Our clients have found that most of their patrons prefer email over other standard methods, for example, phone calls, SMS & MMS messages and direct mail. Nationally, 62% of email service users prefer email as their main source of contact with a brand. Library patrons have the same preference. With this being the case, continually optimizing your email to ensure your patrons receive content that is relevant and provides a positive experience, improves your chances at connecting with your patrons. We’ve provided a list of resources below that can help you achieve this.
Understanding Different Types of Email
The primary types of emails libraries send are transactional, promotional, and announcements.
Transactional: To inform of transaction details.
Examples: Overdue notice, password reset, hold notice, and checkout receipt.
Think of how excited you get when receiving a shipping notification. The same can be true of a hold notification. Patrons are sure to open it and check the details at significantly higher rates then bulk marketing emails. This is a great opportunity to provide clear instructions for what to do and possibly leave opportunity to grab attention elsewhere. The Tradesy shipping confirmation email does just this, shows the user what has happened and set expectations for next steps. Something wrong? No worries, how to contact them is included in the conversation. The bottom of the email includes a banner ad for their referral but could be any number of promotional materials.
How valuable are these emails? 64% of consumers consider transactional confirmations to be the most valuable messages in their inbox.
Design Note: The look of this email is simple and straightforward. The banner ad space follows an 80/20 guideline of relevant content + additional content.
Transactional emails are received by all users, regardless of opt-in because they provide valuable information. Use this opportunity to effectively communicate with you patrons.
Promotional: To promote materials, events, and available resources.
Examples: Welcome series, event announcement, new materials announcement
Promotional emails are an excellent example of a way to highlight your events, or new a launch. Have a genealogy or underused special resource library? Send out an email with the inspiration of why someone may want to visit. Make it personal by including a story of an existing patron.
Depending on your jurisdiction and library policies, patrons can either be opted into your email service automatically, or they must opt-in independently. Understanding your local guidelines and forming a policy around this is highly recommended. Outside consultants like marketing firms and communication professionals like Unique can help make sense of any confusing requirements.
Making promotional emails relevant will help increase open rates and engagement. For many businesses, this means managing multiple email lists (segmenting) to ensure the right messages are being delivered. For example, it’s safe to think someone may get excited to know when their favorite series is releasing a new title. Understanding your patrons’ preferences allows you to segment your email list and tailor your content to their specific need. This is a powerful tool in your email service tool kit. If you announce The Winds of Winter is releasing, I volunteer to be on your email list.
Announcement: To inform.
Examples: Policy changes and service changes.
The COVID period has seen an increase in the need for announcement emails communicating change in services and they needed to be sent quickly. These emails typically go to all users, regardless of opting in, as necessary information to highlight needed services.
Be clear and concise, but also speak with empathy. People are going through a tough time right now and you’re here to help. For example, “buildings will now be closed, but you can still get support from staff and access digital titles on your preferred device. Having trouble? We would be happy to help you through these changes.”
Understanding that patrons are diverse and use email on a variety of devices is necessary to building well-crafted email communications.
There is a myth that youth dislike the use of email, but the reality is email is still vital for all types of transactions, and it will continue to be monitored.
The key is to tailor your email toward your patrons’ interests and usage preferences of desktops, tablets, and/or mobile devices. You’ll want to review and test each email to ensure their responsive across a range of devices. Try opening an “old school” plain text email (think of your typical circulation emails) to see the result and why they may be ignored.
“Ugly” emails on mobile devices tend to be deleted by most all age groups. 71.6% of consumers will delete an email if they look terrible on mobile, while an average of 10% will read it anyway. This highlights the importance of responsive email design.
Spending time to understand your patron base is a worthwhile exercise to make sure you are providing relevant content in a useful way. An academic approach to understanding demographics for library usage can be found HERE.
Email Service Best Practices
- Create a strong subject line that grabs attention and summarizes the email. 43 characters is the national average character count of a subject line.
- Create emails that are responsive so they can be consumed on all devices to provide a better experience.
- Follow the brand standards for your library, for example, colors, fonts, and images.
- Personalize your email by customizing it with the recipient’s name.
- Use high-resolution images in your email to keep your recipients engaged with your content.
- Ensure you have call-to-action buttons: Subscribe to social channels, visit the website, schedule an appointment, among others.
- Call-to-action buttons (CTAs) convert more efficiently with traditionally brighter colors. When selecting a color for your CTAs, select a brighter color from the color family included in your brand standards.
- Call-to-action buttons (CTAs) convert more efficiently when the copy within the button is clear and concise, for example, “Learn More.”
- Create “Learn More” CTAs as a way to further explain parts of your email on a landing page hosted on your own website.
- Keep it simple! Have a clear message for your email and stick to it. Try and stay away from emails that cram in too much content.
- TEST! TEST! TEST! This is one of the easiest things you can do to provide a positive patron experience. There are various ways to consume an email, thus the provider we personally use isn’t representative of all of the population. Use your preferred email testing source to ensure every one of your email recipients can read your email.
Email Benchmarks for Success
- The average email open rate across all industries is around 21% (Education: 25%)
- If emails are not currently receiving 21% open rate, please review the best practices above.
- The average email click-through rate is 5%
- If emails are not currently receiving 2.5% click-through rate, please review the CTA portion of best practices above.
- Set a goal to increase your email subscriber count by launching marketing initiatives to grow your lists. Examples: Add “subscribe to newsletter” call-to-action on contact page, create a subscriber growth email campaign, create a direct mailer, among others.
We really hope you find this resource helpful on your pursuit to send email that has been optimized, provides useful content, and yields a positive patron experience. If you need any assistance along your journey, we’re here for support. Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation and quote today.