Despite all talk focusing on ‘the next big thing’, email is still central to everything we do. Are retailers failing to get the basics rights and missing out?
AI. Machine learning. Email. Two of these sound hot, and one of these sounds….not. But despite losing its title as digital demi-god, email is actually still at the core of everything we do (or should be doing!).
“Email still is the primary revenue driver,” says Tink Taylor, Founder and President of dotdigital. “There’s a misconception that email is dead. It isn’t! It offers the best return, along with search. Email is suddenly sexy again.”
“You need email to buy something. You need your email to log into social. You need an email to retarget. People have moved on to social and different messaging platforms, but email is your digital key,” Taylor explains.
The evolution of email and the digital marketing space is part of the reason behind dotdigital’s own rebrand from dotmailer. “We’ve grown and the product has changed,” Taylor says. It’s about being omnichannel in the true sense of the word. This means focusing on two-way communication between retailers and consumers. It’s not about being on all channels, it’s about using these channels effectively and improving the consumer experience.
It’s this consumer experience aspect that many digital marketers are forgoing, focusing instead on a tick-a-box strategy that forgets what should be at the core of online retail.
“In Australia there is far too much batching and blasting. Digital marketers are very time-poor and the platforms are too expensive or complex so they never get around to truly personalising, automating or segmenting,” Taylor says. “It’s easier to batch and blast. What they should be doing is spending money on making sure they do this stuff right. That would automatically, in an omnichannel tool like dotdigital, incorporate things like retargeting and social media messaging.”
If retailers aren’t getting the basics right, they are surely going to struggle when it comes to staying ahead of the trends moving forward. So what should digital marketers be preparing for in 2019?
Conversational commerce, which is what is at the core of dotdigital’s new direction, is a huge element of e-commerce moving forward according to Taylor.
“We used to talk about the three Rs, but now it’s about the four Rs: right person, right time, right message and now, in the right channel. And that channel has to be where the consumer wants to initiate the discussion. So if you’re not there in the right channel, the consumer can’t chat with you (whether that’s web or push or Facebook or live chat).”
“We’ve seen that trend over the last few years but that’s accelerated and we expect to see that accelerate into 2019,” Taylor adds.
Another (continual) trend for 2019 is data. “We’re collecting more and more data all of the time. That’s fantastic because it allows us to do deeper segmentation and deeper personalisation. But the trend is really to look out for tools and skills and signposts and use the data properly.”
“We’ve launched some AI features and machine learning. For us, as a business, we’re quite ‘honest John’ about what we can do and our capabilities. I think what we’ve seen in the last year or so is a number of people jumping on the bandwagon of key buzzwords in the industry. When you peel the layers off, what many are referring to as AI or machine learning—it really isn’t, not in the true sense. Send-time automation? That’s not AI, that’s a feature that we’ve had ten or 15 years ago. I think the trend moving forward is that the truth will come out. Those that are doing true machine learning and AI, you’ll start to see them coming to fruition and the driver behind that is the sheer volume of data that we will now be storing. It’s critical to get the maximum ROI out of that. Using machine learning will be the only way to actually achieve that to its fullest extent because there’s just so much to do.”
Again, retailers in Australia are looking at the big picture of data without focusing on the basics and what they should be doing now. “They’re not using the data they have in the most effective way. There are so many opportnities to look at how to generate that revenue. They’re missing the opportunity.”
“Fifty-five percent of brands aren’t doing abandoned cart emails. Why?” Taylor says, by way of example. “Investing a little bit of time setting up automation, you buy back time. Think about strategy, analyse results, tweak to get more revenue. Spend less time ‘doing’. Set up the automation. Even Aussie retailers buy a platform like ours, but then don’t use the automations. Use the templates. Use the basics properly, then take a deep dive into the business.”
Focusing on the essentials doesn’t mean brands and retailers can’t still be creative and think outside the box. Taylor shares the example of Accolade Wines. The company had set up a tiered loyalty program in order to identify VIP members based on spending thresholds. It provides a personalised experience for this segment to help foster these relationships, while monitoring loyalty and retention. As part of this, it monitored VIP members who hadn’t made a purchase in the last two years and sent a message telling them they would be booted out of the VIP club if they didn’t make a purchase. The campaign worked. Successful campaigns often break best practice. But retailers don’t do this every time. They do it every now and then. And when you do something different and out of the blue, it grabs attention and makes people act.