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Executive shares why email still matters in a social media world

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In a room packed full of digital marketers, Stefan Tornquist, VP of Research for Econsultancy, asked an interesting question: “Who here would rather have a Facebook Like than an opt-in email address?”

Not a hand went up.

That’s quite a telling revelation, as many in the industry still struggle to find the exact balance for budget when it comes to social media’s impact on sales (and don’t get me started on how many digital experts ponder whether emails is “dead”).

In today’s tactical kick-off session at’s Online Retail Boot Camp on email marketing optimization, Tornquist had literally hundreds of tips on everything from strategy and creation to segmentation and personalization and also metrics, analytics and testing. (Yes, he covered ALL of this in less than an hour and a half.)

Here are the facts (research from Emarketer, 2010):

  • 95% of internet users receive opt-in permission based email
  • 85% of internet users prefer email over offline media to gain info about products of specific interest to them
  • 90% of internet consumers believe that email is the best way for existing suppliers to communicate with them

Point proven: email is still a very important tool.  Here are just a few quick insights from Tornquist that every email marketer should consider.

Automated email is the most powerful tool in an email marketer’s tool belt. Tornquist encouraged the audience to develop a program that allows for matching content with consumer need and preference - and is smart enough to match it over and over again. Most email service providers offer this capability, so be sure to cash in on the functionality. Tornquist also said welcome programs don’t need to be boring, but they do need to be tailored to the customer. Typically, welcome emails have an open rate of 60-70 percent, which makes them a prime opportunity to deliver value.

And don’t forget your loyal customers. “What tools are you giving the repeat customers to help deliver relevant content and relevant products in their inbox?” asked Tornquist. His solution: Offer an email preference center.

Surprise! People don’t read emails. It’s true. People skim emails. Tornquist encouraged easy design fixes like strategic headlines, images, calls to action, and contextual links. Be sure to consider the Outlook preview pane in design, as well.

Did you know that the more columns in an email, the more a reader’s eye will move right? If you want to go deeper into strategic design, Tornquist noted, consider general patterns of eye tracking, which form the letters E, L and F. Your goal should be to have the eye start at the top left, move to the right and be aware of the most products possible in the hopes of responding to one of them. The top left space is precious real estate – what are you doing with it?

Define your ‘excuse to contact.’ Discounts or free shipping offers shouldn’t be the only reason to contact your customers. Your community of subscribers are often “aficionados” of whatever product you're selling. Give them an early glimpse at new products or send emails that are “largely educational with some sales thrown in,” Tornquist recommended.

These are only three of a handful of tips from this morning’s session. If you weren’t able to attend today’s Boot Camp sessions, the full presentations are available for download. Tornquist’s presentation is the perfect rundown for any email marketing team looking for a quick pick-me-up for their current strategy.