The market offers plenty of advanced functionality that you should be considering — as long as it’s something you’ll use. Here’s a short list of our favorites to consider, because they are the advanced features that are most likely to give you prompt payback on your investment of money and time.
Recently in this space, I tackled the topic of “shiny things” that marketers might be distracted by while choosing a new email service provider, and why the shiny things syndrome should be avoided. However, that doesn’t mean all cool functionality is shiny. It’s only a shiny thing if you’re going to buy it and not use it. If in doubt, you can take the shiny things test for marketing technology here.
If you’re taking your email marketing up a notch and looking to see what the various ESPs offer to help, these are definitely the features to consider. You might say these are the features that will help you catch up—and keep up—with those brands that are leading the way in the email space. They might be “cool” but they are also quite necessary.
Data Management and Integration
Data isn’t a feature per se, but it’s a tool, and you want to be able to access it no matter where it sits and to use it no matter where you’re marketing. Some ESP platforms are better able to integrate into the existing marketing technology stack, so you can access and use data from your ecommerce platform, CRM, web analytics, social marketing, and/or CMS all within your email marketing platform.
Lead scoring is becoming commonplace in B2B marketing, because it helps to quality leads and ensure that an automated program sends appropriate content based on a prospect’s actions, whether on a website or interacting with an email. This is one way to drive more relevant messaging by ensuring the email content used is fitting for that prospect’s level of interest at that time.
Automated email is like being mobile ready in that it’s something you have to have as consumer behavior and expectations change. Just like consumers expect emails to render well on their mobile phones, they expect email communications to be targeted and relevant, with right time, right message marketing.
A sophisticated automated email feature lets you set up if/then paths for consumers, enhancing the relevance and appeal of your emails…and keeping your brand up to speed with expectations. Having an interface that is easy to adjust means easier tweaking and optimization over time, which means higher ROI.
Segmentation, advanced segmentation
Speaking of targeted emails and consumer expectations, segmentation is another advanced feature you need to have now. Automating your email messages based on consumer actions will be even more effective if you have those consumers segmented to start with, enabling you to refine your messaging to their interests even more.
If you’re already segmenting, then take it up a notch with advanced segmentation that relates or “combines” data to even more targeted messaging. For example, segmentation will separate out your female customers from your male ones. Advanced segmentation will separate out your plus sized female customers from your petite ones, those who buy primarily jewelry from those who buy primarily shoes, and did so recently. With advanced segmentation, you can keep slicing and dicing.
Mobile ready email
You no longer have time to dink around on this one, my friend. You need to be able to send mobile-friendly emails right now. This feature might have been a shiny thing a few years ago. No longer! Not with half of opens occurring on mobile devices, and increasing web surfing, shopping and even banking being done via mobile. You need this, whether you simply code your HTML with responsive design or use ESP functionality.
Among the advanced features you should probably have is email analytics. The basic email reporting of days gone by won’t give you the immediate and insightful feedback on your email marketing campaigns that advanced email analytics can. Review what the ESPs are offering and see just how deep you can dive into the data—and how easily. You want analytics you can access and act on almost in real time.
I am going out on a limb with this one by saying it’s something you should have, I admit it, but we live in a social world and being able to integrate your marketing campaigns across email, web and social seems like a required capability to me. Omni-channel marketing is quickly becoming the norm, and consumers will soon expect it—if they don’t already.
Email recommendation engine
Speaking of consumers… For B2C and B2B marketers relying heavily (or wholly) on ecommerce sites for revenue, a recommendation engine is one advanced feature that can drive invaluable relevance. Although you might think of Amazon and “You Might Also Like” messages on a web page, a recommendation engine can be used to push the same kind of targeted, personalized messaging out via email. Either for your products or for content.
Abandoned cart technology
For B2C marketing, abandoned cart technology can be considered a must-have advanced feature. Brands are using these follow-up emails with great success, because these emails are about as personalized as can be, and marketers know the customer is interested in the product with certainty because he or she got as far as putting the item in their virtual shopping cart.
Advanced Email Marketing Features You Really Need
If you’re ready to take your email marketing up a notch, don’t think you have to add everything on this list to your email marketing toolkit. Simply be aware of what kinds of advanced email marketing features are out there and align them with your organization’s goals. Then find the ESPs that offer them, and go for that ROI!