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The 3 Pillars of Customer Experience (CX) Email Marketing

Today, people are awash in message clutter in the inbox and mailbox, in print and broadcast, out of home and beyond. Everywhere you turn, a marketing message is coming at you. How can your email program rise above the noise so that your messages get seen and acted on?

Your customers are looking for solutions, and they don’t particularly care which channel they come from. The channel that helps them solve their problems or achieve their goals is the one that will win their loyalty.

For that reason, it’s time to use marketing to help customers achieve their goals by sending helpful, personalized and customer-focused messages. By doing so, our customers will, in turn, help us achieve ours.

Enter Customer Experience Email Marketing

This new approach to email marketing centers on building customer relationships, instead of sending only brand-focused campaigns, to drive sales, grow profits and create long-term customer loyalty.

Essential aspects of that relationship-building include personalized content that’s relevant and customer-focused.

The essence of CX email marketing lies in a simple question: “How do my emails help my customers achieve their own goals and objectives and be successful in the parts of their lives that my products/services touch?”

3 Pillars of CX Email Marketing

Effective email marketing does more than sell. It nurtures, informs, guides and reaches out to customers as well. The innate nature of lifecycle marketing lends itself very much to CX email marketing, as you can see in my previous post on the Iterable blog: “9 Must-Have Lifecycle Email Marketing Programs for Retailers.”

CX email marketing rests on three pillars:

  1. Helpfulness: Elements in your email help your customers achieve their goals, such as local store locations and hours, a localized map, “how to buy” advice and the like.
  2. Personalization: This is more than merging in a customer’s name or location. True personalization uses preference data in segmentation, behavioral data in triggered messaging, or contextual elements.
  3. Customer focus: Your emails answer the unspoken question, “What’s in it for me?” even before the customer asks it. The copy highlights benefits instead of listing features. “You” is the dominant pronoun, not “we.”

These emails share one other characteristic. They’re all automated messages, triggered by customer data, behavior, preferences or both.  

Marketing to the Customer Experience Pays Off

Does CX email marketing really produce a lift in customer response? Absolutely!

My company, working with Liveclicker and eDataSource, conducted a study whose results confirm that marketing emails based on the customer experience deliver stronger engagement. You can read the results in greater detail, but here’s a quick summary of the findings:

We hypothesized that campaigns including these pillars would deliver higher engagement results. We studied hundreds of retail and travel emails from U.K. senders and then assigned each email a set of scores.

Here are two of the results:

  • 67% of brands whose emails had higher-than-average scores earned higher reader engagement than their below-average scoring emails.
  • Among the 67% of brands with higher read rates, the increase ranged from 102% and 468%.

Still need to be persuaded? These numbers show how lifecycle emails perform compared with business-as-usual (broadcast or “batch and blast”) emails:

  • Lifecycle (triggered) open rates were 67.9% higher than those for broadcast emails in 2018.
  • Click-through rates in Q3 2018 were 7.3% for lifecycle emails, compared with 3.3% for business-as-usual emails.

CX Email Marketing in Action

Here’s a great example of an email that delivers its message using the three pillars of CX email marketing (helpful, personalized and customer-focused).

Personalized welcome email from Tottenham Hotspur

We love everything about this message, sent on behalf of the Tottenham Hotspur, a U.K.-based football club.

It’s helpful: It tells me everything I need to know to be a Spurs fan, including what to expect in the email, the link to the website and app, video of the opening ceremony of their fabulous new stadium and more.

It’s personalized: It’s a bit cheeky, too! The subject line grabbed me first: “Pay signs with Spurs.” Any sports fan would get a bit of a thrill from seeing that! But then also putting my last name on a jersey was the capper. Well done!

It’s customer-focused: Someone thought long and hard about what fans are looking for from their teams, and the content reflects this. Also, “you” is the prominent pronoun. But in the instances where “we” pops up, it’s appropriate because it sounds like something a coach would say to a new player.

Put CX Email Marketing to Work Now

As you read about this new perspective for email marketing, you might be thinking that you don’t have the time, resources or staff to blow up your email program and start over even though the results are so positive.

Good news: You don’t have to! Here’s how you can put the principles of CX email marketing to work right now:

  1. Build on what you have accomplished with email already. Find ways to incorporate more data to expand personalization. Rewrite copy to focus on “you” more often than “we” in content and to show the benefits of using your products and services rather than just listing features. Don’t forget your customer’s unspoken question: “What’s in it for me?”
  2. Ask yourself the same question. This also anticipates your boss’ question: “What’s in it for me to evolve my program to CX email marketing?” Consider the research I’ve presented here and review the details in our research report. Then test for yourself and compare your results to both your business-as-usual/broadcast emails and to the triggered messages you send now.
  3. Consider the “halo effect.” Raising the helpfulness aspect with personalized and customer-focused email can make all your other emails more attractive to open and act on. We learned this in our research, when we compared three emails from Airbnb. Two of the three emails scored higher than average on helpfulness and personalization. The third email scored a big fat 0 for customer focus. Still, Airbnb’s overall score helped it rank much higher than most other brands. That’s the halo effect in action.

Wrapping Up: Why Everybody Wins

CX email marketing helps you navigate the delicate balancing act between customer and company goals. You achieve your goals when you help your customers to achieve theirs.

If you need a reason to move in this direction, here’s one: Customer-focused emails that are helpful and personalized are more likely to get opened and acted on.

That’s the necessary first step that must happen if you want to stay on your customer’s radar. Everything else flows from that.

In a customer-focused world, everybody wins! Your customers achieve their goals; you achieve yours. The result is a mutually beneficial relationship that can endure long into loyalty. Why not try it out?

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