The X Factor of Excellent Email

 
 

User experience is more important than ever and can truly be the X Factor for email and cross-channel communication success. Consumers have come to expect top-notch experiences that align across every channel 24/7. UX has become a key differentiator for leading digital experiences such as Uber, TripAdvisor, and many more bubbling up every day across every vertical.

Inbox UX is a key element of building a unique brand experience with differentiation opportunities aligned with consumer expectations across the lifecycle. Email offers the opportunity to integrate communications across promotions, transactions, and interactions for the consumer’s device of choice.

Unfortunately, UX is often an afterthought with siloed marketing teams consumed with keeping up with new channels, new data, and many moving parts. But UX is the critical culmination of cross-channel communication that will ultimately drive consumers to take action. UX is the X Factor that brings everything together to deliver an optimal experience that delivers results.

According to the “Quick Start Guide to UX Design,” one goal of UX is to “capture the heart & mind of the end-user.” When we start thinking about UX, we need to focus on two things:

  1. Make it easy to complete tasks
  2. Motivate and engage

To harness the X Factor of UX in email, marketers need to align and optimize around the following four elements:

1. Profile and Preference Alignment

Data that has been shared or inferred about an individual is what drives each digital experience. Understanding available data and testing various user experiences based on data is key. Email is a nimble and measurable channel to test data hypotheses that apply across channels. And, testing email and cross-channel path optimization based on user profiles, is key to better understanding how to deliver messaging at the right place and time that resonates with the end user, and drives results.

 

2. Location Alignment

Understanding location elements opens up an array of UX opportunities. With location data coming in from IP addresses and mobile devices, marketers have the opportunity to harness the “where” data on an individual. Understanding how and when to use that data is key. User experiences will need to be tuned to the delivery of real-time value and measured to understand true impact. The “they know too much” scenario will also need to be considered, so that consumers perceive value and do not feel like they are being stalked. UX testing is critical to getting this right and maximizing the value of location-based data.

 

3. Lifecycle Alignment

Tuning into consumer actions is crucial to getting the next touch point right across the consumer lifecycle. To do this well, marketers need to start with data and hypotheses. For example, if a consumer just purchased something, does a message requesting a rating or review work best after X amount of time? Does that message need to include a promotion for the next most likely potential purchase? Is an additional mobile notification leading to better results? And, do email non-responders reengage if targeted with a display ad? This is only one specific scenario in a lifecycle, and clearly there is a lot of UX testing opportunity that can make a dramatic impact even in this simple case.

 

4. ISP Alignment

Aligning with ISP functionality is also a key opportunity for email UX optimization. For example, Gmail recently announced the automatic addition of email with flight, hotel, restaurant reservations, or ticket info to Google Calendar. Knowing this, email marketers can make the Gmail subscribers user experience better by sharing that information in the email and encouraging subscribers to use this feature. Aligning communications with ISP features and functionality presents opportunity for better user experiences.

Adding the objectivity of UX testing focused on cross-channel communication can deliver crucial testing insight and drive action plans. It can be the X Factor that uncovers opportunities to differentiate with new and improved consumer experiences, transforming entire industries. Marketers that make UX a key part of the cross-channel planning process will deliver more value to consumers and drive results to the business.

 

This article originally appeared in ClickZ on September 18, 2015.