Published October 21-25, 2023
The One Solution
In my previous two essays (ProfitXL to Profipoly: Solving the Four Funnel Frictions and Solving eCommerce’s Fifth Funnel Friction: Identifying Unknown Shoppers), I discussed the five funnel frictions faced by eCommerce companies and how they can be solved.
As I wrote: “The pervasive issue crippling many eCommerce businesses is their meagre profitability. This predicament arises chiefly from an over-reliance on acquiring new customers and an inability to fully capitalise on the lifetime value of existing ones. The consequence is a staggering $200 billion in AdWaste—half of the $400 billion spent globally on adtech each year—siphoned from the P&Ls of eCommerce companies. Therefore, the most urgent task for eCommerce firms and martech vendors is to drastically curtail this wastage, a move that would significantly augment profits and enhance business valuations…. ‘Funnel frictions’ in customer journeys are the silent assassin of profits. From unidentified customers slipping through the cracks to inefficient ad spending, these frictions create hurdles in establishing profitable relationships with consumers. They lead to disjointed customer experiences, increased costs, lower conversion rates, and ultimately, eroded profits. The ability to identify and address these frictions, therefore, is not just about improving customer experiences but also about securing a brand’s bottom line… By resolving these funnel frictions, brands can navigate the course towards building a profipoly and an enduring, great ecommerce business.”
Here is a summary of the frictions and the solutions:
The funnel frictions in question necessitate a central “pivot” or a “fulcrum” to enable effective resolution. In the same way that cloud computing has evolved to become the essential bedrock for modern business applications, or the smartphone has consolidated its position as the hub for personal computing and productivity enhancement, a pivotal solution is equally crucial in dealing with the friction points present in the customer journey and profitability realm.
This game-changing solution is embodied in the concept of Email 2.0. Far from being just another incremental update, Email 2.0 is a fundamental shift, a reimagining of one of the oldest and most reliable forms of digital communication. This redefined approach to email leverages advancements in interactivity, personalisation, and data analytics, crafting an engaging and highly efficient communication channel.
Email 2.0 is a powerful technological advancement with the potential to transform the landscape of eCommerce and serve as the pivotal point for all the proposed solutions. Its novelty is riveting, yet its absence has been a significant factor inhibiting marketers from effectively addressing the frictions plaguing customer journeys. Consequently, this has led to a growing dependency on acquiring new customers to fuel business growth, an approach that is increasingly proving to be inefficient and costly.
Email 2.0 not only enhances the interaction between brands and their customers but also shapes a richer understanding of each customer, fostering stronger, more meaningful relationships. By seamlessly integrating elements like AMP, Atomic Rewards, and Microns, Email 2.0 emerges as an omnichannel solution that tackles the barriers and navigates the journey from initial contact to purchase completion. Together, these elements make Email 2.0 the bedrock of a revolutionary approach to mitigate funnel frictions, improve customer experience, and pave the way for sustainable growth.
Why – 1
In the quest to alleviate the frictions in customer journeys, it’s paramount to identify a pivotal fulcrum, an axis around which marketers and Martech 2.0 vendors can craft the solutions. Enter Email 2.0, a modernised avatar of a marketing channel nearly as old as the internet itself.
In the realm of marketing channels, email holds a unique supremacy: it stands as the most effective push channel among the myriad options available. The significance of a ‘push’ mechanism is rooted in its autonomy from customer-driven actions. In scenarios where customers may overlook or neglect to perform an action (like visiting a website or opening an app), a push message to one of their inboxes can serve to pique their interest and prompt activity. When considering the gamut of push channels, email delivers unparalleled returns on investment. It harmoniously blends the desirable attributes of other channels – the rich content of app notifications, WhatsApp’s interactivity, and the immediacy of SMS and RCS – whilst skillfully negating their disadvantages. Unlike notifications, emails cannot be blocked; they are neither expensive nor beholden to a central actor as is the case with WhatsApp; and they effortlessly circumvent the message length and size limitations of SMS and RCS.
And there’s more. Email is virtually ubiquitous: almost every internet user has at least one email address. This capacity for wide-scale outreach eclipses other platforms that may not be as universally adopted. Email is persistent. In contrast to social media posts that can quickly get buried under new content, emails retain their presence in the recipient’s inbox until they are deleted. This endows messages with a longer lifespan and a higher likelihood of being engaged with. Email is also extremely trackable. Open rates, click-through rates, bounce rates, conversion rates, and unsubscribe rates are some of the key metrics that provide insights into user engagement levels and campaign performance. This enables businesses to tweak their strategies and content for optimal engagement and conversions. Email is often tied to an “identity”, and hence personalisation becomes possible. Although this is changing in many markets with mobile numbers increasingly serving as key customer identifiers, brands should still prioritise email ID collection to ensure dual avenues to the customer.
Regrettably, Email 1.0, though a long-standing tool, has been constrained in its potential due to an innovation deficit. Overcrowded inboxes and rampant spam, resulting from email’s ease and low cost, have long plagued users. Additionally, emails have been restricted in their capacity for engagement, with clickthroughs to websites and apps being the only possible action customers can take after opening an email.
Emerging from the challenges is the game-changing Email 2.0.
Why – 2
Email 2.0 heralds a shift as impactful as the transformation from keypad-centric mobile devices to touch and app-oriented smartphones. With its novel ability to embed apps within emails, Email 2.0 can be the beacon for marketers wrestling with soaring customer acquisition costs. The evolution of Email 2.0 can be likened to the transformation of the automobile industry with the advent of electric cars, or the revolution in the music industry with the shift from physical records to digital streaming. Just as electric cars took the existing concept of vehicular transportation and enhanced it with greener, more efficient technology, Email 2.0 takes the familiar email medium and enriches it with interactive, personalised, and data-driven features. Similarly, the way digital music platforms revitalised the music industry by providing convenient, tailored, and extensive access to music parallels how Email 2.0 transforms marketing communications, providing businesses with a powerful tool to better engage their audience in a targeted and contextually relevant manner.
The most important innovation to power Email 2.0 is AMP. As I wrote: “For too long, emails have been static and lifeless. Brands create the email, send it and it stays that way forever in the inbox. At best, there is some dynamic image that can be pulled in when the email is opened. As such, the email becomes a single-use message – never to be opened again. What if this could change? Let’s consider the possibilities of an idea I call “All in Email” – search, browse, chat, cart, rate, review – many of the verbs we associate with actions on websites or apps can now be done in emails. Instead of a customer going to the brand property (website or app), what if the property came to the customer?! That is the promise of AMP – combined with the power of our imagination.”
Email 2.0 masterfully combines several innovations into a comprehensive package: AMP (for enabling interactivity), Atomic Rewards (micro-incentives for influencing user behavior), Microns (utilitarian content to foster habitual email use), integrated search boxes, AI-ML powered product recommendations, Email Shops (bringing conversion funnels closer to customers with fully manageable carts), secure in-mail payments, Actionable Ads targeted to known individuals rather than cookies or cohorts, and Engaging Footers offering more than just an unsubscribe option with dynamic earn-burn of rewards.
As I wrote: “The promise of Email 2.0 is vast. Email remains the best communications channel; that is why it has survived for 50 years for one-to-one and group interactions, and almost 25 years for brand-customer engagement. Many wannabe alternatives have come and gone. Email 2.0 takes email into the future; making it cool again. For customers, it creates magical moments; for brands, it drives habits. For marketers, it makes them the profit creators not profit killers.”
When merged with personalisation, segmentation, analytics, and tracking, Email 2.0 can harness data to deliver highly unique content and offers to each subscriber based on their behaviour and preferences – all in the sanctuary of the inbox. It thus has the potential to stand as the fulcrum for resolving all five friction points: Inbox Commerce, Green Journeys, Reactivation Progency, Near Zero Acquisition Cost, and Anon-to-Known. Let’s see how.
How – 1
Let’s look at how Email 2.0 and its innovation can help marketers address the five frictions.
Inbox Commerce to solve Attention Recession
- Email Shops: Email 2.0 is set to change how brands interact with their customers by bringing the shopping experience directly into the inbox. Email Shops take advantage of the interactive capabilities of Email 2.0 to allow users to search, browse, select, and purchase items without ever leaving their email. This reduces the friction associated with redirecting customers to external websites and apps, and increases the chances of conversion.
- Engaging Footers: Email 2.0 enriches the traditionally static email footer by transforming it into a dynamic space for customer engagement. The engaging footer can include elements like interactive surveys, tailored offers, and opportunities for customers to earn or redeem This enhances the overall email experience and encourages customers to spend more time interacting with the email.
Green Journeys with Next Best Action to solve Red Journeys
- Progressive Profiling: By incentivising collection of zero-party data in the email itself (as part of the Engaging Footer), Email 2.0 allows for progressive profiling. What better way to know a customer than to ask directly? An ‘atomic reward” can facilitate this exchange by creating a “double thank you” moment. This gradual accumulation of customer data can lead to a better “digital twin” enriching the Large Customer Model in the “mirror world”, leading to more accurate predictions of the next best action, further streamlining the customer journey and creating a “greener,” more efficient marketing strategy.
- Right Recommendations: With a better customer model, the marketing automation platform can offer the most relevant next best products, which will also motivate customers to open their emails more. In making the recommendations, it is important to consider not just the actions but also the inactions (the items the customer chooses to ignore). These recommendations in the email become the core for powering Inbox Commerce in emails.
Reactivation Progency to solve Dormancy and Churn
- Atomic Rewards: Atomic Rewards within Email 2.0 incentivise customers to engage with emails, which can be an effective method for reactivating dormant users. Customers could earn rewards for actions such as opening emails, clicking links, or making purchases, thereby increasing their engagement and likelihood of reactivation.
- Interactive Content: With Email 2.0, brands can reengage inactive customers by delivering interactive content right to their inboxes. Features like AMP can be used to create interactive surveys, games, quizzes, or tutorials to pique the customer’s interest and encourage re-engagement. Utility content in the form of Microns can also persuade customers to open emails regularly.
How – 2
Near-Zero Acquisition Cost to solve Adtech AdWaste
- Actionable Ads for Acquisition: Email 2.0 allows for a cooperative marketing ecosystem where non-competing brands can share ad space in their email footers. This gives brands access to new audiences at a lower cost and can significantly reduce Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC). Unlike traditional ads, these ads transcend the need for clickthrough, allowing in-situ lead generation or shopping. The efficacy of these ads is heightened given they’re targeted towards identified users, whose email IDs and corresponding profiles are known, resulting in highly relevant, personalised marketing.
- Referrals incentivised by Atomic Rewards: Email 2.0 can also harness the power of referrals to reduce CAC. Brands can leverage Atomic Rewards to incentivise existing customers (especially the most valuable) to refer their friends and family, effectively turning satisfied customers into brand ambassadors.
Anon-to-Known to solve Identity Gap
- Atomic Rewards to power Email ID collection and gamification: To close the identity gap and encourage anonymous shoppers to provide their personal information, brands can leverage Atomic Rewards as a universal brand currency. Unlike the typical, transactional reward systems that merely offer discounts on purchases, Atomic Rewards give customers “Mu” points that can be accumulated and utilised for a variety of engaging activities – thus encouraging customers to share their email ID.
- Microns to provide valuable content: Email 2.0 brings a profound shift in the content strategy by introducing “Microns,” also known as micro-newsletters or Ems. Rather than inundating customers with promotional content, microns provide concise, valuable information that enriches customers’ lives. These bite-sized nuggets of knowledge can transform fleeting moments of interest into sustained relationships, there encouraging customers to share their personal information and transiting them from anonymous to known.
At the heart of Email 2.0 lies a shift towards an adtech-style, performance-based pricing model that aligns marketers’ spending with desired outcomes rather than mere activities. This is a significant departure from the traditional model of cost-per-email sent, which had no direct relation to the success of a campaign.
Performance-based pricing in Email 2.0 echoes the outcome-oriented focus of the adtech world, drawing on models such as cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-action (CPA). Rather than charging based on the volume of emails sent, brands can pay based on the revenue generated by the emails.
This new pricing model is a powerful tool in the Email 2.0 arsenal. It encourages marketers and martech vendors to develop more engaging, personalised, and effective email content, as the financial incentive is directly tied to success. It also offers a better return on investment, as costs are intrinsically linked to results.
By intertwining investment and outcomes, the transformative pricing strategy of Email 2.0 reimagines the landscape of email marketing, fostering a more accountable, results-driven ecosystem. For Martech 2.0 vendors, it obliterates the conventional boundaries of marketing budgets, mirroring the endless scalability observed in adtech platforms. Their value proposition elegantly metamorphoses to: ” We grow as you grow.” This model breeds a symbiotic relationship – where success is mutual, and vendors become genuine partners in a brand’s journey towards customer engagement and conversion.
In this series—the grand finale of the funnel frictions trilogy—we’ve discussed how Email 2.0 stands as the genesis to remedying the myriad challenges marketers confront in their quest of amplified profits, a pursuit that must be rooted in nurturing existing customers and catalysing revenue growth by creating frictionless experiences. The golden adage holds true in the context of email: Old is Gold!