In 2012, commercial mail is more mobile and across channels

Opinion Article by Walter Penfold, Managing Director of Prefix Technologies

The first quarter of the year is traditionally when predictions are made that will set the tone for what happens in the remaining quarters.

Often it is a case of self-fulfilling prophecies. In other words, if we believe that social media will increasingly overlap with commercial email in 2012, it has a pretty good chance of happening. This is what worries me about predictions of the world ending in 2012 (I won’t mention the exact date, just in case) but that’s a topic for another opinion article I hope to write the day after (forgive the pun).

OK. Onto bread and butter email marketing matters of the here and now.

Our starting point of what is going to happen in 2012 is basically that last year we started seeing increasing adoption of international best practice combined with impressive local innovation. So we can expect more of the same this year, as South African email marketers continue to mature which, in laymans terms, means they will increasingly get their groove on. Or take their groove to new heights, or whatever.

In 2012, as in any other email marketing year, ensuring that marketing campaigns remain relevant will be critical. And this simply means, in a cluttered marketplace, you had better find new ways to approach consumers in a way that makes them feel like individuals. Consumers are suffering from marketing information overload and extreme ‘Dear Valued Customer’ annoyance. So use email to engage more effectively with consumers in a way that drives conversations, not sales pitches.

Speaking of conversations, more emails will be opened and actually read on mobile devices, thanks to the exponential growth of smartphones and tablets that is sure to take place during 2012. Nielsen has indicated that at least 45% of all mobile web use is for checking email.This is a great opportunity for the mobile marketer with the foresight to design mobile-friendly mail templates.

Now more conversation talk… Cross-channelling will be another 2012 watchword. This just means that deeper integration will take place between email and social media. Yes, social media has been a buzzword in South Africa for years as we looked enviously at the level of social media marketing sophistication overseas – but now we really mean it!

There is a growing base of analytics and an increasing number of tools that are giving marketers greater insight into and control of the cross-channelling process. The low cost of creating a buzz for a product or event via social media platforms makes this a very cost effective option for marketers. Marketerswho work across the various channels effectively will ride the cross-channelling wave.

We will also see more relevant content being driven to a more carefully-segmented customer base. Success will accrue to those who are able to segment their customer lists beyond the more traditional areas (such as geography, industry and company size). It will also come to those who deliver more dynamic content and who focus on issues like sending more emails to the most active subscribers and fewer to those who are less active. Marketers that fail in the segmentation, content and subscriber areas will probably find their messages banished to the ‘trash’folder.

Another key trend will be the growing base of locally relevant email marketing research that will be conducted during 2012. South African marketers are rapidly realising that in today’s world, there is no one-size-fits-all model. If companies aim to succeed in effective customer segmentation and the delivery of genuinely relevant content, they will need the analytics to go with it. We can thus expect a surge in the amount of marketing research being conducted. This is because it will be the foundation on which all other success will be built.

A further trend expected to raise its head in 2012 is that of the growing importance of event messages. These will be mails that are sent due to some form of ‘prompting’ by the customer. This could be something as simple as a ‘welcome’ message to new subscribers or a ‘thank you for shopping with us’ farewell. Alternatively, it could encompass queries, such as that prompted by a customer abandoning a shopping cart. There is little doubt these event messages should form a major part of your email strategy, as they undoubtedly have a much higher open ratio. It has been suggested that they can generate a five times greater return on investment (ROI) than a standard weekly newsletter.

Those marketers that are able to focus their efforts on driving customer-centricity, effective cross-channelling and on data-driven, multi-channel marketing strategies will lead the way during 2012.

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In 2012, commercial mail is more mobile and across channels