Dynamic Images And Video Exponentially Increase ROI In Email Marketing

Vivek Sharma, CEO & Founder, Movable Ink ©Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

Vivek Sharma, CEO & Founder, Movable Ink ©Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

Join us at the next LDV Vision Summit.
This panel discussion is an excerpt from our LDV Vision Book 2015

Vivek Sharma, CEO & Founder, Movable Ink

Evan, you look exactly the same as when we sat next to each other at General Assembly except you had a full head of hair [laughter]. It’s funny, we moved into General Assembly around the same time, about four years ago, and I remember sitting diagonally across from Evan. e common thing we noticed about each other is we were a few years older than others in that group at GA. I was working on a marketing so ware company and Evan is a marketing genius. If you kind of do the Mad Men analogy, he’s the bald Don Draper to my Indian Roger Sterling. At Movable Ink, we’re a contextual marketing company that happens to do email really well and we’re headquartered here in New York. We think a lot about the power of imagery and the power of photos to compel people, to get them to engage, to get them to interact with you. Where we think marketing is headed, is it’s really about creating an experience over selling a product. Creating an experience that delivers on the promise of a brand. I want to talk a little bit more about how we see imagery and photography changing and being used in more creative ways within marketing.

Let me start with a survey right here. is is a campaign that Allen Edmonds, a clothing retailer, ran recently and there were two different types of creative that they wanted to test out. Creative A that you see on your left side is a nice fabric background. It’s an interesting copy. And creative B has a few more product shots in a different type of imagery.

How many of you think creative A performed better? Only five hands are showing. How many think creative B performed better? The vast majority of you. This is the kind of thing that happens in email marketing departments and people go by gut feel and decide, is this going to be effective or not? Well, most of you were wrong. As it turned out, in this particular case—and this could be completely different in the next campaign—people are voting with their engagement, with what they choose to view and read and click on. Something that was impossible for was that ability to test creatives on the y. is is a use of dynamic creative where you’re able to A, B, and multivariate test. While an email campaign is running, your audience is telling you what’s working really effectively and it’s switching that over to the winning forms of creative on the fly. These are types of things that happen in other areas in web marketing, but email marketing has been a little stagnant and it has been formerly impossible.

A huge lift in click-through and this is one example: images change in real-time. The analogy that I use: if you were to walk outside here and head over to Times Square, you’re surrounded by giant billboards and for the most part, everyone has seen the exact same message. Millions of people walk by and you’re seeing the same creative that’s being used. Contrast that to the experience of walking down Park Avenue into any boutique. e second you walk in, somebody notices you, they see you’re a little harried in the middle of day. You might be in there buying something for your boyfriend or girlfriend. They’re kind of sizing you up and figuring out how much you’re likely to spend, what kinds of products you’re interested in, peppering you with a few questions back and forth. So that’s a very different experience. That’s an opportunity where a real person is sitting across and sensing and responding to your context and understanding that and tailoring the message to you. Unfortunately, that’s very one-to-one and it’s been impossible to do that at a massive scale, especially when creative bottlenecks exist.

We know imagery works in marketing. Over and over, the statistics prove that even including an image in search results gets people to engage. It builds a trust. It gives people a sense of what they’re buying. Especially if you’re a consumer brand, if you sell any sort of physical product, if there’s a fit and finish and feel to it, today, the best way to communicate that is through imagery. Images are important, but as we’ve mentioned, for the most part in email marketing today, they’re very static. So there’s a challenge in bringing that dynamism that you might see in the real world into a marketing program like this.

Your context is changing. You might be very similar to me. When I get up in the morning, one of the first things I’m checking is my email. I have my iPhone. I’m running into work. I’m at my desktop during lunch. Some of you may be scrambling to get into the ash sale in time and you get a big, giant screen where you’re making your purchases. en in the evening, you’re back at home and you’re reclining on your sofa on your tablet. is is a new world. e next step to that world: I’m wearing an Apple watch and now there’s another way to reach me. Consumers are choosing how and when they choose to engage with you. is is really difficult. If you thought things were tough 15 years ago, keeping up with the vast number of devices and different channels that your customers use is incredibly difficult. This adds a creative burden to any team that is thinking about marketing content and copy and photography and that sort of thing. But it’s imperative to think about some of these.


I want to share just three ideas today that you could use to tailor an experience and create a very contextual experience based on some cues your customers are telling you the moment they choose to engage. Let’s think about the weather. We actually have a giant chalkboard drawing of this cartoon right now. Spring just started and every season we’re changing that up on our blackboard. But the weather changes so quickly and especially retailers have to think about this. Unfortunately, there’s a huge amount of information to crunch and to decide and to figure out how to tailor offers depending on the weather in your area. Here’s one example. We work with Airbnb and it’s possible you’ve seen some of these emails and are completely unaware that the imagery and the creative and the copy are being tailored for you based upon the weather outside.

In this case, it was very important to them, for their customers who happen to be in very cold-weather areas... So if you lived in New York or Massachusetts or anywhere in the northeast this winter, you are right in the bucket, right in the segment that these Airbnb marketers were looking for. It would detect that the moment you open that email campaign, it happens to be snowing outside or it happens to be 15 degrees outside and it’ll give you a very sunny destination that you could think about and houses you could rent. You get a totally different message and creative if you happen to be down in Florida or in California. Similarly, this could be done in retail.

Allen Edmonds again. Most of their customers are in the northeast and into the midwest where it’s very cold. But again, the types of offers they put in front of you would vary significantly based on the weather outside. In this case, a very simple weather-targeting rule. If it’s above 41 degrees, we want to show you rain gear and umbrellas. If it happens to be colder than that, let’s show you something that keeps you nice and bundled up and you might actually get bundled up and get outside of the house. So winter boots, winterizing your wardrobe, and thinking about those types of things. is was something that was formerly very difficult and in some cases impossible because even if Allen Edmonds had someone on their email list, perhaps they never purchased from them before. So you don’t even know where that person lives necessarily. So there’s this vast amount of data, these real-time signals that are impossible for you to even collect, impossible to even have and to be able to tailor against in real time, thinking about the changing creative and the changing nature of your customer.

Let’s jump to a device. When I sit at my desk at work, I’ve got five computers right around me. I have my desktop, I have my tablet, I have my iPhone, I have my Apple watch. There’s probably someone’s old laptop sitting in the corner. It is very hard to guess at where someone is likely to be and how they choose to engage with you. You have to be very responsive to your customers wherever they are.

is is one of the things we did for Comedy Central where the Stephen Colbert show, rest in peace, was incorporating a video into email, but the iPhone experience was very different. It was actually a call to action at the top to download the Comedy Central app and that would only show up if you happen to be on an iPhone.

American Eagle did something very similar. Why waste that valuable real estate and show irrelevant creative if someone is just not going to engage?

Again, on an iPhone—and at the time, they only had an app for the iPhone— you’d see a banner and if you clicked on that, you’d go to the app store and have a chance to go download the American Eagle app and engage directly. On a desktop or an Android phone, the creative is the same. It might be mobile optimized, but it’s completely changed up. is was incredibly effective for them. They actually saw a 230% li in app downloads by simply having that very relevant call to action and having a new way to engage with their customers—mainly, via their app.

Finally, location. Where you are matters. The second you’re opening the email, it’s powerful to be able to see offline brick and mortar stores where you can transact and you can literally get a digital marketing campaign, walk outside the door, see the nearest Steve Madden—especially for products where fit and finish and trying it on really matters—and drive people into your stores and be very tailored in that approach. Steve Madden is one example and the other example, Avaya, which is a UK-based company that lets you use your Nectar reward points and lets you see, the second you open this, where the local restaurants and businesses happen to be. All super tailored and interestingly, that map accounted for 31% of the click so people are really enjoying and looking for geo-targeted content.

Finally, to wrap it up, contextual marketing really has to be about you providing utility for your customers, creating a totally tailored experience, and thinking about the outcomes you want to achieve. at might be something on your website, it might be a more content marketing approach where you’re not hammering someone over the head to buy from you every time, but giving them valuable content.

That’s us. We’re Movable Ink. We’re a four-and-a-half-year-old company right here in New York with offices in London and Buenos Aires. We’re here to change marketing with the use of brilliant and timely photos and images. Thanks, everyone.

Join us at the next LDV Vision Summit.
This panel discussion is an excerpt from our LDV Vision Book 2015