Friction: Enemy #1

Companies like Amazon are building increasingly frictionless shopping experience – and B2C companies that don’t keep up are going to be left behind. Fortunately, in a data-rich industry like email, opportunities to reduce friction exist in abundance. I will walk you through some of the most impactful strategies – from inbox experiences to machine learning – to reduce friction throughout the entire sales funnel.

Key takeaways

1. Bring as much of the experience as possible into the inbox
2. Use predictive analytics to create your own email marketing triggers instead of relying solely on customer behavior
3. Offer incentives for customers to opt into frictionless experiences

About: Rebecca Rowles

Rebecca Rowles worked in email marketing her entire career, and she spent time in every department, from creative to strategy to the technical side where she currently works as Lead Solution Architect at BrightWave.


Hi, and welcome to my presentation on friction enemy number one. Our agenda today is going to be first an introduction to myself and the concept of friction in general. And then we’re going to go over three different techniques that you can use to enable your email programme to reduce friction in your conversion funnel. And then at the end, we’ll go over some takeaways. Okay, so first introductions, who am I? And why should you listen to me? My name is Rebecca Rowles. I’ve worked in email marketing for over 10 years, 10 years of learning to really hate friction. And I think I’ve worked in pretty much every segment of email marketing that’s out there. I started my career in exacttarget implementations back when exact target was a thing. And then from there, I’ve done everything from strategy to email design, HTML development, admin platform engineering, all of the above, basically, when it comes to email, and now I am the lead Solution Architect at Brightwave and inserra company. Brightwave is an email marketing agency in Atlanta and in Sierra is our parent company, and they have offices all over the US. Okay, friction, what is it? I’m pretty sure everybody listening is probably pretty familiar with the concept of friction, particularly in the terms of e commerce. So we all know, it’s best practice to not put 100 form fields on your white paper download page, because nobody is going to fill that out. Or it’s best practice to keep your website running as quickly as possible. Because if you have just a few seconds of load, we can see in Google Analytics, that that reduces conversion rates a lot, or something, I think we’ve all had personal experience with your shopping online, you found something, it’s barely within your price range, but you finally made peace with it, and you’re gonna buy it, you go to checkout, and actually, it’s $50 of shipping, and you’re like, Oh, my God, this was a huge mistake of not buying this, that is classic friction experience, you customer was maybe going to do something, but because of all the barriers that you are putting up, they’re not going to do it. The great thing is, email marketing is this untapped tool that can be used to reduce friction along every step of the way of your conversion funnel. Think of it think of your conversion funnel as this very sticky, tacky place where people get stuck. And sometimes never leave. And think of email marketing as like sandpaper that you can use to smooth down the funnel and get people get people rolling. Um, so speaking, speaking of getting people rolling, when you think about friction, the hardest thing that it keeps people from doing is getting moving, building momentum and relationship. So one of the things that email can be really good at is building the relationship for your customer doing all the work, because you got to think about it as early on in a relationship with your customer. It’s, it’s a little one sided, you really want to be in a relationship with them, you want them to think that you’re the best ever, and they are in middling at best about you. So you have to do all the work, the onus is on you, and email marketing can can help you with that. So first, I want to show you an example of a loyalty programme talk about you know, relationships have a loyalty programme, that is about as high friction as it gets. These are number one, real world examples of companies that I have used in the past. And I had to go and search these out. They did not offer for me to join, I had to go find them. And this is what they look like on the website. Look out these form fields. Oh my God, we think about the mental load of somebody filling out all these form fields, particularly this one on the right. I would like to receive exclusive offers from select third parties that is going to freak everybody out. And some people are like what third parties I didn’t. This is a relationship between me and you. Why are you bringing them into this. So in addition to just the sheer number of form fields, these are companies that I’ve used in the past and they should have this data about me. If they were organised with their data, they could have filled out about 90% of this without things getting weird. And at this point, we are way past the wave Past expecting privacy as a customer, really, customers get frustrated when they are working with customers, companies again and again. And the companies don’t even seem to remember them. It’s like you’re going to a party and you keep saying hi to the same person. And they like, never remember who you are. That’s what’s happening here. So don’t don’t let that be you. Let your email do this heavy lifting for you. So I’m going to show you an example of a company that is killing it in this department. This is a real email that I got. So let me set the stage. I was going on a trip to Vietnam, I was looking at hotels, and booking calm was one of about 1000 Hotel providers. And I just happened to book a couple of things on their site. There was no real rhyme or reason they came up in search, they had a pretty friction free experience on their website, actually, the more I use them, they started to like book, show my trip visually and say like, hey, you’re missing places here in here, which was very impressive. But then after about a week of me booking just a couple rooms on their site, I get this email. I don’t know if this is exciting anyone else. But this blew me away. First of all, think about the mental load of the last one, it was about 500 separate form field choices that I had to make. At one point I was getting up and getting my credit card. It was crazy. This one, one, click one, click from my couch, half watching another show and I am a rewards member. They make the perks really clear. And then they continued to send me emails to show me Hey, you’re a rewards member. And here’s what you’ve gotten for just clicking that one button. And you know, it feels like I earned it a little bit. But really they did all the work. That God has turned me into the biggest loyalist for them, I ended up downloading their app. Now when I book travel, I think about what’s on there first and I check out even before picking a location, sometimes I look at what’s on specifically booking Comm. Have they not done this, the next time I would have booked a website, they would have been right back into the gauntlet of all the other hotel providers that I could have chosen from. In fact, I think there were a few other hotels that I booked during that same trip and none of them made me a rewards member through their email marketing programme with one click, but because they did our relationship now is such that I am literally talking about them at a Inbox Expo. So if that tells you anything about how powerful I’m taking all of the friction of the reward signup process away through your email programme can be I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s the best example I can get. Alright, so next up, this is all about removing steps in the signup project, I’m sorry, in the conversion funnel. So before we were sandpapering it down to take it from 400 form fields to one click, that’s about as smooth as that can get. But now you can make it even shorter and smooth by removing steps in the flow. So what I’m going to show you here is going to look very familiar to any email marketer because our bread and butter campaigns of the modern email marketing programme and I don’t think these should go away. I just have a recommendation that they can play into a larger journey that uses data to be more effective. So the first one I’m going to look at is an abandoned cart campaign. I know talking to a lot of email marketers here so I don’t need to go over what that is. But I’m okay yeah, I will a customer takes an action and then an abandoned cart email is sent. So the action is they are going on a website, they are taking those first few steps to shop and then they’re getting getting the the email that is triggered. A second generation journey is instead of waiting for the customer to take those steps, take those steps for them by using modelling and propensity scores. So you are very very, very likely unless you are really unorganised with your data, but I truly believe everyone can get organised enough with your data. Just if you have an online store, you have enough data already at your fingertips to figure out what attributes somebody has that makes them likely to buy again. So instead of again waiting for that trigger, you use the attributes and model when someone is really likely to buy something again and in that embrace but attack them first. Hit them first with a reorder Any, which would then could play into an abandoned cart campaign as part of it. But at this point, you are how you’re going to be reaching a much, much wider audience. If you think about waiting for just a small section of your of your audience to engage before you start talking about reorder, your abandoned cart programme is going to be small. But if you look at your entire audience and figure out, okay, here’s the whole group of people, whether they ever abandon a cart or not, these are the people that are most likely to buy, and then start engaging them with some high value offers, that can be really effective. Another example is browse abandonment. Similar to cart, the customer is taking an action first, and then you are sending them an email about that action that they took, again, you very, very likely already have the data to know what category of products somebody is going to be most interested in you. And next. And if you don’t have the data, you can pay somebody to mine your data to gain those insights for you. So don’t don’t feel like this is out of reach. And you can you can start simple just figuring out, okay, what was the one product that my most high value customers bought in a row, or what are the two products that most people have just simple models like that can be used to enter people into journeys about products that they’re most likely to buy, without them having to go on the website and find them first. And then last, the wind back campaign, a lot of these, I think, many, many email marketers have seen these be really ineffective in the past, because by the time a customer stops engaging, it’s already too late, they’ve already kind of given up on you unless you have the best open subject subject line in the world, you’re really going to miss a huge group of contacts if you wait until they stop engaging. But you can use modelling and propensity scores or pay somebody to look at your data and give you this information and enter them into a loyalty programme or start to build that loyalty. Before they stop engaging. You can find somebody who looks like they’re going to be high value, but also looks like they’re not necessarily most likely to stick around and give them a really, really steep offer to begin to build that loyalty for life. Um, yeah, so not only are you creating a wider audience, instead of just waiting for a customer to take an action, naturally, it’s going to be a smaller audience. And if you look at every single person in your database, so that’s one good reason to think about it this way. Another is, again, you’re removing steps, you aren’t waiting for somebody to do something you’re doing most of the work for them. And then finally, you’re going to break through the noise. So in a typical conversion situation, somebody may think, Oh, I want jeans and then go online, search for jeans, and you are one of 1000 retailers who are selling jeans, and maybe you get to the front page of Google, maybe you don’t, maybe the customer remembers that one good experience with you. Maybe they don’t. However, if you use modelling, to figure out when somebody is likely to need jeans, you can reach them first, you can before anybody else starts showing up in their inbox and sending them abandoned cart emails, you get there first with a really great deal. And you already know a bit about these customers. So you could put something even more personalised, like get it in their size or get it free shipping, that the options are endless. So overall, I just want you to think about how you can use your email marketing and really use your data. Or, again, pay somebody else to use and organise your data to to really increase your your, your speed of conversion, because you’re taking out about six steps for somebody. Okay, and the last, the last one here is you want to be an enabler. You don’t want to be in real life, but for your marketing you do, customers are lazy and you need to enable that we’ve all seen with Amazon, everyone knows the experience of buying something online. It’s not necessarily the cheapest on Amazon, but because it takes them about five seconds to order, they are going to buy it from Amazon. So instead of trying to fight uphill against the lazy customers that we all are now you need to embrace it and really be that enabler for them. So this is talking about a different type of conversion with us. Here are some examples of reviews that could really be optimised The way that these emails come in. So the user flow is, first of all, someone has to open an email, then they have to decide, yeah, I do want to review the sheets, click. And then once that website page finishes loading, hopefully successfully, they could have any number of form fields, they actually don’t know, they’re kind of going into the void when they say, review the sheets. And if it’s anything less than their expectations, if they’re expecting a star rating, and it’s three form fields, maybe that’s too much and you lose them. But you can bring these kinds of experiences into the customers inbox and really embrace those lazy modes. So here’s an example of that. This is something that customers are doing right now. So this can be you, you can either have someone on staff who’s good at HTML, use different techniques like hide show or connecting to the database to enable this for you. We’re now more and more vendors are coming out with ways to do this. And I think even some ESPN, I know rebel mail has has offered this as a solution. And Salesforce has bought them. So I can see this becoming even more prevalent than it already is now. And this is definitely within the realm of possibility for anybody running an email marketing programme. But yeah, what we’re looking at here is an in inbox experience, the customer knows they don’t have to click, I want to review something and find out what the review looks like. It’s all right there for them, it takes about three seconds, and then you can submit your review there. Here’s another example of this, I’m seeing it more and more, this should be you. And then finally, let’s say you’re not ready yet, let’s say your company isn’t ready to invest in that kind of solution yet, you can get closer to that with just something like this, this requires no inbox innervation, it’s just link tracking, the customer just clicks and then you can log that review, based on whatever image and star they clicked here. So you can start to build the business case, once you see the numbers of reviews go up with an email like this. And then you can transition once, something like this becomes more effective. And you can see see moving the needle, then you can transition to something like this in the near future. Another experience that should absolutely be brought into the inbox is search. This is something your customers. I’m not going to say customers expect this. But this is I think no longer in the realm of crazy invention. Innovation, this is something that is I think going to become really commonplace in the inbox, you get their attention for just one second, you give them the ability to search for something really personalised. And then one, you get the data about where they’re searching, which is great, it’s tied right to your your email subscriber, and then to your removing those steps for them in, they don’t have to decide I want to go on and search for something, it’s halfway done for them right here. So that can be that can be really powerful. And then I think the both laziest and most powerful iteration of is that all of all is rebel males. Checking out in inbox, it’s something that I would say rocked the email industry when it came out. Everybody was really excited. And I think this is the direction everybody would like to go. This is something this is about as frictionless as it gets. And especially when you start to layer on the different techniques. That’s that’s when things get really cool. So for example, where we were talking about modelling and knowing when somebody is ready to purchase jeans, and you already have because they’ve been a customer in their past, you have their credit card, their shipping information, their size, you know what they’re most likely to buy, you can create this entire email for them and all they have to do is click one button, and jeans will be on the way that can be really, really powerful. And that can also be you. Alright, so takeaways, what did we learn here? I’m really it’s don’t estimate the force of friction. And what I mean by that is, don’t underestimate how powerful it can be when you remove it. Email Marketing is all about economies of scale and little nudges and small things when you’re talking to audiences of 1 million or 10 million can make a really huge impact on your on your revenue and conversions. So think about making these small tweaks and see what they What they can do for for your email marketing programme. All right. Thank you so much for listening. I hope everybody has an amazing Inbox Expo.

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