Archive for: July 2011

Email clients as cars – a comparison

For people outside the email industry it is often hard to understand what kind of frustration email marketers run into when dealing with a broad range of email clients. After all the email clients are where the money is made or lost: the podium of their hard work for and with customers.

These days there is a big variation in functionality and type of email clients: there’s webmail clients like Hotmail and GMail, offline clients like Outlook 20xx and Windows Mail, and then there’s the more niche clients like Thunderbird and Android.

To make the interesting, diverse and sometimes frustrating world of an email marketer a bit clearer I’ve decided to post a comparison of email clients to cars. Everyone knows and loves cars, so this should be easy, right? Here goes:

 1. Outlook 2007 / 2010:

Sorry Microsoft, but if your email client doesn’t even do basic html and/or css stuff, you’re back in the stone age of the industry. Therefor Outlook 2007/2010 is a Ford model T.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. iOS email client (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch):

The iOS (Apple) email client currently are some of the best email clients in the industry. Supporting just about anything you throw at it, it’s both lightweight and versatile.

A striped with and blue car it is:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Hotmail

Being one of the biggest webmail clients comes with a lot of pressure to perform. Luckily Hotmail doesn’t go about things lightly, and with HTML5 support on board it is currently one of the most modern email clients out there. It does have some niggles though, even though there are only a few. Modern and still niggles? It must be Italian. Alfa Romeo Giulietta it is:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Apple Mail

Just like it’s mobile sibling from the iOS platform, Apple Mail performs nearly flawless when it comes to email. An elegant and good looking email client, also being one of the first with built-in HTML5 support. Hmm, industry firsts, good looking, allround? Mercedes S500!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Yahoo! Mail

At nearly 10% of the email client market Yahoo! Mail is just behind Hotmail in terms of market share. Recently it has been updated with new features and more, but some users have been complaining on wobbly email accounts and erratic behaviour. A Toyota Corolla:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. GMail

GMail is one of the more serious clients out there: email for the power users, so to speak. With many funky Labs features it has cutting edge email features too. However, even by 2011 it is still not up to par: it doesn’t even support css classes which is a big pity. Honda Civic:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see I have left out a few clients like Android, Windows Mail, Thunderbird and such: those clients have less than 2% of the market share, according to the June 2011 Campaign Monitor stats – maybe for another time.

Hopefully this (not too serious) comparison gives some insight for the non-email crowd, and entertainment for those who are in email marketing. Of course, feel free to post your own email client <> car comparison in the comments or on the social networks!

Email winner: HP TouchPad, or is it Apple iPad?

It’s not often that you come across copycats in marketing, right? Then again, maybe you do actually.

Here’s an example of Apple.. I mean HP promoting its new TouchPad with WebOS:

 

SEE THE GREAT DEALS WAITING FOR YOU AT HP HOME and HOME OFFICE STORE!
SEE THE GREAT DEALS WAITING FOR YOU AT HP HOME and HOME OFFICE STORE!
SEE THE GREAT DEALS WAITING FOR YOU AT HP HOME and HOME OFFICE STORE!
SEE THE GREAT DEALS WAITING FOR YOU AT HP HOME and HOME OFFICE STORE!

Why do I mention Apple? This is why. The Apple iPad (original) announcement:

And the iPad 2 announcement:

 

So why is this an email winner instead of failure when HP is clearly copying the style (sans the white background) of Apple’s product emails? Let’s just say it is better to copy something nice than come up with something bad. HP has skipped focus on specs of exterior and interior and moved on to focus on experience: keywords like power, connect, etc. Apple even uses words like magical and revolutionary. HP is not quite there yet, but selling the experience instead of the silicon. Even the last sentence is a bit of Sony style: ‘like nothing else’ Sony’s brand saying ‘like no other’.

In the future all product makers will send product announcement emails with just a tagline (‘solves all your problems’ or ‘will send your mother-in-law to another dimension’ ) and a [BUY NOW] button. Mark my words!

Hotmail now supports HTML5 video – overview

After my ‘losing a bet’ post of no support in major webmail systems for HTML5, along comes the news of Hotmail now supporting HTML5 – which includes the joy of video (see a beautiful example here of Game of Thrones video in email). They’re just 4 months late for my bet, but still: it’s here. On to the rest of the info:

Where and how does it work – best?

Apparently as of now Chrome supports HTML5 in Hotmail the best: after some experimenting by video-in-email company BombBomb they have found that Chrome is the cool kid: controls for displaying/running the video are shown just fine. Other browsers that should be able to show it as well are Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 4 and the latest version of Safari.

Other notes on the workings:

BombBomb notes that Hotmail currently strips the <video> tag, which means you can only play the video by right-clicking it.

Examples

Here’s some examples of how it works:

A screen capture test by Justine Jordan from Litmus, with credits to BombBomb:

Hotmail HTML5 test

An example by Andy T (Captain Inbox):

More links

ReelSeo.com
Getintheinbox.com

Update 9:30AM:

Ros Hodgekiss from Campaign Monitor has posted HTML5 video support in Hotmail: The good, the bad and the autoplay on their blog. She notes that auto-play is possible, so make sure you read it.

Update 12:08PM:

Here’s a handy dandy link about HTML5 and video, courtesy of Ros Hodgekiss as well. It’s an extensive page about video on the web – in particular about using HTML5, the video-tag and browser support info.

Update 10:29PM:

Rory Carlyle of BombBomb has posted an update on their blog with his views: Video Email: Hotmail Releases HTML5 Acceptance in the Inbox

My Take

After Interactive Views I believe this is finally a step in the right direction for email clients. The odd thing is that coming from the same company there’s such a wide gap in support between Hotmail and the current Outlook version, 2010. The latter doesn’t even support some basic sets of HTML tags, while Hotmail now even supports HTML5 and all the goodies magic it allows. I think Microsoft should act quick and ramp up support in Outlook 2010 (or upcoming future editions of Outlook) for basic HTML tags as wel as HTML5, so the experience for everyone using those products will be the same across those different clients.

Furthermore current support seems to be best in Chrome, while it still is only the third browser in the market (although growing fast). Combined, IE and FF still have 71% of the market while Chrome has just over 20%. This means that using HTML5 (video) for Hotmail would have an email marketer first scan his list for email client -and- browser usage (where possible) to make sure what will work or not.

Nevertheless, supporting HTML5 is great to see coming from Hotmail: it’s an indication that the technology is on the move with the big guys, and with growing support it might finally be time for email marketers to give video in email a go for certain target groups.

Related Posts:

Know your customers and know them well

Recently I wrote about the value of an email. The post was about an email costing you more, so you should provide more value in the email for the receiving party. One of the factors involved here is knowing your audience: if you know what type of content your customers appreciate then it will make your life simpler.

For some companies knowing customer behaviour and preferences is easier than for others. The importance of this knowledge should not be underestimated however: imagine handing those customers exactly the content they want, and surprise them with more? It will create a wow-effect (Zappos family core value #1) which will be remembered for quite some time.

The types of data you can use can seem endless, but focussing on some core parts will already let you build up cool email campaigns in no time. Some pointers as to how to get that data, and how to use it:

- User reviews of your product(s) and/or services. How do you know if your product is any good? By asking the customers, and providing services to let them speak out: on or off the record.

- Customer satisfaction surveys. Never underestimate the importance of what a customer thinks of your company’s service. It’s a goldmine for smaller and bigger tips, issues and guides towards improving your service level, even in ways you had not thought about.

- Basic profile data. For segmentation purposes this will let you make some basic groups and provide content based on that, together with the next point

- A preferences center. If you don’t have one for your email communications, get one now. Let people decide what they want to receive, how often and maybe even on what days, and analyze those preferences: adjust your campaigns accordingly.

The above should provide a basis for further data-collecting, and applying it to several campaigns. Some examples include a ‘you bought X, maybe interested in Y?’ campaign, and a ‘you bought X, why not say what you think of it?’. Furthermore a timeline campaign: asking customers what they think of your company and services, and repeat that: don’t just do it once but several times in a several year stretch. There are many more options, but these are just some examples to execute with the above data.

What it boils down to is this: if you provide your customers with content suited to their needs (or exceeding them), your email campaigns will not only be more succesful: your customers will be more satisfied too. Most importantly you will be able to tell how each customer feels about your service and company: one of the most important factors in doing business well.

Your newsletter should not be your only email communication

Image by NASA

Some people think newsletters is all that is to be done with email marketing. Maybe a subscription comfirmation email, but that’s it. Why on earth would anyone want more / different emails, looking at it from a subscriber’s point? Why would any marketer want more email campaigns and types to manage?

For one thing, email is one of the most effective marketing channels on the planet. Despite Google+ opening up for businesses in a few weeks, it will cost you a lot more effort to earn money from that channel than from email. The same goes for social media as a whole (sorry, social media experts).

Why is that? Is email really that effective? Yes, email is patient and loved by many. Even though Facebook touts its active user base now at 750 million it will still be difficult for your company to make money there. The reason for this is that Facebook is not your home ground. Competitors can advertise on your Facebook pages, for instance. Costly marketing money lost there.

However the email space and your website is yours. Precious space and time to be filled with as much communication you as a marketer can master and the subscriber can handle. Here’s some tips and pointers:

- Updates on subscriber status: when someone changes their profile, send them a confirmation email: simple and straightforward, just to let them check their data on correctness, and for you to have another promotional moment.

- Separate product updates. A newsletter is fine, but when you know which subscribers are using what product or service, you can be relevant in your communications: send out special product updates on new versions, demos, trainings, documentations etc.

- Event notifications: when is your next client / partner / prospects event? Don’t have one? Why not? Gathering 20 to 50 prospects in a single room to show off your product is an amazing lead tool and conversation starter. You’ll be top of mind (when executed correct, of course) with a positive vibe for the next few days, which will help to spread the word. Same goes for client and partner events: to really connect and show stuff is worth so much, face to face beats all other forms of communication including email.

- Client surveys: what do the people that pay your salary think of you? Send this out periodically and share the results: anyone and everyone wants to know whether they fall in the big mass part of the results or are some of the outsiders when it comes to the answers.

- Updates on your community: blog posts, community achievements, client feedback, quotes, news from other companies that share your passion… you get the picture.

By doing all this you can offer a nice continuous stream (without flooding, of course) of emails to subscribers, to keep life a bit varied and interesting. Don’t forget to make a publishing calendar as well to have everyone know what’s coming up in the next days and weeks. Nothing makes people more ashamed as being called by a client and the client talking about new stuff sent out by the marketing department and the employee not knowing about that communication.