Email Rendering Continues to Grow in Complexity, Wildly So at the Fringes

The idea of a pixel-perfect email rendering across every email client died a long time ago. The challenge for most of the past decade has been to achieve platform-perfect rendering, where an email renders up to the fullest capabilities of a particular inbox provider.

But even that is an increasingly tall order for four main reasons:

  • The traditional landscape of email clients is still quite expansive
  • The viewing options selected by email recipients
  • The decision of senders to use email content and code that has limited support or inconsistent implementations
  • The growth of browserless email clients with limited rendering functionality and conversion ability

Let’s talk about each of them in turn, starting with…

>> Read the entire post on Oracle’s Modern Marketing Blog

The Last Word on November 2020

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

Must-read articles, posts & reports

What Consumers Want from Email (eMarketer)

30 Email Marketing Influencers to Follow in 2020 (Sendinblue)

Email Marketing Trends 2021 – 5 Trends to Watch (Smart Insights)

There’s Still Lackluster Enthusiasm for Shopping and Buying via Voice (eMarketer)

Insightful & entertaining tweets

Noteworthy subject lines

Inspire by Namecheap, 11/19 – What NOT TO DO on Black Friday
REI, 11/25 – We’re Closing on Black Friday—Again
Belk Black Friday Sale, 11/27 – Black Friday deals still going strong 💪 UP TO 75% OFF
Nordstrom, 11/27 – Don’t miss Black Friday Cyber Deals! Up to 50% off + get an extra 25% off Clearance
Banana Republic, 11/27 – Not 30. Not 40… 50% Off Everything, 11/30 – 🚨FINAL HOURS – for 50% Back in Moosejaw Rewards
Victoria’s Secret, 11/27 – Wish list granted: BOGO 50% OFF
Gap Black Friday, 11/27 – *BEST PRICES OF THE YEAR* on our BEST GIFTS
Eddie Bauer, 11/27 – The best deals of the year are FLANNEL-Y here 🎉
Belk Black Friday, 11/26 – Alexa, how many calories are in stuffing? 🤔 $18.99 Amazon Echo Dot
Lane Bryant, 11/26 – $25 Bras Now. Pie later.
Office Depot, 11/26 – Still not full? Get a second serving of Black Friday deals
Macy’s Black Friday, 11/27 – Don’t miss 70-80% off 1250-thread count sheet sets & more + Free Ship at $25
Williams Sonoma, 11/26 – Top 5 gift lists + gifts that give back
Quiksilver, 11/15 – The best gifts for you – and for the planet
Petco Foundation, 11/15 – Gifts that give back to 🐶 🐱 🐰
Crate and Barrel, 11/27 – Black Friday: Free furniture delivery + 4 more ways to save
Applebee’s Grill + Bar, 11/27 – Black Friday Gift Card Offer!
Victoria’s Secret, 11/23 – Shop Black Friday *early*
Gap Black Friday, 11/23 – 🌟 Black Friday OFFICIALLY starts NOW 🌟
Bass Pro Shops, 11/22 – Black Friday Hot Deals are starting soon! Preview them NOW!
Sears, 11/23 – 🎁 🎁 🎁 🎁 🎁 🎁 🎁 🎁
Sears, 11/16 – Today’s Black Friday Now deal 💦👚 💦 It’s laundry day
Big Lots, 11/16 – ⏰ It’s never too early to start gift shopping!
Zales, 11/13 – 🥳 We’re Celebrating Black Friday Early!
Crate & Barrel, 11/12 – BLACK FRIDAY STARTS NOW.
Bass Pro Shops, 11/5 – We’re got Black Friday deals all month long!
Dollar General, 11/4 – Bring on the turkey and thankful guests.
Bed Bath & Beyond, 11/24 – We’re making the holidays easy to celebrate from home.
Tractor Supply Co., 11/17 – NEW App Feature – Discover the Convenience of Life Out Here
Saks Fifth Avenue, 11/23 – Tune in tonight for our virtual holiday show & window unveiling
Macy’s, 11/23 – Holiday cheer is near: our new virtual Santaland is coming!
West Elm, 11/21 – Get a FREE design session AND gifting help
IKEA, 11/23 – Chad, get holiday cooking tips from a pro
Williams Sonoma, 11/14 – Best gravy EVER!
Wegmans, 11/12 – Thanksgiving Wines You’ll Love
Dollar General, 11/12 – 20% off for Veterans, Active Duty Military and their families.
Bass Pro Shops, 11/8 – Special Offer for our Military and Hometown Heroes
T.J.MAXX, 11/16 – Save BIG on home updates 🏡
Everlane, 11/12 – Our First Socks Are Here
Baby at Burlington, 11/10 – NEW PRODUCT ALERT: We now sell baby essentials!
Gap Friends & Family, 11/8 – Meet the coatigan
Uncommon Goods, 11/8 – Winter’s coming. Is your game closet prepared?
Kohl’s, 11/4 – Check out our Wellness Market + find what you need to live a little healthier.
IKEA, 11/13 – Chad, get a FREE day of child card at KinderCare
Kenneth Cole, 11/3 – TODAY IS ELECTION DAY
Foot Locker, 11/3 – Rock the Vote Today! 🗳️
Nordstrom, 11/3 – Make your voice heard on Election Day
Tattly Temporary Tattoos, 11/3 – We’re holding our breath.
Z Gallerie, 11/3 – Tell Your Friends & Family To Vote Today ✅

New posts on

Modular Email Architectures: What They Are & How They Work

Welcome Email Best Practices

Smart Insights: Email Marketing Trends 2021 – 5 Trends to Watch

The Future of Travel: Long-Term & Short-Term Recommendations

Email Accessibility: Legal Issues & Audience Expansion

The Last Word on October 2020

Cyber Monday Email Marketing Activity & Sales Continue Weakening Trend

With consumers struggling financially and retailers having succeeded in pulling holiday sales into early November and even October, the downward trend in sales and email marketing activity during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend continued on Cyber Monday.

Rising Email Volume
Oracle Marketing Consulting predicted a 10% increase in email volume on Cyber Monday during their Choosing the Best Days to Send Email Campaigns This Holiday Season webinar in August. However, official numbers show that B2C marketers sent 10.9% fewer emails on Cyber Monday compared to last year, according to data from Oracle Marketing Consulting based on a panel of more than 40 major national B2C brands using the Oracle Responsys Campaign Management platform.

On Cyber Monday, preliminary performance data shows that unique email open rates were down 13.1% year-over-year and revenue per email was down 35.6%, according to Oracle’s panel data.

“Just as Black Friday was really more of a Black Friday Week, with sales going all week long, Cyber Monday will likely play out similarly,” Clint Kaiser, Head of Analytic & Strategic Services at Oracle Marketing Consulting, told SmarterCX. “To get a sense of how they truly performed, companies will want to look at their email performance and sales over the entire Cyber Week—and then look at that within the context of their performance since the week of Veterans Day, which is when many retailers kicked off their holiday promotions in earnest.”

Slowing Online Sales Growth
Consumers spent $10.8 billion online on Monday, a new one-day record that eclipsed Cyber Monday’s 2019 sales by 15.1%, according to Adobe Analytics. But despite hitting record levels, the performance was a major disappointment. First, the online sales tally came in far short of Adobe’s original forecast of $12.7 billion, according to CNBC. It also fell well short of Insider Intelligence’s forecast of $12.89 billion in online sales.

And second, the 15.1% growth represents the continued slowing of online sales growth. As previously reported, online sales grew at a 22% year-over-year pace on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. During the third quarter, ecommerce sales grew at a 46% year-over-year pace, according to Adobe Analytics and at a 36.7% clip, according to the US Census Bureau. There’s a very clear slowing trend showing during what’s usually the strongest part of the holiday season.

Compounded by Falling Offline Sales
The weaker-than-expected online sales are occurring against a backdrop of plunging offline sales due to slower foot traffic in stores. From Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) through Sunday (Nov. 29), store traffic fell 49% compared to 2019, according to Sensormatic Solutions. On Cyber Monday, store traffic declined 23% year-over-year.

Offline sales are still critical to overall retail sales since they represent 86.5% of all retail receipts, according to the US Census Bureau.

Overall, over the five-day period of Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, shoppers spent nearly 14% less on average on holiday-related purchases both online and offline, spending $311.75 each on average this year compared to $361.90 in 2019, according to the National Retail Federation.

Email Messaging Trends
Cyber Monday lived up to its reputation for having some of the best online deals of the year, with discounts on Monday appearing to be steeper than on Black Friday. While many large brands, such as Lane Bryant, Express, and Gap, promoted 50% off—which was the highwater mark on Black Friday—others, including Belk, Houzz, and Rugs USA, promoted “up to 75% off.”

In terms of email design, live countdown timers that ticked down to the expiration of Cyber Monday sales were fairly common. Such countdowns were used by Saks Fifth Avenue, REI, Camping World, Bass Pro Shops, Eddie Bauer, and Gap, among others. Animated gifs were also quite popular in retailers’ email campaigns, with Michaels, Uncommon Goods, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Dick’s Sporting Goods, T.J.Maxx, and others using them.

Oracle’s December Forecast
Oracle Marketing Consulting is forecasting that email marketing volume will be up year-over-year through Green Monday (Dec. 14), but then decline through Christmas Day as COVID-related restrictions likely increase. With COVID-19 hospitalizations at record levels and infections expected to spike in the wake of Thanksgiving, the risk of new restrictions impacting December retail sales is high, says Kaiser.

“Down the home stretch, we expect retailers to even more actively promote and incentivize curbside pickup and ‘buy now pay later’ services like Klarna,” he says. “We also expect them to offer plenty of ‘reward cards’ that are only redeemable in January to try to sustain some sales momentum into the new year and to convert some one-time holiday shoppers into regular customers.”

Our Top Learnings from Launching the Oracle CX Marketing Consulting Newsletter

We launched our first issue of the twice-monthly Oracle CX Marketing Consulting Newsletter on Oct. 15, 2019. Since then, we’ve sent 30 issues. We’ve learned a lot from launching it, as well as from running it for a year. Rather than keep these learnings to ourselves, the newsletter team and I wanted to share the highs and lows so everyone can benefit.

Our experiences were wildly different during the pre-launch phase compared to post-launch, so that’s how we’ve broken out our learnings.

To learn all about our successes and failures…

>> Read the entire post on Oracle’s Modern Marketing Blog

Pandemic-Driven Early Holiday Promotions Cannibalize Email Marketing and Sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Concerned about the effects of new pandemic-related restrictions on their operations and consumer optimism, retailers launched their “Black Friday” email promotions early—and the impact of that decision could plainly be seen in Thanksgiving and Black Friday email volume and retail sales.

Increased email sends
Oracle CX Marketing Consulting predicted a 10% increase in email volume on Thanksgiving and a 3% increase on Black Friday during their Choosing the Best Days to Send Email Campaigns This Holiday Season webinar in August. Official numbers show that B2C marketers sent 3.6% more emails on Thanksgiving this year compared to last, and 6% less on Black Friday, according to data from Oracle CX Marketing Consulting based on a panel of more than 40 major national B2C brands using the Oracle Responsys platform.

During Thanksgiving Week, email volume was up substantially, just as it was during the second and third weeks of November. All of this is proof of a strong desire on the part of retailers to lock in more sales ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

By sending more campaigns earlier in November, retailers succeeded in driving substantially higher revenue per email during the second and third weeks of November. But during Thanksgiving week, revenue per email fell significantly year-over-year, even though it was up slightly week-over-week.

On Thanksgiving Day itself, unique email open rates were down 4% year-over-year and revenue per email was down 24%, according to Oracle’s panel data. And on Black Friday, unique opens were down 6% and revenue per email was flat compared with Black Friday 2019.

“Many of the retailers celebrating big year-over-year gains in recent weeks found over the Thanksgiving Weekend that demand has softened as big pre-Thanksgiving promotions stole the thunder of Black Friday,” Clint Kaiser, Head of Analytic & Strategic Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting, told SmarterCX. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as early revenue is safer revenue this year because of pandemic-related risks, but it reinforces the need to view this unique holiday season more holistically.”

Cannibalized retail sales
The cannibalization of sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday by promotions earlier in November could be seen in overall ecommerce sales as well. Retail shoppers spent an estimated $5.1 billion online on Thanksgiving Day and $9 billion online on Black Friday, according to Adobe Analytics. While both of those are record amounts and both represent a roughly 22% increase over the year-ago figures, they also represent a significant deceleration in online sales. During the third quarter, ecommerce sales grew at a 46% year-over-year pace, according to Adobe Analytics, and at a 36.7% clip, according to the US Census Bureau.

In addition to the online slowdown, retail sales in stores appeared to plunge, as financially stressed consumers continue to avoid crowded stores and move more of their spending online. Store shopper visits fell 52.1% on Black Friday, compared to 2019, according to Sensormatic Solutions. And visits to stores on Thanksgiving Day decreased by 94.9% year-over-year.

Some of that drop was by design, to guard against store overcrowding and the potential for tighter restrictions and lockdowns. For instance, Target, Kohl’s, and other big box stores closed for Thanksgiving this year. And Walmart and Best Buy went so far as to make some of the most popular products, like the new Playstation and Xbox game systems, only available online, according to CNBC. Inventory management and supply chain struggles also likely contributed to these decisions.

Whatever the reason, fewer store visits tends to mean fewer impulse buys. And offline sales are still critical to overall retail sales, since they represent 86.5% of all retail receipts, according to the US Census Bureau.

Email messaging trends
It was widely anticipated that Thanksgiving and Black Friday promotions would look much more like Cyber Monday, with a focus on online deals rather than in-store sales because of the pandemic. That prediction was accurate, with very few major US retailers using their email promotions to try to drive in-store visits.

That appeared to be a wise decision, as consumers appeared to actively avoid anything that even seemed like an in-store promotion. For instance, Kaiser says that Oracle Consulting clients found that using “doorbusters” in subject lines caused those emails to significantly underperform, even when those doorbusters were online-only promotions.

Overall, site-wide discounts were steeper than in recent years, with Gap, Express, and many other brands offering 50% off—with some launching their sales as early as Sunday, Nov. 22.

As they’ve been for many weeks now, curbside pickup and same-day delivery options were widely promoted by retailers in their email campaigns, with Nordstrom taking the additional step of incentivizing their email subscribers to try curbside by offering a $15 promo gift card to first-time users. Consumers said they’d be taking advantage of curbside pickup and same-day delivery at much higher rates than last year, according to Insider Intelligence. These delivery options are likely to become even more prominent in the final weeks of the holiday season.

In a sign that email marketing will continue to perform a pivotal role in determining how retailers do this holiday season, opt-in rates more than tripled during the two weeks before Thanksgiving Week, and unsubscribe rates have been well below year-ago levels during November, according to Oracle. Both of those should boost the performance of email marketing campaigns in the weeks ahead.

Modular Email Architectures-Efficient Workflow and Foundation for Personalization

Classic email templates are becoming obsolete. They are difficult to maintain, don’t offer enough flexibility, make personalization cumbersome, and take too much time to turn into a final email campaign that’s ready to send. Because of all of those weaknesses, more companies are migrating to modular email architectures and reaping significant improvements.

In this post, Jason Witt, Senior Director for Creative Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting, breaks down the various components of a modular email architecture and discusses its benefits, which include:

  1. Quicker email builds
  2. Easier personalization
  3. Greater flexibility
  4. Lower maintenance
  5. More consistency and control
  6. Easier evolution of email design

He also shares an example of modular email architecture from the Oracle CX Marketing Newsletter, which has been using this build system since it was launched last fall.

For a full discussion of modular email architectures, its benefits, and Oracle CX Marketing Newsletter case study…

>> Read the entire post on Oracle’s Modern Marketing Blog

Welcome Email Best Practices

Welcome Email Best Practices - Making a Great First Impression

When someone signs up to receive your promotional emails, it marks the start of what is hopefully a long and mutually beneficial relationship. Start it off right by sending the most effective welcome email possible.

Here are seven best practices to follow:

  1. Send welcomes immediately.
  2. Ask new subscribers to do something high-value.
  3. Keep your copy and design focused.
  4. Use a welcome email series.
  5. Send different welcome emails based on the acquisition source.
  6. QA and optimize your welcomes often.
  7. Seasonally update your welcomes.

For a full discussion of each of those recommendations, including advice from our digital marketing consultants…

>> Read the entire post on Oracle’s Modern Marketing Blog

Email Marketing Trends 2021

The pandemic upended email marketing plans during 2020 and Smart Insights wondered where our industry is headed in 2021. They asked me and four other email marketing experts for our predictions. Here are the key trends that we identified:

  • Email marketing through the K-shaped COVID-19 recovery
  • Strategy first, solution second
  • Bringing customer experience into email marketing
  • It’s time for real, authentic personalization
  • Rediscovering the value of the plain-text email

My prediction was the first, that the K-shaped recovery from COVID-19 would drive companies down two very different paths. For all the details about my prediction and those of my co-contributors…

>> Read the full post on the Smart Insights Blog

How to Prepare for the Future of Travel

No industry has been more heavily impacted by social distancing, government-mandated health and safety restrictions, and regional and countrywide lockdowns than travel and hospitality companies. Even once travel restrictions are completely lifted, marketers within these businesses will have the tricky job of messaging to consumers who are reluctant to take trips for either business or recreation. Because of his reluctance, Goldman Sachs doesn’t expect 2019 travel levels to be reached again until at least 2023.

However, that doesn’t mean travel companies should remain static. Rather, this time period is an opportunity to judiciously prioritize opportunities to meet travelers where they are today and will be tomorrow.

In this blog post, Oracle CX Marketing Consulting’s Head of Analytic & Strategic Services, Clint Kaiser, shares advice for what travel marketers should be doing to prepare for the long-term future of travel, as well as recommending more immediate, low-cost opportunities to pursue today.

>> Read the full post on Oracle’s Modern Marketing Blog

The Last Word on October 2020

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

Must-read articles, posts & reports

The Future of the Mall (ClickZ)

Building for a more productive inbox with AMP (Google Developers Blog)

What I learned by ignoring 24 SaaS Email onboarding campaigns (Ezra Sandzer-Bell)

Online Merchants Gain an Extra $107 Billion in 2020 Thanks to Pandemic (Digital Commerce 360)

How Nars used customer quizzes to adjust its global marketing (Glossy)

2020 Amazon Prime Day Email Recap (SparkPost)

Insightful & entertaining tweets

Noteworthy subject lines

Dollar General, 10/15 – Do all the holidays at once.
Uncommon Goods, 10/12 – Too early to holiday shop? Not this year.
Sears, 10/24 – Wait … Holiday planning ALREADY?
Lowe’s Home Improvement, 10/8 – Welcome the holiday season in style.
Hobby Lobby, 10/2 – 40% Off Christmas 🎄
Hobby Lobby, 10/29 – 50% Off Christmas 🎄
Michaels, 10/8 – Creative Pros: Get ready for the holidays with MichaelsPro Packs.
Office Depot, 10/31 – November 28th is Small Business Day – are you ready?
Bed Bath & Beyond, 10/7 – 25% off everything you need a welcoming holiday table 🦃🍽️ Plus, score more with a 20% coupon.
Crate and Barrel, 10/22 – Holiday guest room redo
Big Lots, 10/1 – 🍁 Savor the flavors of fall 🥧
Williams Sonoma, 10/25 – Introducing your perfect roaster guide (thank us later!)
The Home Depot, 10/1 – Bring the Scares to Your Doorstep 👻
West Elm, 10/3 – Make Halloween frightfully festive with our FREE Design Crew 🎃
Michaels, 10/15 – Ding Dong! Create a scare package they’ll never forget.
Dollar General, 10/13 – 4 Halloween activities the whole fam can enjoy.
ModCloth, 10/16 – You have a vote. Use it.
Everlane, 10/22 – Beyond The Vote
REI, 10/1 – The World Keeps Changing. We Still #OptOutside.
Applebee’s, 10/7 – 🍹 Mucho Cocktails To Go Now Available! 🍹
Williams Sonoma, 10/10 – Drinks before dinner? Don’t mind if we do.
Nordstrom, 10/26 – Instant Outfit: work from home
Lane Bryant, 10/24 – The perfect athleisure outfit for $49.
Sephora Insider, 10/8 – Now you can reserve online and pick up in store 🎊
Petco, 10/1 – 10% off Curbside pickup!
Belk, 10/13 – $7.99 sheets + extra 15% off with curbside pickup
Burlington, 10/16 – The news you’ve been waiting for: Layaway is back!
Foot Locker, 10/29 – Buy Now. Pay Later! Use Klarna on purchases today.
Belk, 10/2 – $100 e-gift card for $80 starts today!
Eddie Bauer, 10/3 – Get A $5 Reward! Join Our Text Message Family Now
Express, 10/1 – First month is FREE! Rent your fall wardrobe on us
Target, 10/22 – Garden-less greens: a fresh look without the fuss 🌿
Gap VIP, 10/25 – Our upcycled vest does it better
Office Depot, 10/26 – Introducing the Shaquille O’Neal™ Executive Seating Collection
IKEA, 10/29 – Chad, remember to change your clocks!
DICK’S Sporting Goods, 10/11 – Clear a Space for Title 17! 🏆 Shop Los Angeles Lakers Gear
Saks Fifth Avenue, 10/10 – #NationalHandbagDay picks, approved by @tinkerbellethedog
Gap, 10/8 – @everyone: your DOUBLE DEAL just arrived!
Zales, 10/12 – #LOVE Is Always Trending & So Is SAVING!
West Elm, 10/29 – Home Tour! This GLAM apartment all started on Instagram…
Saks Fifth Avenue, 10/16 – We like your style: our most favorited pieces of the month
Petco, 10/8 – OUT with shock collars. IN with positive dog training.
REI, 10/17 – We Think “Hiking” Has a Loose Definition
Big Lots, 10/7 – We’re BIG on kids’ mental health
ModCloth, 10/10 – Let’s honor World Mental Health Day!

New posts on

Inboxroad: How to Build a Strong Email Program in the Years Ahead

Do I Need to Send an Apology Email Because of This?

On the Fly: Get a Jump Start on Your Holiday Campaigns

Seasonal Adjustment to Make to Your Automated Campaigns to Stay Relevant

How to Improve All 5 Steps of a Curbside Pickup

Holiday Marketing Quarterly: Fourth Quarter 2020 Checklist

Email Deliverability Quarterly: Gmail Launches BIMI Pilot, DigiCert-Valimail Partnership, and More

ZeroBounce: Focus on Managing Subscribers, Not Campaigns

The Last Word on September 2020


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