What has your Email got to do with Website Conversion?

By Garry Lee

So…what’s it got to do with you?

Are you crazy?!?!?!” – That’s most people’s first reaction when I try and explain how important email can be for site conversion.

But think about it logically: email is communicating with your existing customers and registrants (those that traditionally have higher conversion rates), so it makes sense that if you can maximize the impact of these visitors, you can positively influence online conversion. Screen shot 2013-07-16 at 9.17.24 AM

Whenever people talk about the elements of conversion rate optimization (CRO) they mention MVT (or testing in general), analytics, usability, user experience (UX), databases, recommendation engines, personalization, etc. What these all have in common is understanding online user behavior and using this information to improve the online customer journey in order to increase conversion. Email should be no different. As email is controlled by a customer database, you will already have access to heaps of information regarding online user behavior. Using this information and making email part of the user journey will help drive more users to your site and increase conversion opportunities.

Targeted email means targeted traffic

It’s nothing new when I say the better quality of traffic you have, the better your site conversion will be. Hopefully most people can put two and two together and realize that the more you target your emails, the better quality of traffic you will be sending through to your site. If you segment your emails so that you are driving the right people at the right time, through to the right content, you have a much higher chance of getting those people to convert on site, compared to a blanket weekly mass mailing (that is unfortunately still too often the fall-back for e-commerce companies). As always, these things are best illustrated with a comparison of a “good” example company and “bad” example company.

Let’s start with segmentation. In our example we are going to look at a list of 100,000. Our bad company is mailing one email to all 100,000 subscribers with no form of segmentation overlaid. Everyone will get the same email. Our good company has split its subscriber list five ways based on both user engagement and recent transactional history. In addition to this, with no segmentation, our bad company is sending the same creative to all 100,000 people, but our good company is using dynamic content to amend certain elements of the creative depending on what segment the email is being sent to. All in all, this clever use of segmentation to provide segmented creative and content is going to enable the good company to start a journey for each prospect in a far more targeted manner.

Our good company is now engaging with the customer in relation to how the customer/user has previously engaged with the brand. Making the introduction of email part of an existing journey greatly improves the chances of getting the customer to the website. In addition to this, our good company has prepared an appropriate landing page for each individual segment, making it much easier for its users to continue the journey from email to site. This in turn makes it far more likely the visit will end in a conversion.

Triggers that change site behavior

This concept of targeting is taken to its extreme when you consider the power of behavioral emails and how they essentially come directly from a user’s journey. Consider classic behavioral emails like basket abandonment, welcome programs, and browser re-engagement. They all come down to spotting a user’s behavior (start of the customer journey), which triggers an email (brand communication) to encourage the user back on to the site (returning the user to the online customer journey). If you think of behavioral emails as continuing the user journey, but just over multiple sessions rather than within a single visit, you see the power they provide for site conversion. Ultimately these emails enable you to continue user journeys even when the user is not on your site. Below is a simple flow chart showing how email can aid specific user journeys to increase conversion.

Let’s end at the beginning

The email creative is the first interaction a user has with your site when they are coming back via this form of communication. You need to treat it with the same thought as you would any landing page. The critical thing that people too often forget about this is how the user journey will flow from the email. Too often people don’t even consider a landing page for an email and instead drive people to the most convenient page on the website. Even those that do push you to a dedicated landing page often do not give enough thought to how the creative will tie in with the landing page(s).

It’s vital that email creative is tied to what the goals of the email are. Ultimately this will be some form of action on the website, resulting from a customer journey. This means your creative agency (in house or outsourced) really needs to be close to the website and understand how user journeys work; what messages in the email will mesh with the onsite journey we are sending the user on? It is critical that any designer/creator understands the journey we are expecting the user to take in exactly the same detail as someone optimizing website pages, based on the online user’s journey.

Let’s work together

The main conclusion? It’s one I’ve made previously in relation to other topics – email should never be a stand-alone field. This is not just associating it to all other marketing, but closely linking it to the website. Too often what is done within email is not linked to how the website is working. There should be closer ties between your email service and your online business than there are between any other two marketing tools.

Compared to other forms of marketing, email has the highest percentage of users that have already seen your site, so it’s vital that the way you communicate with them reflects this knowledge. After all, email subscribers are the people that are so ‘into’ your products they have requested you send them information on what you do…and frequently. While you may have a separate team working on email, to your customer, every type of communication from your brand is coming from the same place: a brand they love. To the customer, each individual visit builds a relationship. The more you can do to recognize this relationship and support it, the more likely you are to increase conversion.

Gary Lee is the Chief Operating Officer of Redeye, a leading provider of behavioral email solutions.