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Epsilon released its Q4 2013 Email Trends and Benchmarks Report earlier this month and there’s some exciting new data here on triggered messages that will help marketers evaluate their email programs.

Last week I spoke about the value of triggered email messages at the Monetate Agility Summit. Here Epsilon is breaking out performance on triggered messages not just compared to non-triggered or business-as-usual messages, but also by industry segment.

It confirms what those of us who love triggered messages already knew:

  • Triggered messages generate open rates an average of nearly 60% higher than business-as-usual messages
  • When it comes to clicks, messages triggered in response to a recipient’s actions garner more than double the clicks of non-triggered missives
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Everywhere you turn in the digital space, the word “relevant” seems to appear. Relevant ads. Relevant communications. Relevant this and relevant that. God forbid that you’re irrelevant – a ticket that some people (mostly vendors who sell “relevance solutions”) will lead you directly to Dante’s 6th circle. In email, dogma has formed that makes you try to believe that you must – at all times – only deliver product content to your consumers that is totally and absolutely relevant to them at that particular moment.

I call bullshit. Because - in email- relevance is irrelevant, once the consumer chooses you. (Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth music.)

Why do I know this? Statistics.

In any statistical model I’ve been around, the most relevant piece of information you can have to predict future purchase behavior is past purchase of either the same product or that category of product. It’s such a powerful variable that statisticians usually eliminate it because (a) it skews the model and (b) if you actually had the category purchase data at scale, you really would not need a model. That single data element is so “relevant” that if you had enough of it, you could stop there and live off of that variable to build your business.

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Every marketer has been there. You’ve just gotten back from the conference or read an inspiring ebook on A/B testing, and you’re pumped to start your own testing strategy. And then three people need all of their emails to go out immediately, and testing goes out the door with your sanity. We all know that tweaks in our email marketing campaigns can pay off with big returns, but it’s hard to find the time to actually do it well. However, it won’t take as much time as you think if you utilize existing tools and put a bit of thought into your testing strategy.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the technical term for strategically planning your tests. It’s the active process of defining the metric you’re trying to optimize, creating several hypotheses about what tweaks in your campaigns may increase your conversion rate, and measuring the effect of each hypothesis. It applies equally to email and landing pages, but I’ll limit the discussion here to email as much as possible.

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In the last few years we've seen lots of innovation in the email world. We now have transactional email APIsdynamic ads within email, and completely customized experiences at email open time. And more. But what's next? Where are the big opportunities for email innovation over the next several years? My bet is on the Inbox. After all, the Inbox is the source of truth for our online life. What we buy, who we really know, who we communicate most often with - it's all there. It's no surprise then that when the Inbox is opened up for access via APIs and applications, you can make a whole range of new use cases come alive for your customers. However, given limited space (and attention spans), I'll be covering just three today.

1. Smarter Shares

'Click to Tweet' isn't cutting it

In a recent study on social sharing within marketing emails, Silverpop saw that 35% of the emails studied generated zero sharing clicks and 49% had social CTR less than 0.1%. Instead of sharing that great eCommerce offer with 1000 of your closest friends on Twitter, why not click a 'Share with my close friends' link that would grab 5 or 10 relevant contacts from your Inbox based on relevant keywords in the offer? Here's a sample app we wrote (tagline for the app: 'pass the word to your friends who might actually care') to show you how smarter sharing via email could work in practice.

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Email Marketing in South Africa is truly in it's infancy. There are few true ESP's in South Africa, and very few companies truly using Email Marketing to it's full potential.

With mobile access so high here, ESP's needs an innovative approach to capturing the leads and integrating that into a total email marketing solution. With a population of around 50+ Million, even though high levels are on cell phones, the market is growing rapidly, so its more about getting the education out to the marketplace to build a business. In the mean time, many local ESP's find that it's just easier to target international as well because of all the people in that market that just use it "as is".

There is thus huge potential for any ESP/Marketing Agency who can properly educate the market as to the benefits of email marketing, as well as getting past the ingrained objections against spending money monthly for "electronic marketing".

Anti Spam Legislation

Up until November 2013, there wasn't any anti spam legislation. This meant that end users were "legally" inundated with spam. Unfortunately this has jaded many South Africans, who look at email marketing messages with very high levels of distrust. Much more so than in other areas of the world.

In November of 2013, POPI (The Protection of Personal Information Act), was passed and signed into law. All companies have roughly a year to fully implement the regulations laid out in the act. Only time will tell if the act will be fully enforced.

The act was not specifically written for email marketing like in some other countries. It deals in all matters where personal information is collected, and has specific sections covering email marketing, SMS, direct mail, faxes and even robocall services.

Thankfully the act has pretty strict penalties of up to about US$ 1 Million per incident, and/or, up to 10 years in jail. Again, only time will tell how thoroughly these penalties will be applied.

Other Obstacles

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