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How can I increase e-mail open rates among long-term subscribers?

A content-first strategy should be the No. 1 concern for e-mail marketers at a time when users are still struggling to deal with the large amounts of irrelevant communication that land in their inboxes. This means creating meaningful, useful, honest content, and delivering it at the right time and in an accessible format. The idea of the right email at the right time may seem serendipitous, but there are several ways in which marketers can facilitate this:
  • Balance automation and personalization through co-creation. Frequency is a simple personal preference, but it's a preference that is highly important to identify. Take the time to find out each individual's requirements: how, when and where they would like to receive content. Empowering recipients to "co-create" the content they receive encourages them to feel invested in the process, leading to greater engagement. Asking them to determine what is delivered increases the likelihood of them opening an e-mail, confident that it won't be a waste of their time.
  • Think mobile. Forty-eight percent of emails are now opened via a mobile device, according to Litmus' September email opens report. That's a greater percentage than on a desktop email client or via webmail, and it's expected to hit 78% by 2017, according to Forrester Research's 2012 report, "Email Marketing Forecast 2012-2017?.Marketers should ask themselves what this tells us about the way in which users are interacting with e-mail. While e-mail browsing on a mobile device may elicit only a cursory glance from a user, it offers marketers an opportunity to reach that user at any time, allowing for targeted content with a much higher chance of being seen within minutes of reception. It also further emphasizes the need for a killer subject line, opening the thread of a story-based narrative that continues through into the body of the e-mail.
  • Consider dynamic content (in every sense of the term). With the tools now available to them, marketers should be considering how dynamic content can amplify communications. By using dynamic technique, content can be seamlessly adapted and configured to take advantage of whichever medium the user chooses. A content-first strategy requires an approach that extends beyond the limits of a single medium and finds ways to integrate across channels. If an e-mail has a link through to a video hosted elsewhere, the user needs to experience a seamless transition—as if they've never left their inbox.
Amanda Phillips is managing director-head of strategy at integrated communications agency Volume.
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