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I am at war against manual processes.

This Fantastic quote from Dan Grech of Trendeo in the latest Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide goes to the heart of why our Content Automation solution makes such a difference to email marketers’ lives. Do you spend Friday afternoon building the emails for the weekend? Do you spend days editing dynamic content scripts in your ESP interface? Does this sound like your working environment:

‘….juniors, freelancers, interns are extracting CSVs of personally identiable information about customers from one system, running some queries and cleaning, then uploading it to another system’.

Dan Grech p. 18 of Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide

Do you sometimes have to stay back at the office to re run an personalisation upload or manage the editing of an image because a price or offer has changed? Every single one of these examples of stressful, error-prone manual processes can be removed, yes removed, by using Kickdynamic Content Automation.

I find it frustrating that many thought leaders in email still ignore the manual work required for building content to match what we can now do with data. As this Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide shows in many places e.g. this from p.3

‘Alongside this evolution, automation and machine learning are further freeing the marketer from hours of data manipulation and analysis.’

Yes, in some cases, this is true. Some retailers have invested heavily in CRM infrastructure and are well down the track of the recommendations by Michael Leander, CEO of consultants GIDMA on p. 5 of the Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide

‘First, create a solid and committed strategy backed by top management. Next, aim to establish one data repository, a strong content and offer strategy aligned with the interests of the target audience across the customer lifecycle. The ability to track and use behavioural and transactional data, and automate certain processes along with a realistic view on which resources are required to get results.’

If you now have a CRM infrastructure that is capable of making meaningful product and messaging recommendations for your customers, you are in a very exciting position, you can move beyond segmentation. But, how will you create content that matches all those thousands of individual recommendations? You are used to creating one email or maybe 4 variants for 4 different segments. Now, you need to be able to slot in content for thousands of variables. You need more than a ‘strong content strategy’ you need a content automation solution that allows you to match up relevant live content with those customer recommendations. Even if you just want to move beyond 4 segments to 8 segments, you will need to change your approach to content building. It needs to stop being a manual process.

When we think of building automated content – we think of production recommendations, right? There are lots of solutions that will produce a strip of products, based on best sellers, for example. This is not what we mean. Sure, automating the right product images is important, but you also need to automate soft content like blogs, recommendations, social content and so on. For example, look at how P&O Ferries has used Kickdynamic to automate soft content in their emails.

Kickdynamic image tags build images for email live at the time of open. Kickdynamic can build images based on results from an API query, or product feed, live at the time of open. By simply merging a customerID into the Kickdynamic image tag, Kickdyanmic can submit that ID to an API, live at the time of open and receive recommended Products as a result. Kickdynamic can then build personalised images for each recipient at the time they open their email. We recommend replacing a static mail merge for all recipients at time of send (current process) with Kickdynamic tags building images via an API query or from a product feed. This also opens up possibilities for using Browse data to match recipients with products they will be interested in and to prioritise products displayed, based on conversion rate.

Tag of the week – Dustin 1-2-1 Personalization

dustin-edit2

Dustin, a Nordics retailer and a fantastic member of the Kickdynamic family are turning heads throughout the ecommerce world with their truly 1-2-1 personalized email. Dustin are now providing truly advanced personalization and have fully automated their build process to deliver 1-2-1 product recommendations tailored to specific browse behaviors, and product preference.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 10.59.59Dustin connect a live API and design a live image template directly in the Kickdynamic interface. At the point of send, a user ID & sendout ID is merged into the live Tag, completing the API call returning the latest product recommendations for each customer. Each time the email is opened, the product information is updated, ensuring the recipient always sees the latest price and discount information. The live image uses advanced visibility functionality to display image layers based on differing information per product.

Dustin2What’s great about this capability of Kickdynamic is that it requires absolutely no customisation and can all be set up in the UI. Before the introduction of Kickdynamic, Dustin were unable to achieve this 1-2-1 product recommendation and personalization. They now use Kickdynamic in the majority of their emails.

 

 

 

 

A goal for 2017: ‘Do less’

Reflecting on the past year naturally brings anticipation of what 2017 will bring to the world of email marketing. 2016 saw our customers increasing use and rely on our product Content Automation product to send more, better email. In an netshell, Content Automation dramatically reduces email build time, whilst also ensuring that the content is highly relevant, personalised and up to date. Implementing this into the email build process sounds like a no brainer right? Who wouldn’t want to free up more time for strategic CRM planning?

DanDan Grech, Head of Marketing at online fashion retailer Trendeo, recently joined the discussion of Digital Marketing Trends of 2017, writing a piece for Smart Insights. His piece titled ‘Doing more with less time: The promise of content automation’ delves into how you can achieve more by actually doing less.

Read the whole article here

 

Save time & resource with automated email content

See this:

imagetemplate

This is a what we call a live image template. It is being built in our new Content Automation product. It may not look much, but this image template, and the power behind it, is going to change how email marketers build automated & personalized email content.

For the last 4 years we have been working with email marketers to build a platform that allows us to send email with more engaging and higher converting content. We built the first contextual personalisation rule builder, developed industry first live content email widgets and now we have created a seriously powerful new product called Content Automation.

Using Content Automation email marketers can build a live image template to automate content in business-as-usual email and/or lifecycle programs quickly and easily. Automating this content allows you to reduce your email build time dramatically freeing up time to be more strategic.

So how does it work?

We have built this new product to be fully self service, so there is no customization required and you don’t need to wait until your IT team is free. Directly in the interface you can build your live image in 3 steps:

1. Connect a json, xml, csv or webpage content source.

This is the source of content that you want to take information from to display automatically in your email messages. Content source examples include:

  • New in womenswear page
  • Latest blogs
  • Product catalog
  • Movie listings
  • TV schedule
  • Live hotel prices

As an example, we have created a API call containing 3 products from Argos. It looks like this:

[

{
id:1,
description: “LG 49LF590V 49 Inch Full HD Freeview HD Smart TV.”,
image: “http://argos.scene7.com/is/image/Argos/3912339_R_Z001A?$TMB$&wid=312&hei=312”,
link: “http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/3912339.htm”,
fasttrack: “y”,
special: “5”,
price: 359.00,
regprice: 399.99,
quantity: 10,
discountamount: 10

},
{
id:2,
description: “Philips 22PFH4000/88 22 Inch Full HD TV.”,
image: “http://argos.scene7.com/is/image/Argos/3917547_R_Z001A?$TMB$&wid=312&hei=312”,
link: “http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/3917547.htm”,
fasttrack: “y”,
special: “3”,
price: 119.00,
quantity: 2,
regprice: 119.00,
discountamount: 0
},
{
id:3,
description: “Bush 32in HD Ready LED TV/DVD Combi White”,
image: “http://argos.scene7.com/is/image/Argos/4240031_R_Z001C?$TMB$&wid=312&hei=312”,
link: “http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/4240031.htm”,
fasttrack: “n”,
special: “6”,
price: 169.99,
quantity: 1,
regprice: 949.99,
discountamount: 150
}
]

(Don’t worry about it looking techy – it is just a list of products and their associated info such as price, description etc).

This is a test API, a normal API would contain 1000s of products updating with new items and changing the product information.

Notice that two products are on discount; discountamount: 150 and discountamount: 10
and two products are viable as fast track; fasttrack: “y”
and also notice the stock level of a product; quantity: 10

All products have different information associated with them, and this information will change frequently. Content Automation allows you to reflect the different product information directly in the same image template. When this changes, such as stock level, it is updated at the time of open.

2. Build a live image template based on the content source.

Now you build how you want your live image template to look in the email. This is the size, layout, colours, call to action and more.

I’ve built the below live image template with each area connecting to corresponding data-point for a product item.

Data-feed-live-image

So, at the time of open, the live-image template takes the appropriate info for the product from the feed and updates the content of the image – live and instantly. So if the price above changed from £119.00 to £99.00 – it would be reflected automatically.

Using the Content Automation editor you can customize the exact layout of your live image. You can also add a call to action, and change font sizes, colours and more – you have the control.

3. Magical visibility rules

Now in step one, I asked you to note the following:

Two products are on discount; discountamount: 150 and discountamount: 10
and two products are viable as fast track; fasttrack: “y”
and also notice the stock level of a product; quantity: 10

This information on a product changes from product to product. How do you represent this in the same image template? Easy, you use visibility rules. Visibility rules allow you to show or hide image information based on data in the feed. For example, if I want to show the number of items left in stock when quality is 3 or less I do this with visibility rules.

The results is this:

If product 1  has stock quantity of 10. We have set the visibility rules to not show any stock level information or callouts:

ca1

If product 2 has stock quantity of 1. We have set the visibility rules to show a stock call out with the amount left:

ca3

If product 3  has stock quantity of 2. We have set the visibility rules to show a stock call out with the amount left:

ca4

This is the same image template repeated for 1000s of products automatically!

The final step – creating the Tag.

Now you have your automated live image-template you can create a TAG to add to your HTML. At this stage you can filter or sort what products to show in email based on other information in the feed. For example, only display products over £100.00 price:

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-09-39-13

Unleash its power

This level of content automation has allowed brands such as ASDA, P&O Ferries, Holland & Barrett, save serious email time on their email build, and keep email constantly fresh and up to date. Automating email content this way actually allows you to start moving towards being able to send 1-2-1 personalized messages. Now I’m Kickdynamic CEO and Co-Founder so would say that, but don’t just take our word for it:

Asda has reduced email build time by up to 9-days per month by asda-200x200automating their daily alert email campaign resulting a signifcant impact on ROI.

“It is amazing that this project began as a response to a business challenge and now this Kickdynamic technology is LEADING THE WAY to automating our emails and getting us to true 1 to 1 personalization”

– Guy Smith, CRM Manager at Asda

poferriesP&O Ferries personalise and automate all content from from weather and blog sources to ensure the latest content is displayed in every email.

“We were thrilled the moment Kickdynamic explained the concept of Content Automation and took us through it the rst time. It has given us incredible flexibility and is quickly becoming our go-to method of getting live content into our emails.”

– Kim Valinder, P&O Ferries

It’s fully self-service, setup directly in the Kickdynamic platform no IT team or customisation required. No web cropping and therefore design flexible. Read more in the one pager.

How many emails are out of date in your inbox?

As an email marketer I’m signed up to a lot of mailing lists. I receive emails from all of my favourite brands on a daily basis. Whilst I might not always open an email the moment it lands in my inbox, the chances are that I’m interested in the email content – if I wasn’t interested I would have unsubscribed. So, at some point I will open it.

What continues to amaze me as I monitor the email content of well-known and successful brands is how often, and how quickly, the email content goes out of date. Frequently, if I don’t open the email within a few hours of receiving it the content is out of date. As a result of the outdated content, I’m less likely engaging with the message from the brand as it’s no longer relevant – so there could be a lost opportunity.

Try it yourself.  Monitor the email content of 5-10 of your favourite brands. Leave the email un-opened for a few hours before opening it. See how often the content isn’t up-to-date or is no longer relevant.

Here’s some things to look out for:

1) Time sensitive offers that you’ve missed. This is a bit of a bugbear for me. I’ve lost count of the number of emails I’ve opened with offers that I’ve already missed. Emails promising ‘Sale now on’, ‘Extra 10% off until 12pm’ or ‘20% off everything’ are guaranteed to go out of date.

Take the email example below from Jack Wills, I opened the email after 12am and missed the sale, even though the message in the email said I had 12 hours left. A simple image swap rule, promoting different content, or even a different message, after the expiry and I may have clicked through. The same applies for the Yours Clothing example, if I open the email in 2 months time I’ll still see mid-season sale offers when they won’t be available, luring me into a false sense of security that I could get myself a discount on an early Christmas party dress.

Tip: Don’t give your email content a shelf-life! You spend a lot of time lovingly collating the content, designing, coding, populating and honing the emails you send. Don’t limit your email – make the content relevant whenever it’s opened!

2) The same applies for free delivery offers or next day delivery windows. Usually free delivery is limited to a short time frame, with the message content something along the lines of ‘Order by 2pm for free delivery’. Is that free delivery before 2pm every day? More often than not that isn’t the case. It’s usually a one time promo for a quick sales boost. Using timers and timed images around offer like this is a far better way to promote such time-sensitive offers. Add in the countdown to really drive the urgency.

3) This one is perhaps not quite such an obvious one, but it’s something I come across quite a lot. Often, the products listed in an email as being ‘new in’ are actually no longer the latest. They may not even be available anymore depending on how long ago the email was sent.

For opens close to the delivery date, this isn’t a problem. The content is pretty up-to-date and the products are probably still relatively new. However, if a recipient goes back 6 months and opens your email, the products in there are probably not available any more, and they certainly aren’t the latest. This is easy to solve though using ‘new in’ Open Time Content Automation. At the point of email open, pull in the latest new in products automatically. This means that the products in the ‘latest’ section of your email are actually new in, making it totally up-to-date, relevant and shopable content.

4) Price. Anybody that works in retail knows how quickly prices change. There’s often a disconnect between the price in the email and the price on the site when you click through because the price in the email isn’t updated at open time.

Really there’s no reason why your email content should every go out of date or be irrelevant – whenever it’s opened – be that 2 hours, 2 days or 2 months after it’s been sent. It’s not a great customer experience subjecting subscribers to old content and it’s so easy to avoid. Why give your email content a shelf-life when you can make it relevant over a prolonged period using open time technology? If you do use Open Time marketing, each and every time the email is opened the latest and most up-to-date content will display. This gives your emails far more longevity. It can be as simple as setting up a rule to swap to a different image once a sale has ended. Take the emails below; if both of these emails has automatically swapped to a different image when the sale has ended the content would have been relevant when I opened, whenever I opened, making me much more likely to engage.

 

Jack Wills Offer Email

I opened this a week after it landed in my inbox, however it’s still showing I have 12 hours left to shop the sale.

 

 

Yours clothing sale emails

I received this email but it gives no indication how long the sale is on for.

Dynamic Content 2.0

Kickdynamic Open Time Content Automation is the next generation of Dynamic Content for email. It gives you all the power of highly targeted and engaging content but saves huge amounts of time in set up, maintenance and management, leaving you and your team more time for marketing. Traditional Dynamic Content is a great concept – you can personalize email text and images down to the individual recipient level, using coding language provided by your ESP. This means that if John has browsed smart shoes last week and you have that information in your ESP platform, you can use Dynamic content to merge in some smart shoes in the email you send to him today. You can do this without creating loads of segments. Dynamic Content is particularly useful in transactional or triggered email. You need to go beyond Dear %%Firstname%% to get a good response to your email. So far so good.

So why doesn’t everyone use Dynamic Content in email?

Many marketers do use Dynamic Content, but it does come with a number of challenges, principally:

  1. Setting up Dynamic Content scripting and testing it can be a long process
  2. Maintaining Dynamic Content (keeping it up to date, repairing it when it breaks) is labor-intensive
  3. Dynamic Content can cause send out speed problems

Kickdynamic’s solution addresses all three of these issues by managing and creating and serving image content on a separate system (not the ESP), with its own management interface. So, the set up can now be done by marketers with no scripting knowledge. Maintenance is automatic, as data (such as pricing/products/blog content) can be taken automatically from a feed or website. Using Kickdynamic separates out the database activity required for sending email from the database activity required for personalizing content. This means you can send out highly personal email at the same speed as ‘flat’ HTML. This is particularly important when it comes to peak season for retailers and we are fighting for inbox real estate on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Furthermore, Kickdynamic’s Content Automation creates the content at the moment of open, rather than the time of send. This means that key information such as price and stock availability or offer expiry will be correct at the time the recipient reads the email. The content can also be adapted, in the moment, to the recipient’s context: to their device, place, time or weather conditions. Because the content is created at the time of Open, it can also reflect the most recent browsing behaviour, for example, products or categories browsed after the email was sent, but before it is opened.

Here is a useful summary of the differences between traditional Dynamic Content and Kickydnamic Open Time Content Automation:

Traditional Dynamic Content Open Time Content Automation
Content produced at time of send Content produced at time of open
Scripts produce personalized content for every single recipient Personalized content produced ONLY for those who actually open the email
Uses ESP scripting

Uses ESP database

Content Automation handled by Open Time image server, not ESP

 

Slows down infrastructure of ESP when sending because content production and send out use the same Database and infrastructure No impact on send out speed because all personalization handled at image level
Can personalize ‘system text’ in emails

 

Can personalize text in images but not ‘system text’
Cannot reflect offer expiry, latest offers, stock levels or price changes

 

Can be in complete synchronization with website on pricing, stock and offers, even once the email is in the inbox
Requires IT team involvement Can be done without IT team
Needs to be set up again if you move ESP You can take this from ESP to ESP with no extra set up
One time set up then send out requires no creative, coding or testing – only infrastructure management for speed One time set up then no creative, coding or testing – no worries about speed of send out
Bring in best selling products at time of send Bring in best selling products at time of open
Show recommendations based on browsing behaviour up to time of send Show recommendations based on browsing behaviour up to time of open