During our recent Email Benchmark and Engagement Study Deep Dive webcast, our experts Tom Emilio, Warren Duff, and host Julie Griffin took questions from the attendees about everything from findings in the Study’s data to best practice tips. Our attendees asked some great questions, so we’ve collected all of our experts’ answers for you to check out in a new medium. Enjoy!
What data surprised Twilio SendGrid in this year’s Benchmark Study?
It was interesting to observe how in-tune people are with what they think emails should and shouldn’t look like. Because of the vast accessibility of email, we weren’t necessarily surprised by this, but it was good to hear that some of our tried-and-true strategies continue to be effective.
It was interesting that aggregate open rates dipped unexpectedly. This decrease comes at a time when senders are actually starting to hone in on deliverability, segmentation, and engagement; while this data surprised us, it’s useful information moving forward.
The study discusses the importance of using images to balance the amount of text in your emails. Why should plain text emails be used sparingly/only for specific purposes?
Usually, plain text emails are effective for transactional purposes as well as communication within the B2B world. However, for the purposes of marketing and B2C communications, plain text emails are not very effective because they don’t help to establish a brand’s reputation and can be confusing for recipients. Used in the wrong circumstance, a plain text email could do more harm than good.
When a recipient opens an email, they are likely expecting more than plain text. Likely, they are at least looking for a hero image and an additional image or two in the body of the email relating to the content. When recipients open a plain text email, it can be jarring or unsettling and cause doubt in the mind of the recipient about the content or sender.
Remember that marketing and B2C emails should motivate your recipients to engage with the content in your messages. Creating a visual component to your email is important because it makes the content feel more interactive. Without visual elements that prompt the recipient to read on or respond to a call to action, your engagement and open rates could drop.
I’m seeing a sudden decline in the deliverability of my email program, but I haven’t changed anything. How can I increase my deliverability?
This is the million-dollar question. If you haven’t changed anything within your email marketing program (e.g., targeting, different opt-in sources, etc.), that might actually be the problem itself. Email strategy is not a one-and-done marketing opportunity, it is a process that changes and must be updated and adapted based on your recipients’ engagement.
What has worked previously, whether for the past three months or the past year, may not work tomorrow. The important thing to remember is to watch your engagement. Those metrics are your data points, and they can tell you where to improve.
Is it a good idea to send a follow-up email to encourage former subscribers to complete a survey detailing their experience with a subscription service (what they liked, what they didn’t, why they canceled, etc.)?
Sending follow-up messages to unsubscribers can be effective. However, as discussed in the study, people across all age groups and locations prefer to provide their email preferences at the point of opt-in than any other time. Rather than providing a post-unsubscribe survey or questionnaire, consider asking people for their preferences upfront to avoid some of those unsubscribes later.
Once people reach the point of wanting to unsubscribe, it’s difficult to reel them back in by offering them a choice of when to receive emails. When people get tired of or frustrated with your messages, it’s best to just let them go. Providing a final survey doesn’t hurt so long as you’re still removing them from the recipient list.
Is it better to use a brand name as the sender or to use a “regular person” name as the sender?
This really depends on your specific brand. If you choose to go with a person’s name, there are a few questions you’ll need to ask yourself as the sender.
Will your audience and recipients know who that person is? Is using the brand name more recognizable and effective?
Depending on your brand’s audience, this answer can vary.
You can, however, have fun with your “from” addresses. At Twilio SendGrid, we use “SendGrid Sales Team,” “SendGrid Support Team,” and many other aliases, but they are all associated with the Twilio SendGrid brand. In doing so, our recipients know immediately who is sending the message. This prevents confusion that can lead to unopened emails and spam complaints.
What do you think about using attachments to provide receipts for transactions?
Though we did not research the use of attachments as transactional receipts in this Study, providing receipts as attachments can be valuable. To know the actual value of utilizing attachments within your brand’s strategy, you’ll have to test it with your recipients.
However, using attachments could put your email at risk for getting caught in the spam filters of some filtering companies and inbox providers. To counter this, you can instead use links that direct customers to a document stored in the cloud that they can then download themselves. Providing a login to a landing page where they can retrieve the document can also be effective.
Do you have any data or updates on AMP for email usage and engagement?
We don’t have much data around AMP and all of its potential applications yet, and it was not included in this Study. Although a lot of marketers have been playing with AMP while it’s still in beta, we don’t know yet how influential AMP will be. We look forward to learning more as we experiment with it ourselves!
In the future, AMP is something we are looking to support. Currently, the Twilio SendGrid platform provides step by step instructions on how to use AMP, from signing up with email and choosing which email to use, to best practices for tracking your metrics.
How do you feel about wordplay and is it effective?
Depending on your industry, clever language and wordplay might be very effective with your audience, like social media and e-commerce. However, if you’re working for a financial institution, crafty language may not be appropriate or have the desired effect. When it comes to subject lines, preview text, or preheaders, wordplay can be effective and align with your campaign. Used together, these elements can create a story that compels readers to click.
An important consideration with wordplay is understanding your position as a sender, what your message is, and who will receive it. There is a time and place for wordplay, so knowing your intent and your audience are the big keys here.
Is creating different “from” email addresses based on the types of emails sent (e.g. promotional, transactional, operational, etc.) effective?
Creating different emails based on the types of content sent from each (or segmentation) is incredibly effective.
Deliverability expert Tom Emilio spoke about the importance of segmentation at length:
“Segmentation is absolutely key… For transactional [emails], you should have a subdomain of your level domain to send transactional mail along with reserved, dedicated IP addresses that only send transactional messages on that subdomain IP there,” said Emilio.
“And the same can be said about promotional. You don’t want to mix the two necessarily on the same IP addresses and subdomains because you don’t want to see your receipts, or order confirmations somehow ending up in the promotions folder when they traditionally would be in say the updates folder, if we’re talking about Gmail. So that segmentation is absolutely key. I would encourage everybody to at least have a promotional and transactional segmentation strategy and you might find some other areas of segmentation based on how your program works.”
The 2019 Email Benchmark and Engagement Study explores these findings and more at length. To get an overview of the main findings, check out the Email Benchmark and Engagement Study Deep Dive webcast.