improve relevancy.

Below are some of the key areas to consider when trying to improve customer engagement:


  1. Educate the consumer – either about your brand or themselves

The customer may have signed up to receive a discount, free gift or a free template for example. Once they’ve signed up to receive email communications from you, the skill is in retaining these customers so try to ensure that each communication offers the consumer something of use to them – such as a weekly tracker on their spending.

  1. Personalisation is the key to improving targeting

That’s not just adding their name in the subject line. Encourage the customer to provide feedback on their interests by answering a short survey on what they’re interested in from your brand or use the suite of analytics tools at your disposal to build up a picture of your customer groups; these can then be segmented to provide more tailored communications based on the information you’ve learned.

  1. Make your emails interactive

There are a number of studies which have shown that adding gifs to your email marketing can improve open, response and conversion rates.  Animation draws the eye to the content, makes it more interesting and less like a ‘work’ email, and can even uplift the mood of the recipient if applied intelligently.

  1. Use the ‘power of the people’ to your advantage

Consumers will often use product reviews, consult their friends/family/colleagues or use social media to see what is being said about a brand or a particular product/service that they’re interested in.  For brands with positive reviews on sites such as Trustpilot, or who have conducted large-scale consumer feedback surveys (with positive results) or for those with a large volume of ‘followers’ or buyers on social media, quoting some affirming statistics to support your cause can help to elicit positive interactions from your audience, whilst building trust and loyalty in the brand.

  1. Cleanse your email database

Not only is it a requirement under Article 5 of the GDPR to keep your data accurate and up-to-date, but it can also help to:

  • Protect your deliverability reputation
  • Avoid spam filters
  • Increase the accuracy of your data by only contacting individuals who are at the correct address and whose engagement is relevant.
  1. Subject line and A/B testing

Whilst this is standard practice for most brands, as well as testing different subject lines, brands can test different layouts or emphasis/colour of the call-to-action buttons.

  1. Device type

This is crucial, and many Email Service Providers (ESPs) collect this information.  It can be used to assist in the design of the email template to ensure it is optimised for mobile viewing, and brands can also split their audience by Apple vs Android etc. allowing for different messaging depending on device type.

  1. Show/Hide content rules

These can really help brands personalise their customer marketing: the hero image or other blocks of content can be changed depending on the product type or service that a customer has made with the brand.

  1. ESP integration

Some ESPs can integrate with the brand’s website, collecting information about the consumer’s interests, and use this information to send a specific offer or invitation.

  1. Multi-channel communication

Don’t rely on email only; results often show that a combination of email vs SMS vs Direct Mail can uplift overall customer engagement.


Approaching prospects

While the above largely addresses customer communications, email marketing is also hugely important to acquiring new customers.  Under GDPR and PECR, email marketing to a cold audience is permissible as long as the data has been captured correctly, and all email addresses have been collected under the legal basis of consent.

With acquisition marketing, a brand won’t have the same level of behavioural or demographic information for prospective customers.  Therefore, it’s essential to use a respected, compliant data provider, who will hold greater levels of information on individuals.  The data provider should work with the brand to deliver a highly-targeted email acquisition campaign, using a considerate test-and-learn approach.

In summary, lack of customer engagement can happen for a number of reasons, and a brand may never know exactly why, but by understanding the engagement metrics from the outset, brands have the opportunity to improve, developing a re-engagement strategy and building increased consumer trust and brand loyalty.

Ultimately, armed with this knowledge, brands are several steps closer to delivering more relevant, timely and engaging content to their customers.

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