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Archive for January, 2010

CupidHolidays are popular for email marketing with Valentine’s Day the second largest retail date in the calendar making it a major marketing coup. I can’t help be cynical that it happens to fall so soon after Christmas, helping boosting revenues after the post-Sales slump.  Email marketers are only just drawing breath from the Christmas rush and January sales campaign activity when it’s time to start dropping the V-day teasers.  The fight is on for Inbox supremacy and the all-important clicks to tempt a purchase, almost as fiercely as in the ramp-up to Christmas.

A conversation amongst friends over dinner recently argued for a boycott of lavish Valentine’s Day presents or trips away.  You’ll be unsurprised to learn it was mainly the blokes who were protesting, ‘surely breakfast in bed is proof enough of my love!?’  but we ladies were concordant with the general sentiment that it’s the thought that counts when expressing love and affection, not the price tag.  Retailers have an even bigger fight on their hands if men are less inclined to throw money at the problem.

 We’re all caught up in the growing national mood of eschewing crass consumerism in favour of spending quality time with friends and loved-ones or giving home-made or ‘meaningful’ gifts.   In one way, this piles on even more pressure for us as consumers to find the perfect ‘thoughtful’ V-day gift, and for marketers they need to be more and more imaginative. 

It’s a bit of a minefield:  men are under a huge amount of pressure to buy the perfect thoughtful, tasteful, romantic gift at the right price-point for their beloved (as a rule of thumb, the more recent the relationship, the more they have to spend); women want to find the perfect understated-yet-cool gift that won’t send him running for the hills; singletons may be ignoring V-day completely or are somewhat embittered by persistent reminders of their single status, so they should be encouraged to treat themselves (saucy underwear, pampering or foodie gifts good here); everyone should be encouraged to remember their mum or sis or best mate, especially if they won’t be spending it with a significant other. And the sentiment behind the campaign must plug into the target group’s mindset – romance, affection, cynicism, self-love or down-right raunchy?

The onus to be romantic is more on men than women. It’s a brave man that really does stick with breakfast in bed, even with posh toast and a single red rose. Men spend more than 40% than women, with most of them making their gift purchase the week before. A third of men buy their gift online. Almost 40% of women plan to spend nothing but may splash out on special underwear or cook a meal for their partner (source: Discovery Cards)

For me and my friends this year, we’re not looking to spend much but we are looking for inspiration from retailers, so enewsletters featuring creative or unusual  gift/experience ideas, or editorial suggesting romantic ways to spend the day, will be well-received. 

Looking back over my inbox last year. ASOS had by far the best subject line, ‘Stop in the name of love’ (I rate this as it pretty much appeals to all the aforementioned target V-day sentiments). The airlines and holiday companies had variously inspiring trip offers (Ryan Air’s ‘Flight deals you will love’ – trust me, don’t go budget for Valentine’s, stay at home instead). Apple gave it a good shot with ‘Show the Love. Give an iPod this Valentine’s Day (I’d recommend uploading a special playlist).  Fortnum and Mason were typically proactive with their excellent selection of picnic hampers.

But overwhelmingly I noticed a lack of even simple targeting – male/female being the most obvious. Or creating urgency – surely a winner for blokes: remove the stress and get it sorted NOW.  I didn’t spot any unusual suggestions from either big-name retailers or small boutique brands, like a ‘perfect night in’ package (candles, rug, picnic), or ‘for the girl who has everything’ (a small and unusual gift from a small retailer)

I received my first 2010 V-mail yesterday, from Kodak (‘Take your Valentine’s Day personally’), and  I spotted V-day offers in newsletters as early as the 7th December (eg. British Airways offering discounted V-day breaks, as it falls conveniently on a Sunday this year). Early birds going for highly-organised worms indeed.  The guys in my office commented, ‘who the hell thinks of Valentine’s this early in the year’ which I must say I agree with, seeing as it’s barely mid-Jan, we’re all skint and grumpy, but I did point out that V-day is just over 3 weeks away, which turned a few of them visibly pale.

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Tiger Woods. How many column inches have been devoted to the famed golfer and his alleged infidelities?  It’s been several weeks since the news first broke, and yet we’re still reading about his decline in popularity.  Tiger has spent his entire professional career building up an image of himself being a straight, honest family man with integrity and values, but thanks to several alleged errors of judgment with – apparently – a multitude of young women, this image has been smashed to smithereens and his poor family has been blown apart.  Whilst these reported affair(s) have probably not affected his pocket (yet), his brand influence and standing with the general public has taken a massive nose dive and the general public’s memory is long.  Basically he’s going to have to do a hell of a lot to make himself popular again.

Don’t make Tiger’s alleged mistake.  This very public slide from grace by Mr Woods highlighted to me the importance of getting things absolutely right from the outset.  You invest valuable time and money marketing and promoting your brand / product so it’s absolutely imperative that you set customer expectations from the start and ensure that you always deliver what you promise you’re going to, sticking as closely to your brand values as possible and only send targeted, relevant content.  All of the time. 

Avoid the Spam Button

As email marketing has grown in prominence, consumers are receiving more and more emails and subsequently their patience is being tested and they are getting fed up with receiving irrelevant content.  The way they behave when receiving unwanted emails can vary dramatically from simply deleting your message outright, unsubscribing from your newsletter, or, at worst, clicking on the ‘report as spam’ button. 

Data Capture

Consumers expect content to be tailored to them but in order to this, they need to be willing to give you some information about themselves and in turn, you need to capture this information and use it intelligently, remembering that relevant messages can lead to just as many sales as offers or discounts.  Having a simple data capture form on your website on subscription can help you gather important quantifiable customer characteristics including age, income, location, number of children etc.  Alternatively think about sending a ‘welcome’ email after the initial basic subscription taking them to an incentive-based preference centre where they can indicate further information and interests which you can then use for more sophisticated segmentation.         

Segmentation

An understanding of different customer segments allows you to tailor your offer to individuals making your email stand out and capture the attention of your customers. According to Forrester  those who test, integrate web analytics and humanise content are four to six times more effective than those who blast out the same content to their entire database.  MarketingSherpa’s benchmark guide shows that segmented campaigns produce at least 30% more opens and 50% higher CTR than undifferentiated campaigns. (Source: MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Benchmark Guide, 2009).

Personalisation

Think about intelligent personalisation.  This isn’t simply a case of saying ‘Dear Joe’. Try personalising your subject line, content blocks within the text or even images. Test the extent of how the performance of your newsletter can be increased with an individual customer approach.

Testing

To make your email campaign as relevant as possible, don’t be afraid to look at all potential areas including subject lines, from address, content, images, landing pages and design  and repeat the age-old mantra TEST, TEST, TEST!

In short, get to know your customer.  If you listen to them and only deliver targeted, relevant content, you won’t go far wrong and will hopefully avoid being found by the paparazzi quivering underneath a windscreen shattered by a golf club brandished by a woman scorned. Sound advice I feel!

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Well.  What a start to 2010 – and it’s only week 2!  Where do I begin?  Despite the economic downturn through the latter part of 2008 and 2009, eCircle has been lucky enough to be in an industry which has benefited rather than suffered.  We won 2 major industry awards and were shortlisted for another.  We opened new offices in Spain and the Netherlands, and we made a raft of new recruitments in the UK, growing our staff numbers here by 12% to reflect on the strong growth in 2009.  But 2010 promises to be even more exciting…

We’re delighted to announce that TA Associates, one of the world’s leading growth private equity firms has signed a definitive agreement for a majority investment of over €60million in eCircle.  This substantial investment will help us extend our award-winning technology platform, eC-messenger and expand into new products, services and markets. 

Email remains a strong marketing channel and represents an ever-increasing proportion of the €12.9 billion online advertising market.  Forrester Research estimates that the volume of email messages will double with the value of the market increasing from €1.5 billion in 2007 to €2.3 billion in 2010 as marketers utilise more sophisticated on-demand targeting, messaging and analytics to engage the consumer.  According to Gartner, software-as-a-service (SaaS) in marketing automation is expected to exhibit the highest growth rates in customer relationship management (CRM), a $1.9 billion market in 2008 that is projected to grown 17% per annum through to 2013.

 So what does this acquisition actually mean for eCircle and our clients?  The news is only good!  The acquisition won’t affect our structure in the slightest and the investment will be seamless.  Some of the key benefits include:

  • We’ll invest in new products and services to complete our portfolio of media and technology ecommerce solutions.
  • We’ll invest in the extension of our email marketing platform further, specifically in campaign planning, management and automation, advanced reporting including new metrics and APIs.
  • We’ll additionally strengthen our professional services portfolio, increasing email ROI even further. 
  • We’ll extend our leadership position in the European market and strengthen our international presence to serve you locally.

So having just experienced our biggest year to date, it looks like 2010 is going to be a defining year in eCircle’s history, and I for one am really looking forward to it!

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