Email Marketing

Increasing engagement, sales with real-time email marketing

Motivate consumers to take action by focusing on more personal, relevant and timely messages

Although marketers recognize the effectiveness of email in reaching target audiences, many are not taking advantage of the most effective features of that medium. With advances in email marketing automation and concepts like triggered campaigns, marketers can improve email performance and motivate consumers to take action by focusing on more personal, relevant, and timely messages.

Meet the expert
Kathleen Schaefer
Kathleen Schaefer
Senior Director, Inboxable

Kathleen Schaefer is the Senior Director at Inboxable. Kathleen is a leader in email and cross-channel digital marketing solutions. She focuses on leading and maintaining client facing support for Data Axle/Inboxable technology and service offerings. Kathleen’s expertise allows her to help Data Axle clients to conceptualize campaigns, recognize capacity and achieve successful outcomes.


What is real-time email marketing?

It’s the ability to deploy automated email campaigns that reflect consumers’ immediate environment and the way it changes in real-time. Real-time email takes into consideration demographics, email and web behaviors, and purchase history data, but goes even further. It empowers marketers to deploy targeted and relevant emails that incorporate subscribers’ location as well as external factors influencing their environment such as popular sporting, cultural, weather, or other geographically-specific events


Why is it important for the success of your program?

The most recent iteration of our Email Marketing Compass report revealed that, while email volume grew by 9% year over year (between Q2 of 2013 to Q2 of 2014), unique click-through rates actually declined by 14%. This is due to a hyper-competitive email marketing environment and increasingly selective consumers. However, studies have shown that personalized content from triggered emails garners at least twice the open and click rates general campaigns do. By taking this approach a step further with real-time triggers, marketers provide an added layer of contextual relevancy to emails (unique to what the customer is experiencing at the moment), thus motivating subscribers to take action and convert.


What types of real-time triggers can marketers use?

With an understanding of consumers’ current experiences and environment, marketers can instantly deploy relevant emails in real-time based on triggers like:

  • Weather: Including factors like temperature, precipitation and wind speed ranges, as well as conditions such as clouds, fog, freezing rain, hail, snow, sun or thunderstorms. For example, apparel retailers can offer discounts on winter coats and gloves via email if the temperature drops below zero degrees in a specific geographic region. Bars or restaurants with an outdoor patio could offer half-off drinks or appetizers on sunny days.
  • Sporting Events: Brands can deploy real-time emails as a way to participate in local, regional, national and global sporting events. For example, they can deploy emails at a certain time in the game (half time or end of a quarter), after a certain number of points scored, or at the final outcome of a game. For example, local retailers or national chains like Sports Authority could send an email campaign congratulating the Ohio State Buckeyes on their National Championship win and feature an offer for discounted Buckeyes apparel for fans in Ohio.
  • Geography: Marketers can deliver triggered emails based on geographic location that account for factors such as local news or events, like a 5K run or a community festival. If a company sponsors a 5K race for charity it could deploy triggered emails to consumers who live in the surrounding zip codes for discounted products or services after the race. That way, brands are talking to a highly targeted group of customers in real-time thus communicating intimacy with their subscribers

What are the 3 must-haves for effective real-time email marketing?

Real-time email is a relatively new method of email marketing, so it’s important to incorporate the following 3 fundamentals for success:

  1. Appropriate Scenario: When considering weather triggers, you want to use a weather condition that’s truly unique to the season and will grab consumers’ attention. For example, on the morning of the first heavy snow of winter, car dealers can offer a real-time deal on snow tire installation or restaurants can offer free delivery. This also applies to event triggers. For instance, to build brand equity and awareness in targeted locations, a company could offer to match donations supporting a local race or marathon.
  2. Compelling Subject Line: As with any email campaign, you must have an engaging subject line to drive the consumer to take action in ten words or less. A subject line like “Snowed in? We deliver!” from a restaurant lets customers know you’re aware of their environment and are ready to work with it.
  3. Value: After consumers open your email, you need to be up-front about the value you provide and how it’s relevant to your immediate environment. Your content should be immediately linked to the realtime variable you used as a trigger, be it weather conditions, location, or other regional event.


Aside from these fundamentals, it’s important to use good judgment when executing realtime email campaigns. An ill-conceived or insensitive offer during something like a tragic natural disaster would be distasteful and turn customers off from your brand. Focus on aligning your content and core products or services, and incorporate punchy subject lines with strong call-to-actions that compel visitors to make a purchase.

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