UX and Email: Marketing’s New Power Couple
As marketers, we often refer to our audience as users, customers, subscribers and segments. While convenient, this way of thinking can influence perceptions, impact communication strategies, and create a disconnect with those we’re trying to reach. We aren’t sending snippets of code to segments in a database; We’re communicating with other people as they navigate through their daily lives.
As we build out our programs and content, it’s critical to recognize that the people on the other side of our emails have individualized needs, goals and desires. By creating interesting, relevant and engaging email experiences, we can compel higher conversion rates, increased brand affinity and extended lifetime value.
By viewing email optimization through the lens of the user experience field, marketers can foster a better understanding of what motivates the people they are communicating with. While this can require a degree of legwork, this approach can boost the performance of the email program in the short- and long-term and create email experiences that people actually enjoy.
In this post, I’ll outline several principles from the UX field can inform email program optimization in ways that create more meaningful and rewarding customer experiences.
Observation Should Inform Design
As a marketer for your brand, you are not the target audience. What seems intuitive to you may be confounding for your subscribers. In order to create a customer-centric program, understanding your customers’ needs and behaviors is essential. Consider the following:
- Leverage data to understand how subscribers interact within your emails. What content compels clicks? Are certain types of content more popular than others? Dig more deeply or expand on these content areas.
- If possible, track link usage through to site activity, conversions and/or abandonment to better understand the customer’s journey from the email to the website. Use this information to inform creative updates and content.
- Request feedback and use surveys at key intervals in the subscriber lifecycle. If surveys are brief and intuitive, people will be more willing to participate. Consider visual surveys where participants can quickly select the images that resonate with them.
Empathize with the Audience
You’d be hard pressed to delve into UX without quickly running into personas. By analyzing observable behaviors of the target audience and creating personas that elicit empathy, UX designers can remain focused on the human needs, desires and experiences that compel engagement and satisfaction. Marketers can adapt the concept of personas to create more rewarding customer experiences:
- Consider reaching out to those in product development or marketing to determine whether personas have already been created.
- If not, create a set of personas that reflect key types of customers or users. Think through the wants, needs and goals of each persona and determine which personas are of utmost importance to the brand. At a minimum, ensure that your content is appropriate and well aligned with top-priority personas.
- Create segments for key personas and tailor the messaging strategy to best suit each persona. This can be accomplished using: Dynamic content and personalization, curated content and appropriate frequency based on needs and tolerance.
Implementation is Iterative
UX is rarely a linear process. UX designers observe their target audiences to understand their needs and design to meet those needs, then test their assumptions through more observation. This process can continue through several cycles until the user experience is refined.
While “Test, Test, Test” is a familiar anthem in the email marketing world, our focus is often directed towards driving immediate results for the brand. While this is essential, marketers can benefit from widening the perception of success to determine whether optimization efforts create better experiences for the customer. Consider the following metrics when testing and analyzing results:
- Review how conversion rates are trending and look for increased or decreased trends in repeated conversion behavior. Establish a baseline and measure performance after the change. This is especially relevant for larger program adjustments like template redesigns, onboarding email revamps and the like.
- Keep a close eye on negative subscriber behavior like complaints and unsubscribes. These metrics are strong indicators of subscriber dissatisfaction and spikes in these areas should be factored in.
- Watch for a gap in engagement metrics, such as high opens and low clickthrough or low opens and high clickthrough. This can indicate a misalignment of subscriber expectations in the inbox or within the messages.
As a Senior Email Strategist with Return Path, Casey specializes in driving increased engagement and boosting deliverability. Casey has a healthy fixation with helping marketers realize the potential of their email programs by addressing human needs, building better relationships, and ultimately driving improved results for the business. Her nine years of experience and obsession with evolving the email space helped land her a spot on ExpertSender’s list of “25 Email Geeks to Help You Get Your Geek On.”