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4 Shocking Email Case Studies That Will Change The Way You Market

4 Shocking Email Case Studies That Will Change The Way You Market

We talk a lot about content marketing with video, blog posts and social media engagement for building business and nurturing growth. There are plenty of us (marketers) who put a lot of emphasis on those things over email and make them a priority in our campaigns.

But email marketing is still probably one of the best methods for converting leads and upselling existing customers.

Just look at this data from Momentum.

Momentum Chart

We can see that email stands strong as a consistent source (both inbound and outbound) for generating leads. It barely slips behind social media and organic search and surpasses every other outbound lead source by a significant amount.

Pound for pound, email marketing is still the best source for quality leads.

Get on board and take a look at what these 4 companies have done with their email marketing.

1. Hammock – How Simplifying Email Content Boosted Open Rates by 48%

Hammock is a creative agency serving mainly B2B audience, which means they have their work cut out for them if they want to connect with subscribers via email.

B2B clients already get a plethora of inbox-stuffing material from other creatives, account managers, project managers, etc. Such targets need a pretty compelling reason to read more.

Despite that barrier, Hammock managed to increase open rates by 48%.

Traditionally, Hammock focused on providing helpful value-driven content to their audience. They asked themselves every day, “is our email content authentically helping our customers?”

They wanted to show clients and prospects how to use things to solve problems and then present them with the solution to do that.

I 100% agree that’s the right approach.

However, Hammock admits that their newsletters were content heavy, and regular content-heavy emails will fatigue your contacts.

Their Campaign

The team at Hammock wanted to continue that focus on helping subscribers solve problems while starting discussions, so they turned that content-heavy newsletter into what they called an “un-newsletter” and coined it their “!dea Email.”

The !dea Email

It would be super light on content with just one helpful marketing idea featuring suggestions on how to best utilize that idea.

The team simplified design and content and customized the preheader to make everything less crowded.

Additionally, the team at Hammock wrote 3 headlines for each newsletter and conducted A/B testing. Whichever headline had the highest open rate in the first hour was used for the remainder of their subscriber list.

The result was that 48% increase in open rates.

Your Takeaway

It’s not easy to simplify content and pare it down to just the necessities, especially during a time when we’re all talking about pushing longform quality content.

Giving people too much info can be a disservice, especially in an email. You’re almost drowning the prospect if you feed them 20+ ideas with links to take action.

Instead, cut it down. Reduce it to 1 or 3 ideas they can do something with. That makes it memorable, valuable and more actionable.

2. Dell – A Gif is Worth a 109% Revenue Increase

Dell was preparing to launch its new XPS 12 convertible Ultrabook (a hinged laptop that transformed into a tablet). Dell faced a unique challenge in the new market of convertible products.

“No one knows what a convertible is yet,” explained David Sierk, Email Strategy and Analytics, Dell. “It’s not synonymous with products like the tablet is now or anything along those lines.”

They didn’t believe static images in an email would be convincing enough to accurately convey the product.

Their Campaign

The team at Dell believed animation would be more appropriate to meet their challenge, so they opted to utilize a GIF of the product illustrating the transformation from laptop to tablet.

“From an online perspective, it’s almost like a try before you buy” said David Sierk “When a customer can’t touch and feel these products right away, it’s a good way to show them exactly how the product would be utilized for them and how it would work in their lives.”

After crafting compelling copy for the email:

  • “Buy a select XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook and get a $200 Dell Promo eGift Card* to build your home entertainment system.”
  • “The power of an Ultrabook and the ease of a tablet combined into one beautifully designed machine.”

The Dell team worked to create a GIF of the XPS12 that showed the face of the tablet flipping to morph into the laptop. The screen was also filled with Windows software, illustrating that the convertible was a windows 8 product complete with touch screen.

HP Flip Screen

Historically speaking, it was a big departure from what Dell emails typically looked like. “That was the most exciting part for us” said David Sierk. “It really got a lot of other people internally excited… about what we were capable of and what we could do with email.”

The results were better than they had hoped for. According to their campaign benchmarks, Dell saw these results:

  • 6% increase in open rate
  • 42% increase in click rate
  • 103% increase in conversion rate
  • 109% increase in revenue

Your Takeaway

Doing something new or different can be a little scary, but that’s the nature of taking risks and trying something new with marketing.

People are driven by visuals, and you’ve only got a few seconds to really grab the attention of your audience in an email before they move on. Rather than always relying on static images or hoping your readers play a video, experiment with different ways to present your product or your message.

For Dell, the short GIF showing the animated transformation let the audience create a story in their minds about the benefits of the product and how they could use it — how it could simplify their work day and change their mobility.

When you can turn the customer into the storyteller, with your product at the heart of the story, that’s a big win.

3. Argos – Win Back The Conversion With Data

At the Adobe Digital Marketing EMEA 2012 Summit, Gemma Christie, CRM program Manager for Argos and team recognized a problem.

Argos had more data than they knew what to do with. They had terrific insight but were taking no action. So Argos worked to develop their “Single Customer View” database that allowed them to

  • Combine the data into a single system
  • Apply statistical modeling to identify consumer behavior
  • Create rules to help create optimum emails that would improve conversion
  • Feed the data and results into ExactTarget for improved email targeting

The Campaign

One of the standout approaches they took with all that refined data was improving their abandonment emails. While it offered the same email reminder letting them know they had left something in the cart, it also displayed alternative products as recommendations to the user.

The recommendations were based on data for that customer as well as the browsing and purchasing habits of similar users.


According to Argos, the result was significantly more customers returning to complete the purchase, where a sale would normally have been lost.

Your Takeaway

On average, companies see a 69% cart abandonment rate with online shoppers. Just having a cart abandonment reminder email as part of your sales funnel can help you regain a significant number of lost carts.

According to SaleCycle, nearly half of all abandoned cart emails are opened, and over a third of the clicks lead to customers purchasing from an abandoned cart.

Think about the reasons for abandonment though; your customer may have legitimately not wanted the product they looked at. Perhaps it was missing a feature of some kind. I’ve abandoned my fair share of carts just for that reason.

Argos smartly introduced shoppers to alternative products they might like, that may have been a better fit.

I can think of a number of times I likely would have made a purchase if a company took advantage of a touch point like this to suggest an alternative rather than me having to dig deeper through product searches online.

4. Mailigen – Allow Me To Repeat Myself

Mailigen continually struggled to improve their open rates for email, with their normal open rate hovering right around 20%.

That’s not terrible. Truth be told it’s a respectable number and falls within the average open rate range for their industry segment.

But Mailigen didn’t want to settle with average, and I don’t blame them.

The Campaign

To improve their open rates, Mailigen turned to list segmentation with a focus on subscriber behavior. More specifically, they focused on subscribers who had never opened their emails and they resent the email with more targeted headlines.

Mailigen Monthly

The initial test improved open rates a little, so they used new segmenting features to further identify the contacts that still had not opened the email.

The list was segmented again with another slight tweak to the headline.

Mailigen Monthly 2

As a result they saw over an 8% increase in overall opens for the exact same email, with changes only being made to the headline. With just a little segmentation and some variation tests they took their open rate from 20% to 29.1%.

Your Takeaway

Don’t just set it and forget it. There are a lot of reasons why someone wouldn’t have opened your email the first time. Don’t be afraid to resend the same content with a twist to the subject in an effort to improve your open rates.

The important thing to remember here is segmentation. Pay attention to the people who didn’t open the content and start drilling down to see how you can change your subject matter to get their attention.

Don’t settle for the initial open rate for any email. Go after the people who missed it.


Far from being an outdated marketing method, email marketing stands at the forefront of marketing innovation and power.

Email marketing can reel your customers in, keep them converting, and present you as the clear thought leader in a crowded market.

Don’t give up on email. Instead, take your cue from one of these companies, and see how you can change your email game.