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May 21, 2023
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Monday, November 21, 2022

In case you need to hear it. ❤️

With 150k DTC readers, we want to take the chance to know a bit about you. Fill out our Q4 reader survey here!

In this newsletter, you’ll find: 👇

📦 How bots impact your email campaigns

📦 Why every ad, experiment, and touchpoint in your marketing strategy affects every conversion

📦 Steps to take to minimize bot impact

📦 The top creative you need to run on each platform this holiday season

Read till the end to access exclusive DTC swag. 😎

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Benevolent Bots Are Botching Your Marketing

If your email marketing campaigns follow trends, 20% of the clicks received are likely phony and bot-generated. Talk about skewed marketing and campaign metrics. 🙄

Email bot clicks (sometimes called server clicks or non-human interactions) are often associated with spam-fighting algorithms aimed at foiling phishing scams and protecting inboxes across the world wide web.

These anti-spam algorithms scan every incoming email message and, sometimes, click links to ensure that they lead to safe websites. ✅

If anything seems phishy 🎣 or malicious, the algorithm flags the message as spam or blocks it altogether. As phishing schemes and spam increase, so do server clicks.

These programs are used at large email services like Gmail and Microsoft Outlook, but they are even more likely to be employed on government, medical, educational, and some business servers.

If a lot of your brand's customers use their work email, your email messages might be getting more non-human interactions than they deserve. 😔

📊 Metrics impacted

Imagine your brand is A/B testing an email offer. Some recipients are shown a deep discount on in-stock goods with bulky boxes and others are shown your new green packaging that costs a little more.

If the discount offer excites a spam-scanning bot, it could get lots of clicks, leading you to believe your customers care less about the environment than money. But truthfully, your audience of human shoppers might have been willing to pay more for greener goods.

Sure, in this simple example you could also consider conversions as your metric, but that’s not the point! Anti-spam bots are good, ultimately, which is why they’re widely used. But they can and do impact the marketing metrics your brand is using to make promotional decisions.

Overcounting clicks (and opens) can lead to loads of errors.

  • A/B test results may be inaccurate
  • Email automation triggers are inadvertently tripped
  • Email marketing metrics are misrepresented
  • Some customers might accidentally unsubscribe

🥸 Uncountable email bots

So what can be done? Not as much as you might hope.

Identifying an email server click is pretty difficult.

First, you need to realize that your email marketing software – think MailChimp, Klaviyo, ConvertKit, and similar – is intercepting and redirecting every link in your email message. That's how they count it in the first place.

You put in a link like example.com and it is converted to something like click.emailservicecompany.com/randomnumbers. This link leads to the email marketing software company's server first and then goes to your site.

If the email marketing company checks the header at all, it should see what looks like a normal click since the anti-spam bots do their very best to impersonate human users. This is why these same email marketing solutions rarely report the percentage of bot clicks.

About the only way to tell if the click is from a bot is by monitoring its speed. A click that occurs within a few seconds or milliseconds of the email delivery, it’s probably a bot.

🧠 What can you do?

Most DTC marketers will have few options if they want to minimize email server clicks and normalize email metrics.

Keep on scrollin’ for tips to get your bots under control. 👇


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Email – Part 2

✔️ Authenticate

The first option tries to make an anti-spam algorithm less likely to click. There are three email authentication methods that tend to give these programs warm and fuzzy feelings.

  • Standard Policy Framework (SPF). SPF is a way of telling email servers whether or not you sent a message. If the SPF check passes, email servers can be somewhat sure that the message is not spam.
  • Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM). This one is harder because it requires generating cryptographic keys and adding more entries to your DNS records. Essentially, you are placing a hashed signature on the message that the bot can validate. The goal of DKIM is to make it difficult for email spammers to forge your brand's identity in the message headers.
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC). DMARC tries to do two things: (1) reduce spoofing by validating SPF and DKIM, and (2) collect data so you know when some nefarious person is using your pretending to be your brand.

Using SPF, DKIM, and DMARC together will go a long way toward reducing server clicks.

🧼 Have good hygiene

Your brand's email-sending reputation may also contribute to how anti-spam email software reacts to your messages.

If shoppers are not opening and interacting with your messages, send a win-back campaign and, if they don't respond, cut them loose.

👀 Check your content

There are lots of email validation tools that can help test email content before you send it out. Some of these are free and some are paid.

Short of investing in one of these tools, avoid spammy phrases like using the word "free" too often, emphasizing contests, and tossing around exclamation points like a middle schooler, you get the idea.

🤖 Estimate bot clicks

To be clear, even with authentication, a clean and hygienic list, and content validation, your messages will still get some server clicks. You can, however, at least estimate how many.

Include a hidden link in the message. This is an HTML anchor tag not displayed to humans but still visible in the code.

<a href="https://example.com" style="display:none">Amazing Link</a>

This hidden link should not appear to a human subscriber, but an email scanner, especially an aggressive one, can and often will click it. You want to ensure the link goes to a valid and safe landing page, so your message doesn’t get flagged.

You might even use more than one hidden link, embedding one in the message header, one in the body, and one in the message footer.

You will not get an absolute count of email bot clicks, but you will have a direction indicator.

👍 Good bots

Email marketing solutions rarely report the percentage of bot clicks because there is no perfectly accurate way to measure them.

Make sure you’re checking on your email authentication, list hygiene, percentage of spammy phrases, and estimate number of bot clicks to ensure your campaigns get the love and attention they deserve.


Q4 Content Guide: The One Piece of Content You Must Have

Today, we’re diving into the one piece of content you 100% need to have on each medium/platform. If you don’t have these creatives pumping, you might find yourself in a pickle (no, not the beloved Christmas pickle). 🥒

Now’s not the time to be leaving money on the table. These are the tried and true concepts that consistently drive performance YoY in Q4. Don’t skip them in your creative planning!

💻 Website

Your website’s homepage is where most prospective customers will land when searching for your brand. As a first touchpoint, your website is your opportunity to make a lasting first impression with your visual components.

So how do you get audience attention? Have some fun with it. In Q4, the team recommends trying out a seasonal-themed flatlay hero image, or investing in a holiday-themed feature-highlight hero video for your website.

Remember you want to make sure the visual content on your website:

  • Builds trust in the product
  • Helps viewers envision their life with the product
  • Demonstrates what the product can do / why its the best option

👍 Socials – organic

To keep your brand top-of-mind this holiday season, be sure to include both static and dynamic content in your organic strategy for visual interest.

With gifting being top of mind for most in Q4, association is the name of the game. Show your followers what the gifting experience can look like! Showcase the unboxing experience and the emotional response that follows.

Invest in seasonal content for your products which can also be used in your ad account. Content with gift boxes, ribbons, and stockings are great ways to bring your product to mind for gift-giving occasions.

Lean into creator-generated content! Unboxing, demonstration, screen-share, and testimonial videos are all examples of very powerful tools to build trust around your products and increase conversions this holiday season.

📧 Email

Some big ideas this season are lists and guides:

  • Most popular products this Black Friday
  • Door crashers
  • Holiday gift guide for her/him/them

Do a wrap-up of your must-have products and if there's a deal going on, find a way to incorporate it in the messaging.

📦 Amazon

Amazon experiences peak traffic in Q4. People are shopping for their crew (and themselves) so make sure you stand out.

Improve your chances of conversion at point-of-sale by adding a high-quality product demo or feature highlight video to your PDP page image reel. This same video can be used as a paid ad on Amazon to further impact conversions.

Check out this example of a product video optimized for Amazon:

💰 Paid ads

We asked the paid ads team, “What's one piece of content you can’t live without this holiday season?” And this is what they said!

1️⃣ Meta

Unboxing or the gift-giving experience! Make sure your brand is demonstrating why gifting is an important part of your business.

Make people consider why they should consider your product as a gift or why they should consider gifting it to themselves this holiday season.

2️⃣ Google

It's the holiday season, so making sure your entire Google platform reflects this is key.

Display ads: Include a holiday theme across all ads (this is important for any holiday approaching!) Always be relevant.

Breaking up the monotony of your average evergreen display ad is going to increase CTRs.

3️⃣ TikTok

It's time for the Duet to come out in full force. Try duetting your top five performing brand ads from the year.

Position the duet with no audio, the original audio, and react to the product as though you purchased it as a customer.

Bonus tip: Hold up a sign or paper that says a discount or a unique perspective of a selling point.

These are the creatives that are crushing for the Pilothouse team!

What creatives have been crushing for your accounts lately? Reply to this email and let us know the angle, creative format, and any results you want to share!

Quick Hits

🌳 Amazon confirms layoff of about 10,000 staff worldwide.

🔒 Do you use these passwords? So do millions of others, according to a top 200 list.

🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏼 TikTok introduces Audience Insights.

🪟 New Microsoft 365 App starts rolling out on the web.

🍎 Apple just completely redesigned iCloud.com, and it looks a lot better.

🪙 Crypto Lender BlockFi plans bankruptcy filing within days in FTX fallout.

🔊 Have you heard our latest podcasts?

🐶 Puppy Dogs and Ice Cream: Jason Kutasi - Performance Marketing Children’s Books (To 8 Figures).

🪄 MagicLinks, Aleks Chojnacka: Influencer Marketing State of the Union (Plus the future of Live Shopping)

👻 Every Man Jack, Troy Petrunoff - Spooky Retention, Segmenting Gift Buyers, and BOOGO Gamified Sales.

📈 Scaling SPF and Finding Your Most Affluent Customers Ahead of the Recession with Supergoop and Lexer.

🏆 VKTRY Gear, Drew Arciuolo: How to Achieve Saturation with Your Target Market.

💡 Listen to the Biggest Marketing News Stories Today.

Don’t forget to rate the DTC Podcast on Apple (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

DTC Newsletter is written by Rebecca Knight and Michael Venditti. Edited by Claire Beveridge and Eric Dyck.

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