Thursday, January 23, 2014

The synergy of Push and Pull communications

In my mind, building your brand and building customer loyalty are key to providing an excellent customer experience. There are many other factors: product, price, people, sales and marketing. But the primary factor that builds long term loyal customers is a consistent positive customer experience. 

In all communications with our clients, we can push information to them via email, and then pull them to the website / portal to enhance the experience.

The Push advantage

‘Push’ communication provides us with opportunities to send tailored, specific communications to the customer base. The advantages are immense: 
  • Cater for each customer’s preference on channel, device, time of day/week and content.
  • Can feature customer-specific details that enrich their own experience.
  • Helps educate customers on further product offerings, and additional services.
  • Can harness the power of transpromo marketing.
  • Can include buttons and links to the website/portal.
  • eDocuments can include a variety of additional services- such as payments, updating details and reminder setting.
  • Various platforms could push customer-centric communication such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and WeChat.

The Pull advantage

The ‘Pull’ option provides a single, consolidated home for all the information. It also offers features that enhance the customer experience.
  • All customer information is housed in one place.
  • All historical documents can be securely stored and easily referenced.
  • Customer preferences can be collected through polls and surveys and then used to tailor both the online experience and the email communications to specific needs.
  • Easier to update and refresh the portal.

The ‘pushmi-pullyu’ beast

The great literary contribution of Hugh Lofting presents us with a perfect analogy of how the two communication types (push & pull) need to work together. The beast to which I am referring is the pushmi-pullyu (pronounced “push-me—pull-you”) that features in Dr Dolittle. 

This cross gazelle-unicorn has two heads which can either work in unison or against each other. If it tries to move, both heads go in opposite directions, meaning the beast gets nowhere. But if it assigns each head to a specific job (such as talking or eating), then the beast is able to function. 

Similarly, the combination of both push email communications and the pull to a website option should always work together, not against each other. This creates the harmonious synergy that results in a great customer experience.

Combining push & pull communications - pushmi-pullyu

Let’s consider how push and pull complement each other in the secure documentation space:
  • Sending secure documents to customers via email encourages engagement because customers are comfortable with the document security . With no security concerns and the convenience of receivingdocuments via email, customers are easily encouraged to take advantage of various time saving self-service options available online.
  • Combining push & pull gives customers alternative payment options (eBilling): Customers can choose to pay at the portal or via a payment form that is embedded in the email bill - which is protected and secure. Trusted links can also be included within the email bill to 'pull' customers to portals, where they can view their billing history, update their profile or manage an account - ultimately 'pulling' qualified traffic to your portal!
  • Personalised marketing offers with trusted links can also be included in the secure document , once again allowing you to 'pull' qualified traffic to your portal!

And... combining 'push' messaging and portal 'pull' means that whenever your customers want to engage or source information, there is at least one avenue available to provide this service. Only one half sleeps at a time . . . the other always watching! 

It's clear to me that a combined push and pull communications strategy will enhance brand building and create great customer loyalty. 

Are you ready to adopt the pushmi-pullyu beast? We can introduce you...


Simon Johnston

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

As I come across more and more questions about the use of HTML5 for interactive and dynamic email statements, it strikes me that this strategy has either been poorly delivered or highly misunderstood. I suspect it’s a combination of both. 

Can HTML 5 drive paperless suppression?

The reason I field questions regarding HTML5 is that businesses approaching me want to reduce paper, postage and other operational costs. Or at least that's the real business value proposition after technophiles stop being blinded by the puppy love of something fresh and new. 

One must never forget that the purpose behind ALL technology is to garner a rapid return on investment and to add value to the core business. With all of the frenzy over mobile apps and the like, I think this concept has been lost at times. So, HTML5 should be trying to convert people to paperless… right? It’s the number one value of the electronic statement that I’ve been able to determine thus far.


It’s still a question of PUSH vs PULL.

Unfortunately, HTML5 is perfect for one purpose: to be displayed on a webpage or browser. Somewhere along the road, it was assumed that it could be used  with PUSH, or Dynamic Email Statements, when in fact it just CANNOT DELIVER. 

HTML5 in secure form is a PULL solution, as it would be plagued with delivery problems preventing companies from PUSHing their statements. With 17% of legitimate email not making it to the inbox already, HTML5 stands no chance of being an email solution as it would be blocked by most SPAM filters and rightfully so. Unlike PDF, which is a ubiquitously accepted attachment, it just wouldn’t consistently reach the customer’s inbox.

McAfee’s 2013 Threats Predications stated that ‘With HTML5 the threats landscape will shift and broaden… HTML5 will offer other opportunities for attackers because the additional functionality will create a larger attack surface.’So, if HTML5 is only viable in a highly secure PULL environment, what paperless turnoff rate will it deliver? Will more people turn off paper statements just because their statement now displays more beautifully within the portal? 

As a consumer, it’s still about convenience for me. So when I say HTML5 cannot deliver, it’s two-fold: HTML5 attachments cannot be delivered to the email inbox and I highly doubt they can deliver a quick ROI in today’s landscape. On the whole, consumers still do not want to log on to portals with multiple usernames and passwords just to see their statements. And, let’s face it. Getting beyond the password as a security mechanism isn’t cheap and still lies very much in the pipeline rather than being commercially viable today. 

Sounds like the HTML5 Statement has a lot more work ahead if it's going to enter the paper turn-off game.

Dynamic HTML5 Statement vs the Dynamic Email Statement

Let’s not confuse the purpose of the Dynamic HTML5 Statement and the Dynamic Email Statement. 

Email Statements delivered via PDF has been around for 14 years and they continue to deliver quick ROIs by way of converting millions of customers to paperless every day. As for HTML5, I agree that prettier and more interactive PDF documents will add aesthetic value, but I just don’t see where it is looking to enter the email market?

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. PDF still remains the most reliable mechanism to propel customers into the digital world. 

Your thoughts?

Sarah Appleby

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Gmail image changes - what this means for you…

In mid-December Google made a fundamental change to the way it serves images to users in Gmail - images will now be downloaded by default, however, browser / operating system information won’t be available and location based tracking won’t work

The nitty gritty

Instead of allowing the browser to fetch the image from the hosting web server itself and display within the email, Gmail is now pre-loading (as well as caching) the image. 

The image you see in an email is more than likely hosted on a web server, so the same image is thus displayed to many different recipients, e.g. a company logo or banner, etc. 

Now, by caching a copy of this email on its own server, Google can display the same image to multiple recipients without the need for each customer’s browser to make a query to the hosted web server. 

This will relieve the strain experienced by web servers that host images, after large email campaigns. 

The result: faster loading emails for end customers

The downside

Unfortunately we wouldn’t really be talking about this if there wasn’t a downside to it. 

Open tracking of emails relies on a small image, 1 pixel by 1 pixel in size. This creates a “beacon” which can record that the email has been opened, along with any other information that is normally associated with a web connection, namely, IP address and browser identifications (we’ll come back to this). 

How does this affect open tracking?

While there has been some concern that open tracking would be affected (either unique or total opens, or both) since all users would be viewing the same image, we have shown through thorough testing that this isn’t the case. 

Striata’s tracking continues to work and all total opens of an email are captured accurately. 

The method used by Google to pre-load images unfortunately means that we won’t be able to tell what device or operating system customers are using. Instead, ESPs will start seeing an increased number of Google IPs with a generic browser/device string. This also has an effect, especially for marketing emails, where location based services are useful. 

The upswing

There is a silver-lining and a compromise of sorts. Google has also decided to turn on images by default, instead of relying on each recipient to enable images within the email. 

While this option can be turned off in Gmail settings, we expect that most users will keep the default setting - resulting in a better customer experience. This also means that open tracking rates are expected to climb - initially. 

In summary, for Gmail users: 

  • Email open tracking will continue to function
  • All images will be turned on by default
  • Geo-location and browser/operating system information will cease to function

I am keen to know your thoughts on this topic - please share them in the comments section below

Alex Papadopulos