Author Archives: Simon Bowker

Simon Bowker

About Simon Bowker

Simon was appointed UK Managing Director in early 2009, having previously been Director of Operations, UK and France.

In his role as MD, Simon is responsible for growing eCircle’s business in the UK, overseeing a team of 60. With over ten years experience in online marketing, Simon has advised on email strategies for clients including Samsung, Argos, HBOS, MBNA and Standard Life.

Simon has a wealth of public speaking experience and regularly delivers presentations at events throughout the UK including eCircle’s own conferences, Internet World, Technology for Marketing & Advertising and the Chartered Institute of Marketing Digital Conference to name but a few.

Before joining eCircle in 2002, Simon was previously Senior Project Manager at independent web development agency Hyena where he worked across a number of clients in the public services sector.

Simon joined the DMA Email Marketing Council as a co-opted member of the Best Practice, Data & Legal Hub in 2009 and co-wrote a revised version of the Email Deliverability Guidelines and was officially elected onto the council in February 2010.

EU Draft Data Protection Regulation – Data Breach Notification

Anyone who is in the business of processing personal data will be aware of the proposed new EU Data Protection Regulation. It’s a pretty hot topic right now (as I’m sure you’d agree) as it represents the most significant global development in data protection law since the EU Data Protection Directive that was agreed over 17 years ago. This was clearly way before smartphones were in everyone’s pockets and internet access was in every household, so no one would deny the fact that in this age of mass information sharing, this piece of legislation is in need of some revision.

However, a common view amongst marketers and data owners is that the current draft of the Regulation doesn’t strike the right balance between a) protecting an individual’s right to data privacy, and b) allowing businesses to engage with consumers, using the data they have access to, to deliver really relevant content.

As part of the proposed new Regulation, the European Commission is widening the scope of data protection laws to include a requirement that any business that stores personal data will have to disclose the details of any data security breaches.

So what does this mean and how do data security breaches occur? They can happen in a vast majority of ways, which can include:
• Lost or stolen laptops, removable storage devices (USB sticks etc.) or paper records containing personal information
• Hard disk drives being disposed of or returned without the information being correctly erased
• Hacking
• Staff members accessing or disclosing personal information illicitly
• Unsecured recycling of confidential waste
• Sending sensitive information digitally without encrypting it properly first

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) the definition of a personal data security breach is “a breach of security leading the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorised disclosure of, or access to, personal data transmitted, stored or otherwise processed.” Under the draft Regulation, it’s proposed that any organisation that processes personal data will be required to inform the ICO if a personal data security breach occurs.

So what does this mean for us as Email Marketers?

Essentially it gives the consumer much more information and ultimately control. Yes, this is great for our customers, but not so wonderful for us as many organisations (especially those of us in the email industry who handle a large amount of data for our clients) have expressed concern about potential ‘over-disclosure’ opportunities that could arise thanks to the requirement to provide the necessary information within 24 hours of a data security breach, as envisaged in the draft Regulation. It could potentially force organisations to reveal more information than they need to (such as notifying every individual who might have been affected by the breach rather than those who definitely were). This concern is backed up by recent research from LogRhythm who found that 87% of UK businesses have admitted that they wouldn’t be able to identify individuals affected by a breach within this timeframe.

Another concern amongst email marketers is that this requirement to notify a data security breach within 24 hours doesn’t just apply to organisations based within the EU, but it includes those doing business in it, making the draft Regulation the first de facto global data breach law.

Finally, it could lead to ‘notification fatigue’. With the requirement for each and every breach to be notified, regardless of the severity, consumers could be inundated with breach notifications, which could lead to consumers tuning out.

The good news is that it could take another 3-4 years before the changes come into play, however many of our peers are expressing concern over the negative impact the new Regulation could have on email and direct marketing. The DMA (UK), with FEDMA, is lobbying the EU institutions in Brussels ,the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Culture Media and Sport here in London to try and achieve an outcome that is more business-friendly. We would like to see the requirement to notify regulators and individuals of a data security breach restricted to serious breaches and the 24 hour time limit to notify a breach to be extended. Whatever the outcome is, positive or otherwise, you can bet your bottom dollar that the data security breach notification requirement will remain in the Regulation in some form or other. Therefore, it’s absolutely imperative that you put in place or review clear and well-understood data security breach notification procedures.

 

How to Integrate Email and Mobile Marketing

Over the last year, the marketing world has seen mobile become a key tool for marketers with the channel being further integrated with others, such as email. With this in mind, marketers must ensure that their email campaigns are formatted to be viewed on mobile devices, including smartphones and now tablets.

A recent review by Forrester found that only 4% of email campaigns broadcasted had a deliberate consideration as to how the email would render on a mobile device. Much more needs to be done with mobile in mind so that marketers aren’t missing some fantastic opportunities. After all, many of us are now checking email more frequently by smartphone than ever before. The opportunity to grow your mobile commerce by communicating directly with recipients who are by nature more likely to make a purchase can’t be ignored. The majority of smartphone users are younger and more trend-conscious, making them key targets to take advantage of m-commerce. In December 2011, it has been estimated that £1.64billion was spent via mobile devices alone, which according to Forrester will grow to 7% of all ecommerce by 2016.

The key to creating relevant mobile experiences for your recipients is quite simple. By following best practice advice you can optimise your messages for smartphones:

  • Create text only versions of your emails and provide a link to a web page within the email header
  • Decrease email file size to less than 100kb so emails will display quickly on mobile devices
  • Fit content to mobile screens – this is different to reducing the file size – To do this you can either design messages with the appropriate pixel width requirement or by using cascading style sheets (CSS) where multiple HTML styles are created so content can automatically adjust to different mobile device display sizes
  • Shorten subject lines – mobiles truncate long subject lines, so be sure to get your point across quickly in around 30 characters
  • Use mobile-friendly calls to action – unlike the above points, which adapt your existing emails to look good on mobile devices, marketers can also tap in to the immediacy of mobile use with specific campaigns for recipients. For example, retailers have seen success with ‘deal of the day’ email offers and mobile specific calls to action such as click to call and download app
  • Add finger space around links – the average adult finger is 45 pixels wide so allow 10-15 pixels more for ‘finger-clicking’ space to avoid people tapping on the wrong link.
  • Link to mobile-optimised or specific landing pages – traditional webpages are often to cluttered and slow to load for smartphones. You are able to streamline content for needs e.g directions to stores and one click purchases for your registered users

Using these steps will immediately improve the relevance of your email campaigns but to leverage long-term opportunities and benefits of m-commerce and mobile marketing, you should also be analysing your customer lifecycles to determine when to send your broadcasts to influence key touchpoints. This will instigate the desired action and behaviour at these crucial decision points.

How consumers interact with brands via email and social media

In 2011 a study on how consumers interact with brands via email and social media was commissioned, which reminded me of the importance of digital marketers integrating their marketing channels effectively.

Some key statistics were uncovered by the study, which marketers across Europe can capitalise on to interact and engage with their consumers within their preferred method of communication. Interestingly, of the European countries sampled, (France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and the UK), it was the UK that had the highest number of respondents ‘liking’ brands’ Facebook pages with 33%. In total a third of Facebook and Twitter users in the UK ‘like’ brands – more than double the number in the other European countries. In other countries less than 16% of users were signed up as ‘fans’. This highlighted the different levels of engagement with social media across Europe.

Email marketing was found to be the most popular digital channel with an average of 83% of respondents being subscribed to receive newsletters. Respondents from Germany, France and The Netherlands were the most likely to be reachable only via email, whereas in Spain, Italy and the UK, integrated communications, including social media, were the preferred method of communicating with brands. Across all respondents 95% said they check their emails at least once a day and 75% said they use email to receive social network notifications.

For me, the most important issue that marketers need to understand is why people are behaving a certain way via social networks and email, and effectively integrate the two channels to maximise ROI, rather than treating them as separate entities. Only 18% of all consumers said they only use email with the majority preferring to use a combination of channels. The study uncovered that there is currently a large gap between what consumers want and what marketers are delivering.

Due to the extensive amount of information gathered, this infographic has been produced to display all of the information and summarise the key takeaways.

In light of these statistics, are you tailoring your strategy to ensure you are occupying the right channels or driving your consumers to your desired location from the networks they favour?

Retailers are failing to deliver effective email marketing

Due to the exponential growth of communication our day to day lives have become saturated with marketing messages. This makes it now so more important than ever for brands to create engaging, relevant email marketing strategies. Consumers are much more likely to shop online or send an email rather than use the phone. Therefore you’d expect brands, in particular retail brands to have perfected the art of online communication. It appears not.

At eCircle we recently conducted a study of thee top UK retailers to analyse just how effectively they used email as a method of communication. To carry out the study we signed up to all available newsletters from the Top 100 Hot Shops/Websites as listed by the IMRG and Hitwise.

The results we surprising with many brands failing to get even the email basics right.

Here are some of the results:

  • Retailers that had option to sign up to newsletter but never sent any emails out: 19 per cent
  • Retailers that failed to deliver regular email communications: 29 per cent
  • Retailers that failed to send a welcome message: 60 per cent
  • Retailers that didn’t have a newsletter sign up option: 10 per cent
  • Retailers that had option to sign up but needed mobile phone number or credit card: 6 per cent

I’m not saying it’s simple but the fundamentals of email marketing shouldn’t be that difficult to get right. I’d suggest these three key steps retailers should take to improve their global email marketing strategies:

The three golden rules

    1. Engage: Customers are often most receptive to communication from brands after making an online purchase and engaging customers at this point is integral to any email marketing strategy. Relevant, personalised post-purchase emails that target the customer on an individual level are also critical in encouraging a second purchase whilst simultaneously reminding them of your brand and reinforcing the benefits.

    2. Remind: Show lapsed customers why they signed up to receive your newsletter in the first place. What did you use in your original message and can you try to re-employ this tactic to encourage users to respond to your emails now? Overall, make sure your email marketing campaigns are based around users’ identified interests. If this doesn’t work then it might be worth removing these subscribers from your list. A drastic step, yes, but it’s better to have quality over quantity.

    3. Reward: Identify frequent buyers and reward them with appropriate offers. You could set up a triggered loyalty scheme campaign where subscribers are rewarded with exclusive discounts, points for every £1 they spend or voucher codes if they spend a certain amount online within a set time.”

Regular email communication is intrinsic in engaging potential customers, rewarding loyalty and encouraging repeat purchases. The basics of email marketing aren’t as tricky as many people think, ESP’s are there to provide the tools and support for you to run your email marketing and as long as you keep the ‘three golden rules’ front of mind you’ll be on the way to email marketing success!

Why do so many people still send untargeted emails?

My colleagues on the DMA Email Marketing Council and I have just published The Guide to Segmenting your Emails. So many of us within the email marketing industry see companies who send generic ‘one size fits all’ emails to their customers and feel compelled to advise them on how to do it better. How can it be that so many companies are going about their email marketing in a cocoon with no apparent awareness of how they might be able to improve their email campaigns by applying some basic segmentation to their strategies?

The thing is, most of the people who are carrying out these crimes against email marketing are not in any way stupid or misinformed. But how can it be that their programmes continues to suffer from the kind of treatment best described as a ‘one size fits all’ email strategy? Well here’s the thing, segmenting your database and developing a more personalised email programme to most people appears to be a huge job. As there are so many different customer types and behaviours to consider, with each person potentially having different preferences and buying behaviours. Then there’s the time it takes to match offers against these segments, and all within a team of one who also has to maintain the website, improve SEO and cover various other projects. Sounds like too much work? Maybe we should leave this segmentation business for next year?

Clearly segmenting your email program is going to create additional work, but the key is to be realistic about your plan to get your programme from where it is today to where it could be now and in the future. Remember that the biggest, most sophisticated, and most segmented email programmes weren’t developed over night. The key has to be to start small and grow. Tesco’s highly sophisticated loyalty program developed by Dunhumby started out with just four key segments. Anyone who starts out by trying to achieve too much too soon will struggle.

Here are a few small tips to help you develop an effective segmentation strategy:
1.    Review your data and see what’s currently available today. Focus on the data which can be easily used, rather than things which would require additional systems, departments and processes.
2.    Assess what attributes of your customers have the most potential. What differentiating characteristics would allow you to build the most compelling message which is relevant to the highest number of customers?
3.    Aim low. If you are just starting out, try to build four-six segments max. Don’t be too ambitious, you can always scale up over time.
4.    Put a long-term plan in place that you can work towards.
5.    Use your segments not only for creating different email versions, but also for analysis. Even sending the same message to all segments allows you to learn from the responses by comparing the success of that message across each segment.
6.    Look for ways in which you can streamline the process of building and sending messages to your segments. Segmentation will be creating more work for yourself, so it’s essential to get smart and find ways to claim back your precious time.

The Art of the Email Unsubscription Process: Simple Best Practice Steps

Providing a quick, hassle-free exit for those who want to opt out of an email campaign is a vital part of the customer relationship. A study by Marketing Sherpa found the ‘30% of all respondents said they used the report spam button ‘often’ or ‘very often’, a damaging fact for marketers so making the unsubscribe process easy and simple is essential.

In light of this I thought I’d provide some simple steps to ensure that you know what the best practice is on this area.

Firstly the number one rule is to keep the customer happy – it is vital to provide an easy unsubscription process. One click of a direct link to a branded, up to date confirmation landing page letting the customer know that their request was successful is recommended. Avoid passwords or log-ins, as these serve to irritate. Make sure you also confirm unsubscription immediately to avoid leaving any doubt in a customers’ mind. If the confirmation won’t be sent straight away then provide a clear deadline of when this will happen.

Don’t take the customer on a treasure hunt. Make sure your unsubscription link is clearly visible as there is really no value in hiding a link from a disengaged customer. Underline the link and place it somewhere obvious perhaps in the header at the top of your email. Hiding the unsubscription link can result in higher complaint rates which in turn will mean the poorer email campaign performance.

With the latest email marketing technology, including ours here at eCircle you also have the option to include a list unsubscribe in the header of email account such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Windows Live Hotmail, therefore if someone does wish to unsubscribe the option to do so is obvious and thus reduces the chances of a customer hitting the ‘this is spam’ button.

It’s very important to understand your customers’ preferences. Some recipients might not want to be cut off from all communication from your company, so provide then with options, like alternative content and the chance to opt out of certain topics or types newsletters. This should reduce unsubscriptions and improve overall efficiency.

Unsubscription are pages are often not attended to and are therefore not always up to date. Make sure the pages compliments your brand and email programme. There can be numerous reasons why someone wants to unsubscribe so never make the assumption that those recipients are totally lost and not worth care and attention. It makes sense at this point to ask customers why they are opting out and use this insight to improve your campaign efforts. Make sure this is optional, it shouldn’t stop people from being able to unsubscribe directly.

Lastly, some people will try to unsubscribe by replying to emails, so make sure you are monitoring this address and responding accordingly.

It’s understandable that a brand is likely to get more excited about targeting active live customers who are making regular orders than those they see as unengaged. However, the unsubscription process is still an important part of any email marketing strategy and can provide valuable information to help you improve your email marketing programme.

Retailers are failing to deliver effective email marketing

Due to the exponential growth of communication our day to day lives have become saturated with marketing messages. This makes it now so more important than ever for brands to create engaging, relevant email marketing strategies. Consumers are much more likely to shop online or send an email rather than use the phone. Therefore you’d expect brands, in particular retail brands to have perfected the art of online communication. It appears not.

At eCircle we recently conducted a study of the top UK retailers to analyse just how effectively they used email as a method of communication. To carry out the study we signed up to all available newsletters from the Top 100 Hot Shops/Websites as listed by the IMRG and Hitwise.

The results we surprising with many brands failing to get even the email basics right.

Here are some of the results:

• Retailers that had option to sign up to newsletter but never sent any emails out: 19 per cent
• Retailers that failed to deliver regular email communications: 29 per cent
• Retailers that failed to send a welcome message: 60 per cent
• Retailers that didn’t have a newsletter sign up option: 10 per cent
• Retailers that had option to sign up but needed mobile phone number or credit card: 6 per cent

I’m not saying it’s simple but the fundamentals of email marketing shouldn’t be that difficult to get right. I’d suggest these three key steps retailers should take to improve their global email marketing strategies:

The three golden rules

1. Engage: Customers are often most receptive to communication from brands after making an online purchase and engaging customers at this point is integral to any email marketing strategy. Relevant, personalised post-purchase emails that target the customer on an individual level are also critical in encouraging a second purchase whilst simultaneously reminding them of your brand and reinforcing the benefits.

2. Remind: Show lapsed customers why they signed up to receive your newsletter in the first place. What did you use in your original message and can you try to re-employ this tactic to encourage users to respond to your emails now? Overall, make sure your email marketing campaigns are based around users’ identified interests. If this doesn’t work then it might be worth removing these subscribers from your list. A drastic step, yes, but it’s better to have quality over quantity.

3. Reward: Identify frequent buyers and reward them with appropriate offers. You could set up a triggered loyalty scheme campaign where subscribers are rewarded with exclusive discounts, points for every £1 they spend or voucher codes if they spend a certain amount online within a set time.”

Regular email communication is intrinsic in engaging potential customers, rewarding loyalty and encouraging repeat purchases. The basics of email marketing aren’t as tricky as many people think, ESP’s are there to provide the tools and support for you to run your email marketing and as long as you keep the ‘three golden rules’ front of mind you’ll be on the way to email marketing success!