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I have been in email marketing since 1999, so I have built up quite an arsenal of emails in my seed accounts.
I have seen content that was creative, wonderfully written, personalized, and even cutting-edge. More importantly, I have watched as this channel keeps growing even as everyone else has predicted its death.
Like any nerdy but dedicated email marketer, I subscribe to all types of emails, including brands on the retail side and those in publishing, telecom, e-commerce, financial, and more. Before I invest time in a brand, a product, or a service, I do quite a bit of research. Depending on the brand, I almost inevitably spend time reading online reviews.
These are oddly satisfying. I try to associate the strangers’ reviews with the way I live my life, the things I say, and how I think. I throw out super negative reviews unless the reviewers add context explaining their comments. I also look for transparency and honesty in the positive ones.
Brands use reviews and user-generated content in email several ways:
1. The 5-Star Review The entire email is full of products with 5 stars according to the reviewers, who are always identified semi-anonymously, like “Andrew K. – Illinois.” This type of user review can be hard to believe. Why else would this brand not put a 5-star product in its email? Sometimes, when the subscriber clicks through to the product, other reviews tell a different story.
2. The Quotable Review This review always has a quote, often condensed, from a customer exclaiming how incredibly awesome the product is.
3. The Employee Review Brad from Accounting or Mary from Marketing gives us their top picks and a quote with the hope that this personal connection will sway the subscriber to purchase.
4. The Designer Fashion retailers love to profile people like their lead designers in their email promotions and create mood boards with the styles they love. They want the subscriber to connect with the people who make their products and give the brand a relatable personality.
5. The Social Some brands love to incorporate content or reviews from people across channels to show they do listen to their social channels and cross-promote them.
Let’s be clear here. There is no magic formula or secret sauce that will make any of these methods perform better in your email program. But, as a brand with products or services to pitch, you should incorporate as much user content into as many emails as you can.
Research from Vendasta shows 92% of consumers read online reviews, and over 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just one to three reviews.
Both of these stats are up significantly since 2014. One of the most compelling stats from Vendasta’s blog is that 88% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Think about that—people are influenced by total strangers just as much as people with whom they’re personally connected. I am more than happy to admit that I am usually in that 88%.
Online reviews are a form of social proof, a situation in which people seek the opinions and actions of others to reflect correct behavior.
So, we know people are influenced by what others say. And, we see some brands sprinkle in ratings/reviews and other user content. That leads to a big question: How much is too much or too little?
Before you start adding user content via user reviews and ratings, map out a plan to “human proof” your program. Answer these questions:
1. How does adding user content affect our master template?
2. Which design elements or content modules are we willing to lose in order to incorporate user content?
3. Do we have enough user content to sustain this tactic?
4. What is our plan for testing different kinds of user content inside our email program?
5. What are our primary KPIs measuring success or failure when testing user content?
6. How do we position user content in our messaging strategy?
At the other end of the mapping tunnel, your vision and go-forward plan should be clear to all your stakeholders. Email marketers talk a lot today about including personalized and dynamic content in emails. However, data is the key ingredient to pull out that content.
Marketers who don’t have that data or are just starting the process of integrating it into their emails can use the power of psychology and the persuasion of strangers to take steps toward optimization.
Don’t just send more emails. Send better emails!
Need a hand on this project? Contact us. We would be honored to get you started.