Monthly Archives: January 2009

Email Testing..Testing..Testing..

At a time that Retailers are falling around us I found myself surprised to see that the (apparently) very successful Canadian Tire Company has announced that due to its website not converting browsers (or ‘researchers’ as Canadian Tire called them) the online channel will close.

I am sure that they have looked very long and hard at their business model, including looking which channels bring in the most revenue, but I am absolutely astonished that the channel they have chosen to close is the one that most other businesses find the cheapest to manage for both acquisition & retention.

In addition to this announcement, I learn in the same week that Lycos is shutting down its web-hosting & email service, as they couldn’t find a buyer.

When you hear stories like this you realise how important it is to use the tools at your disposal to their best (most effective & efficient) advantage (whilst of course thanking your luck stars that you are still in paid work).

It is so important to keep re-addressing what you are doing:

Is it still working?

Should I be doing something different?

Am I getting the best value for my money? Etc, etc.

The answer of course (to almost everything) is to test, then test some more, then continue testing…Take marketing emails for example; when sending an email, regardless of whether it is a ‘batch’ email or a targeted email – of course we all know that targeted is the only way forward; you not only have to test varying content but also such things as the subject & from line.

Your email database can be segmented into various profiles such as frequency & recency of purchase, value of previous purchases, demographic & geographic data, clickstream data (from emails already received & from website behaviour) etc. Based on this segmentation you can use varying content according to preferences & profiles. You can then test these varying content on a ‘small’ group per segment (the size of this ‘small’ group is dependent on the size of your database) before sending the email containing the most frequently clicked (& converted) content to the remainder.

Prior to send however it is important to test the subject line (if you do this as part of your initial test you will have impacted the results, which will more or less render your initial test useless), each test needs to be done in isolation from all other tests. You can test any number of subject lines of varying lengths – do not be tempted to believe the articles that state that ‘the shorter the subject line the better’, as other articles state the opposite. The right subject line is the best one at that time for the recipients (which must be relevant to the content to remain a trusted company), which means that you need to test subject lines for every email send.

You must also decide what personalisation you wish to use – should you use the customers’ name in the subject line? Should you use it in the copy? Should you use First Name or should you use Title – Surname? You will only know the answer to this if you test. This test however will not need to be repeated per email send, but it will need to be repeated once per email type e.g. Newsletter / Confirmation of subscription / Thank you for your purchase / etc. You cannot however personalise a subscription confirmation this week & not next, but you may find that customers prefer a Thank you for your purchase email personalised & not the newsletter.

You can also test length of email, especially for emails containing mainly products. Is the right length 5 products, 15 products or 40 products? This test does not need to be done per send, but will need to be re-tested periodically.

Other possible tests include frequency of send, making the ‘from’ line personal (the line that details who the email is from in your inbox e.g. ‘from Sally at Email-Is-Us.com’), the volume of images versus text – text is readable in all browsers – images however must be manually downloaded in most browsers & promotional message formats (should you state ‘25% off’ or ‘£60 off’ or even ‘save £60’) etc.

Testing is not done in isolation however; you do not simply test then send. You need to keep testing to ensure that the first result was not a one-off. The sequence is: TEST – ANALYSE – REFINE – ANALYSE – CONTROL. Only then can you be confident that you are maximising the efficiency & effectiveness of your email programme.

Why Should I Trust You?

The New Year has begun, the January sales are under way & I am looking for a new television that will meet all my requirements (including those I don’t yet have) at a fantastic price.

I have looked in a number of stores, consulted a number of guides on “what you should look for when choosing a TV” & now I feel armed with all the knowledge I will need to find the right TV.

I visit a number of sites where the retailer details the specifications of each TV, & there isn’t a single one that meets all the specifications I have decided I want. Each retailer does however tell me why this is the TV I should choose…isn’t it interesting that I can look at a number of TV’s, all the same size, same brand etc, each with different specifications …& each one is ‘perfect’ for my needs.

Bored with reading about why each TV is perfect for me (I don’t have enough rooms in my house to buy all the ‘perfect’ TV’s), I start reading consumer reviews.

Not only do these reviews tell me which TV’s really don’t live up the reputation that the retailers gave them, but they also tell me the stronger & weaker attributes of the TV, enabling me to make a decision based on the specifications that are important to me.

So I wonder ‘Why should I trust you, (the retailer) when you tell me that this is the TV that will fulfil all my needs? It is clear that you simply want my money, yet a consumer who has reviewed a product has (I can only assume) no such vested interest in writing about the product.

If a consumer takes the time to write a review not only has he engaged with the site, but he/she feels passionate enough about the product to help others to make the right decision about whether to purchase the product.

A consumer review fulfils a need we didn’t realise we had – it reaches out to those of us who are ‘humanistic’ & ‘methodical’ shoppers – see personas detailed by Elastic Path http://www.getelastic.com/email-persona-types/ .

We (humanistic & methodical shoppers) want not only to hear what others think of the product prior to making a purchase, but we also want to hear how they used it, what features they found to be strong (& weak) – in fact we really want to read as much as we can about the product, so that we can build a detailed picture of it in our minds, so much so, that we feel completely familiar with the product before we have even purchased it – let alone set it up in the living room & plugged it in.

So how can the retailer maximise on the benefits of consumer reviews?

Reviews can be published not only on the website – product pages, landing pages & home page; but on all marketing material such as flyers, catalogues & emails, in-store point of sale materials, invoices, receipts etc.

In limiting the publication of reviews to online only, the retailer is limiting the potential that they can provide – there is nobody who can better increase sales than consumers, they speak on the same level as the person reading the review (consumer to consumer).

Consumer reviews can increase online conversion by over 30%, so why publish them only online? Even ‘negative’ consumer reviews can increase conversion, so there is no reason for any reputable retailer to be concerned about offering a tool that can result in a few ‘less than optimum’ reviews.

Trust cannot be under-estimated in the current economic climate.

In offering a tool to consumers that encourages them to be honest about the products they purchase from you, you are building trust in your brand; showing that you have nothing to hide. Isn’t that the type of retailer you would choose to return to time after time?…….