The Importance of A/B Testing

🕒 August 23, 2022       🗩 Cameron Taylor

Developing a well-crafted email is a combination of art and science. You must craft content that is appealing to the customer, while being acceptable for the Email Service Providers (ESPs). The wording must be engaging, but on brand while also being enticing enough to inspire an action.  A couple weeks ago, Strategy9 did an A/B test using our testing feature to see how much a weak subject line would affect our engagement. While we expected the proper subject line (Test B) to outperform the improper one (test A) we were surprised at just how big of an impact it had.

 Here are some of the statistics from the test. Opens were over 50% less in Test A compared to Test B. That’s a big difference considering that the sender and the content were the same. The Test A subject line also affected the ESPs reception to the email as well. Bounces were around 50% in Test A compared to the 6% in Test B displaying the ESPs dislike for the non-specific content. This showed that the ESPs saw the Test A subject line as possible spam and was preventing it from being sent.

Subject lines are your first impression and should be made with consideration to how it will affect your overall campaign. Taking time to craft an engaging subject line should be as important and receive just as much attention as the other areas of your email.

Here are four tips for developing an engaging subject line:

Make it Personalized

Utilizing features like Custom Fields can help personalize the offer to your subscriber. This adds a human touch to your message which is more likely to grab your subscriber’s attention. EmailIQ has custom fields available to tailor your emails.

Keep it Short and to the Point

Over 50% of people check their emails on their mobile devices. Most email clients won’t display more than 43 characters of a subject line in mobile view. Keeping subject lines short will allow your subscribers to view all the information at a glance. Subject lines with seven to nine words receive the highest click to open ratios on average. Make sure you use the available real-estate in the subject line, but keep it succinct.

Utilize Power Words 

Power words are words that tend to trigger an emotional and psychological response in people. Utilizing these words can increase clicks and opens by triggering these emotional responses. They tend to be adjectives that appeal to certain human emotions like curiosity, vanity and loss aversion more commonly known as FOMO. Your industry and what your email is offering will determine what emotional triggers are appropriate for your subject line.

Be Upfront about the Offer

I doubt I have to tell you that making false claims on any part of your email is a big No-No. False claims can tarnish your reputation, lose client trust and possibly get you blocked by ESPs. This sentiment also stands for making vague claims. Let the subscriber know what they are going to get by opening the email from the start. Subject lines like, “Amazing Offer Inside” aren’t as strong as ones like, “Enjoy 20% Off This Labor Day Weekend”. Lead with your value. 

While there are many components to keep in mind while building an email, subject lines are the easiest way to elevate overall reception. It is the first impression that your subscribers have of your brand and it is a factor that ESPs use to determine if you email is quality. While it can seem like a fairly low stakes part of the overall email, subject lines are the first impression that can decide not only if your subscribers engage with your content, but if it gets to them at all.  

tl;dr

Developing a well-crafted email is a combination of art and science. You must craft content that is appealing to the customer, while being acceptable for the Email Service Providers (ESPs). Using A/B testing can help you fine tune your content to meet the needs your customer and the ESPs. When performing the A/B test, bounces were around 50% in Test A compared to the 6% in Test B displaying the ESPs dislike for the non-specific content. Utilizing Power Words and succint offers can greatly improve your subject line. While it can seem like a fairly low stakes part of the overall email, subject lines are the first impression that can decide not only if your subscribers engage with your content, but if it gets to them at all.

Want to know more about EmailIQ or how Strategy9 can revolutionize your marketing?

How should marketers respond to the “spam problem”? (Part 2)

🕒 July 19, 2022       🗩 Cameron Taylor

In the last blog, we discussed what exactly a spam email is. We defined spam as unsolicited communication typically delivered through email. We also covered how Email Service Providers (ESPs) try to prevent spam from reaching their users. Their methods can sometimes prevent legitimate email communications with customers, by moving emails to spam or blocking the senders IP or domain. Therefore, marketers need to be aware of the characteristics of spam and ESPs responses to them. Now that we’ve confirmed this information, what are the next steps?  

Spam Proofing

“Spam Proofing” your email is the next logical course of action, but how do you so? As a reputable email marketer, you utilize a mailing list consisting of subscribers who have opted in either in person or digitally to receive communications from your organization. You design content that relates to the services your organization offers and this content meets your subscribers’ expectations for the brand. This should mean that your campaigns would be safe from the dreaded spam folder or from being blocked, but that is not always the case. 

Email service providers don’t “read” your emails so much as they scan them for certain characteristics associated with spam. This means that while the message, offer, and content could be legitimate, if it is presented in a way that makes ESPs leery you could end up in the spam folder anyway. This makes it imperative to not only tailor your content and mailing to your subscribers, but to ESPs as well.

1. Have an 80/20 text to image ratio in your campaigns

Image spam sometimes uses computer-generated text stored in a JPEG file in the body of the email to try to avoid text-based spam filters. ESPs are aware of this technique and tend to mark image heavy emails as spam. Image heavy campaigns also take longer to load. This can negatively affect the subscribers experience creating another reason for ESPs to remove it. To distinguish your campaign from spam, create layouts using the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of your email should be text with no more than twenty percent being images. Images should be an aesthetic addition rather than the main driver of a campaign. Campaigns should also have a fully text version of the email. Not only will this improve your status with ESPs, but it allows easy access to your subscriber base who might be visually impaired and require reading software. This brings us to our second good practice.  

2. Create text versions and add alt tags 

Taking steps to improve your campaigns accessibility not only creates a better subscriber experience by making it easier to engage with, but it will also improve your reputation. ESPs look for campaigns that have text versions and alt tags on images and buttons to distinguish good senders from spam senders. Some providers will block a send entirely if there isn’t a text version available. EmailIQ provides an HTML to text feature that allows you to convert your email content to text.   

3. Subscriber Engagement 

An audience’s engagement with an email is one of the strongest indicators to ESPs of whether an email is spam or not. Emails with high click and open rates tells the ESPs that the campaign is welcomed by the subscriber. Making your campaign clickable should be one of your highest priorities when trying to avoid the spam folder. Utilize unique, topical, and specific subject lines that inform your subscriber about what the email will have inside. Avoid using vague language or subject lines that repeat campaign to campaign with no distinctions. Instead of “Claim your Free Gift!”, add specifics like date, location, company name and even the recipient’s name to make it more interesting. Improve click-to-open rates by making all images clickable with links. Add hyperlinks to phone numbers so subscribers can be transferred directly to their systems dialer without having to copy paste. Finally, create clear accessible call-to-action (CTA) buttons for every campaign deployed. Even if it only directs back to your company’s homepage, having a call to action will improve your click-to-open ratio. The CTA should be a distinct button rather than just a hyperlink, with engaging verbiage that is relevant to the campaign.  

Understanding how spam works can improve the quality of your emails as well as your reputation amongst Email Service Providers. Taking the extra steps to make sure your content meets industry best practices can increase your ability to reach your customers.

tl;dr

As a reputable email marketer, you utilize best practices like using an opted mailing list and brand appropriate content to engage with your customers. This may not be enough to prevent Email Service Providers from sending your campaign to the spam folder. Creating content with 80/20 text to image ratios, text versions and alt tags, and promoting subscriber engagement can help distinguish your campaigns from spam. Understanding how spam works can improve the quality of your emails as well as your reputation.  

Want to know more about EmailIQ or how Strategy9 can revolutionize your marketing?

What is a Spam Email and how does it affect your campaigns? (Part 1 )

🕒 June 1, 2022       🗩 Cameron Taylor

If you’ve ever opened your inbox, you’ve probably been inundated with messages promising that you’ve won a sweepstakes or warning you that your computer has been infected with a virus. These email scams or spam have been such a regular part of the 21st century experience that there are whole movies and comedy skits based on them. While these spam interactions can be annoying and possibly dangerous for the consumer, they can be just as problematic for marketers. Spam muddies the waters of communication between business and consumer, making it harder for valid emails to make it to the inbox. This can make it harder for marketers to communicate with their subscribers.  

What is Spam?

Let’s start at the very beginning of the issue, what is Spam Email? The origin of the name is often debated, but most attribute it to a sketch from Monty Python and the Flying Circus. In it, two patrons of a restaurant bemoan their dislike of spam, while a repetitive song praises the breakfast meat. Game chat rooms in the 80s and 90s would set up bots to send repetitive messages of “Spam, Spam, Spam” or sometimes the song in its entirety. These annoying messages provided other users something they did not want just like the restaurant patrons in the sketch. As time passed, spam became the moniker for unsolicited or unwanted communication, typically emails but can also be text messages, generally sent out in bulk to a nonsubscriber list.

Botnets are often used to deliver spam emails to their mailing lists. A botnet is a network of hijacked computers infected with malware. These computers often become infected through, ironically enough, spam email. By using computers with neutral sender reputations, the spam sender can avoid being blocked by the Email Service Providers as the IP addresses don’t have a poor reputation. Once the hijacked computers develop a poor reputation through the spam sends, the sender will move on to other computers.   

The reasons to send spam can vary, but it usually falls under two categories, commercial spam and malicious spam. Commercial spam wants to sell you something and uses these bulk emails to try to engage as many potential customers as possible. The products or services can be legitimate, but they generally aren’t. Malicious spam wants to gain access to your information (credit cards, bank accounts, etc.) or your computer. These often disguise themselves as antivirus warnings, sweepstakes, pleas for money or even imitating brands that you would be familiar with and trust such as your bank or job. Regardless of which type of spam it is, the overarching goal of these communications is to gain access to your resources that you normally wouldn’t provide.    

How does this affect legitimate senders of large lists of recipients that have opted-in to receive email?

Email Service Providers (ESPs) are constantly on the lookout for spam emails. If their users have bad experiences in their inboxes, they have a higher chance of abandoning the email and the provider. This creates a strong incentive for ESPs to remove as much spam as possible. ESPs will look for certain characteristics in campaigns to determine if the content is spam.

These characteristics can include:

  • Mass deployments from a domain with no previous deploy history
  • Image heavy campaigns with little to no text components 
  • Campaigns deployed consistently to dead or “do-not-mail” addresses 
  • IPs and domains with high hard bounce rates on deployments (authentication and reputation)
  • Campaigns without a text version of the email

ESPs will monitor these types of emails and will take steps to either isolate them in the spam folder or block them all together. They will even take over dead email addresses to monitor if the address is getting removed from sender lists. If an IP continues to send an email address that provides no activity to the campaign (clicks and opens), then the ESPs will assume it is spam. 

There are no ‘fool-proof’ methods of determining spam. Emails sharing an “interesting business proposal” can end up in your priority folder, while a birthday e-card from grandma can find its way to the spam folder. Marketers should work to distinguish their emails from their spam counterparts. Taking the extra steps to meet the expectations of a “good sender” will enable you to preserve your good reputation and get your email to the inbox . If you want to find out ways to distinguish your campaigns from the bad actors that plague the internet, stay tuned for our next post to learn more about being a “good sender”.

tl;dr

Spam is something we’ve all dealt with and while it can be annoying to customers, it can be even more disruptive to marketers. Spam makes it harder for business communications to reach their consumers by mudding the waters between legitimate and illegitimate email campaigns. Spam uses a variety of techniques (botnets, hidden text, fake domains, etc.) to reach their intended inboxes. Email Service Providers are on high alert for anything that resembles spam in order to isolate and or block the email or domain from sending to their users. It is the responsibility of marketers to stay up to date on spam markers (image heavy content, high hard bounce rates, etc.) in order to avoid their campaigns from being perceived as spam.

Want to know more about EmailIQ or how Strategy9 can revolutionize your marketing?

Measuring the Success of Email Campaigns

🕒 May 13, 2022       🗩 Cameron Taylor

As marketers, we understand that there are many variables for measuring the success of an email campaign. Opens, clicks, and unsubscribes are all numbers to keep an eye on when judging how well a campaign did, but an oft forgotten metric is the click to open ratio.  

What is click-to-open-rate (or CTOR)?

The CTOR is the percentage of subscribers who opened your email and proceeded to click on your call-to-action buttons, images, or hyperlinks. The calculation for CTOR is (unique clicks/unique opens) x 100. This metric can be found in the EmailIQ system under each campaign at Statistics > Campaign Statistics.  

Monitoring your CTOR gives you a clearer picture of your subscribers’ interest in your content since open rates alone do not guarantee content engagement. Skimming over emails or accidental opens are common, so taking your CTOR into account can give you a better picture of how actively engaged your audience is.  

Beyond providing a good metric for you and your team to use to measure the success of a campaign, CTORs are also used by Email Service Providers (ESPs) to determine the validity of your Domain, IP and sends. ESPs are constantly monitoring your company’s campaigns to subscribers. Metrics on opens and clicks are used to determine if your email is a “valid send” or spam. Clicks have a higher value over opens when determining how valid an email is perceived to be.  

How to Improve your CTORs

Improving your CTORs is as simple as adding a button to your email campaign. Call to Action (CTA) buttons are the most vital opportunity to improve CTOR. Create a CTA with action driven verbiage to promote clicks and locate them “above the fold” or above the area where subscribers must scroll in your email. Make all your images clickable by adding links to your website. EmailIQ allows you to add links easily in both BEE and WYSIWYG editor. Hyper link phone numbers so subscribers can click to call on desktop and mobile without the need to copy paste. 

The click to open ratio is an important metric to consider when reviewing the success of your email campaign as it can show how much of your interested audience (opens) wanted to continue interactions beyond their initial open. Used in combination with your other metrics, CTORs can give you a clearer picture of audience engagement as well as improve overall deliverability. 

tl;dr

CTOR is the percentage of subscribers who opened your email and proceeded to click on your call-to-action. Beyond providing a good metric for you and your team to use to measure the success of a campaign, CTORs are also used by Email Service Providers (ESPs) to determine the validity of your Domain, IP and sends. Clicks have a higher value over opens when determining how valid an email is perceived to be. Create a CTA with action driven verbiage to promote clicks and locate them “above the fold” or above the area where subscribers must scroll in your email. Make all your images clickable by adding links to your website.

Want to know more about EmailIQ or how Strategy9 can revolutionize your marketing?

Emails your casino should be sending NOW

We all get email (probably daily) from other loyalty programs from airlines, rental car companies, online retailers, traditional retailers, credit card companies, and many, many others.  Most of us in the casino industry receive plenty of email from casinos all around the world.  One of the differences we notice at Strategy9 is that many casinos aren’t using some of the techniques we see with other email marketing programs from non-casino companies.  Let’s look at some of the email programs we suggest you implement right away if you’re not already sending them.

  1. Monthly “Players Club” points statement

    Now we all understand that some players won’t want to see a monthly summary of their gaming activity – but some will.  Why not offer your players an option to receive this type of email?  In it, you could include general points totals to show players how many points they earned, how and where they used them, and what their balance is at the end of the month.  Perhaps this could be made available only to your top-tier customers, and ideally would be an excellent vehicle to promote all the great benefits of your loyalty program that encourages redemption.  And more earning.

  2. Club tier status progression

    Most casino loyalty programs have multiple tiers.  Many players are motivated to reach the next level.  We know this is true, which is one of the reasons we have multiple tiers.  Why not use email as a way to remind players where they stand within your tiers, and let them know how many points are required to move to the next level.  It is a great way to maintain an upbeat conversation with your players.  Who doesn’t want gold or platinum status, after all?

  3. Achievement notification

    Players love to win.  They love to earn. They love to progress.  Email is a great way to celebrate these achievements.  You could allow players to subscribe to an “achievement” notification, which could recognize a big win or a new level.  In fact, you could even use your bonus data to remind players how close they are to earning a new bonus on a particular game.

  4. Tournament notifications

    Strategy9 is famous for developing tournament systems.  Why not automate tournament notifications by emailing customers reminders about their upcoming sessions, past scores, prizes, and leaderboards?  Already have a tournament system?  Strategy9 can help you automate this kind of notification service.

  5. Available offers

    Casinos send different offers to different customers.  Some customers get more offers than others.  Often times an individual player may have multiple offers available.  A weekly or monthly email reminding customers which offers are waiting for them is a great way to encourage redemption and additional visits.

At Strategy9, we’re casino systems experts.  We can help you connect your player data to your email marketing program to increase response, redemption, and create additional trips.  Call us today to get us on your team!