Almost half of the world’s population is using email in some form or another, with 44 percent owning a smartphone in 2017. So ask yourself this question: what goes on in your subscriber’s mind when they open their mailbox? Do they scan through their mailbox like a robot, analyzing every word, comma, and question mark? Afterward making complex mathematical calculations, assessing and grouping their email based on sender, subject line, wording, offers, size, and color? Yes, probably they do—so let’s try and influence those decisions a bit, should we?
Behaviorism, also known as behavioral psychology, is a theory of learning based on the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Behaviorists believe that people’s behaviors are a result of their interaction with the environment—in our case with their inbox.
So let’s take a look at the five triggers that can influence how subscribers interact with email:
Trigger 1: Time
Time is perhaps the most common way to trigger a new habit and common morning habits are just one example. Waking up in the morning usually triggers a cascade of habits: go to the bathroom, take a shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, make a cup of coffee, etc. Same habits can be detected with our subscribers, thus it is very important to be aware of the time they are opening their emails and of the time they spend reading their emails.
Time-based triggers can also be used to stick with routines over and over again. So, for example, if you know that your subscribers are opening your emails Thursday at 10 am, it’s probably the best idea to stick to this pattern–your email will become a part of your subscribers Thursday morning ‘rituals’. Just make sure you are aware of the correct time.
How to do this? A simple way is to use the Email Client Monitor data available in the Return Path tool. You will not only have access to the days of the week your subscribers are opening your email, but you will be able to drill this data down to an hourly level. Additionally, the engagement data will show you how your subscribers are interacting with your email and whether they are taking the time to read your emails. You will be aware of your subscriber existing ‘rituals’ and improve their experience or see if there is space for new habits to be created. Now, how is that for knowing the time?
Trigger 2: Location
If you have ever walked into your kitchen, seen a plate of cookies on the counter, and eaten them just because they are there in front of you, then you understand the power of location on our behavior.
How this relates to your subscriber’s behavior, you ask? It’s actually more important for you as a marketer: you want to make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you know exactly where your subscribers are. Subscriber behavior can change significantly based on the place they are at certain moments of the day, week, month, and year. How useful would it be for me as a subscriber to receive lunch offers from a restaurant near my house when I actually spend my whole day on the other side of the city at work? Pretty useless, I would say.
However, if I am consistently receiving the correct information, I will be relying on this information and automatically check for your emails to see what is on offer now. You will be able to identify patterns in your subscribers’ location by simply implementing Return Path’s Geo Email Monitor. You will always know where your subscribers are, if they are on holiday, if they have moved, or went to college in a different city. Postcode level available!
Trigger 3: Preceding Event
When it comes to triggers that are useful for building new habits, I find preceding events to be one of the first in line. For example: if you know that your subscribers have reacted badly to one of your campaigns do you really want to keep up with ‘your style’. Don’t stick to a pattern if you see that it’s not working: create, innovate, adapt, and most importantly test. Change your subscriber’s perception of you by giving them what they need without them even knowing they needed it in the first place.
Before you send out your next campaign make sure you test your subject line, make sure your brand is recognizable, and send relevant content which renders correctly. Take baby steps: the smaller the habit, the easier it is to build into your life.
Subject Line Optimizer is one of the Return Path tools that can help you test and optimize your creative. Use Subject Line Optimizer to see what subject lines have been trending in all industries or a specific industry, see what your competitors are doing or simply get inspiration from others. With Inbox Preview you can actually test how your creative renders on different types of devices and make sure your brand is recognizable even if images are switched off.
Trigger 4: Emotional State
Emotional state is a common trigger for negative habits. For example, many of us may have a habit of eating when we feel depressed. Or, we may default to online shopping when we feel bored. Or we might mark an email as spam when we are irritated even if we originally subscriber to that email.
And why would subscribers be irritated about an email? Well…where to start: maybe they haven’t requested to receive your email, they don’t recognize your brand, you are just bombarding them with emails, there is no easy way to unsubscribe, or they are simply having a bad day. Never forget that your subscribers are real people with real emotions and they will get emotional about emails as well. Even if a subscriber unsubscribes out of anger in the spur of the moment, if they are engaged to you they will subscribe as soon as they calm down.
How can you influence their emotional state though? Keep up with the best practices and make sure to keep your promises–there’s nothing worse than a disappointed customer.
Trigger 5: Other People
And by other people, we mean of course the competition. There are many companies working in the same or similar industries and it can become a struggle for people to choose the right company/service provider for them. It has also become a competition to get into the inbox, get your emails read and your subscribers engaged. It’s a competition with senders in your own industry and other industries, with genuine senders and spammers, with big and small companies, with offers and rewards, and with aunt Bessie from Texas—they are all aiming to get into the same inbox as you are.
Over 122 billion emails are sent every hour, whilst the attention span of the modern consumer shrunk to only 8 seconds. The journey of your email doesn’t end when you have reached the inbox: that is where it really starts. And everything that happens afterward, the way your subscribers are engaging with your email, will affect your reputation as a sender the most.
And there is a way for you to see how your subscribers react to you and your competition: Inbox Insight. Inbox Insight is a Return Path software solution that provides a variety of metrics to measure email engagement and gives you more intelligence about what your subscribers are doing with your email after it reaches their inboxes. It will provide you with full visibility so you can see all competitive campaign types through real subscriber activity with metrics such as read rate, delete unread rate, forward rate, and more. Inbox Insight provides side-by-side benchmarking so users can compare themselves against competitors and best-in-class marketer—its the cherry on the top!
So get your subscribers in the habit of thinking of you as a best-in-class sender.
Before You Choose Your Trigger
No matter what trigger you choose to focus on, there is one important thing to understand: the key to choosing a successful trigger is to pick a trigger that is very specific and immediately actionable. Just think: on which of the above areas do you think you are performing worst? And what could you do to easily improve that performance? Think like you did before you started working in email marketing—think like an average person with an email account—what would you like your inbox to look like? Better yet, use the Return Path tools to help you identify weak spots and provide you with actionable steps. Take your dose of email therapy.
As always, experimentation is the only real answer. Play around with these five triggers and see what best works for you. And remember: have fun—it’s just like a phone call—you will know that the person on the other end of the line is smiling without seeing them.
Emoke Magyari is an Account Coordinator at Return Path. She supports both the UK and the German Market and is an adept of dealing with problems and finding innovative solutions. She values quality rather than quantity and will always challenge assumptions. Emoke enjoys experimenting new things and she will rarely say no to crazy ideas – the biggest joys can be found in the smallest things. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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