hashtag hero

Don’t Waste That Hashtag

I keep seeing email after email underutilizing hashtags (ahem, examples above). Retailers seem to be using them as a way to look trendy, but with no real purpose. This is such a missed opportunity. Hashtags are essentially FREE MARKETING! By encouraging your customers to share their images and thoughts about your brand, they are marketing to their friends, family, and followers for you. So how can you use hashtags to your advantage? Here are a few suggestions:

1) HOST A CONTEST
Who doesn’t want free stuff? Contests are a great way to get people involved. In this example, Williams-Sonoma offers a chance to win a grill or grill set for Father’s Day. The hashtag makes a bold appearance in the headline. This campaign could have even more impact if the headline included the words win and/or contest.

From: Williams-Sonoma
Date: 6/18/16
Subject Line: 3 Days Left! 20% Off 1 Item + 5 Great Picks for DAD – In Stores & Online

williams-sonoma message

2) OFFER FAME / BRAGGING RIGHTS
Social media is addictive. People love to sit back and watch the “like” meter count up. Why not give them their 5 minutes of fame. In this email, Live Love Polish encourages subscribers to tag their nail art photos for a chance to be featured on their website. The headline is well-worded (very direct), and the use of imagery from other customers is an inspiring addition.

From: Live Love Polish
Date: 6/03/16
Subject Line: Ripper NEW BRAND From Down Under!

live love polish message

3) ENCOURAGE SOCIALIZING
Sure, incentives are a great way to populate your hashtag feed, but some people are more than willing to contribute for nothing. Simply make people aware of the hashtag and what it should be used for. Here, Pottery Barn Kids invites customers to simply share their 4th of July photos. I like the use of the Instagram logo used to emphasize the preferred social platform (just in case people are too lazy to read).

From: Pottery Barn Kids
Date: 7/04/2016
Subject Line: Happy 4th of July! Up to 25% off EVERYTHING + FREE SHIPPING (’til midnight!)

pottery barn kids message

4) DONATE TO CHARITY
What a fun, free (for the taggers anyway) and effortless way for customers to donate to a cause! Encourage them to share and in exchange, you make a donation! Aerie shares the love by donating $1 for each post using their hashtag. With this message they decided to go big or go home; it’s hardly a secondary message since it’s comparable in size and location to the primary message. It works though! I only wish the headline was a bit more direct in calling out the donation aspect.

From: aerie
Date: 6/30/16
Subject Line: 500+ Swim Faves Now $10! For REAL.

aerie message

Okay, so let’s say you’re successful in creating and populating a unique hashtag. Some of the marketing has already begun by people simply contributing to it. New posts will show up in “new” or “popular” areas of social media, and followers of people who have shared will see the posts in their feeds. Now’s the time to take it one step further. Include a link in your emails (and/or website) to encourage more people to check it out and contribute.

There are a few options for creating links to these posts. You can link to a page within Instagram or Twitter, but that will limit you to that one social media provider. If you want to grab hashtags from all social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for example), companies like Tagboard offer just that. You can link to a page within the site for your hashtag, or (for a price) Tagboard also allows you to embed posts on your website (displayed in an iframe).

A SMALL TIP: For a hashtag that’s more general, feel free to give it hierarchy in your email when you wish, but there’s no reason you can’t permanently give it a home at the bottom of your email. Here are two examples, from Carters and Land of Nod, showing how they included their hashtag in their footer.

carters footer  land of nod footer

ONE FINAL NOTE. Make sure when using a hashtag that you’re clear about how it should be used. If customers don’t know what it’s there for, you’ll be missing out. Here’s an example illustrating this from Banana Republic. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that they’re attempting to create a public hashtag; they call it out in two separate emails (in a prime location) and even in the subject line. However, there is no explanation about how the hashtag should be used. (IE: who should be using it and what type of posts should go there.) As a result, there have only been a couple posts using this hashtag to date, all made by Banana Republic. I would like to give them props for making the hashtag bold; it definitely stands out. It just needs a bit more instruction with it.

From: Banana Republic
Date: 6/19/16
Subject Line: This week in Your Life. Styled.

banana republic message

From: Banana Republic
Date: 6/20/16
Subject Line: Now, later, always: #BRClassic

banana republic message

In summary, if you’re going to use a hashtag, think beyond looking #trendy and make them work for you!

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CTA hero

C-T-yaaaaaaay!!

More times than not, an email’s success is measured by the number of clicks it receives. An important factor in getting that reaction is having an effective call to action. Get yours noticed with my tips below.

USE CONTRASTING COLOR
Make sure your call to action stands out by giving it high contrast. Whether it’s a link, a colored box or a graphic, do whatever you can to keep it from blending into the background.

From: Charming Charlie
Date: 11/08/15
Subject Line: It’s the last weekend of BOGO, sooo…
See the full email

Charming Charlie

Here’s an example where Charming Charlie used a dark plaid button to contrast the white background.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
You should always aim to keep your call to action above the fold (aka where subscribers will see it without needing to scroll). Also, place it where the eye flows naturally.

From: maurices
Date: 11/14/15
Subject Line: Fa la la la fab!
See the full email

Maurices

Maurices does a good job getting their call to action above the fold in this example.

BE SPECIFIC
Subscribers should know where the link will take them without reading the email. For example, “Shop the Sale” would be a better approach than “Shop now.”

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 11/14/15
Subject Line: Get your shirt together.
See the full email

American Outfitters

Although AEO’s call to actions are below the fold, they do a great job naming the buttons. Without reading anything else, I know exactly where the link “Shop Women’s Flannels” will take me.

KEEP IT SHORT
If your call to action is too wordy, it will become unscannable and could lose clicks. Making it too wide may also make it less apparent as a button.

From: Gap
Date: 11/13/15
Subject Line: a merry mystery awaits…
See the full email

Gap

Gap’s wording is borderline long in this example. It could be shortened to “Reveal Your Deal.” However, they do a good job calling attention to the call to action by giving it contrasting color, and by using the tree background which works as a giant arrow.

From: aerie
Date: 11/07/15
Subject Line: Welcome To Dreamland. FREE Boxer!
See the full email

aerie

Aerie kept their copy short, but they decided to go super wide. Because of this, it’s slightly less apparent as a button/link. If different wording was used, it could be mistaken for a headline.

USE INVENTIVE WORDING
Put your copywriter thinking cap on to make the link fun and unique. Take into consideration who your audience is, the theme of the email and the tone you’re trying to set.

From: Moosejaw.com
Date: 11/12/15
Subject Line: Hours Left to Get 30% Back
See the full email

Moosejaw

Moosejaw used some clever wording in this email. Their sub-message title says: “It’s getting Cold,” the call to action is “Bundle Up.”

CALL ATTENTION TO IT
Try animating your call to action, adding graphics to it, or making objects point to it. The sky is the limit.

From: aerie
Date: 10/14/15
Subject Line: Last Day For BOGO 50% Off Collection!
See the full email

aerie

Here’s an example from Aerie where a heart was included in the button. I ❤ this.

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DOs and DON’Ts for Animated GIFs

Animated GIFs can be a great way to make your email stand out, but there are a few things to keep in mind when using them. Check out my DOs and DON’Ts for using animations in emails.

DO: EMPHASIZE YOUR CALL TO ACTION

From: Moosejaw.com
Date: 10/16/15
Subject Line: Win a Full Ski Outfit From Black Diamond
View the Animation

Moosejaw 1103_gif_mj_gif

I LOVED this animated hand from Moosejaw. It not only moved in an up and down motion (pointing at the call to action), but it also changed into a variety of funny hands. There’s no way anyone would miss the button in this email.

From: LOFT
Date: 10/24/15
Subject Line: Everything’s on sale (so don’t hold back)
View the Animation

LOFT 1103_gif_loft_gif

LOFT’s flashing call to action is also sure to grab your attention. I’m a little on the fence about this one though. Although it stands out, the flashing can get a tad annoying.

DO: USE GIFS TO DRAW EYES DOWN THE PAGE

From: aerie
Date: 10/30/15
Subject Line: 31% Off! All Treats For Our Girls. No Tricks!
View the Animation

Aerie 1103_gif_spider_gif

I really liked Aerie’s dropping spider animation. The spider itself looked nicer than your standard clip art and the drop shadow was a nice touch. By having the spider drop down the page, your eye is drawn down so you don’t miss anything in the email.

From: Charming Charlie
Date: 10/27/15
Subject Line: Five new faves! Starting at $19.
View the Animation

Charming Charlie 1103_gif_acorn_gif

Charming Charlie used a clever method to draw your eye downward. They used an acorn that rolled along the diagonal lines down the page, passing the products along the way.

DO: USE FLUID MOTION WHEN POSSIBLE

From: Aéropostale
Date: 10/12/15
Subject Line: ENDS TODAY! Extra 30% off during our bdayyy
View the Animation

Aero 1103_gif_aero_gif

Taking the time to add the extra frames can really make a difference. I like how smooth the GIF is of the candle blowing out — almost like a video.

DO: USE THEM TO ADD A LITTLE INTEREST

From: MoYou-London
Date: 11/04/15
Subject Line: ❅ New Festive Plates! ❅ This Friday!

MoYou MoYou

Like in this example from MoYou London. The subtle snow falling and blowing hat adds value without being too flashy.

From: Moosejaw.com
Date: 11/04/15
Subject Line: Get 30% Back on Almost Everything
View the Animation

Moosejaw Moosejaw

Or in this email from MooseJaw. Check out the banner near the bottom. A window washing dinosaur? Why not! It doesn’t take much to go from meh to magnificent.

DON’T: CUT A SINGLE GIF INTO TWO PIECES

From: Gap
Date: 10/30/15
Subject Line: news you’ll love: gap factory is now online
View the Animation

Gap Gap

Here’s an oopsie from Gap. The animated GIF was cut into two pieces, resulting in out of sync images. In this situation, it was the top of the peoples’ heads that were cut separately so it resulted in humorous hairstyles atop the wrong heads.

DON’T: GET SLOPPY WITH YOUR ANIMATION

From: Charming Charlie
Date: 10/18/15
Subject Line: How you love to shop–by color!
View the Animation

Charming Charlie

This email from Charming Charlie animates between color swatches and products. Instead of using one large GIF, each color is cut and animated separately. This results in an unpredictable and somewhat chaotic flashing of images. Sometimes multiple products will show up at once and other times there will be seconds with no animation. When creating an animation, be very purposeful about where and when you want someone to look at something – draw their eye around the page and keep them engaged.

DON’T: ANIMATE TEXT TOO QUICKLY

From: Moosejaw.com
Date: 10/02/15
Subject Line: This. Is. BIG. 20% off Full-price and Sale Stuff.
View the Animation

Moosejaw 1103_gif_moose2_gif

I really liked the idea behind this email. The concept is clever and the animation is cute. However, the animation moves a little too fast to read. They do finish the animation with the text showing for a handful of seconds so they redeem themselves in the end. This is a good example for being aware of the speed of your animation, particularly when text is involved.

DON’T: MAKE YOUR FILE SIZE TOO LARGE

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 10/14/15
Subject Line: Last day for up to $50 off your purchase!
View the Animation

American Eagle

American Eagle backed their headline with a time lapse sunset. Great in concept, but HUGE in file size. Due to the size of the hero and length of the animation, this image is a whopping 14 megabytes! This will dramatically slow loading times, particularly for those viewing on mobile devises.

DON’T: ANIMATE MORE THAN YOU NEED TO

From: Charming Charlie
Date: 10/14/15
Subject Line: Ends tonight! Last chance BOGO jewelry.

Charming Charlie Charming Charlie

This example from Charming Charlie is a good reminder to cut your GIFs in the most efficient way possible. Only the call to action blinks in this email, but the entire email was cut as a GIF. This resulted in a very low quality, grainy image. Keep in mind that GIFs don’t have the same color range as JPGs. Think ahead and cut your design appropriately. (NOTE: The web version of the GIF was actually higher quality than the one in the email. To see how it looked in the email, see the larger image above or click here.)

Lastly…
DON’T: FORGET OUTLOOK!

Remember to include all of your pertinent information (or the best looking portion of your animation) in the first frame. Why? Because Outlook doesn’t support animated gifs — they will only show the first frame.

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Aerie Keeping It Real Hero

Keeping It Real

From: aerie
Date: 9/28/15
Subject Line: Over 200 Bras Are ALL On Sale!
See the animation

Aerie

The title states, “The REAL you is sexy. Emma Roberts doesn’t need retouching. Neither do you.” What a great way to connect with your subscribers. Offer something that people can relate to. Something they can picture themselves wearing/using. Let them see the product in an unaltered photo, no tricks of camerawork or photoshopping.

The only thing that might make this email better would be seeing the product on a variety of body types. It’s easy to not retouch a gorgeous model – let’s see some average body types too.

Aerie continues the theme and builds the relationship further by offering the hashtag #aeriereal. Here, people can share their own unaltered photos. Hashtags are a great way to get subscribers involved and do your marketing for you!

This begs the question: How can you make your email experience more relatable for your subscribers?

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