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According to a recent EMarketer report, nearly 79% of Internet Retailers had a Facebook profile, followed by 69% on Twitter and 59% using both.
The report goes on to add that fewer than half of these retailers promoted their involvement in the social media sites in their e-newsletters and only 30% mentioned it on their websites?
What’s going on here?
I’m going to take a guess and say that online retailers are extremely nervous that they’ll be taken seriously if their profiles or fan pages are mixed in with some of the trash we all inevitably find on Facebook. Perhaps another reason has to do with being nervous to promote a low follower count?
Repeat after me: It’s Okay. You won’t know unless you try.
I think most e-commerce retailers are nervous that they’ll be met with unfavorable results if they put themselves out there. Need I remind you that you probably had the same doubts when you launched your site?
There are more people using Facebook and Twitter these days than we know what to do with. Social Media can be viral — in a good way &mmdash; you just need to promote it.
If you’re not sure how to promote your Facebook or Twitter presence all you need at first is a link in your electronic mailings. You can graduate up to widgets and graphics if you feel comfortable. The trick is to get yourself out there!
A staple in any customer retention program is the ability to write emails that strengthen relationships, get responses, and persuade action. Not enough attention is often paid to this critical component of building a business (and when attention is given to it, I too frequently see it performed incorrectly.) As such I am going to cover a number of topics spread over a series of articles that will help you develop more effective email follow-up campaigns.
The first thing you have to do in building an effective email follow-up program is to determine your desired outcome of each email (you can’t build an effective email if you don’t know what you want to achieve from it.)
Depending on your desired outcome a response could be any number of things. Overall though, emails have three primary roles.
Build Relationships: All email programs should build a stronger relationship with your customer and seek to enhance your brand in their eyes.
Get Responses: Example- respond to surveys, questions, feedback, etc…
Persuade Action: Example- clicking a link in the email.
No matter your intention, an email should aim for the following actions at a minimum and in the following order:
Get attention (interest)
Get the open
Get the action (response, click, etc…)
In other words, the job of an email is to first get the attention of the recipient, second to persuade them to open the email, then finally get them to act upon something in the email by clicking (typically back to your site.)
It goes without saying you can’t get the open if you don’t get their attention and you can’t get the click if you don’t get them to open it.
Now, having said that, how to you maximize the opportunity for achieving the three desired actions above (interest, open, action?)
To do this you need to understand that there are 4 basic components which all emails are made up of.
The 4 Components Present in Effective Emails
Email Content (body)
Call to Action
Of course every email should have an opt out option etc… but that is for another article and I will not go into detail on it here.
To achieve the first two actions (i.e. interest, open) you must develop an effective subject line. Make it short, sweet, and intriguing. Let’s say you are running a limited time fall promotion for some product you sell.
The Subject Line
A good subject line might be:
Get 50% Off. 5 Days Only. Details Inside …
A less powerful subject line might be:
Fall Into Savings for a Limited Time!
The first subject line clearly states the offer and then ends with a subtle call to action (details inside) followed by an ellipsis (or hellip)—An ellipsis is a three-dot symbol used to show an incomplete statement. Ellipses are used in on-screen menus to convey that there is more to come. (…)
The From Line
The from line should be the name of your business or website to be most effective. Why? It is your business or website that they are transacting with and using it in the “from” line will help trigger brand awareness which will answer at least one major question they will ask when they receive the email—”who sent me this email?”
The answer to that question combined with the subject line easily tells them what the offer is and who it is from. They need to know this so trust is built and any hesitation to open the email based on security is removed from the equation.
Ok, you have now accomplished the first objective and let’s say the open the email. What next?
Well you now need to make sure at least two basic things are present to get the next action (which is the click in our example.)
Your email body (the text, images etc…) needs to reinforce the offer and provide details on it. Don’t go into your whole life story and write a book here. Keep it simple, state the benefits to the customer, stick to the facts, and then provide a call to action (or two).
Remember, people are overwhelmed by emails and they aren’t going to spend a ton of time reading so get to the point and make it compelling. Give them a reason to take action and then most importantly, ask for the action! It does you no good to develop a super email, get it opened, and forget to give them ways to perform the final action.
Many people just need a good prompt to get it done and this is what is referred to as the “call to action”.
The Call to Action
Calls to action ask the reader to do something. They are things like “Shop Now!”, “Learn More”, “Click for Details”, “Go Shopping”, “Add to Cart”, etc…
Provide your reader with a number of ways to get back to your site including hyperlinks to your domain, to the product(s) you are promoting, and a few good “calls to action” like listed here.
The call to action should also reflect what your intention is for them. If you want them to “Start Shopping” then tell them that. If you want them to “Complete the Survey” then tell them that. Don’t assume they will do it just because you present it to them—ask them to do it.
Those are the basic components of what makeup all emails and how you can use them to develop an effective email that get the three desired actions completed—Get Interest, Get Opened, Get the Action.
I’ll be going into more details you should consider for developing effective email follow-up campaigns in upcoming articles. This is a good place to start.
It’s been a busy few weeks of continued testing and experimenting to discover some of the most reliable methods ecommerce store owners can use to increase sales. I’m back and ready to show more of what I’ve uncovered.
Retaining Current Customers
Building an online business involves many elements, one of which is a solid customer retention strategy. Keeping your current customers coming back for more while adding new customers is one key element that will help build a healthy and sustainable shop.
It order to retain current customers, you need to stay in contact with them. But when is the best time to contact them in order to gain maximum response?
Much of this is determined by the market you are targeting. For example, if you are selling a product that is targeted more toward stay at home mothers, you may find that your emails are more effective when sent during the evening hours (after the kids are in bed and they have time to themselves.) As another example, if you are offering a product that is targeted toward business owners, it may be best to send these follow-ups during normal business hours (knowing this is when they are more likely to be in front of their computers.)
The two examples above are for illustration only and are not intended to be taken as “tested fact”. They are to get you thinking about your target audience and how understanding their lifestyle can determine when they are likely to be listening.
Finding the exact time period, as in the day of the week and hour(s) that are most effective, can involve some clever thinking but fortunately there are some objective reporting methods you can use to get you real close on your very first attempt.
Google Analytics to the Rescue
One way to zero in on the day(s) and times you should be testing is to turn to Google Analytics reporting.
You will be able to get an good estimate of the number of unique visitors that are coming to your site on any given day by going to the Absolute Unique Visitors report. The image to the left shows where in your navigation that report is found.
Once there, make sure you select a nice sample size (say the last 6 months) as a range for analysis. This will provide you with a decent trend report. Once you have that in place, select to “Graph by Day” found in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Selecting that link will report the figures on a daily basis over the past 6 months.
Now all you have to do is scroll down and make note of those days of the week (as in Sunday thru Monday) in which you receive most of your traffic. Keep these figures aside for reference. The report below shows a sample section for one site. Although you are only seeing a few lines, you’ll want to scroll through your entire report to find the ideal days. This section happens to show a pattern that is consistent throughout the entire 6 month period I analyzed.
Partial report showing visits broken down by day.
Ecommerce Revenue by Day, Hour etc…
Now that you have a general idea on the number of visitors you get on a daily basis during any given week, it’s time to figure out what days and more specifically hours actually generate revenue for you.
To do this you’ll be using another report. The “Total Revenue” report found under the ecommerce section (you must have ecommerce tracking turned on and the tracking code in place on your site for this to provide any data.)
You’ve already selected the time frame for analysis when you generated the first Unique Visitors report in the above step. Now you should have on the screen a report that looks much like Figure 1 below. Once you have that on the screen you will be able to scroll down and take note of the most productive days / hours of the week where your site generates the most revenue. You’ll want to take note of the hour, then switch it to “day” view using the selections in the upper right hand corner of the screen that look like this:
Once you have switched between both views (day vs. hour) and have scrolled through the reports making notes of the most effective days and hours during the week in which you generate revenue, you’ve got everything you need to determine when is in all likely hood the best time to send newsletter or promotional emails to your current customer base.
In the real world example I show here, the ideal time to send out a promotional email for this market would fall on either a Weds. or Thursday of the week with the email arriving in customers in boxes between the hours of 9:00AM and 2:00PM with the preference being around 11:00AM (when most sales are generated.) Anything before or after that time will not yield the maximum results.
Why? Because all the reports confirm and show that the majority of our visitors are most active between these periods. Therefore, we can make an educated guess that we have our audience’s attention most often during those times, and that means they are online … where they need to be to receive your email.
Does it work? You bet it does.
In my testing, I used these reports to test whether sending a promotional email on the days that were most active, during the hours that were most productive would yield the desired results. Indeed it was accurate. In fact, on those days and times I sent an email which fell outside the “target period range”, the effects were far less than desirable. Open rates were lower, click through rates were lower, and sales were off.
However, when I sent the email ensuring it would land in customers in boxes during the specified target hours and days, the results were spectacular. In fact, sales over tripled for the day when the promotional email was sent within the target time frame. This was a consistent increase that happened every time the email was sent during the target time frame. It was not a one time only occurrence.
Using this method of reporting, you can continue to refine this process to get an even tighter time frame by going back to the same reports mentioned above a few days AFTER sending an email and breaking it down by hour for the day the email was sent. This will tell you to the day, the week, and the hour during any given month that is best for contacting your customers.
So if you are sending newsletters or promotional emails without really knowing whether your customers are listening, and furthermore, without knowing whether you have a shot a increase productivity, then you need to stop now. Take the time to gather the proper data and start sending your emails when your customers are active and ready. You’ll thank yourself for the research and your sales should reflect that added time spent.