MarTech Interview with Gregory Zakowicz, Director of Content, Omnisend

Gregory Zakowicz, Director of Content, Omnisend shares his thoughts on the top challenges that can be a hindrance to brand growth while sharing a few best practices and tips that can help power future content marketing initiatives:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Gregory, tell us more about yourself and your role at Omnisend?

I am the director of content for Omnisend, where me and my team are responsible for shaping the direction of and creating company-branded content. This content includes statistics reports, the Cart Insiders Podcast, customer success stories, and other written or visual pieces.

I have been doing email marketing for over 15 years, both as a practitioner and consultant. For the past 10 years, I have worked directly for email marketing automation companies. I have watched the email marketing landscape evolve and marketers adapt. It’s been a fun ride so far, and I feel it’s just getting started.

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Omnisend recently shared the results of a report highlighting how consumers engaged with ecommerce brands in the first part of 2021, can you talk about the findings and key takeaways for eCommerce marketers?

Absolutely! The most notable takeaway is that opt-in channels, like email and SMS, are trusted and a sought-after part of the consumer purchasing journey. Email marketing continues to see increased conversion rates, and behavior-based automation is a significant sales driver. Automated emails accounted for 32% of all email orders, yet made up only 2.4% of email sends.

With SMS, Omnisend customers are on track to send three times as many messages as last year. This makes sense. SMS is an everyday communication channel regardless of the generational cohort. From a marketing standpoint, it is no longer a nice-to-have channel—it’s a must-have one.

While email and SMS are the two channels that traditionally dominate the talking points, web push notifications are rapidly growing. With over 20 million push notifications sent in the first half of this year, they still see a 35% conversion rate—meaning one in three who click on one makes a purchase. Try getting those conversion numbers on social media.

Ecommerce brands should look to each of these opt-in channels and identify ways to maximize their effectiveness.

What are some of the biggest challenges you still see eCommerce marketers face today?

There are two primary challenges I see today that hold brands back from maximizing their growth.

The first is time and resources. Few brands have unlimited resources, and often marketers have a multitude of responsibilities. The person in charge of email marketing is often in charge of paid search, social, and even graphic design. There’s not enough time in the day to optimize their strategy and tactics. This is why using behavior-based marketing automation is essential for ecommerce brands. As the recent stats report showed, 32% of orders came on less than 3% of sends. Automation works so well because it’s about sending relevant messaging automatically, allowing marketers to focus on other tasks.

The second is siloed data. If data is scattered in various places and marketers are already strapped for time, there’s little chance that the data will be used in a meaningful way. Think of a brand that uses one platform for email, another for SMS, and another for social retargeting. It’s inefficient and increases costs. Having one system that does all three things and aggregates customer data allows for marketing improvements and increased profits.

Can you talk about some of the most inspiring and engaging eCommerce experiences you’ve come across and what marketers can learn from there?

There are some good ones out there, but I’ll share a recent experience. Like many others during the pandemic, I decided to add new facets to my at-home cooking repertoire. One was replacing my very old, and rarely used, baking stone.

In doing my research, I found content (FAQs, articles, videos) on Baking Steel’s website that guided my decision to buy a steel baking stone. The material also established them as trustworthy experts. I signed up for their email program and eventually made a purchase.

I received post-purchase emails that did not try to sell add-on products but instead provided information on how to best use my new Baking Steel. These messages included a recipe for the best 72-hour pizza dough and how to clean and care for my purchase.

Many of this brand’s emails are not centered around sales, but rather education, such as recipes and invitations to free live cooking classes. The messages are designed to help me enjoy and care for the product while further building trust in the brand. As a very amateur at-home pizza maker, these were exactly what I needed (and yes, the 72-hour pizza dough was amazing!).

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Their digital marketing and content guided me from awareness through post-purchase. This is how you build loyal customers. It’s only a matter of time before I purchase one of their product extensions, such as a griddle.

What are some of the trends that ecommerce and other marketers need to pay attention to this holiday season?

Trend #1. Consumers trust opt-in channels. Use them to your advantage. Year after year, brands flock to social media during the holidays and increase their ad spend. While using social media is not a bad strategy, conversion rates for opt-in channels outperform social media. Why? Because they are channels on which consumers explicitly stated they want to receive messages. When a shopper wants to know the best Black Friday deals, nine times out of 10 they’ll check email before browsing Instagram accounts.

Trend #2: Use SMS, especially on peak days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Last year, conversion rates for SMS increased during the holiday season. It is the perfect channel to cut through crowded inboxes, announce last-chance offers, and remind on-the-go shoppers their carts are still waiting for them. Start collecting mobile numbers now.

Trend #3: Don’t rely on open rates. iOS 15 is expected to be released before the holidays, as early as mid-September. The privacy protections put in place will make open rates unreliable—making the strategy of remailing (automatically sending to non-openers) ineffective.

Marketers should focus on crafting subject lines that stand out with supporting preheader text, and focusing their messages on generating clicks. SMS and web push notifications also serve as great complements to email and can replace remails.

How can marketers today capitalize on different channels like SMS marketing with the aim of creating a better buying and nurture experience?

Creating a good buying and nurturing experience all comes down to relevant messaging via the right channel. This is where having customer data in a single platform is important. When brands can combine email, SMS, push notifications, and other channels into a single workflow, it gives them the ability to customize their messaging for each customer.

Here are some ideas to capitalize on multiple channels throughout the entire buying journey:

  • Shoppers who sign up for both email and SMS can receive a unique automated welcome series, versus those who only sign up for one channel.
  • Did the shopper abandon a shopping cart? An SMS and push notification can be the perfect time-sensitive reminder they need—especially if an offer is about to expire. The same goes for a product that solely caught their eye before they left the site.
  • Nurturing involves communication after a purchase, too. A short `thank you’ SMS to repeat customers is a great approach. Or, send a `customer service FAQ’ SMS to first-time customers to show you care. For longer messages or those that would benefit by including multiple images, use email as your go-to channel.

A few best practices you’d share for eCommerce marketers?

Start simple! One of the biggest mistakes I see marketers make is feeling the need to execute everything at once, especially with automation. The best advice is to get one single message sent before working on the next one. While you’re designing the second message, the first will be working in the background and generating sales. Gradually add and optimize messages as you go.

Don’t let biases sway you. SMS is a great example. The common narrative is that texting is only for young people. This same narrative also once applied to social media. Consumer trends tell another story—forward-thinking brands caught on early and reaped the rewards.

Treat best practices as a baseline. They are a starting point, not an endpoint. If marketers treated best practices as a finish line, we’d all still be sending emails with bulletproof buttons instead of images. Email wouldn’t be optimized for mobile devices. Our welcome emails would still be mostly long, text-based messages that tell the founder’s life story before asking you to save their email address to your contact list. Instead, look at the purpose of each message and communicate the value to the customer.

Some last thoughts and takeaways before we wrap up?

The growth of your brand is not limited to the size of your marketing team. If you are a one-person marketing team, you can still significantly increase sales without the workload. All you need to do is utilize the tools available, build your program one message at a time, and maximize the usage of trusted opt-in channels.

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Omnisend

Omnisend is an ecommerce-tailored email & SMS marketing automation platform built to help nimble teams drive more revenue without increasing their workload. One-click ecommerce stack integrations, pre-built workflows, and intuitive drag & drop editing make it easy to get up & running without diving into the smallest details, unless you want to.

More than 70,000 ecommerce brands use Omnisend to grow their businesses on autopilot, converting their customers with quick-to-build, highly relevant emails & texts.

Gregory Zakowicz is the Director of Content at Omnisend

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