Over the course of the last three years, BlueHornet has conducted consumer surveys allowing us to couple behavioral information regarding consumer interaction with email, alongside self-reported perception regarding use of the channel. In order to obtain the most comprehensive view of the data we partnered with Flagship to survey a panel of over 1300 consumers across the US ranging from 18 to 75.
We wanted to cover off on some key categories of information including an understanding of their email habits, preferences around frequency and message relevance, the influence email has on their purchasing behavior, how they interact with email on mobile devices and finally the intersection of email, social and SMS. Today we are going to review the survey findings, then over the course of the next few months we will be diving deeper on each of these topics through the consumer views webinar series. The goal of the series is not to just tell you what we found, but to augment that with why marketers should care, how it impacts the approach to the channel and how to leverage the information to drive your programs.
Let’s start with Habits. When marketers think about their email program they typically consider things like relevance, frequency, brand awareness and loyalty – even source of data as major influencers of the programs success. But another important consideration is habit. Consumers have developed habitual behaviors when it comes to how, when and where they engage with their email from brands.
A major consideration of that habit is centered around which email address you have received. According to the survey, between personal and business email accounts, the average consumer has over 5 different email addresses. And each one of them carry a different level of importance to the consumer. When consumers are presented with the opportunity to provide their email address to a brand, there are a series of considerations that are made to determine which email address is the right one to provide given the situation. It is not uncommon for consumers to have a “throw-away” email address that they check periodically but don’t use for “important” email communications. Mine happens to be my Comcast address….so if any of you marketers have that….know I only check that account about one time a month – from my desktop – as I don’t even have it synched with my iPhone. Consumer habits influence your program performance from the onset of the relationship. And while you may not know which tier of email quality you have received - taking it in to consideration when you are evaluating your program performance can really put it in a different light.
Another component of consumer email habits is relative to where email is checked. When asked where they first check their email approximately 35% responded on a smart phone or tablet while 65% are checking on a computer (desktop or laptop). On the surface, the reported information doesn’t really echo what we are seeing from a behavioral perspective. As a matter of fact we work with clients that see 80+% open activity happening on a mobile device – which is an edge case – but we do see more than 50% consistently. So were is the discrepancy? Part of it has to do with age. This is why it is critical to know and understand your target demographic. Nearly 60% of 18 to 34 year olds reported opening on a smart phone and it decreases as the audience ages.
Frequency is a common topic of conversation – or rather debate – internally at most organizations. It is not uncommon for the email marketing manager to want to send less email and the management team to want to send more. And delivering a relevant experience is something we all strive to do – but how important is it all really – to the consumer?
When we think about our programs – many think of them in terms of number of email addresses being touched and how many messages being sent each week or each month. This isn’t wrong – it is just short-sited, because every marketer things about it this way (or most every marketer) losing site of the fact that there is a person on the other end of that email address receiving email from other brands, along-side yours. And at any moment in time if could be your email that put them over the edge of feeling like it is just too much. As a matter of fact, consumers report receiving email from, on average, about 9 brands – each sending 13 messages per month (that’s 117 per month, approximately 4 email per day.) from brands. Good news is that more than 52% feel like that is about the right amount of email – but 44% feel it is too much. It is important to keep this expectation in mind when working through the identification of the proper messaging cadence for your subscribers.
And for the third consecutive year (per the survey) and likely for many years – consumers still subscribe to receive email for the discounts. Talk about habit forming. When we first started sending email as brands it was to deliver information – newsletters, account statements, etc – and we have trained consumers to expect and seek discounts via the channel today. But what kind of offer is the right offer for consumers? Not all discounts are created equal
As a matter of fact, the type of discount that is most attractive for all surveyed consumers are dollar off deals – but free shipping and percent discounts were reportedly neck and neck – until you look at the preference by age. The 18-45 customer base preferred % off discounts in second place while those 46 to 75 preferred free shipping.
But what impact does email have on driving consumers to actually purchase?
Over 43% of those surveyed will actually wait for an email discount to come before they make a purchase. But is it the email that encouraged the behavior or has the email just become a different version of a coupon in the Sunday paper? There is another group of survey respondents that sited none of the items listed as impactful on purchase decisions. Understanding the influence your email programs have over the purchase decisions and behaviors of your subscribers is an important consideration in content planning.
And what happens after the purchase? If you follow the cycle through – we found that just about 39% of consumers have posted a product review – and consumers are nearly 3xs more likely to do so when reporting good experiences with products or services – versus bad ones. This is a great opportunity to foster your community of brand advocates and carry that sentiment through to your email program providing that recognition.
But mobile email are still not driving on-the-fly purchase decisions. The majority still don’t consider mobile email as a driver of purchase decisions, but increasing adoption of mobile coupons could change that with just over 38% citing the use of at least 1 mobile coupon in the last 12 months. This is meaningful for brands with brick and mortar locations that can accept mobile coupons. Leveraging the channels to support one another effectively could have meaningful and positive impact.
Email and Mobile has been a hot topic of conversation for years. The synergy between the two is seamless and the possibilities truly endless when leveraged effectively.
It is sometimes difficult to look at consumers through anyone’s eyes but your own. If I think about my personal cell phone use, it doesn’t mirror what’s reflected here at all. I primarily use my phone for Business Email, the business calls, personal calls, texts and personal email, in that order. But I am not the average consumer. It isn’t uncommon for brands to ideate the consumer experience based on their own biases – it isn’t malicious or intentful – just human nature. Based on our survey results, consumers still primarily use their phones for…well phone calls. But browsing personal email still appears in the top 5 with more than 80% using their smartphone to check personal email.
But if it doesn’t render well on their device, good luck getting them to read it. Only 4% of recipients are inclined to pinch, expand and drag your email around to read it – so if you are not currently designing either responsive or mobile first templates you should really start considering it. But when you do, be sure to test and measure appropriately. Measuring the impact that the layout has on both desktop and mobile openers and clickers, through to conversion will give you greater insight to performance long-term.
And what about Passbook? Passbook keeps things like airline boarding passes, movie tickets, and gift cards all in one place, letting you scan your iPhone or iPod touch to check in for a flight, get into a movie, redeem a coupon, and etc. But are consumers really using it? Adoption and use over the last 5 months has been largely concentrated to the 25-45 year old age group with coupons being the number one stored items. And since coupons and discounts are the number one reason consumers subscribe to receive email – a strategy to integrate your digital coupons in to passbook could be advantageous to explore.
Finally lets look at the iteration of mail, text and social media in a connected world.
Nearly 60% of surveyed consumers do not connect with brands on Facebook - but when they do it’s because they want deals. In the social world, consumers are publicly tied to a brand and it can be a badge of honor or a halo shame – depending on how others in the social sphere perceive the brand they are doing business with it. Where you have identified subscribers that engage in both your email program and your social presence though – this intersection leads to you to highly valuable, brand loyal and likely evangelical consumers and they should be treated as such at every touch.
Again, in looking at text – there is still a large portion of consumers not interested in joining brand text programs – just north of 50% and those that do so primarily again, to receive discounts. It begs the question of consumer addiction to digital discounts…
But email does remain the primary preferable channel to receive messaging from brands consumers do business with. It is personal and private to the consumer, but shareable if they so choose to. That is not to say that there is not an opportunity for all of these channels to intersect. The data and insight alone that can be generated and understood by these three channels together provides a view of the customer that not many brands have. As you look at your customers – keep this in mind.
As we wrap up and conclude the preliminary review of our consumer survey results – lets recap on what the trends have been over the last three years
Discounts remain the primary reason people subscribe to email lists.
Consumers’ biggest concern with email marketing once again is frequency. (44.1% of respondents reporting that they receive too much email.)
Mobile email is more important than ever before. (Almost 60% of consumers between 18 and 34 use a smart phone check their email at the beginning of their day. Only 4.2% of those surveyed say they will try to read a mobile email even if it doesn’t look good.)
Email continues to be the most popular channel for brand communications (with consumers choosing it 3:1 over the next preferred channel – direct mail.)
Consumers love discounts. Experiment to find what types of offers best resonate with your audience. (Be sure to take their age into consideration, as it affects the types of coupons to which they respond and the type of offers they want. If your subscribers are generally between 25 and 45, now may be the time to start testing Passbook.)
To keep consumers from unsubscribing, marketers continue to need to find the right frequency of emails to send. (Segmentation and targeting can help keep content relevant, and ensure readers are engaged. )
Leverage your consumer community by putting an emphasis on product reviews. (Over 10% submitted their comments just because the retailer asked, and consumers are nearly three times more likely to post a positive review than a negative one.)
If you aren’t taking a mobile-first approach, you are missing and possibly losing a large percentage of your audience. (The proliferation of smart phones has made email more accessible than ever before, and consumers see it as a core function of the device, along with making calls, text messaging, and accessing the internet. You only get one shot for someone to read your email, and it’s more likely than ever before that the opportunity will take place on a smart phone. For marketers, this means that if you aren’t taking a mobile-first approach, you are missing and possibly losing a large percentage of your audience.)
Your subscriber list is filled with people, not just email addresses. (Treat them with respect, listen to their wants, provide content that meets their needs and you will both gain from the relationship.)
BlueHornet's 2014 Consumer Views of Email Marketing Webinar Series: Part 1 of 6 Findings & Trends
• Discounts remain the primary
reason people subscribe to
• Consumers’ biggest concern
with email marketing once again
• Mobile email is more important
than ever before.
• Email continues to be the most
popular channel for brand
• Experiment to find what types of offers
best resonate with your audience.
• Keep consumers from unsubscribing,
find the right frequency of emails to
send, and make sure they are relevant.
• Leverage your consumer community
by putting an emphasis on product
• If you aren’t taking a mobile-first
approach, you are missing - and
possibly losing - a large percentage of
• Your subscriber list is filled with people,
not just email addresses.