My guest today is Max Katsarelas, Director of Marketing at Remarkety, a platform for email marketing automation that is uniquely designed for e-commerce, and comes highly recommended to us by John McIntyre (The Autoresponder Guy) on Episode 38.
Email marketing automation delivers an average return of investment of 246% for mid-tier companies. With his insight into the backend data of thousands of Remarkety’s customers, Max shares truly valuable and expert advice on all the top tips, trends, and metrics for you to set-up and get the most ROI on your own automated emails campaigns.
We go into the four most high-value campaign types you can create, a range of ways you can increase your optin and conversion rates, and the importance of authenticity in your brand and messaging. We finish up with how to go about ironing out those kinks in your campaign and finally, how you can make the most of the coming holiday season, starting now!
Remarkety gives them the tools to see the percentage of customers that fall into a particular rule or conditions to determine which kind of rewards they want to give out, how many people qualify and basically determine is it 2% of my customers, is a 5%? And then knowing that number will help me figure how much do I value them? How much of a coupon do I want to give them? At the same time you could do the quantity of orders, so if I want to see customers who have placed 10 orders with me, I could see that number as well. We have a prebuilt rewards campaign that will make this very easy for stores to figure out and really start hopefully seeing that purchase rate over 50% too.
(00:53) Introducing Max Katsarelas
(05:46) Basic Overview of Remarkety and e-Commerce Trends:
(24:20) Setting Up A Campaign
(43:38) Metrics With Remarkety
(49:31) Tips For Holiday Season
(57:25) Parting Advice
How are mid-sized etailers achieving an average return on their investment of 246% from email marketing automation?
Well, my guest on today’s show is here to tell us exactly how, from the data of thousands of their ecommerce email marketing automation customers. Do stay tuned!
[Intro clip] Welcome to the 2X eCommerce podcast show where we interview founders of fast growing seven and eight figure eCommerce businesses and eCommerce experts. They’ll tell their stories, share how they 2X’d their businesses and inspire you to take action in your own online retail business today. And now, here he is, the man in the mix, Kunle Campbell.
Kunle: On today’s show, I have with me Max Katsarelas. He is an email marketing automation expert and the director of marketing at Remarkety, the email marketing automation platform recommended by John McIntyre on Episode 38.
Max has been involved in copywriting and email marketing for close to a decade. Just before his role at Remarkety, he worked at a company called Mojo Motors where he managed their email marketing automation campaigns that sent out over 100,000 emails each week. He’s here to share his first hand expertise from thousands of Remarkety’s customers, which are all e-commerce by the way, on ways you can improve customer retention in your store with intelligent transactional automated email campaigns.
So, hi Max. Could you take a minute or two to tell us about yourself?
Max: Sure, absolutely, really happy to be here, Kunle. My name is Max Katsarelas, I am the marketing director at Remarkety and I have been involved with email marketing and e-commerce for a handful of years now. Before Remarkety I worked at a company called Mojo Motors and that was founded by a former eBay executive. So at mojo and managed all the email alerts and we let car shoppers know when dealers dropped prices. So we were sending nearly 100,000 emails a week and that’s kind of when I got my start looking at email and seeing how effective it is at driving those high-value actions that any company wants their customers or users to take. About a year ago I joined a company called Remarkety and we are helping small and midsized e-commerce shops grow their sales and improve customer retention with intelligent and automated email campaigns. Now these can win back inactive customers, recover abandoned carts, make product recommendations, etcetera, and we see that these kinds of campaigns are really effective at driving these engagements that we want customers to take like opening emails, placing orders. And that’s why we see open rates around 60% and sales…growing sales up to 30% which is I’m sure something we’ll talk about later on in the show.
Kunle: That’s fantastic; because you’re recommended by John McIntyre I think it was episode 38. He came on the show and was talking about…he gave us really deep marketing automation templates and he recommended Remarkety as a platform. Quite interesting also that Mojo Motors, so how did it work, your previous company? So I was a shopper looking for cars and then it just sends me an update across? Could you shed a bit more light there, how email actually fundamentally grew that business?
Max: For sure. So what would we do is we would get…dealers would be interested in listing their cars on our website. So we would list all the used cars that a dealership had. And what a car shopper could do was follow the cars that they liked. And what we ended up finding out with our algorithm was that there are certain makes and models that every customer perhaps likes. So we know that Kunle, you’re looking for a Honda Accord. So what we will do is we see that you like black Honda Accords, we’ll send you alerts. When the black Honda Accord that you’re looking at drops in price or is sold or similar black Honda Accords are dropped in price or just added to our website. And it was kind of like a nice way of keeping people up to date. Dealers dropped prices a handful of times on a car, on average up to $1,000 over the course of its time on the lot, so it really helped car shoppers get a better understanding of not only the market but it kind of help them avoid that nasty business of negotiations and trying to come up with a deal. And car shoppers were in power to go to dealership and say, hey, I want to buy this car we just saw dropped in price on Mojo. And it sort of improved that car-buying process and made it a little bit easier for the laymen who was wasn’t necessarily buying cars all the time to get a good deal.
Kunle: Exactly, exactly. I could see its application. And now you’re in Remarkety and basically email automation. Did you apply email automation in Mojo or was it pretty much manual?
Max: Absolutely. So all of these price drop alerts, all of these alerts that went out when dealers sold cars…and that created that sort of fear of missing out, that psychological feeling like, ‘Oh, I missed out on a great deal, now I want to be more likely to buy’ …all of this was automated because it’s one of those things where you have millions of cars on website and millions of people following cars, it can’t be done manually unless you have a whole team of people and it’s not sustainable. So yeah, all of those emails were automated and we were constantly testing subject lines and email templates and we could get answers very quickly with automating these kinds of emails and the way they’d look and how they performed, so yup, they were all automated.
Kunle: So that was a SaaS business right, it was a marketplace SaaS business, and a lot of these market places and SaaS businesses tend to have automation integrated into their systems because it’s a lifeblood basically, it’s a communication module. E-commerce however for I’d say a decade before 2007/2008 was pretty much shopping cart focused. Could you explain how and why email automation has had widespread adoption in e-commerce recently and why it was kind of slow as compared to other tech verticals?
Max: I think that there’s a lot of different sorts of answers to this question so I’ll do the best I can to answer it. And I think what it is, is it sort of comes down to the bottom line. So we know that email makes a lot of money for e-commerce shops. Venture Beat published a report a few months back and they found that a small business has a 183% return on investment with email. And a midsize business, they report a 246% return on investment. And I think it’s just like any marketing, when marketers find a channel that works, they want scale it up. So sending that individual email to a customer, designing a one-off newsletter…that kind of thing is really time-consuming. And I think that’s one reason why people went to automated emails. So I talk about Mojo Motors, when a car drops in price and there’s thousands of cars dropping in price, that can’t be manually sent out to every customer. And with really big e-commerce shops, an abandoned cart email can’t be sent out to every customer manually, it just takes too long. So automated emails to customers that follow-up after an order or welcome a new user or a new customer…it means that marketers and shop owners can then focus on new channels to grow their business. And I think that means that they can spend more money acquiring customers. And email is generally pretty cheap. Social and SEM, typically not so much.
Automated emails can increase the customer lifetime value, so when stores are paying a lot wanting to acquire these customers, email does the heavy lifting in the back to really get these customers placing repeat purchases. And what really led the way here was the big guys. I don’t need to say who they are; I think everybody knows who the big guys are. They were the ones that led the way here with these very personalized emails, these products recommendations. And I think all customers are now…they expect it. They expect smart products recommendations, they expect a nice email letting them know that they’re a loyal customer or perhaps a VIP. And email’s also really, all things considered, pretty easy to track. So I mentioned that study on ROI because tracking traditional media -TV, radio, print, even social, it’s a lot more difficult. There’s a lot of steps that take place there. With email you can close that loop. So you know customers are opening on emails, you know customers are clicking on emails, and then you know when they place an order because that order is tied to an email address. So you can add a whole other level of tracking here with unique and personalized coupons codes so you know the exact campaign or the exact email that led to an order. So I think that tracking in automated campaigns is also pretty critical to the growth in the sort of sector.
Kunle: Is a lot of data to get to grips with.
Max: No doubt.
Kunle: From sign-ups, just normal sign-ups, to converting them to customers and their order history and you could even chip things in from their browsing behavior and give something more targeted. But yeah, that’s several steps ahead. Okay so from a trends standpoint in e-commerce, what are you seeing in Remarkety from an adoption standpoint from email automation?
Max: Well I think that there’s three things. One thing that we started to see just really pop up this year is, actually, pop-ups. Merchants want pop-ups on their website; they want to be able to capture these email addresses. I think that you’re familiar with it, I think that your website has some pop-ups and you want to get these email addresses so that you can continually bring these customers back. And we see, pop-ups on e-commerce sites are usually offering a coupon or an incentive in exchange for that email address. So I would say that’s number one.
Max: Number two is we’re seeing a lot of almost, personalized-looking email addresses from the founders, or the CEOs, or the marketing managers at these shops. They look plain, they look really personal, they typically share a story, they usually tell that person about their brand. They ask for feedback or they say, hey, why don’t you recommend us to a friend? And I see that not only just in the e-commerce space, but I see that a lot in the tech startup space as well. And I think that it’s a great strategy to get feedback, a great strategy to make your brand more personable to a shopper.
Kunle: Okay, okay. We’re going to track back to the pop-ups. From data, if you have access to any data, what are your thoughts on pop-ups? Do they work or do they not work? Some CROs, conversion rate optimizers, hate them and you know our marketing guy…most marketing guys I’ve spoken to love them. From your customer data, do they work, do they acquire emails?
Max: I think it depends on the incentive. And this is something that we’ll talk about again probably continually throughout the show. It really depends on the incentive. Is it something that moves a customer enough to leave that email address? I think that a lot of folks don’t like having these pop-ups because it kind of ruins that experience, ruins that flow of somebody shopping and browsing, and looking at pictures and clicking. But at the same time though if you look at how many people are coming to a website on any given day, just those unique visitors, and you compare that to the amount of emails that you might be grabbing or the amount of orders, there is a huge difference there. So if you’re able to take some of that, a chunk of people who aren’t placing orders but are coming and visiting a website, and you capture that email address, I think that they are effective. The actual numbers I think vary so I can’t necessarily…it really depends on the vertical of an e-commerce business.
Kunle: Exactly, exactly.
Max: But I think they are effective, I think that a lot of people want to see it evolve into something else. Now what it evolves into, I’m not entirely sure but…I think a lot of people aren’t fans but they do work.
Kunle: They work, they work, okay. All right, execution is everything really, when you think about it. Okay. With regards to personalized emails, I carried out a case study on one of the best wine company, online wine brand in the country, the just been acquired by another company just due to their brilliance: Naked wines. I think they started out in America, they’re doing okay in America, there a wine club basically. And when you sign up to them, there’s a guy called Eamon, and it’s very conversational with what he does with all the messages he sends through. And they’re not…they’re a handful, at least in the UK, a handful of companies that execute email marketing like that. Where it’s really personal, from that first name and the tone of voice also is personal, he’s like you mate you see in the pub. And yeah, it is quite interesting. Could you shed a bit more on personalized emails and what brands you think are executing it well from an e-commerce standpoint? Are any of your customers doing this?
Max: So we have a few of our customers who are kind of doing the personal outreach where… we did a case study just recently on a raw dog food company out of Hawaii. The fact that they’re based in Hawaii already makes them sometimes of a hurdle on price but the founder of this company sends out very personal emails to his customers asking for feedback after an order’s been placed, making sure that the product is improving their dogs health and quality of life. And I think that seems genuine. That’s a genuine personalized email sent from a founder to a customer. And I think that that’s where I think the genuine bit in authenticity is important here. If you get an email from Nordstrom and it seems like it’s personal from maybe the president or something, it might not be as genuine as something that came from a small shop that you know you’re supporting and you see a picture of the founder in email, you see a picture of him on the website. I think that that’s the difference here. It’s important to kind of keep in mind, how do you design your website that would indicate that you are a small shop that cares about customers. Even big shops, even big shops can kind of create this persona of that, we’re big and we are located in a lot of different places and we do business all across the world but we still care about that personal experience. I think that it’s sometimes tough to pull off. So there’s a carpet company in the United States and all of their commercials feature their founder talking about their products. And the brand has… the website has the founder plastered all over the website. And it seems more genuine, it seems real, it’s like you can tell this guy’s the heart and soul of the company. At some bigger companies, I go back to that Nordstom example… I don’t know who the heart and soul of Nordstrom is or some of these bigger companies. But I think that it’s about that sort of authenticity and it’s the full package. If your emails seem personal and they’re coming from a founder on the website, it kind of gives you an idea of who these people are and who is running this company. It’s a total deal; they need to work hand-in-hand.
Kunle: I’m quite sure there’s just more trust and conversions, it would positively impact on conversions. And execution from a small business standpoint, it’s easier than a Nordstrom as you alluded to earlier. Yeah, it’s quite interesting. I guess at scale you could perhaps say well, I noticed you bought shoes in our store and this is the manager of our shoe store but still it would be very tough to execute and it would get really complicated. So actually, small businesses have an opportunity, really. Okay, fantastic. What size companies are your customers? You said small or medium-sized businesses, what’s your definition of small or medium-size business? Could you shed a bit more light on the kind of companies and size of companies that do email automation on Remarkety, please?
Max: Yeah, so I think that, just going back to the trends bit, there was one last trend that we didn’t hit.
Kunle: Ah, good.
Max: So the third trend that we’re seeing here is stores around this time of the year are being much more proactive about creating and activating email campaigns. And we ran a study last year and what we found was that from September until January e-commerce shops are sending about 80% more email than any other time of the year. And it’s because of these holidays that just make up this entire next four months until the New Year. And I think August is that slow time – people are on holiday, they’re on vacation and September is when people are getting ready, they’re getting back to work, they’re getting ready to try to make the most of this time, this season.
Kunle: And yeah this is the most profitable, depending on the kind of vast majority of businesses, most profitable quarter we’re about to get into. I have a real quick question with regards to: double optin or single optin?
Max: Great question. I think the double optin is just a wise move. I think that you know you’re going to have a cleaner email list, you know that customers are going to be engaging more through email and it should inevitably lead to more orders. I think that there are certain people, certain marketers who want to be able to brag about quantity. So I remember a few years ago it was all about how many Facebook Likes you have. And that doesn’t mean anything if people aren’t responding to your posts and interacting with your brand. So the single option might lead to lower quality lists, bigger list for sure, but lower quality lists. And the engagement too, those opens, those clicks, those purchases might not be as great as great as the double optin. So I think the double optin is always the way to go: you keep a cleaner list, you don’t end up triggering a spam filter and end up in a folder where your customers will never see your emails, you don’t get in trouble with the ESP that you’re using, and… double optin is certainly the best bet.
Kunle: Okay, all right, good. Listeners, you’ve heard it, double optin! [laughs] Okay, so you support six platforms: Magento, Shopify, I think I saw PrestaShop, WooCommerce which is WordPress, VirtueMat, and OpenMart. Which is the most popular? Where are you seeing the most growth?
Max: Well, I think they’re all pretty active in their own ways. I think that WooCommerce has just a huge, huge amount of shops and same with Shopify. And the ranges of the sizes of these stores really span the gamut. So our ideal customer and the size of companies that we would typically work with are small to medium-sized e-commerce businesses with revenue up to a few million a year. So the product’s designed for merchants with little or no technical skills to simply turn on one of our automated campaigns and start growing their sales. But power users can really dig deeper and create really fine-tuned and complex custom campaigns. And we see that a lot of Magento stores, and a lot of Shopify stores, PrestaShop stores, really get in there and get super sophisticated. But Shopify certainly makes up a large chunk of our customers. We’re active with all platforms though, we have great relationship folks from from everybody. And I would say Shopify, PrestaShop, and Magento stores create a nice core group of our customers.
Kunle: I just have to give it to Shopify, in the last month alone they’ve announced strategic partnerships with Facebook being the official buy buton, Pinterest. and I believe also Twitter. I mean they’re really aggressive, I know they’re public now. It’s just amazing the growth and the dynamism from that company is fascinating, it’s interesting. Okay, let’s talk about integration with platforms. Is it intensive, like a platform like Magento or PrestaShop, how intensive… what kind of variables would you require from a Magento store to get a full customer journey picture?
Max: So it’s a little different for each platform but in most cases it’s really simple. Because you gotta remember a lot of these folks are using Remarkety might not be the most technically sophisticated sometimes and I know that with a lot of other sorts of apps or extensions it can be quite difficult to integrate and get using right away. So we’ve actually spent a lot of time trying to make it as simple as possible. So with Shopify it’s literally one click with Shopify. With Magento, I would say it’s two or three clicks. So we’re a plug-and-play extension on Magento. So somebody interested in trying Remarkety they would get a free 30 day trial. They’d go to our Magento extension page, click the install-now button, and literally when they click that button we’re going to start synching their store data, their products, their customers, the order history. And this is going to help us buildup that customer picture and the segmentations, we’re going to help that store owner or that marketer understand where their opportunities are. Are there a lot of inactive customers? Are there a lot of people who have signed up for newsletter but never put placed an order? So depending on the size of the store the synch can take 30 seconds. Sometimes it can take a few minutes if it’s a big store but it’s really, I mean it’s pretty simple and we’re really proud of the fact that it’s very easy for anybody to get Remarkety.
Kunle: Good stuff on integration. So I suppose it’s very customer-centric, so at the core you guys are doing with people in your databases, is that the case or is it email focused? I know email would be a unique identifier but with an order history I guess it would be very customer-centric.
Max: It is. I would say it’s extremely customer-centric and what we find is that typically when one of our customers…now, our customers are a shop owner or that marketer, and when they get into our platform they kind of have an idea of what they want to run. So they’re thinking first about the email campaigns that they want to run. And then they sort of see that picture. Does this make a lot of sense for me -do I want to be running this abandoned cart? Or do I want to be running this inactive customer email? Or do I want to be sending product recommendations? And I think that they start playing around with the platform starting to create campaigns then they start thinking, ‘Well hey, I think to be really cool to do an order follow-up a year after somebody’s last order because…’ Like we talked with a company, we’re working with a company out of the UK and they do party supplies for kids birthdays. And so he was telling me that he’s looking to send out follow-up emails about a year after a customer’s last order. And it makes a whole lot of sense because a birthday’s one day out of the year. So initially he wanted to send abandoned carts and then we’re thinking it’s like, ‘Hey I think there might be an interesting opportunity here to create like a win-back campaign that gets sent out every couple of days until that birthday.
Kunle: Better still, wish them happy birthday and then give them a coupon when they want to purchase when one year has elapsed, so if I’ve ordered from them than last year like, ‘Hey Kunle I know your birthday’s coming again, here’s a coupon, come shop in our store,’ something like that I guess.
Max: Absolutely, absolutely.
Kunle: Okay, let’s talk about campaign setups, now that you gave that example. What shopping behavior metrics actually trigger messaging or should trigger messaging? So what kind of actions do shoppers typically take that would warrant a marketer to set up a trigger to send them an email, typically?
Max: It can be almost endless and I think that I’ll just rattle-off a couple of the popular behaviors. And that would be when a customer abandons their cart on a website, it would be when a customer, or rather a shopper, registers on a website but they never place an order. It could be a change in order status from ‘paid’ to ‘shipped’. It could be follow-ups with customers after a certain period of activity or maybe when a customer reaches a milestone, like they spend a certain amount of money or they place a certain amount of orders. Those are the most popular. So those kinds of things can trigger really high-value campaigns.
Kunle: And what about the time investments required to setting up the triggered messages or the automation? Because I see a lot of objections from actual customers who said, ‘Oh kind of takes a long time mate, I don’t think we’re ever going to get to, let’s just push it to next quarter.’ So from your perspective, how quickly do customers actually get on board themselves quite actively on a platform like Remarkety or any other email automation platform?
Max: So we also see a lot of objections and what I like to say is you know, you’re spending a lot of time creating your newsletter letters anyways. You’re spending a lot of time creating sales for newsletters so you spending time there already, so it’s maybe transitioning and shifting that time from these newsletters to creating a couple of automated campaigns. And in terms of the time investment, we see it… literally, it can be minutes. We have a handful of prebuilt templates, and prebuilt segmentations that are literally ready to rock ‘n roll when a store starts using us. So we have customers that will go in there and merchants that will get in there and spruce up the design, they’ll customize the segmentations a bit more. But like anything that involves, like serious thought, a little bit of creativity, it takes a little bit longer. You really want to think about the sorts of emails you’re sending your customers and I like spending a lot of time on subject lines. I’m not the kind of person that can just come up with a subject line and say this is good. I really like to think about what is the message that I’m sending my customers because the subjects line’s the first thing they’re going to see. So I think it depends on anybody who’s using our platform, if they really want to just take the prebuilt templates and the segmentations which already will perform at a high level. Or if somebody wants to go in there and customize a bit more. So it could be minutes, but it could be a little bit longer.
Kunle: Okay, you mentioned earlier that some small businesses are seeing, well from a VentureBeat article, 183% ROI and medium-sized businesses 246% ROI. Some of your clients are hitting these targets for sure. What do they do to get there, to get these kind of results?
Max: I think that it’s thinking very consciously about the sorts of campaigns that they want to send their customers, and I just kind of touched on it. It’s thinking about what is the messaging going to be? How many follow-ups am I going to send? And what am I going to do to make my customer feel like they should place an order right now? So it’s a little psychology, it’s a little creativity, and it’s also consistency. So a coupon is always great and then following up consistently. If the first email doesn’t drive in order, then a follow-up email should be sent. If that email doesn’t drive an order I would say another follow-up email should be sent. So it’s just being consistent and continually following up and then giving that customer a reason to place an order.
Kunle: Would you recommend they hire a consultant or agency to set up these campaigns for them initially, to get them off the ground and then they could perhaps bring it back in-house?
Max: Well, we have a pretty amazing customer service support team and we go out of our way to help customers create these initial campaigns. We have a lot of really great articles on our website about the sort of right cadence, the right campaigns to create. And our platform is designed for a non-technical, non-marketing expert to create really great and high performing campaigns. So no agencies or consultants are necessary, however we see a lot of agencies using our platform and they’ll install Remarkety on their client’s websites. They know that email’s really important; it’s an effective way to deliver fantastic ROI, and then it also kind of shows off their own value. It shows that, ‘Hey, I might’ve redesigned your website but at the same time I can take this to the next level.’ And I was grabbing lunch the other day with an email marketing manager at… the company’s called E-commerce Partners and they’re pretty a close company that we work with quite a bit. And they’re out of New York and the email marketing manager he was telling me that he loves us because how much customizing they can actually do. So he likes to get in there and really, really adjust the design and segmentation, and the opportunities for him to create email campaigns are pretty much endless. So the answer to your question is both. A consultancy or agency isn’t required but if a shop is already using a consultancy or an agency I think that they would be very pleased with what Remarkety can do.
Kunle: Okay, okay. What about text, well… for e-commerce what are your suggestions: text or HTML?
Max: Well, I think that it could be either-or. So I think that with that personalized email that looks like it’s coming from a founder or CEO there is certainly little HTML to make it look like it’s very plain, but I would say that that would be a text email. And then your HTML email would probably more like those automated follow-ups, those automated product recommendations. That’s when you could design a little nicer so you could make a huge image that stands out, make it one big link, and it’s very clear to a customer what they need to do with an email like that. Whereas with a plaintext email, it’s a little text heavier, it involves little bit of reading. And I think that we know people don’t like reading, the like clicking and looking at pictures, that’s what they like to do. I would say that text is great for when you want feedback from a customer, when you want somebody to respond, and HTML is great when you want somebody to click your website. Because all the high-value actions that your business relies on is on your website, so get them to see that email quickly, click and then they’re shopping on your website.
Kunle: Sounds good, sounds good. A bit of both, okay. Right, for some of our listeners running e-commerce business they have quite… they’re running thin, their marketing team is running thin so they’re quite time-strapped. What key automation sequences would you suggest they get on board ASAP just to demonstrate ROI so they pour more resources into automation?
Max: That’s a great question. And I would say… as we know, every business is a lot different so what works for one store might not always work for another store. But at a basic level I think that there are four campaigns that make a heck of a lot of sense that will increase returns, improve customer lifetime value for any kind of business. And I would say number one, abandoned cart emails. And this is where this follow-up that I was talking about earlier comes in. There should be an abandoned cart email after one hour, another one after 24 hours, and I would say another one after 48 hours. And those numbers can be switched slightly but it’s about these follow-ups, it’s about consistently following up with these customers. And changing the subject line in the 24-hour follow-up, changing the subject line in the 48-hour follow-up. Maybe they missed the first one so you want to try to change the angle slightly. And adding a coupon in these emails will definitely be great.
Kunle: Can I ask a question with regards to the subject line. Would you suggest subject lines that tease? So a few words like, ‘You missed this…’ How creative, from all the data you’re coming across there, what kind of approach from a strategic copywriting standpoint do the best performing e-tailers use for abandoned current headlines?
Max: It really sort of spans across the map. We have a standard email subject line where it’s like, ‘You left something behind…’ Or we sometimes see people who will say, ‘We’re holding this item for you but it’s low in stock’ or we have ‘You left something in your cart and now here’s a gift’ and that gift is obviously referencing a coupon. So I think that ultimately the customer will see an email from your shop and know and remember what they did, they know they left something in their cart, for the most part. And what that subject line is, it could be a little coy but I’d say that being authentic and letting them know that you have something from for them and you’re holding onto something for them is always a good way to go. And I do personally love the, ‘This item is low on stock, get it now before it’s too late.’ That, it creates…
Max: Exactly. I particularly am a big fan of that.
Kunle: Okay, sounds good. So we have the abandoned cart and then what’s next?
Max: I would say the next one is new user registrations. Now that’s the email for folks without a purchase and obviously we want them to purchase. So that email should be sent every few days after sign-up. There was a study done by Yesware and they are a really cool tool for tracking email opens. And this is important for somebody like me who’s sending a lot of personal emails. For shops using Remarkety, they’ll be able to know how many opens their getting and what not but Yesware found out that the sale is often made at the 5th to 12th email. So there needs to be quite a bit of follow-up here.
Kunle: It’s a wide gap, 5th to 12th
Max: Yeah exactly, so with that new user registration email, I think that you want to offer an incentive. And you might see that a lot of customers are actually placing an order at that first or second email. But if you keep in mind that you need to be sending 5 to 12 emails before that first purchases made or that first action that you want them to take, I would say that a new user registration email sent every couple of days. And then usually that will wind up a newsletter so if you’re sending a newsletter every week or so, that usually can start doing the lifting from there. So I would say after the new user registration email, a handful of those would be…let’s say that that new user registration email drove a purchase. The next thing that you’re going to want to do is create order follow-up campaigns. And there’s quite a few different kinds of these. Now an order follow-up campaign can be sent when the status of an order changes, so we talked about that, goes from ‘shipped’ to ‘delivered’ or from ‘paid’ to ‘shipped’. Now that could go and send a reward to customers for placing an order, asking for a review or feedback. Now asking customers for feedback is a great way to learn more from their customers but we also see that it’s surprisingly effective at generating orders. So earlier when we were chatting we talked about that raw dog food company out of Hawaii, and he sends these order follow-up emails that are really simple: thanks them on their recent order and asks for feedback. Now we see that this email, with leveraging product recommendations at the bottom, he has an 11% purchase rate. So it’s quite amazing that somebody who gets, they get this email roughly 2 weeks after an order, they get this email and they think, ‘Well, you know, I’m going to buy something again.’ So it’s quite impressive. So those are a couple of examples of order follow-ups that I think are great. And the last email campaign that’s really effective is winning back inactive customers. Now, this email will target customers that haven’t placed an order during a range of times. So it could be 60 to 90 days or 90 to 120 days. And each store is different, so what that ideal range is is a bit different, but… And it also depends on the products that we’re selling here, so someone buys a new TV, it’s probably going to be hard to upsell them 60 days later. But a year later, especially with TVs where TV prices are, on really beautiful LCD TVs, will change in price quite drastically over the course of a year, a year later it might be a great idea to send a follow-up campaign. And it’s really, this campaign will take money waiting on the table and it’s going to improve that retention. And all of these campaigns should be leveraging product recommendations. And we talk about how the product recommendations in a feedback campaign drive that 11% purchase rate and it’s because like what we already talked about. It’s people don’t read but they look at pictures, and nice images will drive clicks and will drive orders.
Kunle: I just love that, the hack. The product recommendations in the feedback emails, that’s awesome. I shall be taking note of that in the show notes for sure, yeah screenshots of possible if you have any to share.
Max: For sure.
Kunle: Right. What if you want to blast all cylinders, just go for it, how are your best clients setup in Remarkety?
Max: I like this question. So we have customers that are sending the three or four email campaigns above that we kind of talked about and they see great results. But we have customers, they’re literally taking it quite a few steps further. And we have a fashion company and they’re running a very serious reward campaign program. And when their customers spend over $100 let’s say, that customer will get a 10% coupon. When a customer spends $200, they’ll get 15% coupon. And these campaigns are probably the highest performing campaigns we see within Remarkety. And these reward campaigns see purchase rates over 50%. So it’s kind of good to keep in mind how many…what’s the percentage of customers that will fall into certain categories. And yeah those reward campaigns are really, really impressive.
Kunle: That’s awesome. This is segmentation based on order value and just trying to segment your hero customers are. And then it’s very strategic driven also and they are pretty much rewarding…do they have a special rewards program or is everything automated within Remarkety for them to execute this strategy?
Max: Remarkety gives them the tools to see the percentage of customers that fall into a particular rule or conditions. So if I’m running this fashion company what I would do is I would go into Remarkety and I would start playing with segmentation’s. I would like to see every customer that has spent in total overtime $500 with my shop. And then I will see how many customers qualify and basically determine is it 2% of my customers, is a 5%? And then knowing that number will help me figure how much do I value them? How much of a coupon do I want to give them? At the same time you could do the quantity of orders, so if I want to see customers who have placed 10 orders with me, I could see that number as well. So Remarkety gives them the tools to be able to see which kind of rewards they want to give out, how many people qualify, and yeah. So we have a prebuilt rewards campaign that will make this very easy for stores to figure out and really start hopefully seeing that purchase rate over 50% too.
Kunle: Okay, okay, that’s pretty brilliant. Nifty, yeah. So how would you convert noncustomers? So we talked about this email capture exit intent which you love, how do I convert these people to customers eventually?
Max: So again, we talked about this a bit, it’s really that incentive. And I know a lot of brands they don’t like doing the coupons, they don’t like doing the discounts. And maybe you remember JCPenney, so I think it was a few years ago, their CEO decided that they were going to switch direction for the brand. No discounts, no sales, no coupons and their sales, they tanked and the CEO lost his job. And that’s because coupons work really well. And we ran a study last year and found that conversion on an email with coupon is close to 10% and conversion on email without a coupon is closer to about 2%.
Kunle: Ouch. Okay, all right, that’s a hit.
Max: Yeah, so the coupon is the thing that’s going to really take these non-purchasers, the person who’s never place an order, to placing an order. But there are other options, I would say free express shipping, free returns. I love it when the return label’s already in the package. ASOS, huge company, they do this.
Kunle: Absolutely. Are they very active in the US?
Max: Yes, they are, and I think the reason for this is because they have that return label in the package. So I could buy a whole slew of sizes, a whole slew of products, and what I don’t like, what doesn’t fit right, I send it back and I don’t have to worry about it.
Kunle: My wife used to do that a lot with them. [laughs]
Max: It’s great. And I think that another place that stores can look if they’re struggling to convert prospects into customers is the metrics. So are prospects not opening emails? Then maybe something’s wrong with the subject line. It could be because they’re running single optin lists, not double optin, so the list isn’t clean. If prospects are opening the emails but are not clicking, then perhaps the call to action isn’t clear or is not compelling enough. And then I would say the last sort of bit is if people are opening emails, if these prospects are then clicking on these emails but they’re not ordering, then start testing the website. How does the website work on mobile? How does it work on an android phone versus an iPhone? Is the product detail page optimized for conversions or is there a bug? So there’s a ton of moving pieces here. But ultimately, it’s following up with customers and trying to create that experience. And sometimes it’s about warming customers up, so the coupons help, the news about new arrivals help. But it’s always important to keep it simple and to not to do too many things with an email so that’s why it’s important to make it clear what the call to action is and what you want customers to do.
Kunle: Okay, okay, just be clear. Now talking about metrics, you just pointed something out which I totally was not going to ask. Where are majority of emails being picked up, especially transactional or driven emails, at the moment from what you guys have seen from Remarkety: mobiles, desktops, tablets?
Max: Mostly mobile. I would say that mobile is… we’re seeing over 60% now which is crazy because I think it was just a couple of years ago that it was it had just made the turn from 50%. So majority is mobile. I think that we see most people, depending on the country, a lot of people place an order around mobile. In some countries customers are less likely to make big purchases on mobile or tablet, so about in the US a lot of big expensive purchases are typically made on the desktop. But it sort of changes by country. So it’s something to keep in mind that basically you want your emails to look good no matter what on any device. And if somebody’s going to bookmark that email for later to place an order when they’re at home in front of their computer, you want that email to be consistent no matter what the device is and that would be responsive design which is critical.
Kunle: Exactly, because you made a really, really good point with regards to checking out your website if open rates are good and clicks are great, so you know there might be something hindering, stopping conversions. Okay, speaking of metrics, from the data you guys are seeing, what kind of open rates work? From mass email newsletter, just blast, as compared to automated, really targeted automated? How do automated emails actually fair against, from a metric standpoint, from an open metric rate standpoint, as compared to email blast like newsletters?
Max: So we can do opens and clicks here.
Kunle: Opens and clicks exactly.
Max: Yeah, I would say that the typical e-commerce newsletter will get a 16% open rate and a 2% or 3% click rate, while we see some of these targeted and automated emails have an open rate closer to 60% and a click rate over 30%. So it’s substantially better than a newsletter and it’s because they’re personalized. It’s because they’re relevant to the customer, these emails are based on the way a customer shops. Which is fundamentally different than a newsletter, which is just sent out which is focused more on the brand and the sale. Whereas these personalized coupons are focused more on that customer, how they’ve shopped and who they are.
Kunle: It’s all about context, yeah. Okay, should we talk about KPIs and how they should be measured, but I think we’ve gone through KPIs really, from an open rate and click standpoint. Are there any other KPIs we should be looking at from metric standpoint?
Max: I would say something that we like to call a ‘purchase rate’ and this is something that it would be the equivalent of a conversion. And it’s one of the nice things about email, it’s about closing that loop. So opens and clicks will tell you if the messaging and the design of your emails are working and the purchase rate will tell you if the emails are driving new orders. And this is critical because every store wants to drive orders and they want to be able to make money. So I would say purchase rate is sort of that third KPI and that’s one of those things that are unique to Remarkety because our platform is designed exclusively for e-commerce. But it sometimes can be a little tougher when people are using the newsletter services and the newsletter tools, it’s much harder to find the purchase rate in other platforms. So it’s one of those things we like to talk about a lot and like to show-off to our customers.
Kunle: Awesome, so I could see a purchase rate for every single email?
Max: That’s right. Every single campaign and every single email that gets sent to the customer.
Kunle: Awesome, okay, fantastic, it’s direct measurement. Okay. Could you expand on more or less how customers fine-tune their accounts or these metrics? If open rate is down, how do you fine-tune it to improve it for a particular campaign?
Max: Well there’s a couple of different things. The customer can, if they notice it, they can start running A/B tests and potentially create a new subject line or a new email design and compare it. The other thing that we do is we have thousands of shops using our platform and so we can compare a store and a particular vertical twist or similar vertical. Now this is all done in our back-end and that data is not shared with anybody. But if we see a drop in open rate, we might suggest a store would add personalization in the subject line for example. Or maybe how soon the email is sent based on stores similar. The other sort of recommendation that we might suggest is if we see an opportunity for more purchases, more orders, to make more money, we would look at a particular store and say, ‘Hey, the stores like yours are running this kind of email campaign. If you run this you might be able to see an uptake of X amount of money in sales this month.’ So, we both do fine-tuning of the campaign, whether it’ subject lines, or design, or product recommendations. Or we can even do the, ‘Hey you should probably create these other email campaigns as well because otherwise you’re leaving money on the table.’
Kunle: Okay, okay. That pretty much rounds up the metrics bit. The holidays are coming, it’s this quarter basically, October November December. Some e-commerce stores or most e-commerce stores this is when they make the most money. What are the biggest dates this quarter and how should e-tailers prepare from a marketing automation standpoint to maximize their customer lifetime value?
Max: Well, I’ll answer your last question first. I think that it’s important for stores to keep in mind when sometimes these automated emails might be sending. So we talk about how automated emails are great driving sales and making customers feel like a part of the brand, but it’s important that they perhaps aren’t sending emails on certain days. So keep in mind who your customers are and there’s a lot of dates here that perhaps you might want to be hesitant about emailing your customers. I would say that Halloween in the States is October 31 and you can email customers that day, that’s sort of like a fun holiday, people are out there, they eat a lot of candy, and that’s the holiday here. And then there’s Thanksgiving, that’s another holiday in the States, that’s Thursday, November 26th. Now this is also a day where it’s supposed to be family time but I think that we all know what Thanksgiving leads into and that’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday which is more like Cyber Week and so I think those are all fair game. But you want to be careful around early to late December. Now there’s Hanukkah, that starts Sunday, December 6th, and that runs through Monday, December 14th, so it’s important to keep in mind if you have Jewish customers, you know you’re sending these emails, you don’t want to offend your customers and you don’t want to send them too many emails in a time that’s very special for them. And then you have Christmas Day on Friday, December 25th and this is also a day to keep in mind where maybe not the best time to send an email to customers. Probably not the best time to send a newsletter. These are times that people aren’t probably sitting in front of their phones and shopping. So December 26th however, that’s when everybody goes back to the stores to return and they’re going to the post office to send things back so that might be a better opportunity. So those are the sorts of things you’d probably want to keep in mind.
Kunle: The 26th is a big shopping day in the UK, it’s called Boxing Day here and it’s kind of like you are black Friday. But we’ve been Americanized so last year was our best Black Friday despite thus not celebrating Thanksgiving, the stores just manipulated the press and they got footfall to the stores, it’s just quite interesting. Okay.
Max: That’s brilliant actually, I need to keep that in mind because I mean there’s quite a few UK shops that I like using so, well, thanks.
Kunle: Cheers. So what tips do you have in regards to creating an emotional connection? Because you mentioned something earlier which is quite interesting, being sensitive to your customers especially when their peace and quiet, enjoying with their family a particular period over the holiday. So from an emotional standpoint, connection, psychological standpoint, how can we use that to our advantage to improve our messaging over the holiday? What tips do you have?
Max: So in the past life I was a copywriter, so I think it’s a combination of a good story and consistency with the brand voice. And emails can be a big part of creating this connection and pulling it together, but it’s that total package. It’s the website, the emails, the packaging of the products that your customers get, this all needs to work together. You know I think something that’s really nice and really underrated is the handwritten thank you note. So you can’t do this for everyone, it’s difficult to do, but it’s gotta be the total package to work together. And I know that some customers might not care about that handwritten thank you note, they might not care about the branding, and the look and feel that goes from email to website to transactional emails but I think for other people they want to feel like they’re a part of something. They want to know who’s running this company, they want to know who they’re buying from, they want to know that they’re helping somebody like them, they’re helping somebody, a normal person who’s running a shop and doing it their way. But yeah, it’s that total package. Emails are one part of that package.
Kunle: Okay, okay, that makes a lot of sense. Right. Which is bigger in the US Cyber Monday or Black Friday?
Max: [laughs] These days have blown up so much in the past handful of years that it’s really hard to say. I mean maybe because you’re in the UK you see less of this, maybe but probably not so much, the deals and the discounting they, I would say they have started in the States already. We’re already seeing it happen, they’re gearing people up for Christmas, they’re gearing people up for December and the giftgiving, so it’s started. But like that Black Friday’s the kickoff and then Cyber Monday, which is now Cyber Week, is just its own entity. So Cyber Week seems like probably it might be bigger but it’s safe to say pretty much that November December, it would be hard not to find a great deal or sale and if you’re not saving money on a purchase then you did something very, very wrong.
Kunle: I have a question with regards to both days. From a retailer’s standpoint, are these acquisition days for new customers or are these more retention, customer lifetime value activities? Where do they make more gains, from that standpoint? I’m just curious to find out what your perspective is, there’s no right or wrong answer, really.
Max: That’s actually a really fascinating question. I don’t have any numbers but just sort of thinking about it, it’s much easier to get a customer to place an order a second time than to get the customer to place an order the first time. And it would seem to me that Cyber Monday or Black Friday, these days are so right for getting a customer to come back multiple times and to place a second or third order. I think that also you buy a gift for somebody and then you realize, ‘Oh I forgot to buy a gift for Aunt Sue or Uncle Jim,’ so you’re going again and you’re shopping for maybe sometimes the same store so you’re placing an order from the same store three or four times in the course of 30 days. I think it’s probably a better opportunity to increase that customer lifetime value. However because the incentives and the deals are so good, I think a lot of stores find that they are able to get a lot of new purchases from people who’d never bought from them before. But sometimes those customers have sort of this benchmark in their head that the store discounts products at this particular number, so if they don’t see that discount in the future it might be harder for them to get them to come back.
Kunle: Very, very good point there. I’m on the same page with you with regards to that there seems to be a lot more CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) value there for those campaigns or those days. Okay, final set of questions. Are there any tools, books, or resources that you recommend to store owners looking to learn more about email marketing automation? You’re an expert from your previous career to it’s actually being right there in an e-commerce email marketing company, in Remarkety, so are they email marketing resources you read, any books that tip the balance for you, or tools?
Max: Well, I think that this podcast, you’ve talked about email marketing a couple times before, so I would say that 2X eCommerce is a great resource, absolutely. And I think that another great resource is a website called Practical Ecommerce. Now they have great white papers, they have great studies, they have a lot of guest blog posts from people like me or other marketers at different companies that provide services to e-commerce businesses so there’s a website MarketingProfs. Now MarketingProfs doesn’t necessarily go into e-commerce all the time, it’s not e-commerce exclusive, but I think that it’s good to look outside of e-commerce for ideas or opportunities. And Econsultancy is another great website. And general marketing resources for growing businesses: GrowthHackers.com. This is a wonderful resource where they do really, really good interviews with CEOs and founders of companies that have grown astronomically quickly. And I think that there’s, to run a shop, to be a marketer, there’s always that little bit of creativity that… making connections. So making connections from something completely different from your own store but finding an opportunity to do something with it. And I think MarketingProfs, Practical Ecommerce, Econsultancy, GrowthHackers.com, 2X eCommerce, these sorts of resources do those things.
Kunle: Thank you for having us on the list. So before you say your goodbyes, what advice do you have, what final advice especially with this quarter, these final holidays, what advice would you give to e-tailers listening that are most likely retailing midtier e-tailers thinking aggressively about growth and very, very positively, to actually grow this next quarter and the year, what single piece of parting advice would you give them to actually grow a notch of their business?
Max: So, man, a single piece of advice is extremely difficult and I think that one thing that we haven’t talked about that might be surprisingly effective at moving the needle here, really making the most of holidays, is something called pre-header text. Now this is the first line of text in an email after the subject line. Now most email tools automatically populate space after the subject line with the first line of text inside the email. Yahoo does it, Gmail does it, on mobile and on desktop and on tablet. So this is sort of like, it doubles as your second subject line that can act that can draw a customer in. So think about that preheader text, I think that if you look through your email inbox you might see a lot of says like, you might see text that says, ‘To see this email better, open in a new browser’ or ‘No longer wish to see this email? Unsubscribe.’ I mean that’s a waste of an opportunity.
Kunle: Absolutely. So how do you go about it, do you just change the first line in the email subject in the email body or are there any’s special fields you can use on email marketing software for the pre-header text?
Max: Yes, so what we typically do in our templates is we leave a line of space where a customer can just type and write in something. Another that sometimes might not affect the look of an email for a customer, make sure that the image, so let’s say you have a header image usually a logo, make sure there’s no alt tags or there’s no secondary name for that image so the email tools don’t pull that as the name. And then what you could do is you could have a title under the image, so typically it’s that logo, so you could have a title under the logo. Or what you could do is you could actually hide the text at the top, so you have text but you make the color of the text light, so it’s not visible but it is visible when somebody is scrolling through emails on the inbox and they can see it there.
Kunle: Gotcha gotcha. Fantastic, okay, pre-header text. Okay all right, good stuff, good stuff. Finally where do you hang out, how can our listeners get in touch, follow you, going forward from here?
Max: Great, well my email is Max (at) Remarkety (dot) com and that’s a great resource anybody can email me, ask me questions, learn more about Remarkety, would love to chat. There are other email addresses, sales (at) Remarkety. And you can find us on Twitter, we’re @Remarkety. We’re on Facebook and we have a couple of nice helpful YouTube videos as well where we talk about how to create certain campaigns and how to take email campaigns the next level. And then we also have our website Remarkety.com of course and our blog has some other really good resources around improving email campaigns this holiday season, what those subject line should be, the design, cadence, things like that.
Kunle: Fantastic. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show, Max. Thank you for sharing your insights on email marketing automation, transactional emails, and Remarkety.
Max: Well, thanks Kunle, I’ve had a great time chatting with you and I really hope that we could do it again soon.
Kunle: Absolutely. Cheers.
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