Historically a key sales day, in-store footfall has dropped over recent years. Today’s shoppers prefer to bag a bargain during Black Friday or over 27, 28, and 29 December. Instead, there’s been a massive surge in consumers browsing online before venturing to the store. This presents a vital opportunity for ecommerce brands around the world.
But, as we all begin switching off and offices shut down for the holidays, how do we make ensure our marketing is ready?
We have eight tactics you need to put in place to maximize this marketing opportunity.
1. Set up your automation programs
Let’s face it – not all offices are open over the holidays. And if they are, you’re more likely to be focusing on next year’s strategy than sending out sales emails.
As a result, building your automation before the holidays begin is essential.
Make sure your strategy and creative are good to go and simply add them to your holiday automation. And the key automation you need to build is for your Boxing Day sales.
To guarantee massive ROI from this campaign, it’s important you think beyond a basic SALE email.
While these are eye-catching and can receive a decent CTR, the savvy-shopper is no longer so easily swayed.
When building your template, it’s important to take into consideration tactics that drive conversions and boost sales. Tools such as product recommendation blocks will improve engagements and bolster sales. Using AI-powered recommendations, you can highlight items related to or similar to previous purchases. This adds a layer of personalization to your email that’s hard to ignore.
2. Jazz-up your existing programs
Give your existing programs a Christmassy feel by creating some unique templates to cover the holiday period.
Boxing day sales are a great way to acquire new customers. Make the right first impression with a personalized welcome program that wishes new subscribers a ‘Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’. Perhaps you can offer a limited time discount to anyone signing up during the period. This will encourage repeat purchases when the season is over.
3. Get them before you even say hello
As with every other busy sales period, inboxes are even more overcrowded than normal. You need to make an impact as soon as your email lands. And the best way to do that is with your subject line.
Subject lines are an afterthought for many marketers. For others, it’s the most important part of the campaign. Being different is your secret weapon. Incorporate emojis and personalization to capture the attention of the skim reader.
And, don’t forget to test, test, test.
Setting up A/B tests before you fire off your emails is a must. They need to be constantly tweaked and adapted to ensure they’re landing with impact.
4. Get it before it’s gone
A flash sale is essentially a strictly limited period sale, fueled by the threat of limited stock and a tight deadline for purchase.
Flash or Short supply sales can generate an average uplift of 35% in transaction rates. At the extreme utilization of this trend, we have the infamous brand Supreme who is the pioneers of hype branding, some of their products resell as high as 1200% more than the retail price.
Running a short supply sale is an opportunity to generate real major sales momentum, particularly when supported by social media integrated with your outbound marketing campaigns. Interestingly, campaigns deployed in the morning have a higher engagement rate but those sent in the evening hours perform better on conversion; if your goal is to generate brand and awareness vs immediate sales consider this a tactic.
5. Everything connects
If you make just one update to your marketing strategy this month, make sure your systems are connected.
Integrations with your CRM and ecommerce store aren’t the only systems you need to think about connecting. To ensure your customers have a smooth and memorable journey with you, you need to consider all your communication channels. Whether you’re reaching customers by chat, SMS, push, or direct mail, you need to ensure your messaging is consistent.
This year, Black Friday proved to be the biggest day ever for mobile shopping. 61% of all online sales came from smartphone transactions, so being able to reach customers on the move is essential.
6. ‘Didn’t get what you wanted?’
Traditional post-Christmas thriftiness has been proven to be a thing of the past.
It’s one of the reasons why retailers are refocusing their marketing activity to maximize on the rise of the ‘I-want-it-now’ consumer. Shoppers want to spend some money on themselves as a reward for being so generous during the holiday season.
Build on this sentiment by personalizing your sales messages with dynamic content. Pull in previously browsed or wished for products to encourage shoppers to treat themselves to that special something they didn’t get from their loved ones.
7. Messages that really hit home
Boxing Day sales are a well-established practice in the world of UK ecommerce. As a result, to get your readers’ attention, you need to deliver relevant messages.
The more relevant the content you send, the more likely they are to read it. Tailoring email content around previous search and website visitor behavior can be an invaluable weapon in your battle for inbox cut-through.
Along with email marketing automation, consider building data segments of customers based on product categories they’ve browsed with targeted price discounts on related products.
Staff at your agency get asked this question just about every day, and it’s a local SEO forum FAQ, too:
“I’m located in ‘x’, but how do I rank beyond that?”
In fact, this query is so popular, it deserves a good and thorough answer. I’ve written this article in the simplest terms possible so that you can instantly share it with even your least-technical clients.
We’ll break rankings down into five easy-to-grasp groups, and make sense out of how Google appears to bucket rankings for different types of users and queries. Your clients will come away with an understanding of what’s appropriate, what’s possible, and what’s typically impossible. It’s my hope that shooting this link over to all relevant clients will save your team a ton of time, and ensure that the brands you’re serving are standing on steady ground with some good education.
There’s nothing quite like education as a sturdy baseline for creating achievable goals, is there?
One hypothetical client’s story
We’ll illustrate our story by focusing in on a single fictitious business. La Tortilleria is a tortilla bakery located at 197 Fifth Avenue in San Rafael, Marin County, California, USA. San Rafael is a small city with a population of about 60,000. La Tortilleria vends directly to B2C customers, as well as distributing their handmade tortillas to a variety of B2B clients, like restaurants and grocery stores throughout Marin County.
La Tortilleria’s organic white corn tortillas are so delicious, the bakery recently got featured on a Food Network TV show. Then, they started getting calls from San Francisco, Sacramento, and even Los Angeles asking about their product. This business, which started out as a mom-and-pop shop, is now hoping to expand distribution beyond county borders.
When it comes to Google visibility, what is La Tortilleria eligible for, and is there some strategy they can employ to show up in many places for many kinds of searches? Let’s begin:
Group I: Hyperlocal rankings
Your supreme chance of ranking in Google’s local pack results is typically in the neighborhood surrounding your business. For example, with the right strategy, La Tortilleria could expect to rank very well in the above downtown area of San Rafael surrounding their bakery. When searchers are physically located in this area or using search language like “tortilleria near me,” Google can hyper-localize the radius of the search to just a few city blocks when there are enough nearby options to make up a local pack.
Ask the client to consider:
What is my locale like? Am I in a big city, a small town, a rural area?
What is the competitive level of my market? Am I one of many businesses offering the same goods/services in my neighborhood, or am I one of the only businesses in my industry here?
Google’s local pack radius will vary greatly based on the answers to those two questions. For example, if there are 100 tortilla bakeries in San Rafael, Google doesn’t have to go very far to make up a local pack for a searcher standing on Fifth Avenue with their mobile phone. But, if La Tortilleria is one of only three such businesses in town, Google will have to reach further across the map to make up the pack. Meanwhile, in a truly rural area with few such businesses, Google’s smallest radius could span several towns, or if there simply aren’t enough options, not show a local pack in the results at all.
To do well in the hyperlocal packs, tell your client their business should:
Build out local business listings on top local business information platforms, either manually or via a service like Moz Local.
Mention neighborhood names or other hyperlocal terms on the company website, including on whichever page of the site the Google listing points to.
If competition is strong in the neighborhood, invest in more advanced tactics like earning local linktations, developing more targeted hyperlocal content, using Google Posts to highlight neighborhood-oriented content, and managing Google Q&A to outdistance more sluggish competitors.
*Note that if you are marketing a multi-location enterprise, you’ll need to undertake this work for each location to get it ranking well at a hyperlocal level.
Group II: Local rankings
These rankings are quite similar to the above but encompass an entire city. In fact, when we talk about local rankings, we are most often thinking about how a business ranks within its city of location. For example, how does La Tortilleria rank for searches like “tortilleria,” “tortilla shop,” or “tortillas san rafael” when a searcher is anywhere in that city, or traveling to that city from another locale?
If Google believes the intent of such searches is local (meaning that the searcher wants to find some tortillas to buy near them rather than just seeking general information about baked goods), they will make up a local pack of results. As we’ve covered, Google will customize these packs based on the searcher’s physical location in many instances, but a business that becomes authoritative enough can often rank across an entire city for multiple search phrases and searcher locales.
For instance, La Tortilleria might always rank #1 for “tortilla shop” when searchers on Fifth Avenue perform that search, but they could also rank #1 for “organic tortillas San Rafael” when locals in any part of that city or even out-of-towners do this lookup, if the business has built up enough authority surrounding this topic.
With the right strategy, every business has a very good chance of ranking locally in its city of physical location for some portion of its most desired search phrases.
Ask the client to consider:
Does my location + Google’s results behavior create small or large hurdles in my quest for city-wide rankings? When I look at the local packs I want to rank for, does Google appear to be clustering them too tightly in some part of the city to include my location in a different part of town? If so, can I overcome this?
What can I specialize in to set me apart? Is there some product, service, or desirable attribute my business can become particularly known for in my city over all other competitors? If I can’t compete for the biggest terms I’d like to rank for, are there smaller terms I could become dominant for city-wide?
How can I build my authority surrounding this special offering? What will be the most effective methodologies for becoming a household name in my community when people need the services I offer?
Your agency will face challenges surrounding this area of work. I was recently speaking with a business owner in Los Angeles who was disappointed that he wasn’t appearing for the large, lucrative search term “car service to LAX.” When we looked at the results together from various locations, we saw that Google’s radius for that term was tightly clustered around the airport. This company’s location was in a different neighborhood many miles away. In fact, it was only when we zoomed out on Google Maps to enlarge the search radius, or zoomed in on this company’s neighborhood, that we were able to see their listing appear in the local results.
This was a classic example of a big city with tons of brands offering nearly-identical services — it results in very stiff competition and tight local pack radius.
My advice in a tough scenario like this would revolve around one of these three things:
Becoming such a famous brand that the business could overcome Google’s famous bias
Specializing in some attribute that would enable them to seek rankings for less competitive keywords
Moving to an office near that “centroid” of business instead of in a distant neighborhood of the large city.
Your specific scenario may be easier, equal to, or even harder than this. Needless to say, a tortilla shop in a modestly-sized town does not face the same challenges as a car service in a metropolis. Your strategy will be based on your study of your market.
Depending on the level of competition in the client’s market, tell them they will need to invest in some or all of the following:
Observe Google’s local pack behavior surrounding these phrases to discover how they are clustering results. Perform searches from devices in your own neighborhood and from other places around your city, as described in my recent post How to Find Your True Local Competitors. You can also experiment with tools like BrightLocal’s Local Search Results Checker.
Identify the top competitors in your city for your targeted phrases and then do a competitive audit of them.
Stack these discovered competitors up side-by-side with your business to see how their local search ranking factors may be stronger than yours. Improve your metrics so that they surpass those of the competitors, whether this surrounds Google My Business signals, Domain Authority, reputation, citation factors, website quality, or other elements.
If Google’s radius is tight for the most lucrative terms and your efforts to build authority so far aren’t enabling you to overcome it due to your location falling outside their reach, consider specialization in other smaller, but still valuable, search phrases. For instance, La Tortilleria could be the only bakery in San Rafael offering organic tortillas. A local business might significantly narrow the competition by being pet-friendly, open later, cheaper, faster, more staffed, women-led, serving specific dietary restrictions or other special needs, selling rarities, or bundling goods with expert advice. There are many ways to set yourself apart.
Finally, publicize your unique selling proposition. Highlight it on your website with great content. If it’s a big deal, make connections with local journalists and bloggers to try to make news. Use Google My Business attributes to feature it on your listing. Cross-sell with related local businesses and promote one another online. Talk it up on social media. Structure review requests to nudge customers towards mentioning your special offering in their reviews. Do everything you can to help your community and Google associate your brand name with your specialty.
Group III: Regional rankings
This is where we typically hit our first really big hurdle, and where the real questions begin. La Tortilleria is located in San Rafael and has very good chances of ranking in relation to that city. But what if they want to expand to selling their product throughout Marin County, or even throughout several surrounding counties? Unless competition is very low, they are unlikely to rank in the local packs for searchers in neighboring cities like Novato, Mill Valley, or Corte Madera. What paths are open to them to increase their visibility beyond their city of location?
It’s at this juncture that agencies start hearing clients ask, “What can I do if I want to rank outside my city?” And it’s here that it’s most appropriate to respond with some questions clients need to be asking themselves.
Ask the client to consider:
Does my business model legitimately lend itself to transactions in multiple cities or counties? For example, am I just hoping that if my business in City A could rank in City B, people from that second location would travel to me? For instance, the fact that a dentist has some patients who come to their practice from other towns isn’t really something to build a strategy on. Consumers and Google won’t be excited by this. So, ask yourself: “Do I genuinely have a model that delivers goods/services to City B or has some other strong relationship to neighbors in those locales?”
Is there something I can do to build a physical footprint in cities where I lack a physical location? Short of opening additional branches, is there anything my business can do to build relationships with neighboring communities?
First, know that it’s sometimes possible for a business in a less-competitive market to rank in nearby neighboring cities. If La Tortilleria is one of just 10 such businesses in Marin County, Google may well surface them in a local pack or the expanded local finder view for searchers in multiple neighboring towns because there is a paucity of options. However, as competition becomes denser, purely local rankings beyond city borders become increasingly rare. Google does not need to go outside of the city of San Francisco, for example, to make up complete local results sets for pizza, clothing, automotive services, attorneys, banks, dentists, etc. Assess the density of competition in your desired regional market.
If you determine that your business is something of a rarity in your county or similar geographical region, follow the strategy described above in the “Local Rankings” section and give it everything you’ve got so that you can become a dominant result in packs across nearby multiple cities. If competition is too high for this, keep reading.
If you determine that what you offer isn’t rare in your region, local pack rankings beyond your city borders may not be feasible. In this case, don’t waste money or time on unachievable goals. Rather, move the goalposts so that your marketing efforts outside of your city are targeting organic, social, paid, and offline visibility.
Determine whether your brand lends itself to growing face-to-face relationships with neighboring cities. La Tortilleria can send delivery persons to restaurants and grocery stores throughout its county. They can send their bakers to workshops, culinary schools, public schools, food festivals, expos, fairs, farmers markets, and a variety of events in multiple cities throughout their targeted region. They can sponsor regional events, teams, and organizations. They can cross-sell with a local salsa company, a chocolatier, a caterer. Determine what your brand’s resources are for expanding a real-world footprint within a specific region.
Once you’ve begun investing in building this footprint, publicize it. Write content, guest blog, make the news, share socially, advertise online, advertise in local print, radio, and TV media. Earn links, citations and social mentions online for what you are doing offline and grow your regional authority in Google’s eyes while you’re doing it.
If your brand is a traditional service area business, like a residential painting company with a single location that serves multiple cities, develops a website landing page for each city you serve. Make each page a showcase of your work in that city, with project features, customer reviews, localized tips, staff interviews, videos, photos, FAQs and more. As with brick-and-mortar models, your level of rarity will determine whether your single physical office can show up in the local packs for more than one city. If your geo-market is densely competitive, the main goal of your service city landing pages will be organic rankings, not local ones.
Group IV: State-wide rankings
This is where our desired consumer base can no longer be considered truly local, though local packs may still occasionally come into play. In our continuing story, revenue significantly increased after La Tortilleria appeared on a popular TV show. Now they’ve scaled up their small kitchen to industrial strength in hopes of increasing trade across the state of California. Other examples might be an architectural firm that sends staff state-wide to design buildings or a photographer who accepts event engagements across the state.
What we’re not talking about here is a multi-location business. Any time you have a physical location, you can simply refer back to Groups I–III for strategy because you are truly in the local running any place you have a branch. But for the single location client with a state-wide offering, the quest for broad visibility begs some questions.
Ask the client to consider:
Are state-wide local pack results at all in evidence for my query or is this not the reality at all for my industry? For example, when I do a non-modified search just for “sports arena” in California, it’s interesting to see that Google is willing to make up a local pack of three famous venues spanning Sonora to San Diego (about 500 miles apart). Does Google return state-wide packs for my search terms, and is what I offer so rare that I might be included in them?
Does my business model genuinely lend itself to non-local queries and clients willing to travel far to transact with me or hire me from anywhere in the state? For example, it would be a matter of pure vanity for me to want my vacuum cleaner repair shop to rank state-wide, as people can easily access services like mine in their own towns. But, what if I’m marketing a true rara avis, like a famous performing arts company, a landmark museum, a world-class interior design consultancy, or a vintage electronics restoration business?
Whether Google returns state-wide local packs or only organic results for my targeted search terms, what can I do to be visible? What are my resources for setting myself apart?
First, let’s take it for granted that you’ve got your basic local search strategy in place. You’re already doing everything we’ve covered above to build a strong hyperlocal, local, and regional digital and offline footprint.
If Google does return state-wide local packs for your search phrases, simply continue to amp up the known local pack signals we’ve already discussed, in hopes of becoming authoritative enough to be included.
If your phrases don’t return state-wide local packs, you will be competing against a big field for organic results visibility. In this case, you are likely to be best served by three things. Firstly, take publication on your website seriously. The more you can write about your offerings, the more of an authoritative resource you will become. Delve deeply into your company’s internal talent for developing magazine-quality content and bring in outside experts where necessary. Secondly, invest in link research tools like Moz Link Explorer to analyze which links are helping competitors to rank highly in the organic results for your desired terms and to discover where you need to get links to grow your visibility. Thirdly, seek out your state’s most trusted media sources and create a strategy for seeking publicity from them. Whether this comes down to radio, newspapers, TV shows, blogs, social platforms, or organizational publications, build your state-wide fame via inclusion.
If all else fails and you need to increase multi-regional visibility throughout your state, you will need to consider your resources for opening additional staffed offices in new locales.
Group V: National rankings & beyond
Here, we encounter two common themes, neither of which fall within our concept of local search.
In the first instance, La Tortilleria is ready to go multi-state or nation-wide with its product, distributing goods outside of California as a national brand. The second is the commonly-encountered digital brand that is vending to a multi-state or national audience and is often frustrated by the fact that they are being outranked both in the local and organic results by physical, local companies in a variety of locations. In either case, the goals of both models can sometimes extend beyond country borders when businesses go multinational.
Ask the client to consider:
What is my business model? Am I selling B2B, B2C, or both?
Which marketing strategies will generate the brand recognition I need? Is my most critical asset my brand’s website, or other forms of off-and-online advertising? Am I like Wayfair, where my e-commerce sales are almost everything, bolstered by TV advertising? Or, am I like Pace Foods with a website offering little more than branding because distribution to other businesses is where my consumers find me?
Does my offering need to be regionalized to succeed? Perhaps La Tortilleria will need to start producing super-sized white flour tortillas to become a hit in Texas. McDonald’s offers SPAM in Hawaii and green chile cheeseburgers in New Mexico. Regional language variants, seasonality, and customs may require fine-tuning of campaigns.
This article can’t begin to cover all of the steps involved in growing a brand from local to an international scale, but in all scenarios, a unifying question will revolve around how to cope with the reality that Google will frequently rank local brands above or alongside your business for queries that matter to you. If your business has a single physical headquarters, then content, links, social, and paid advertising will be the tools at your disposal to compete as best you can. Rarity may be your greatest strength, as seen in the case of America’s sole organic tulip bulb grower, or authority, as in the case of this men’s grooming site ranking for all kinds of queries related to beards.
You’ll be wanting to rank for every user nationwide, but you’ll also need to be aware of who your competitors are at a local and regional level. This is why even national/international brands need some awareness of how local search works so that they can identify and audit strong local brands in target markets in order to compete with them in the organic SERPs, sometimes fine-tuning their offerings to appeal to regional needs and customs.
I often hear from digital-only brands that want to rank in every city in the nation for a virtual service. While this may be possible for a business with overwhelming authority and brand recognition (think Amazon), a company just starting out can set a more reasonable goal of analyzing a handful of major cities instead of thousands of them to see what it would take to get in the running with entrenched local and digital brands.
Finally, I want to mention one interesting and common national business model with its own challenges. In this category are tutoring businesses, nanny services, dog walking services, and other brands that have a national headquarters but whose employees or contractors are the ones providing face-to-face services. Owners ask if it’s possible to create multiple Google listings based on the home addresses of their workers so that they can achieve local pack rankings for what is, in fact, a locally-rendered service. The answer is that Google doesn’t approve of this tactic. So, where a local pack presence is essential, the brand must find a way to staff an office in each target region. Avoid virtual offices, which are explicitly forbidden, but there could be some leeway in exploring inexpensive co-working spaces staffed during stated business hours and where no other business in the same Google category is operating. A business that determines this model could work for them can then pop back up to Groups I-IV to see how far local search can take them.
There may be no more important task in client-onboarding than setting correct expectations. Basing a strategy on what’s possible for each client’s business model will be the best guardian of your time and your client’s budget. To recap:
Identify the client’s model.
Investigate Google’s search behavior for the client’s important search phrases.
Gauge the density of competition/rarity of the client’s offerings in the targeted area.
Audit competitors to discover their strengths and weaknesses.
Create a strategy for local, organic, social, paid, and offline marketing based on the above four factors.
For each client who asks you how to rank beyond their physical location, there will be a unique answer. The work your agency puts into finding that answer will make you an expert in their markets and a powerful ally in achieving their achievable goals.
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I first got to know dotmailer when the company was just a bunch of young enthusiastic web developers called Ellipsis Media back in 1999. I was introduced by one of my suppliers and we decided to bring them on board to build a recruitment website for one of our clients. That client was Amnesty International and the job role was Secretary General. Not bad for a Croydon company whose biggest client before that was Scobles the plumber’s merchants. So, I was probably dotmailer’s first ever corporate client! After that, I used dotmailer at each company I worked for and then one day they approached a colleague and me and asked us if we wanted to work for them. That was 2013. We grabbed the opportunity with both hands and haven’t looked back since.
Tell us a bit about your role
I’m the Global Head of Technical Solutions which actually gives me responsibility for 2 teams. First, Custom Technical Solutions (CTS), who build bespoke applications and tools for customers that allow them to integrate more closely with dotmailer and make life easier. Second, Technical Pre-sales, which spans our 3 territories (EMEA, US and APAC) and works with prospective and existing clients to figure out the best solution and fit within dotmailer.
What accomplishments are you most proud of from your dotmailer time so far?
I would say so far it has to be helping to turn the CTS team from just 2 people into a group of 7 highly skilled and dedicated men and women who have become an intrinsic and valued part of the dotmailer organization. Also I really enjoy being part of the Senior Technical Management team. Here we have the ability to influence the direction and structure of the platform on a daily basis.
Meet Darryl Clark – the cheese and peanut butter sandwich lover
Can you speak a bit about your background and that of your team? What experience and expertise is required to join this team?
My background is quite diverse from a stint in the Army, through design college, web development, business analysis to heading up my current teams. I would say the most valuable skill that I have is being highly analytical. I love nothing more than listening to a client’s requirements and digging deep to work out how we can answer these if not exceed them.
As a team, we love nothing more than brainstorming our ideas. Every member has a valid input and we listen. Everyone has the opportunity to influence what we do and our motto is “there is no such thing as a stupid question.”
To work in my teams you have to be analytical but open minded to the fact that other people may have a better answer than you. Embrace other people’s input and use it to give our clients the best possible solution. We are hugely detail conscious, but have to be acutely aware that we need to tailor what we say to our audience so being able to talk to anyone at any level is hugely valuable.
How much of the dotmailer platform is easily customizable and when does it cross over into something that requires your team’s expertise? How much time is spent on these custom solutions one-time or ongoing?
I’ll let you in on a little secret here. We don’t actually do anything that our customers can’t do with dotmailer given the right knowledge and resources. This is because we build all of our solutions using the dotmailer public API. The API has hundreds of methods in both SOAP and REST versions, which allows you to do a huge amount with the dotmailer platform. We do have a vast amount of experience and knowledge in the team so we may well be able to build a solution quicker than our customers. We are more than happy to help them and their development teams build a solution using us on a consultancy basis to lessen the steepness of the learning curve.
Our aim when building a solution for a customer is that it runs silently in the background and does what it should without any fuss.
What are your plans for the Custom Tech Solutions team going forward?
The great thing about Custom Technical Solutions is you never know what is around the corner as our customers have very diverse needs. What we are concentrating on at the moment is refining our processes to ensure that they are as streamlined as possible and allow us to give as much information to the customer as we can. We are also always looking at the technology and coding approaches that we use to make sure that we build the most innovative and robust solutions.
We are also looking at our external marketing and sharing our knowledge through blogs so keep an eye on the website for our insights.
What are the most common questions that you get when speaking to a prospective customer?
Most questions seem to revolve around reassurance such as “Have you done this before?”, “How safe is my data?”, “What about security?”, “Can you talk to my developers?”, “Do I need to do anything?”. In most instances, we are the ones asking the questions as we need to find out information as soon as possible so that we can analyse it to ensure that we have the right detail to provide the right solution.
Can you tell us about the dotmailer differentiators you highlight when speaking to prospective customers that seem to really resonate?
We talk a lot about working with best of breed so for example a customer can use our Channel Extensions in automation programs to fire out an SMS to a contact using their existing provider. We don’t force customers down one route, we like to let them decide for themselves.
Also, I really like to emphasize the fact that there is always more than one way to do something within the dotmailer platform. This means we can usually find a way to do something that works for a client within the platform. If not, then we call in CTS to work out if there is a way that we can build something that will — whether this is automating uploads for a small client or mass sending from thousands of child accounts for an enterprise level one.
What do you see as the future of marketing automation technology? Will one size ever fit all? Or more customization going forward?
The 64 million dollar question. One size will never fit all. Companies and their systems are too organic for that. There isn’t one car that suits every driver or one racquet that suits every sport. Working with a top drawer partner network and building our system to be as open as possible from an integration perspective means that our customers can make dotmailer mold to their business and not the other way round…and adding to that the fact that we are building lots of features in the platform that will blow your socks off.
Tell us a bit about yourself – favorite sports team, favorite food, guilty pleasure, favorite band, favorite vacation spot?
I’m a dyed in the wool Gooner (aka Arsenal Football Club fan) thanks to my Grandfather leading me down the right path as a child. If you are still reading this after that bombshell, then food-wise I pretty much like everything apart from coriander which as far as I’m concerned is the Devils own spawn. I don’t really have a favorite band, but am partial to a bit of Level 42 and Kings of Leon and you will also find me listening to 90s drum and bass and proper old school hip hop. My favorite holiday destination is any decent villa that I can relax in and spend time with my family and I went to Paris recently and loved that. Guilty pleasure – well that probably has to be confessing to liking Coldplay or the fact that my favorite sandwich is peanut butter, cheese and salad cream. Go on try it, you’ll love it.
Your welcome email is the first email that your customers are likely to receive from you. It typically has the highest engagement of any email you are likely to send, and it’s your opportunity to show off what you do and how great you are. It is also a way to thank your customers for buying from you and begin building a relationship with them; yet too many retailers miss this great opportunity. You only get one change to make a first impression.
Office, Sweaty Betty and Hotel Chocolat didn’t send a welcome email at all after signing up. There was no thank you, no offer, and no attempts to capture extra data. This is a lost opportunity for these three companies.
Charles Tyrwhitt, Reebok and Urban Outfitters did send an email after signing up. But their subject lines and content don’t come across like a welcome email and can be easily missed for instance, “15% off your Reebok gear”, “Start Urban Outfitting”, “Hurry, your £10 offer is waiting!” However, their emails are on brand and offer an incentive to take action.
Reebok’s welcome email
If UO replaced its hero image with an animated GIF they would probably see an increase in engagement with their emails.
Urban Outfitters’ email has a nice graphic but a GIF would be more eye-catching
Diesel, Footlocker, Havaianas, Hugo Boss, and Uniqlo also send a timely email shortly after signing up. Yet their emails need a lot of work. They are text-heavy, aren’t on brand and are not particularly engaging. Diesel’s email copy is confusing and tries to get you to create an account.
Lack of branding let Diesel’s email down
All of these brands create a poor initial experience. Footlocker, Fossil and Hugo Boss’s emails are double opt-in emails. This is good for data quality, but it is at the expense of great customer experience. At least Fossil and Hugo Boss’s actual welcome emails are on-brand. But since signing up and confirming my subscription, Footlocker hasn’t sent me a single email.
The welcome email from Hugo Boss
Adidas, Allsaints, Cath Kidston, FootAsylum, Forever21, Jack Wills, Kuoni, Levi’s, Schuh all sent what in my opinion are good welcome emails. They had clear subject lines that welcomed or thanked the user. The copy and design of these emails are on brand and again welcomed the user to the company.
Levi’s welcome email is image-heavy and on brand
Some of the brands like Adidas and Forever 21 included a discount to encourage the customer to engage further, and followed best practice elements to create a positive customer experience.
Adidas offers an incentive in its welcome email
However, the outstanding winner of the welcome emails goes to FootAsylum.
The email has great use of microcopy throughout.
It contains a clear benefit statement of being a subscriber. The benefit statement also set the expectations of what you’re likely to receive.
They use a great Call to Action “Stop Reading. Start Shopping!”
They are also the only company to use their welcome email to collect further data by having a very obvious preference centre within the body of the email.
Finally, the email is clearly on brand.
Foot Asylum wins the welcome email contest
Tips for welcome emails
Make sure you send it immediately after the customer signs up.
Keep the subject line clear and obvious that it’s a welcome email.
Set expectations for what the customer will receive and how frequently.
Provide a benefit statement for signing up.
Use this email as an opportunity to find out more about your customers.
Use preheader text as a follow on from your subject line.
Provide a safe sender message to encourage customers to add your email to their safe senders.
The top three reasons were People, Product and Opportunity. I met the people who make up our business and heard their stories from the past 18 years, learned about the platform and market leading status they had built in the UK, and saw that I could add value with my U.S. high growth business experience. I’ve been working with marketers, entrepreneurs and business owners for years across a series of different roles, and saw that I could apply what I’d learned from that and the start-up space to dotmailer’s U.S. operation. dotmailer has had clients in the U.S. for 12 years and we’re positioned to grow the user base of our powerful and easy-to-use platform significantly. I knew I could make a difference here, and what closed the deal for me was the people. Every single person I’ve met is deeply committed to the business, to the success of our customers and to making our solution simple and efficient. We’re a great group of passionate people and I’m proud to have joined the dotfamily.
Dan Morris, dotmailer’s EVP for North America in the new NYC office
Tell us a bit about your new role
dotmailer has been in business and in this space for more than 18 years. We were a web agency, then a Systems Integrator, and we got into the email business that way, ultimately building the dotmailer platform thousands of people use daily. This means we know this space better than anyone and we have the perfect solutions to align closely with our customers and the solutions flexible enough to grow with them. My role is to take all that experience and the platform and grow our U.S. presence. My early focus has been on identifying the right team to execute our growth plans. We want to be the market leader in the U.S. in the next three years – just like we’ve done in the UK – so getting the right people in the right spots was critical. We quickly assessed the skills of the U.S. team and made changes that were necessary in order to provide the right focus on customer success. Next, we set out to completely rebuild dotmailer’s commercial approach in the U.S. We simplified our offers to three bundles, so that pricing and what’s included in those bundles is transparent to our customers. We’ve heard great things about this already from clients and partners. We’re also increasing our resources on customer success and support. We’re intensely focused on ease of on-boarding, ease of use and speed of use. We consistently hear how easy and smooth a process it is to use dotmailer’s tools. That’s key for us – when you buy a dotmailer solution, we want to onboard you quickly and make sure you have all of your questions answered right away so that you can move right into using it. Customers are raving about this, so we know it’s working well.
What early accomplishments are you most proud of from your dotmailer time so far?
I’ve been at dotmailer for eight months now and I’m really proud of all we’ve accomplished together. We spent a lot of time assessing where we needed to restructure and where we needed to invest. We made the changes we needed, invested in our partner program, localized tech support, customer on-boarding and added customer success team members. We have the right people in the right roles and it’s making a difference. We have a commercial approach that is clear with the complete transparency that we wanted to provide our customers. We’ve got a more customer-focused approach and we’re on-boarding customers quickly so they’re up and running faster. We have happier customers than ever before and that’s the key to everything we do.
You’ve moved the U.S. team to a new office. Can you tell us why and a bit about the new space?
I thought it was very important to create a NY office space that was tied to branding and other offices around the world, and also had its own NY energy and culture for our team here – to foster collaboration and to have some fun. It was also important for us that we had a flexible space where we could welcome customers, partners and resellers, and also hold classes and dotUniversity training sessions. I’m really grateful to the team who worked on the space because it really reflects our team and what we care about. At any given time, you’ll see a training session happening, the team collaborating, a customer dropping in to ask a few questions or a partner dropping in to work from here. We love our new, NYC space.
Guests and the team at dotmailer’s new NYC office warming party
What did you learn from your days in the start-up space that you’re applying at dotmailer?
The start-up space is a great place to learn. You have to know where every dollar is going and coming from, so every choice you make needs to be backed up with a business case for that investment. You try lots of different things to see if they’ll work and you’re ready to turn those tactics up or down quickly based on an assessment of the results. You also learn things don’t have to stay the way they are, and can change if you make them change. You always listen and learn – to customers, partners, industry veterans, advisors, etc. to better understand what’s working and not working. dotmailer has been in business for 18 years now, and so there are so many great contributors across the business who know how things have worked and yet are always keen to keep improving. I am constantly in listening and learning mode so that I can understand all of the unique perspectives our team brings and what we need to act on.
What are your plans for the U.S. and the sales function there?
On our path to being the market leader in the U.S., I’m focused on three things going forward: 1 – I want our customers to be truly happy. It’s already a big focus in the dotmailer organization – and we’re working hard to understand their challenges and goals so we can take product and service to the next level. 2 – Creating an even more robust program around partners, resellers and further building out our channel partners to continuously improve sales and customer service programs. We recently launched a certification program to ensure partners have all the training and resources they need to support our mutual customers. 3 – We have an aggressive growth plan for the U.S. and I’m very focused on making sure our team is well trained, and that we remain thoughtful and measured as we take the steps to grow. We want to always keep an eye on what we’re known for – tools that are powerful and simple to use – and make sure everything else we offer remains accessible and valuable as we execute our growth plans.
What are the most common questions that you get when speaking to a prospective customer?
The questions we usually get are around price, service level and flexibility. How much does dotmailer cost? How well are you going to look after my business? How will you integrate into my existing stack and then my plans for future growth? We now have three transparent bundle options with specifics around what’s included published right on our website. We have introduced a customer success team that’s focused only on taking great care of our customers and we’re hearing stories every day that tells me this is working. And we have all of the tools to support our customers as they grow and to also integrate into their existing stacks – often integrating so well that you can use dotmailer from within Magento, Salesforce or Dynamics, for example.
Can you tell us about the dotmailer differentiators you highlight when speaking to prospective customers that seem to really resonate?
In addition to the ones above – ease of use, speed of use and the ability to scale with you. With dotmailer’s tiered program, you can start with a lighter level of functionality and grow into more advanced functionality as you need it. The platform itself is so easy to use that most marketers are able to build campaigns in minutes that would have taken hours on other platforms. Our customer success team is also with you all the way if ever you want or need help. We’ve built a very powerful platform and we have a fantastic team to help you with personalized service as an extended part of your team and we’re ready to grow with you.
How much time is your team on the road vs. in the office? Any road warrior tips to share?
I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, one year I attended 22 tradeshows! Top tip when flying is to be willing to give up your seat for families or groups once you’re at the airport gate, as you’ll often be rewarded with a better seat for helping the airline make the family or group happy. Win win! Since joining dotmailer, I’m focused on being in office and present for the team and customers as much as possible. I can usually be found in our new, NYC office where I spend a lot of time with our team, in customer meetings, in trainings and other hosted events, sales conversations or marketing meetings. I’m here to help the team, clients and partners to succeed, and will always do my best to say yes! Once our prospective customers see how quickly and efficiently they can execute tasks with dotmailer solutions vs. their existing solutions, it’s a no-brainer for them. I love seeing and hearing their reactions.
Tell us a bit about yourself – favorite sports team, favorite food, guilty pleasure, favorite band, favorite vacation spot?
I’m originally from Yorkshire in England, and grew up just outside York. I moved to the U.S. about seven years ago to join a very fast growing startup, we took it from 5 to well over 300 people which was a fantastic experience. I moved to NYC almost two years ago, and I love exploring this great city. There’s so much to see and do. Outside of dotmailer, my passion is cars, and I also enjoy skeet shooting, almost all types of music, and I love to travel – my goal is to get to India, Thailand, Australia and Japan in the near future.
Without a site that’s precision engineered for a good user experience and high conversion rates, all of your email marketing efforts could be going to waste.
Of course, you do want to market your business and email campaigns are statistically proven to be one of the most successful avenues to do so – according to McKinsey, email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter. VentureBeat also released this year that according to their research, email is generating better return on investment than any other channel. So how do you make sure your site is secure and effective enough to keep customers there once your campaign has enticed them this far?
For the majority of visitors, your homepage will be the first impression you get to make. A great homepage factors in a number of different ingredients to create the biggest positive impact on the user. Chief of which are…
A great homepage is above all engaging, instantly connecting a potential customer with the brand. Engagement comes from a website having personality and a clear message, a customer should feel comfortable with the design and want to interact with it. Take the example below – Mardon, an international seafood import and export company. The large cinematic image captures attention, while the well positioned brand and informative footer let the user know who they’re interacting with. The elements on the page come together to create a beautiful and simple looking design with the feel of a company you can trust and, as a result, want to engage with.
mardon.com designed and built by Nublue.co.uk
The human element
In most cases (and where relevant), adding a human element to your homepage will encourage a positive reaction from users. Having a real life human being can enable customers to relate to your business and products more effectively. We believe in this philosophy so much that our own staff feature heavily throughout our site. Using actual staff members allows you to showcase your people, your greatest asset.
The www.nublue.co.uk homepage
Excellent user experience
Once you’ve made an excellent first impression, you’ll need a functional and user-friendly website that ensures customers aren’t left frustrated by complex navigation or slow load times. Simple, intuitive menus and navigation alongside a website that’s fast enough to keep your users from having to wait.
Load speed is critical. According to surveys done by Gomez.com, 79% of online shoppers who have trouble with web site performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again. There are also statistics that suggest consumers will abandon a site that isn’t loaded within three seconds. High performance hosting is vital to addressing this issue and your site could benefit from the use of a CDN. CDN (Content Delivery Networks) improve speed by offloading your site’s static content – such as images and CSS. This frees up your hosting package to serve only the dynamic parts of your site. The result is a faster, smoother running site, regardless of the user’s location.
Better conversion processes
Trying to get people to make a purchase from an email isn’t easy and the fewer potential stumbling blocks you put in a customer’s way the better.
For ecommerce sites, an optimised checkout with guest login will produce a much smoother, simpler and more effective conversion process. Offering guest login at checkout gives the user an option of either signing up for an account or checking out without doing so, and prevents losing any sales at the last moment.
Another best practice is to introduce ‘trust signals’ so that customers feel confidence in buying from your site. Trust signals range from having visible reviews and testimonials onsite, to things like SSL certificates – which are visible in the url bar and prevent third parties seeing or accessing a customer’s personal details between their browser and your server, through encryption.
An expert design and development team will together implement the best features and functionality using a user-centric approach to ‘reverse-engineer’ your site. Effectively creating the best and simplest customer journey, improving both customer experience and conversion levels, whilst making it as quick and easy as possible for customers to buy from you.
When sending an email campaign, it’s vital that your website is not the weak link in the marketing chain and that leads are clicking through to a secure and effective page. At the heart of an effective website is a full understanding of your audience and the expertise to clearly guide them through the actions you want them to take. This is ultimately accomplished through user friendly navigation and beautiful and engaging design.
The site’s features and functionality need to be thought about and in order to get a website that’s fast enough, you’ll need a tailored, high performance hosting solution – such as CDN.
This post was created by Nublue, a web hosting and Magento ecommerce agency and partner of dotmailer.
Australia has a resident population of more than 24 million and, according to eMarketer, the country’s ecommerce sales are predicted to reach A$32.56 billion by 2017. The country’s remote location in the APAC region means that unlike European countries or the USA, traditionally there have been a lack of global brands sold locally.
Of course, we also know that many expatriates, particularly from inside the Commonwealth, have made Australia their home and are keen to buy products they know and love from their country of origin.
All of these factors present a huge and potentially lucrative opportunity for non-Australian brands wanting to open up their new and innovative products to a fresh market, or compete for market share.
But it’s not just non-Australian retailers who are at an advantage here: Australia was late to the ecommerce party because native, established brands were trading well without it. Subsequently, Australian retailers’ ecommerce technology stacks are much more recent and not burdened by legacy systems. This makes it much easier to extend, or get started with, best-of-breed technologies and cash in on a market that’s booming. To put some of this into perspective, Magento’s innovative ecommerce platform currently takes 42% of Australia’s market share and the world’s first adopter of Magento 2.0 was an Australian brand.
The GST loophole
At the moment, local retailers are campaigning against a rule that exempts foreign websites from being charged a 10% general sales tax (GST) on purchases under A$1,000. And in 2013, Australian consumers made $3.11 billion worth of purchases under A$1,000.
While the current GST break appears to put non-Australian retailers at an advantage, Australian-based brands such as Harvey Norman are using it to their advantage by setting up ecommerce operations in Asia to enjoy the GST benefit.
Australian consumers have also countered the argument by saying that price isn’t always the motivator when it comes to making purchasing decisions.
It’s not a place where no man has gone before
Often, concerns around meeting local compliance and lack of overseas business knowledge prevent outsiders from taking the leap into cross-border trade. However, this ecommerce passport, created by Ecommerce Worldwide and NORA, is designed to support those considering selling in Australia. The guide provides a comprehensive look into everything from the country’s economy and trade status, to logistics and dealing with international payments.
Global expansion success stories are also invaluable sources of information. For instance, it’s not just lower-end retailers that are fitting the bill, with brands like online luxury fashion retailer Net-a-Porter naming Australia as one of its biggest markets.
How tech-savvy are the Aussies?
One of the concerns you might have as a new entrant into the market is how you’ll reach and sell to your new audience, particularly without having a physical presence. The good news is that more than 80% of the country is digitally enabled and 60% of mobile phone users own a smartphone – so online is deeply rooted into the majority of Australians’ lives. 
Marketing your brand
Heard the saying “Fire bullets then fire cannonballs”? In any case, you’ll want to test the waters and gauge people’s reactions to your product or service.
It all starts with the website because, without it, you’re not discoverable or searchable, and you’ve nowhere to drive people to when running campaigns. SEO and SEM should definitely be a priority, and an online store that can handle multiple regions and storefronts, like Magento, will make your life easier. A mobile-first mentality and well thought-out UX will also place you in a good position.
Once your new web store is set up, you should be making every effort to collect visitors’ email addresses, perhaps via a popover. Why? Firstly, email is one of the top three priority areas for Australian retailers, because it’s a cost-effective, scalable marketing channel that enables true personalization.
Secondly, email marketing automation empowers you to deliver the customer experience today’s consumer expects, as well as enabling you to communicate with them throughout the lifecycle. Check out our ‘Do customer experience masters really exist?’ whitepaper for some real-life success stories.
Like the Magento platform, dotmailer is set up to handle multiple languages, regions and accounts, and is designed to grow with you.
In summary, there’s great scope for ecommerce success in Australia, whether you’re a native bricks-and-mortar retailer, a start-up or a non-Australian merchant. The barriers to cross-border trade are falling and Australia is one of APAC’s most developed regions in terms of purchasing power and tech savviness.
We recently worked with ecommerce expert Chloe Thomas to produce a whitepaper on cross-border trade, which goes into much more detail on how to market and sell successfully in new territories. You can download a free copy here.
 Australian Passport 2015: Cross-Border Trading Report
 Australian Passport 2015: Cross-Border Trading Report
On 12 August we were accepted for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s voluntary privacy certification program. The news is a great milestone for dotmailer, because it recognizes the years of work we’ve put into protecting our customers’ data and privacy. For instance, just look at our comprehensive trust center and involvement in both the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) and Email Sender & Provider Coalition (ESPC).
To become certified our Chief Privacy Officer, James Koons, made the application to the U.S. Department of Commerce, who audited dotmailer’s privacy statement. (Interesting fact: James actually completed the application process while on vacation climbing Mt. Rainer in Washington state!)
By self-certifying and agreeing to the Privacy Shield Principles, it means that our commitment is enforceable under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
What does it mean for you (our customers)?
As we continue to expand globally, this certification is one more important privacy precedent. The aim of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, which was recently finalized, provides businesses with stronger protection for the exchange of transatlantic data. If you haven’t seen it already, you might be interested in reading about the recent email privacy war between Microsoft and the U.S. government.
As a certified company, it means we must provide you with adequate privacy protection – a requirement for the transfer of personal data outside of the European Union under the EU Data Protection Directive. Each year, we must self-certify to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA), to ensure we adhere to the Privacy Shield Principles.
What does our Chief Privacy Officer think?
James Koons, who has 20 years’ experience in the information systems and security industry, explained why he’s pleased about the news: “I am delighted that dotmailer has been recognized as a good steward of data through the Privacy Shield Certification.
“As a company that has a culture of privacy and security as its core, I believe the certification simply highlights the great work we have already been doing.”
What happened to the Safe Harbour agreement?
The EU-U.S. Privacy Shield replaces the former Safe Harbour agreement for transatlantic data transfers.
Want to know more about what the Privacy Shield means?