During Cyber Week, one of the most important shopping weeks of the year, the Salesforce Marketing Cloud clicked through the promotional emails of more than 90 major online retailers and we filled our shopping baskets with more than $100 of merchandise.

Then we walked away, closing our browser after each shopping session. Here’s what happened next and how it compares to our results when we did this same experiment during the 2013 holiday season…

View all of Chad's MediaPost columnsIn the First Age of Email Deliverability, there were no rules and few if any consequences for bad behavior. In the Second Age, ISPs armed their users with “report spam” and “junk” buttons and senders that received too many spam complaints had their emails junked or blocked.

In the Third Age, which we are in now, ISPs also factor engagement metrics into their filtering decisions and make those decisions on the individual level as well as on a global level. These changes mean email subscribers not only have to tolerate marketers’ emails, but have to at least occasionally engage with them. That in turn means marketers can’t bloat their email lists with inactive subscribers to lower their spam complaint rates. In the Third Age of Email Marketing, the need for list quality keeps list size ambitions in check.

However, an ISP panel at the Email Evolution Conference in Miami earlier this month seems to have muddied the water on whether email engagement affects junking and blocking. The two quasi-revelations from the panel—which included representatives from Gmail, Outlook.com, AOL, and Comcast—were that:

  1. Clicks don’t affect deliverability.
  2. Only spam complaints factor into blocking decisions at Outlook.com.

While not news to those in the deliverability community, these two things surprised many and caused some to question the recent emphasis that’s been placed on engagement metrics. Don’t be confused. Here’s why you should still be concerned about engagement and inactive subscribers…

>> Read the entire column on MediaPost.com

Smart InsightsEmail marketing can be a powerful driver of event success. To get the latest advice on how to use email to ensure that your event is packed, Zettasphere Founder Tim Watson asked me and eight other email marketing experts to share our No. 1 tip for promoting a webinar or paid physical event.

Here’s the advice I shared:

The biggest opportunity around events is to address the journeys that happen (1) during consideration, (2) post-conversion but pre-event, (3) during the event, and (4) post-event. A person on each of those journeys has different needs at different points, and there are great opportunities to use personalization, dynamic content, and triggered emails to address those needs and drive the desired behavior.

Justine Jordan, Kath Pay, Samantha Iodice, Dela Quist, Skip Fidura, Jordie van Rijn, Dave Chaffey, Parry Malm, and Tim Watson shared recommendations that address email content, frequency, segmentation, and automation—plus tips on how to promote British death punk bands.

>> Read the full post on SmartInsights.com

100 Inspiring Subject LinesAfter your sender name, your subject line has the biggest impact on whether subscribers open your emails or not. Here are four key subject line trends to keep in mind during 2015:

1. Mobile continues to shorten subject lines. Because mobile devices display fewer characters of a subject line than their webmail and desktop email client counterparts, the growth of mobile email reading is putting downward pressure on subject line lengths.

2. Snippet text becomes increasingly important “second subject line.” Counter-balancing shrinking subject lines is the fact that more subscribers are able to see snippet text, which gives subscribers a preview of the content of the email and appears next to or underneath the subject line in the inbox view of the native iPhone email app, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and other email clients. For instance, the native iPhone email app displays around 80 characters of snippet text, more than twice the number of characters that it displays of a subject line.

3. More images appear in subject lines. Subject lines aren’t limited to text anymore. Starting in 2012, there was good support for special characters like hearts, stars, and arrows. And now the native iPhone email app, Outlook.com, and other email clients support emojis. Currently around 2% of B2C subject lines include special characters or emojis.

4. More hashtags appear in subject lines. In the age of omni-channel campaigns, hashtags in subject lines connect email campaigns with social media campaigns. Often, using a hashtag in a subject line sacrifices a small percentage of opens in exchange for driving more social activity, so they should be used thoughtfully—and they tend to be. Currently, well under 1% of B2C subject lines include hashtags.

>> Read the entire post on the Salesforce blog

>> And for more on trends, check out 100 Inspiring Subject Lines from 2006 to 2014

Read all of Chad White's Convince & Convert blog postsMarketers have become very focused on measuring the effects of their work—which is both good and bad. On the one hand, quantifying things can prove that certain strategies and tactics are effective and worth additional investment. On the other hand, we don’t always do a very good job at understanding the numbers our work produces, which means data may be driving us to the wrong conclusions.

For instance, most brands haven’t figured out attribution, and therefore don’t know the return on investment they’re getting. According to Salesforce’s 2014 State of Marketing Leadership report, 48% of senior-level marketers rate “quantifying marketing’s ROI” as a major challenge, second only to “budgetary constraints.” Without an attribution model and ROI visibility, it’s difficult to have a cohesive, holistic strategy.

Complicating this further is evidence that channel marketers aren’t using the same metrics to measure success that their leaders do. Our State of Marketing Leadership report indicated that revenue growth, return on investment, and conversion rates were the top 3 success metrics for senior marketers. Those are great, business-oriented, bottom-of-the-funnel metrics.

However, when we asked channel marketers the same question in our 2015 State of Marketing report, we got very different answers…

>> Read the entire post on the Convince & Convert blog

Valentines for Email Marketers

I love email. And I love email marketers and subscribers. So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I’ve written some heartfelt words that go out to all the lovers of email marketing. Feel free to share them.

Roses instead  of violets, I knew,  that's why I segment  my emails to you.

CLICK TO TWEET >> Happy Valentine’s Day, Email Marketers! http://rules.ws/1Ch0f9Q With love, @chadswhite pic.twitter.com/T2V5juHZwB

Rose's emails are read  'cause marketers do  smart things to ensure  there's lots of value.

CLICK TO TWEET >> Happy Valentine’s Day, Email Marketers! http://rules.ws/1Ch0f9Q With love, @chadswhite pic.twitter.com/J2SwVL00vo

And I have a special Valentine for all the email designers and coders out there.

Email standards ahead?  Please say that it's true.  Our designs and our hearts  have been broken in two.

CLICK TO TWEET >> Happy Valentine’s Day, Email Marketers! http://rules.ws/1Ch0f9Q With love, @chadswhite pic.twitter.com/L2QAw7T79d

Need more email love in your life? Hook up with these email marketing and digital marketing rock stars.

Download the free 2014 Email Marketing Holiday CalendarEvery month we’ve been reviewing our predictions from the 2014 Email Marketing Holiday Calendar for the previous month and this is our final recap.

For January, we predicted that major retailers would send their active subscribers 19 promotional emails. That prediction turned out to be a bit low, as our panel of more than 100 major retailers sent their subscribers 19.7 promotional emails on average last month.

However, for the entire July-to-January period, our predictions have been very accurate. We predicted that major retailers would send each of their active subscribers 142 emails. The actual number sent was 142.3. That’s pretty spot on, and speaks to the fact that there weren’t any significant unanticipated spikes in promotional email volume during the holiday season.

>> Read the entire post on the Salesforce Blog

The Last Word on January 2015

The Last WordA roundup of email marketing articles, posts, tweets, and examples you might have missed last month…

Must-read articles, posts & whitepapers

The Care and Keeping of Your Email Marketing Manager (Email Snarketing)

The State of Split Testing (Howling Mad)

Professional Email Design (Jason Rodriguez)

53% of Emails Opened on Mobile; Outlook Opens Decrease 33% (Litmus)

Winning Ways: Interview with Email Marketer of the Year Alessandra Souers on Essential Email Marketing Tools (DMA)

Insightful & entertaining tweets

@TimRoman: Dig the bubble-mini-preference-center email subscription box on mbusa.com http://t.co/NdlrbKkC8y

@alphacolin: 2015 prediction: 73 subscribers will be seriously injured in an “email blast” causing marketers everywhere to rethink their strategies.

@jcohen808: You’ve already heard of #LUMAscapes, but check out the first ever EMAIL MARKETINGscape >> http://t.co/GMwi6l28oG

@scott_riley: The best thing I’ve read on Twitter this week is that someone thought that someone thought Ariana Grande was a font.

@cafelido: “I hear CMOs still mention the word ‘cost’ instead of ‘investment.'” @lvojvodich at CMO panel at #dld15

@jvanrijn: Tips for crafting the perfect subjectline. ; ) http://t.co/5gHgtYGkez via @iamelliot #emailmarketing #fun

@samfbiddle: Uber is the only service that has to regularly send you email warnings about using it

Great additions to the Swipe File pinboards

Pizza Hut email with great mobile-aware design >> View the pin

Airbnb encourages subscribers to send thanks to hosts >> View the pin

Marriott’s annual activity summary email >> View the pin

Pizza Express gives us more defensive design magic >> View the pin

Noteworthy subject lines

NFLshop, 1/26 — Our Patriots Top Sellers for Super Bowl XLIX
NFLshop, 1/18 — The Patriots Are the 2014 AFC Champions! Get the Official Gear!
ThinkGeek, 1/20 — Press ↑↑↓↓← → ← → B A start for $10 off!
Baby Gap, 1/21 — tot picks ——————–>
Zulily, 1/14 — >>–♥–> Get ready for V-day! Plus, Hanna Andersson, Motherhood Maternity & A Pea in the Pod, Matisse & Coconuts, Kids’ educational materials and more
ThinkGeek, 1/23 — ThinkGeek never goes against a Sicilian when death is on the line!
MAC Cosmetics, 1/26 — M∙A∙C Chinese New Year Gift Card – Celebrate the Tradition of Giving. Plus Free Shipping
The Container Store, 1/14 — Happy National Organize Your Home Day – from the experts!
ModCloth, 1/30 — Flattering swimsuit = total beach confidence.
American Apparel, 1/19 — #POPQUIZ Student Event. 20% Off Everything!
MoMA Store, 1/12 — Ends Today! Save an Extra 50% Off Holiday Cards!
Barneys New York, 1/24 — Polar Vortex-Proof Outerwear, “Un-Makeup,” and More from The Window
Furniture.com, 1/11 — They’re Here! The Top 5 Interior Design Trends of 2015 (check ’em out!)
Anthropologie, 1/12 — What if Anthropologie had a registry? (We do!)
Pier 1 Imports, 1/7 — Your pin piqued our Pinterest.
Petco, 1/9 — Are you shipping me? All orders SHIP FREE TODAY!
SkyMall, 1/3 — Need Help with That Resolution?
OnlineShoes.com, 1/3 — Your goals are waiting for you to put your shoes on
Horchow, 1/1 — 1st day of 2015 = LAST DAY for 20%/15% Event + FREE shipping
ModCloth, 1/1 — Goodbye 2014, hello 2015!

New posts on EmailMarketingRules.com

100 Inspiring Subject Lines: 2006 to 2014

9 Experts Weigh in on Email Metrics that Matter

The New Litmus Test for a Great Email Marketing Program

How 4 Social Media Predictions Impact Email Marketers

13 Charts from “Email Marketing Rules”

December Review & January Preview for the 2014 Email Marketing Holiday Calendar

The Last Word on December 2014

Smart Insights - Email Trends 2015To understand the latest best practices and the newest email marketing opportunities, Smart Insights asked me and 9 other email marketing specialists from around the world to share our recommendations.

Published in Smart Insights – Email Trends 2015, the trends include:

  1. Responsive Email Design
  2. Animated Gifs
  3. Video in Email
  4. Dynamic Customization
  5. Predictive Intelligence
  6. Pop-up Sign-up Forms
  7. Email Acquisition through Social
  8. Blank Email Double Opt-in
  9. Real-Time Email Marketing
  10. Location-Specific
  11. Integrating Card Updates into Broadcast Emails

My recommendations focused on predictive intelligence and blank email double opt-in. Predictive intelligence is a great way of harnessing Big Data to inject personalized recommendations into your emails—particularly, your transactional, cart abandonment, and browse abandonment emails. Powered by analytical insights into individual and group behavioral patterns, predictive intelligence enables dynamic content offers to be the most relevant to maximize response—and can really move the needle on email marketing revenue.

Blank email double opt-in is a new opt-in method that allows a person to opt into a brand’s email program by sending a blank email to a particular email address. When someone does that, it triggers an opt-in confirmation request email that asks the person to activate their subscription by clicking on a link in the email. This method is exciting because it’s easier than SMS email opt-ins, eliminates malicious signups and typo spamtrap risks, and increases opt-in confirmations by keeping the opt-in process entirely within the inbox.

>> Check out all the recommendations in “Smart Insights – Email Trends 2015”

100 Inspiring Subject Lines: 2006 to 2014

The most effective subject lines are straightforward and predispose openers to engage with the content of an email. However, creativity has its place.

Whether you’re newsjacking, promoting a non-sales message, tapping into the voice of your customers, or just conveying your brand’s attitude, creativity in less than half the length of a tweet can give your emails the edge—especially when your subject line is backed up with great email content.

To spark some ideas, here are our picks for 100 of the most inspiring subject lines to land in inboxes during the 9 years since 2006, plus highlights of notable trends and events through the years that have affected email subject lines.

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