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Miles Williams CMO Movable Ink

Why do Retail Brands Need to Think Contextually?

As digital marketers, we tend to fall into the trap of taking customers out of context. Of thinking “us” instead of “them.”

By blasting an entire email list with the same creative or untimely, irrelevant messaging, brands appear tone deaf — leading with product and brand, rather than customer experience and utility.

As a result, most digital marketing today is an interruption. Marketers need to justify the interruption by giving customers what they need instead of what the brand wants.

Think about it this way: Millions of customers have put their trust in you — they’ve given you their email address. If you inundate their inboxes with too many useless marketing messages, that trust is broken.

You’ve heard of Banner Blindness? Customers also have Email Blindness. Again, most people view digital marketing (and email) as an interruption – not as a value add. In order to make your marketing content stand out, you need to make sure it’s positioned within the right context – based on the recipient’s device, recent activity, channel, the time of day, weather, or other signals.

This means personalizing content in real-time for every customer — no matter when, how or where they choose to engage with you. This is how marketers can re-establish trust: By recognizing a customer’s context and creating relevant, engaging content.

What does contextual marketing look like in action? The key to context is not based on past behavior. Context lies in the moment. You have to gather, analyze, and act on data — in real time.

Put another way, you don’t have time to predict. You have to react. That may seem impossible, but it’s not. You can build contextual marketing campaigns using email, and you can do it quickly and affordably without complex integrations, so your team can spend less time in production and more time being creative.

To get you started, here are a few ideas for creating contextual emails:

Responsive Design

Everyone now understands the importance of responsive design for mobile. If users have to pinch and scroll just to click a link, they’re more likely to give up and delete the email.

But truly contextual design will change content depending on device type so that a mobile user has a seamless experience when interacting with an email. Just don’t forget that you also need a mobile-friendly landing page or web site to pay it off.


Mobile users are constantly on-the-go. In fact, our research shows that 88% of survey participants used their phones to check email – and a staggering 67% of all emails are opened on mobile devices. So if they’re checking their inbox on their mobile device, shouldn’t your emails help them find their way? Include dynamic maps in your emails to show the fastest route to your nearest location, and they’re more likely to come to your store and buy.



A/B Testing

Every marketing team debates what content or images will work best. But many teams don’t have the resources to do regular testing. A/B and multivariate testing is a key tool to ensure you’re delivering messaging the customer wants to get and adding value.

Email + Social

Email remains the number one digital marketing channel for most marketers when it comes

to clear ROI, but social networks are where engagement is happening. With so much marketing power behind both channels it makes sense to use them in together to create a standout, cross-channel experience. Pulling live social data into emails can amplify email’s conversion power with the exciting, real-time elements of social media.

Today, email marketing is about customer experiences, not campaigns. Focus on the customer — the context in which they’re reading your emails and their needs — and your customers will see your emails as valuable instead of just an interruption.