With an abundance of options at consumers’ fingertips (literally), and audiences’ interests changing all the time, hyper-personalized experiences are no longer a ‘nice-to-have’, they are essential. Brands that can deliver a truly personalized and unique customer experience have an increased chance of retaining customers and building brand loyalty.
To drive high engagement, you need to meet your audience on the channels they love, with consistent content that is tailored to them. For example, if a product discount is offered through an online ad, the same is expected when they visit your website, and the product recommendations they receive in the future through email campaigns should be based on their purchase history and product interests. This shift towards consistently personalized omni-channel experiences has led to a decrease in the effectiveness of blanket communications, more specifically, email blasts.
What is an email blast?
An email blast is a method of communication that involves sending one version of an email to as many subscribers as possible, at one time. Anyone with an email address will have received an email blast in their inbox. Telltale signs include content that has little to no personalization or segmentation, making for what is essentially a blind cold call, in email format.
That’s not to say that an email blast doesn’t have its place as part of an email marketing strategy, but a ‘spray and pray’ approach to communicating offers and discounts can have detrimental impacts on your email database.
When email blasts can work
Depending on the maturity of your business, and the sophistication of your data management, sending campaigns as an email blast might be the only option you have. However, as you develop your strategy, increase your audience size, and look to use more tactics, sending emails this way could restrict the success of your campaigns. With email marketing technology ever-evolving, do email blasts still have a place? In short, yes, they allow you to get a message out to a large audience very quickly. But the purpose of your email and the type of brand you are plays a large part. For example, a sports team can promote their ticket offers to their whole audience with confidence that a high percentage of their list will be interested. Whereas if a travel agent targets their entire list with the same holiday package, they’re unlikely to generate the same levels of engagement due to the varying interests of their audience.
Other use cases for email blasts include:
- Updates to terms and conditions
- CEO announcements
- Updates to your website
- Product downtime
- Emergency announcements
It’s not a complete farewell to email blasts, but with the new kids (tactics) on the block, there is a multitude of ways you could be approaching your email campaigns to drive more engagement and better results. Here, we’ll look at some of the reasons email blasts can be ineffective.
1. One-off emails don’t drive engagement
When was the last time you read one email and thought “yep, I’ll buy that”, especially from a brand you haven’t heard from in a while, or at all? Ok, we’ve all had those impulse buys for that kitchen gadget we saw while scrolling Instagram (that we no longer use), but the reality is, generating audience interest via email marketing takes time and more than one email to generate the desired outcome of high engagement or conversions.
2. Lack of insight
In a list of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, identifying trends and acting on those insights can become a mammoth task. By collecting and managing behaviors and preferences well, segmenting, and getting to know your audience, you have a better chance of understanding what resonates, what content works, and the launch time that generates more engagements for your campaigns. You can also begin to understand who is becoming disengaged and therefore needs a nudge in the right direction with some re-engagement tactics.
3. Lack of personalization
We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again for the people at the back. Personalized experiences are expected and essential to drive engagement through email marketing. Sending the same offer on package holidays to your full list, or swimsuit discounts in a mass email, screams from the rooftops that you don’t understand your audience’s needs and you are unwilling to put in the effort to tailor your marketing. Personalization is more than greeting someone by their first name (though it does help!). Think about the last email that really stood out to you and made you interact with the brand. There’s a high chance that multiple elements of the email were tailored to your personal interests and didn’t begin with “hi there”.
4. Lack of segmentation
When executed correctly, personalization and segmentation work in perfect harmony. Even segmenting your audience at a basic level I.e. gender, age, and location can increase your chances of creating an engaged audience. What was once a blanket email offering your whole list the same discount, becomes a targeted email to a geographically segmented portion of your list, who can redeem an offer at their local restaurant. Advanced segmentation techniques such as purchase history, product interest, browsing behavior, or stage in the customer lifecycle could turn a virtual window shopper into a paying customer due to serving them a discount on a product you know they’ll love, straight to their inbox.
For one large US retailer in 2021, email blasts to their entire database were reaching just 34% of their subscribers’ inboxes, whereas with a segmented and personalized approach they were able to increase the volume of emails that were making it into the same inboxes to between 75% and 90%.
5. Risk of SPAM complaints and damaged sender reputation
Due to the nature of email blasts lacking personalization and using large audiences, there’s a risk of impacting your sender reputation and ongoing deliverability. This can happen in the following ways:
- Spam complaints – If too many recipients mark your email as spam, it signals to mailbox providers that your future emails probably belong in spam. It doesn’t take much for a sender to suddenly have important email campaigns being automatically moved into Spam folders and never being seen. In the example of one US retailer in 2021, in the build-up to the holiday season, they sent an email blast to over 2M subscribers on a Tuesday, whereby 75% of emails reached the inbox, however by Thursday, when repeating the offer, the email only reached 31%, with the majority hitting spam folders
- Bounce rates – When a significant percentage of your emails bounce, it can indicate that you (the sender) could be buying email lists or not managing the hygiene of your existing lists, causing mailbox providers to send email to spam. List hygiene is harder to maintain when working with one large list.
- Low email engagement – When subscribers actively engage with your email, it signals to mailbox providers that your email belongs in the inbox. Likewise, poor email engagement may prevent emails from making it to the inbox. Therefore, by creating targeted campaigns to smaller lists, you increase your chances of building engagement and avoiding sender reputation issues.
6. Cost of unused email address
Unengaged list members not only increase your chances of being reported as spam but could also cost you money. The cost of sending email through your email marketing software will depend on the scale of your operation. However, if you’re not careful with your list of recipients, you could end up paying for emails that never get read. It is therefore important to have a manageable list size where you can identify unengaged data, and spring clean dormant email addresses.
With a multitude of channels to reach your audience on, reducing your marketing to only one channel is unlikely to help you in delivering your marketing objectives. However, if you do double down on email, engagement is critical to healthy inbox placement. To get there your content needs to be relevant and personalized, and you need to carry out regular analysis as to which emails perform best, assess why certain campaigns perform better than others, and what your subscribers interact with the most.
Put the power in your audience’s hands with a preference center, to ensure each subscriber can opt-in to receive the content they have explicitly stated they want. Better still, find out how frequently your customers want to be emailed, let them dial down the volume they receive or let them tell you how they want to be marketed to. Successful email programs have a foundation of well-maintained data, and regular testing and optimization. So, whether you opt to use email blasts, or take a more targeted approach, make sure to take the time to draw insights from your campaigns to deliver the next best action and the great experience your subscribers have come to expect.