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Like J. Jill, travel firm Kensington Tours was looking for ways to get more of its e-mail subscribers to open more of its e-mails. Robin Brooks, marketing manager at Kensington Tours, says the company knew it had to go beyond snappy subject lines, and as a luxury merchant, sales or special deals were not its style.
Like a chain retailer that operates many stores around the country, Kensington Tours has 20 travel agencies operating under 11 brands, all offering getaways and tours. So Kensington, which uses e-mail marketing services and technology from Campaigner, concluded that adding a personal touch from each of its agencies to the appropriate e-mail list segments would get consumers to open.
"With a few of the brands we wanted to do the same campaign but change the logos and the e-mail addresses that they came from," Brooks says. Campaigner, she says, set it up so that she could automatically e-mail the 20 different lists the same content—but with different logos and agency information—from the appropriate travel agent's e-mail address.
Kensington Tours then sent a text-only, letter-like e-mail campaign to each of the individual travel agents' e-mail lists. The e-mails came from individual travel agents' e-mail addresses and addressed recipients by name. The message looked like a one-to-one message. "We got a 65% open rate on the e-mail with just text," she says. "Putting that personal spin on it makes all the difference."
Brooks declines to reveal what the travel firm pays Campaigner. Campaigner says it charges $200 per month for sending unlimited e-mails to up to 50,000 subscribers. For more than that it negotiates cost based on volume. Kensington Tours has more than 260,000 e-mail contacts, Brooks says.
The travel firm has achieved a return on its investment, she adds. Before using Campaigner the firm's e-mail click-through rate was 2%; it's now 3%, she says. Kensington Tours doesn't have delivery rate data from before it began working with Campaigner, but Campaigner says the travel firm's delivery rate today is 91.75%.
Symbols make a splash
In addition to personalization, another tactic that can boost open rates involves little hearts, shining stars, and all kinds of fun shapes and icons. These non-alphanumeric symbols started popping up in the subject lines of marketing e-mails last year.
The use of non-alphanumeric symbols can help a message stand out in a crowded inbox, Dutch Hollis, general manager of professional services at Knotice, says.
"Standing out is the first step in getting the treasured open, and while a trick like this works, it can't be used all the time," Hollis says. "There have been concerns that the use of symbols in subject lines heightens the risk of an e-mail being blocked as spam."
Knotice tested that theory, using identical creative with different subject lines—one with an icon, and one without—and found that both versions generated similar rankings on major spam filters. That suggests that symbols are not a barrier to delivery.
With that fear dismissed, Knotice recently tested symbols in subject lines for a client Hollis declines to reveal. "The open rate for the subject line with the symbol was 6.34%, while the open rate for the subject line without the symbol was 5.66%, representing a statistically significant lift for the subject line that included a symbol."
However, overuse of symbols will dilute their effectiveness over time, Hollis says.
Successfully getting e-mails into customers' inboxes and getting those customers to open the messages are the aspirations of every e-mail marketer. Fortunately for marketers there are many tactics, from seeking permission to send a second time to personalization to symbols to daily deals, that can help boost delivery and open rates, setting the stage for more effective e-mail campaigns.