There’s been a lot of talk in marketing circles during the last year or two about how content and context work together to help ensure you’re providing the right message at the right time. But what exactly is context-based marketing, and how can it help you increase engagement and revenue? Mike Monteiro, CEO of Wylei, a Silverpop partner, shares his thoughts on a few ways you can use context to make your emails more effective.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few months, you’ve probably been bombarded with articles screaming that context-driven messaging is the next big thing in marketing. If you’re really unlucky, you’ve even had your boss forward you one of them, captioned with a cryptic directive like “we should be on top of this.”
While hearing phrases like “the next big thing in marketing” justifiably triggers gag reflexes, there is some validity to all the attention. Context matters, especially when you’re talking about communication. Take this example from my personal life: Imagine that you discovered the funny cat video to end all funny cat videos, and just HAD to share it with your significant other right away. How would you do it? Would you send an email with the video embedded in it, autoplay turned on and volume cranked up so it could be experienced in all its glory? Or would you send a terse email with a link saying, “Hey, you should check this out when you have a minute”?
Well, it probably depends on the context. If we’re sitting next to each other on the couch engrossed in our iPads, the autoplaying video would be a pretty funny and positive experience. Slightly less so if, hypothetically, one of us is idly checking email in a meeting and loud meowing ensues.
The fact is, context does matter — a lot. Context can be a huge determinant of what I find appropriate, positive and helpful in any given moment. In some contexts, I’m adventurous, and in some, I’m conservative. Context shapes my response: who and where I am at a specific moment in time defines what I’ll be receptive to.
Fine. That’s all well and good, but where does the rubber meet the road on context-based marketing? Well, if you’re reading this blog, chances are you already get that email is the strongest channel at a direct marketer’s disposal. It’s well-established, highly penetrated, high-performing and easily scalable.
But how can an email adapt to the specific context of each open? Isn’t an email static once you hit “send”? How can it morph itself based on how, when or where it’s opened? One word: images. External images provide a magical little loophole for email marketers to deliver “just-in-time” content into the email, since they aren’t loaded until the instant the email is opened. And better yet, they can be reloaded every time the email is reopened. So, each individual open, even from the same recipient, can get its own fresh and customized content.
Here are three specific, simple ways you can leverage that image-swapping loophole to be context-driven in your next campaign:
1) Before, during or after work
You can infer a lot from the time of day of the open. If most of your email subscribers have a traditional work schedule, you can assume a weekday open before 9 a.m. is a “pre-work email scan,” an open between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. is an “at-work email power session,” and an open after 6 p.m. is a “post-work email veg out.” Put yourself in your recipients’ shoes and think about the ideal brand interaction in each of those settings. Maybe the call-to-action in a “pre-work email scan” is simply to come back for a fuller look in the evening. Maybe you’ll stand out in an “at-work email power session” by looking more like a work email and less like a grocery store circular.
2) On mobile, tablet or desktop
Adapting your email to the device it’s opened on should go a lot deeper than optimizing for the screen size. The device (and platform) someone is using to read the email can tell you a lot about their context. Desktop opens, especially on Outlook, are likely more task-oriented, whereas tablet opens are more open-ended and exploratory, less time-constrained. Make sure you don’t miss out on the opportunity to wax poetic on a tablet at a time when it may be exactly what your subscriber wants to see.
3) Home or away
The IP address asking for the images in the email can give you a peek at the recipient’s geolocation. If you listen carefully to those geolocation patterns over time (in conjunction with time of day), you can start to piece together where “home,” “work,” and “away” are. Bonus points for marrying those observations with subscriber profile data for their home address. Understanding if a recipient is at home, at work, or somewhere new can be another big context clue for your messaging. When someone is in unfamiliar territory, they usually welcome directions to nearby locations or suggestions for new places to try. Less so when they know the place like the back of their hand.
Is context-based marketing overhyped? Sure, just like every other new marketing trend. But there’s a kernel of truth hidden underneath the mountain of hype that really does have the potential to be game-changing.
Wylei, LLC is a leading provider of adaptive email content to national brands and marketing agencies. Adaptive content automatically adjusts to the context of each open, with up-to-the-second relevance, ensuring that every interaction is meaningful. Wylei’s proprietary cloud-based deep-learning “relevance engine” automates the time-intensive A/B testing process and selects optimal message elements for every customer, in every context, to be delivered at just the right moment in time.