Build a Cyber Monday SMS List Now

Text-message marketing is relatively less competitive than other promotional channels. Heading into the holiday selling season, it’s an opportunity.

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Email Marketing Drives Conversions in Other Channels

Email marketing is highly effective. But it’s even better when combined with other marketing vehicles. Here’s how email drives sales across the entire purchase journey.

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5 Keys to Better Transactional Emails

Transactional emails are opportunities for merchants to engage shoppers and drive sales. Here are tactics to increase both.

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Understanding Email Marketing Metrics in 2022

Getting the most from email marketing requires close monitoring of key performance metrics. In this post, we offer a primer on opens, clicks, bounces, deliveries, and more.

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Drive Email Engagement with Embedded Video

Embedded videos in marketing emails can increase clicks by upwards of 300%. Here’s our primer on dos, don’ts, and getting started.

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Email Marketing: Tips for Getting Started

Looking to launch an email marketing program? Here’s a quick rundown of the basics from longtime contributor Carolyn Nye, addressing subscriber growth, vendor selection, frequency, and more.

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7 Reasons Why Marketing Emails Fail

Underperforming marketing emails are often an indicator of overall program deterioration. Reductions in clicks, conversions, and revenue are typically symptoms of a larger problem.

In this post, I’ll address seven causes of poor email performance and how to fix them.

Email Not Reaching Inbox

All email marketing platforms will report a deliverability rate — the percentage of emails that recipients received. Usually this is 98% or more.

However, what your email provider is not reporting is how many of those delivered emails ended up in the inbox versus a subfolder, such as spam or junk. Unfortunately, no tool detects that percentage.

Encourage inboxing by:

  • Avoiding spam triggers such as using all caps or excessive exclamation points,
  • Keeping domain and IP address reputation high,
  • Staying off blacklists,
  • Maintaining high subscriber engagement.

Not Optimizing for Gmail

According to Litmus; in April 2022 Gmail was the second most popular global email client (behind Apple), accounting for roughly 30% of the market. In 2013, Gmail added tabs in the recipient’s inbox, leading most marketing emails to be filtered to Promotions.

Gmail recently released a few new features to help marketers stand out in the Promotions tab. You can check how your emails will filter for free using the Litmus Gmail tab tool.

Litmus's Gmail tab toolLitmus's Gmail tab tool

Litmus’s free Gmail tab tool will detect where in Gmail an email will end up.

Marketers can now boost their promotional emails in Gmail by highlighting an offer, offer code, adding a promotions preview image, and defining a logo URL that will appear as a custom icon next to the From line.

Screenshot of enhancements in Gmaiil Promotions tabScreenshot of enhancements in Gmaiil Promotions tab

Marketers can now boost promotional emails in Gmail by highlighting an offer, offer code, a preview image, and a logo.

Gmail for Developers offers documentation on how to code emails for these features. In addition, Gmail has several email partners that include promotional annotations in their software, including Litmus, Salesforce, Sailthru, Oracle Bronto, and more.

Gmail also features relevant promotional emails within the primary tab to help add more visibility to your messages.

The Wrong Offer

Offers are tricky. Always test email offers to help determine which works best for your audience. In my experience, performance can vary drastically depending on the product and service.

  • For product sales, usually a gift or a pre-populated cart helps. The latter auto-loads a free item into a recipient’s shopping cart.
  • Free shipping has lost some appeal as most retailers offer it in some capacity.
  • Dollar-off offers tend to perform a bit better than percentage-off.

Make sure to pair the offer with your recipients. For example, a small amount off will not likely appeal to a high-end jewelry buyer.

Outdated Data

Email data can become obsolete quickly. According to Return Path, on average only 56% of subscribers remain on an email list after 12 months! Of those that remain, roughly 47% are “active” — having opened and read at least one email.

While these statistics seem scary, there are several ways to maintain an engaged list.

  • Removing unengaged subscribers.
  • Running email verification on any subscriber that hasn’t been emailed in over 30 days.
  • Encouraging new email subscriptions.
  • Keep email frequency low to new subscribers to prevent immediate opt-outs.

I addressed email database cleaning tips last year.

Too Many Emails

Even the most loyal customers will eventually unsubscribe if you send them too many emails. Frequency in email marketing is a fine art and requires testing and monitoring. A few unsubscribes may seem inconsequential, but too many will impact performance.

Each subscriber has unique tolerance levels. But no one wants to receive multiple emails a day from a single sender. I recently unsubscribed to a few of my favorite brands that sent upwards of 15 emails a week.

Remember that elevated unsubscribed rates will hurt your reputation score, leading to more emails in junk or spam folders.

In my experience, two to three emails per week are optimal for ecommerce retailers. Again, testing is critical.

Mismatched Content

Irrelevant content drives unsubscribes. This means understanding your customers — what they have searched and purchased. Match email content — product recommendations, notifications — to those interests.

Personalization can help keep content relevant. I recently received an email from the Red Cross promoting upcoming blood drives that provided a good, basic example of personalization. The email included blood drive locations near me instead of a generic “find event” button.

Poor Subject, From, Preheader

Always preview the combination of your “Subject” line, “From” line, and preheader, especially on mobile. Keep subject lines short with the preheader as an extension. Do not repeat words.

Zurb offers a free subject-line preview tool.

How to Integrate SMS into Email Marketing

SMS marketing is booming. The rise of smartphones and text messaging provided a new vehicle for companies to communicate with customers. Slowly, short message service — SMS, synonymous with text messaging — has supplemented many companies’ email marketing efforts.

In this post, I’ll review how to integrate SMS into your email program.

SMS vs. Email

Email marketing is effective because it directly connects to a customer or prospect. Nowadays, most recipients receive emails on their smartphones, making the channel even more effective.

However, email has challenges that SMS does not. First, email senders face deliverability hurdles. Senders are at the mercy of large email platforms such as Gmail, Yahoo, and others that control the filtering or blocking of messages. Recent statistics show that 99% of email users check their inboxes daily. Still, senders wait until a subscriber checks and then hope she reads the content.

SMS offers near-instant communication. Most recipients read text messages very soon after arriving. Wearable smartwatches mean text-message recipients no longer have to be near their phones. The immediacy and intimacy of SMS translate into a powerful way to connect with consumers.

Launching SMS

SMS can provide superior customer service. Examples include the hospitality industry confirming reservations and airlines updating passengers on flight status.

Screenshot of a text message from United, announcing a delayed flightScreenshot of a text message from United, announcing a delayed flight

Airlines use SMS to update passengers on flight status. This example is from United.

The first step in implementing SMS is to confirm customers want to receive those messages. Many ecommerce brands use SMS for basic order info. Customers often prefer that method for shipping and other updates. So it’s a good idea to provide this option during checkout.

Screenshot of a checkout page with a box to provide a cell phone numberScreenshot of a checkout page with a box to provide a cell phone number

Customers often prefer shipping and other updates via text. So it’s a good idea to provide this option during checkout.

Beyond transactional info, SMS can be an effective marketing channel provided, again, customers want to receive the messages. Include SMS sign-up options throughout the site with clear frequency expectations and instructions for opting out. Providing value in exchange for a phone number can improve sign-ups.

Strategies for SMS Success

Obtain expressed permission. The U.S. Telephone Consumer Protection Act requires businesses to receive explicit consent to send text messages. The requirement is much stricter than the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act, which does not require an opt-in, only that brands honor opt-outs. While it’s not required, include opt-out instructions with every text.

Reintroduce your brand. A drawback to SMS is identifying the sender. There’s no “From:” line as with email. Recipients only see a number. Thus, it’s essential to make clear on every text message who it’s from.

Screenshot of a text message from Verizon with first sentence reading, "Hi. It's Verizon."Screenshot of a text message from Verizon with first sentence reading, "Hi. It's Verizon."

Verizon identifies itself with every text message.

Frequency. Send far fewer SMS messages than emails. Start with intervals between texts of at least 10 days. As with email, testing will determine the best frequency to minimize opt-outs and drive engagement. The type of product or service impacts frequency. For example, if consumers purchase your products every six months, the SMS frequency should follow that schedule.

Screenshot of two text messages from Red Cross showing dates about 10 days apartScreenshot of two text messages from Red Cross showing dates about 10 days apart

Red Cross’s SMS frequency is roughly every 10 days.

Messages types. Be careful with promotional messages. Don’t overdo it. A good strategy is to alternate between transactional and promotional. This will keep recipients engaged and reduce opt-outs.

Complement Email

SMS reach is finite. Far fewer consumers choose to receive text messages versus email. A text is a personal form of communication for many, reserved only for limited acquaintances. Nonetheless, done correctly, SMS complements email — increasing engagement, customer service, and conversions.

14 Free WordPress Plugins to Build an Email List

Engaged email subscribers are a key revenue driver for many ecommerce companies. But building that list is not easy, with much inbox competition. Fortunately, WooCommerce and other WordPress users can select free plugins for successful email list building.

Here is a rundown of WordPress plugins to build an email list. There are tools for creating and automating pop-ups and opt-in forms, driving and managing newsletters subscriptions, capturing leads, and more. All of these plugins are free. Most offer premium plans as well.

Plugins to Build Email Lists

Sumo offers several tools to build an email list. Use the List Builder app to generate an email collection field after page load, after a mouse hovers, embedded within an article, as a call-to-action button, upon user scroll, and more. Sumo also offers a Welcome Mat, Smart Bar, and Share buttons for social. Sumo integrates with WooCommerce to create unique offers and discount forms. Price: Free up to 10,000 emails per month. Premium plans start at $39 per month.

Home page of SumoHome page of Sumo


Icegram is a popular pop-up builder for lead capture, call to action, and email marketing. Use Icegram Engage to show the right messages at the right time. Capture leads using attractive pop-ups, slide-ins, opt-ins, and welcome bars. Access 50-plus free pop-up templates and action bar themes. Set up exit-intent pop-up campaigns, action bars, badges, stickies, inline opt-in, fullscreen overlay, ribbons, sidebar panel, and more. Price: Basic is free. Premium plans start at $97 per month.

Email Subscribers and Newsletters, from Icegram, is a newsletter plugin to collect leads and send automated post notifications and email broadcasts — and manage them in one place. Price: Basic is free. Premium plans start at $6.50 per month.

Rainmaker, another tool from Icegram, is a plugin for creating forms with ready-made templates. Display forms anywhere on your WordPress site using a shortcode. Rainmaker automatically saves all form submissions to the WordPress database. Connect your mailing list service, and automatically subscribe leads to a list. Price: Basic is free. Premium plans start at $2.25 per month.

Home page of RainmakerHome page of Rainmaker


Newsletter is an email marketing system to create, send, and track emails and responsive newsletters. Utilize subscriber lists and advanced targeting with your campaigns. Manage user subscriptions, email automation, follow-up notifications, and list building. Price: Basic is free. Premium versions start at $69.

Optin Forms is a simple and easy-to-use opt-in form plugin for new subscribers. Choose from five unique layouts and customize to match your company’s brand. Integrates with major email services, including AWeber, iContact, Mailchimp, GetResponse, and more. Price: Free.

MailPoet is a plugin for creating, sending, and managing newsletters in WordPress. Add a subscription form to your site. Manage your subscribers and lists. Create and automate post notifications and welcome emails. Price: Free for the first 1,000 subscribers. Premium starts at $13 per month.

Home page of MailPoetHome page of MailPoet


Klaviyo helps businesses engage consumers across email, SMS, web, and in-app. Leverage Klaviyo’s free form builder. Build fly-outs, pop-ups, and embeds. Target forms to specific segments, devices, or pages. Use the library of pre-built forms and automated campaigns, such as drip messages, abandoned cart reminders, and sale promotions — or design your own. Price: Free for up to 500 emails to 250 contacts. Premium starts at $20 per month.

Hustle offers simple opt-in forms, targeted marketing pop-ups, and designer-made templates for different uses (e.g., Black Friday, giveaway, newsletter sign-up). Set up a range of behavior triggers for your pop-ups and slide-ins, and schedule when the messages deploy. Price: Free plan for one opt-in method. Pro plans start at $5 per month.

HubSpot offers several tools to build an email list. Create nearly any kind of form and pop-up using a simple drag-and-drop builder. Build responsive email newsletters inside WordPress, and nurture leads with automated campaigns. Manage your database with HubSpot’s free CRM, and group contacts with the built-in list builder. HubSpot comes with 20-plus pre-designed email templates. Price: Free.

Home page of HubSpotHome page of HubSpot


MailMunch lets you create an opt-in form as a pop-up, embed, top bar, scroll box, and sidebar. Apply themes, A/B testing, targeting, exit intent, and analytics. Sync your newsletter subscribers to Mailchimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, GetResponse, Campaign Monitor, and more. Price: Free. Premium is $13.99 per month.

AWeber is an email marketing platform with automated messaging, landing page builder, ecommerce pages, and web push notifications. Start with a pre-built template or drag-and-drop editor. Embed AWeber landing pages and sign-up forms on your WordPress site. Price: Free for up to 500 subscribers. Premium plans start at $16.15 per month.

MC4WP is a plugin to grow your Mailchimp lists and write better emails. Create attractive opt-in forms or integrate with any existing form on your site, such as comment, contact us, or checkout. Price: Free to 2,000 contacts. Premium plans start at $59 per year.

Sendinblue is an all-in-one email marketing platform. Create custom subscription forms and easily integrate them into your posts, pages, or sidebars to grow your list. Manage the list with advanced segmentation. Use the drag-and-drop builder or template library to create and send newsletters. Develop automated marketing and transactional emails. Price: Free up to 300 emails per day and unlimited contacts. Premium plans start at $25 per month.

Home page of SendinblueHome page of Sendinblue


iOS 15: Impact on Email Marketing to Date

On Sept 20, 2021, Apple released iOS 15. Among its new features is “Mail Privacy Protection,” which does two things:

  • Automatically loads all images from emails,
  • Hides IP addresses and the location of email recipients.

For years, email service providers have embedded a hidden, 1×1-pixel image to track opens. That image was automatically downloaded by recipients when they opened an email, which providers then logged.

Now, however, all recipients on iOS 15 devices — iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches — register as an open, regardless of whether they took that action.

The result is inflated open rates.

Impact to Date

Apple iPhones are roughly 48% of the U.S. smartphone market. And in 2022 most email opens are on a phone — upwards to 75%. Thus approximately 36% of all U.S. email recipients (48% x 75%) could be using iOS 15.

The unknown is how many iOS 15 users have enabled Mail Privacy Protection. However, Apple’s description — “Protect Mail activity. Hide IP address and privately load all remote content” — likely entices most users to opt-in.

Consider the following scenario.

Email recipients, U.S.:

  • iOS 15: 36%
  • All others: 64%

Actual historical commercial open rate, average:

Open rates due to iOS 15, U.S.:

  • iOS users: 100%
  • All others: 20%
  • Total, blended: (36% x 100%) + (64% x 20%) = 48.8%

In short, an average commercial email list could report open rates of 48.8% due to iOS 15 instead of likely actual open rates of roughly 20%.

That calculation, however, assumes (i) all users of Apple mobile devices have upgraded to iOS 15, (ii) all have opted into Mail Privacy Protection, and (iii) all live in the U.S., where the iPhone has a 48% market share. Worldwide, the iPhone’s market share is roughly 15%.

Actual Open Rate Increases

The above example represents the maximum impact. But my clients — large corporations, mainly —  have seen open rates as roughly doubling, not to 48.8%.

Click rates for those clients have remained constant. However, click-to-open rates have decreased due to the artificially high percentage of opens.

Here are the averages I’ve seen among, again, large corporations.

Open Rates:

  • Before iOS 15: 6% – 12%
  • After:  18% – 25%

Click Rates:

  • Before and after: 1% – 4% (no change)

Click-to-open Rates:

  • Before: 7% – 15%
  • After: 1% – 5%

Strategy Implications

Testing email based on open rates is compromised. That includes subject lines, time of day, and day of week. However, an A/B test on, say, subject lines should still correctly identify the winner assuming the ratio of iOS 15 recipients is consistent for both groups. My clients continue to rely on A/B tests for that reason.

What would not be accurate is a test that compares subject lines from before and after iOS 15. An example is 2020 holiday emails versus 2021.

Customer journeys that rely on email opens are also compromised. For example, a journey flow is likely inaccurate if it sends a unique nurturing message to recipients who opened but did not click. All iOS 15 users would receive that message regardless of their actions.

A workaround for many senders is to use clicks to dictate the journey path. Some separate iOS 15 recipients from all others and create separate journey paths for each group. That separation is likely the best option if your email service provider can identify recipients’ devices.

Industry Reaction

Consumers generally support Mail Privacy Protection. However, email marketing professionals understand the unintended consequences. Before iOS 15, a consumer who never opened a commercial email would eventually stop receiving it. Not so afterward.

Moreover, open rates help marketers understand recipients’ preferences to adjust content and frequency accordingly. That, too, has gone away. As my colleague Armando Roggio has stated, vegetarians could now receive promotions for pulled pork.