E-commerce Link: Make It an Engagement
Your website and your e-mail marketing programs should strive to engage customers. Passive sites push content and information, whereas engaging sites and e-mails find ways to facilitate interactive information sharing and collaboration. They may also include video, social networking and online communities to further increase engagement.
There are a number of powerful reasons to embrace customer engagement strategies: strengthen your brand and credibility; drive revenue; enhance existing customer relationships; build customer loyalty; increase customer lifetime value; and improve ROI.
Here are some ideas on how to inject website engagement programs into your e-mails.
Video is hot! People are spending more time engaging with video content, which allows marketers to provide how-to information, showcase a new product line, share tips and more. The good news is that the cost of production and hosting of videos online has come down dramatically, opening the door for others to jump onto the video bandwagon.
If you have videos on your website, be sure to promote them in your e-mails. The video clip length should be short—30 to 45 seconds. Also, make sure you pick an interesting frame to show in the e-mail and superimpose the "play" icon on top of it. This will encourage recipients to clickthrough to your website to view the video in full.
Some marketers have a standard feature in their e-newsletters—always in the same position—that promotes the latest video. Another tactic is to feature a video occasionally. For example, Fine Cooking—a Taunton Press print magazine and website—took advantage of the current summer grilling season and featured a video on how to tell if a steak on a grill is done without poking the steak with a fork. The video was timely and relevant to the publication's e-mail recipients.
Launch a contest where users get to name a product or service, provide stories, submit photos to your website and more. A favorite of mine was a contest for "your worst Valentine's gift ever" stories that women's clothing and accessory merchant Talbots promoted in an e-mail. Talbot's encouraged e-mail recipients to read the stories and enter their own. I spent over a half hour on the website reading and laughing at the hilarious submissions. For me, and for other Talbot's customers, that was a great brand experience.
Polls and Surveys
Get your e-mail recipients to weigh in with their opinions. Here are some quick examples:
• Lake Forest, Ill.-based Brunswick Bowling has an e-newsletter called Brunswick Bonus Zone. It features a simple multiple-choice, quiz-like question, and reports on answers and the correct answer in the next e-mail.
• Catholic Relief Services has moved to more open-ended questions. In its e-newsletter, CRS Briefing, it recently asked "What is your favorite parable, and why?" Immediately below the poll is a link to last month's questions and responses.
• B-to-B e-newsletter Pro & Content also asks a multiple choice question. The most recent poll was "Do you manage your social media presence yourself, or do you work with a third party?"
Product reviews are altering how customers make purchase decisions, and if you have implemented reviews on your website, you will see higher conversions. So be sure to occasionally send e-mails that feature highly rated products and services. And if you have customer reviews on your website, use triggered messaging to encourage purchasers to rate and review products.
If you want to know what your e-mail subscribers are pondering—ask them. Create a persona that is an authority for your brand. Allow e-mail recipients to post questions to your website or have them answered in the e-newsletter.
CNET, a provider of tech product reviews and more, has an e-mail program called CNET Community. Each e-mail comes from Lee Koo, who is the community manager. While the substance of each e-mail is to address a user question—such as "What is a simple way to convert old VHS tapes to DVDs?"—from time to time he shares personal experiences, such as the birth of his new daughter. This reminds recipients that there is a real person behind the e-mails.
The beauty of this e-newsletter is that other users contribute answers. Koo features what he thinks are the top responses with links to more. In addition, he includes the next week's user question.
Another variation of this concept is to create an Ask the Expert section in your e-mails and website.
Include Links to Social Networks
The ultimate places for encouraging customer engagement are the social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Your e-mails should include logos and links to those sites where you have a presence.
If you find that one particular social networking site generates a lot of activity, send an e-mail to your subscribers to highlight your presence and encourage them to join you in that network.
You might also include a section in your e-mails that shows a recent Facebook fan rave or a series of tweets you think would be helpful.
Any effort to engage customers and site visitors should result in more activity and more sales. Put a plan in place today to enhance how you engage your e-mail subscribers. It will pay you dividends.