Mailchimp’s Shani Boston on the Relevance of Email Marketing Despite the Growing Popularity of Social Media

Mailchimp’s Shani Boston on the Relevance of Email Marketing Despite the Growing Popularity of Social Media

Interview by Maja SkokleskaMaja Skokleska
Published: November 08, 2022
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Who Is Shani Boston?

Shani Boston is the Senior Director of Product Development Operations at Mailchimp and oversees product and engineering operations. She has been recognized for her strong research skills which help companies uncover hidden opportunities and accelerate business growth.

“Email’s ability to reach a broad group of customers in a cost-effective and personalized way with segmentation is unmatched.”

Email has made its way from being a messaging medium to an essential marketing tool which organizations leverage to deliver their message and build meaningful relationships with customers.

As much as 81% of SMBs still rely on email marketing as their primary customer acquisition channel, whereas 80% use it for client retention.

Despite the growing number of communication channels, such as social media, email remains strong and continues to grow.

To learn more about the potential and relevance of email marketing, we talked to Shani Boston, Senior Director of Product Development Operations at Mailchimp.

Shani also discussed the biggest email marketing trends in 2023 and shared some tips on businesses leveraging Mailchimp.

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[Source: Mailchimp]

Spotlight: Research suggests that the number of global email users is expected to reach 4.6 billion in 2025 which debunks the myth that “email marketing is dead.” Why is email marketing still relevant today?

Shani Boston: Mailchimp customers send half a billion emails each day, and they’re adding 1 million new email addresses to our platform each day, so we know that email marketing is alive and well.

Email continues to be a quick and cost-effective method for businesses to broadly communicate with customers in a personalized way. It’s a recognized and trusted channel that customers interact with on a daily basis.

Email is also ready-made for tracking. You can see analytics for opens, sends and click rates, which helps our customers determine their return on investment fast and prove the value of their campaigns. Not all marketing channels can give you that level of reach and insight so quickly,

Email is making its way despite the growing popularity of social media platforms. Can you provide a few reasons why businesses should prioritize email over social media marketing strategies?

Email and social media are complementary and are both necessary tools to have in your marketing strategy, but email’s ability to reach a broad group of customers in a cost-effective and personalized way with segmentation is unmatched.

Think about who your subscribers are, and what kind of information matters most to them. If your diverse audience groups with different needs all receive the same campaign, some could become frustrated by irrelevant content and stop opening your emails.

You can use subscriber location, interests, or activity to segment campaigns, so you can send the right content to the right people. Segmentation helps you create stronger campaigns and build trust with your subscribers. Segmenting your audience will also increase conversion rate, and you'll get better email results than sending generic emails. On average, segmented email marketing campaigns result in 23% higher open rates and 49% higher click-through rates than unsegmented campaigns.

While we’ve predominantly been known as an email marketing company, we’ve expanded our offerings in recent years to include social channels and ensure our customers are able to create holistic marketing strategies that make their marketing go farther.

How does Mailchimp help businesses create targeted email campaigns for building relationships and retaining clients?

Mailchimp helps businesses create targeted email campaigns by giving them the right marketing toolkit to know their customers, create engaging content for them and drive sales.

One of the best tools we offer for customers to stay top-of-mind for their audiences and deliver timely messages is Customer Journey Builder, a highly customizable Mailchimp feature that allows you to automate marketing messages based on how people have (or haven’t) interacted with your business. With automated emails built in Customer Journey Builder, Mailchimp customers saw up to 127% increase in click rates compared to bulk emails.*

One of our customers, Dirty Girl Produce, used Customer Journey Builder to target customers who hadn’t bought anything from them in 60 days when sales dipped in the summer of 2021.

They built out an automated workflow, and with just a few clicks, the team at Dirty Girl Produce could reach their audience at strategic moments, automatically. They set up automated emails for users who’d engaged with their emails but hadn’t purchased anything yet and motivated them to purchase with a discount offer.

This was followed by an email with a subject line that conveyed urgency and a final opportunity to use that discount code. In just one week, Dirty Girl Produce’s first automated customer journey experiment resulted in a ~35% boost in sales from their emails.

*CJB only available on paid plans. Features and functionality of CJB vary by plan.

How about email localization on Mailchimp? What are the best practices for leveraging this feature?

Over 50% of Mailchimp’s customers are located outside of the United States, so making sure our app and tools are easy to use for entrepreneurs and marketers all over the world is definitely a focus for us, but we don’t have a specific localization feature.

“Content Optimizer” is one of the best Mailchimp features. What makes it special and how can businesses boost their email engagement with data-driven suggestions?

Most email marketing tools can only tell you how your campaigns performed. Content Optimizer takes this a step further and tells our customers why something did or didn’t perform.

Content Optimizer is special because it analyzes data from billions of marketing interactions in the Mailchimp platform and benchmarks our customers’ email content against millions of top-performing campaigns in their industry and offers data-backed suggestions to improve their results.

Marketers and entrepreneurs using Mailchimp can leverage the collective data of our entire platform with Content Optimizer and lean on recommendations that will help them make their email marketing more effective by engaging customers and generating sales.

Mailchimp was built for small businesses as an alternative to expensive email software. Why did you decide to particularly focus on the SMB market?

Mailchimp started as a small business, and our founders’ families ran small businesses growing up. They knew first-hand the challenges that small businesses faced and that there were very few solutions to help them.

Almost half of small businesses fail within the first 3 to 5 years so our founders saw an opportunity to help them. Our company motto is, “Listen hard, change fast,” and we’ve kept that motto close to heart over the years to make sure that we’re always evolving and delivering what small businesses need to thrive and beat those odds.

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Over the past few years, Mailchimp also launched a few more channels and functionalities to turn into an all-in-one marketing platform. What is the strategy and vision behind this?

We want to help our customers get customers, and it’s the guiding vision for all of the choices we make.

Marketers and small business owners look to different marketing tools for different capabilities, but that can get cumbersome quickly. For small business owners and entrepreneurs who want to find most of their marketing tools in one place, we’ve got them covered.

SMBs are increasingly looking for one tool to solve their needs and we’ve evolved our offerings to serve that need. For marketers who are working for small and mid-sized companies, we know they’re looking to minimize their marketing tech stack but still rely on the deep expertise of certain platforms. We’re there to meet that ask with tools backed by data science and AI to help those marketers confidently create better marketing campaigns that reach their goals.

You’ve partnered with Shopify, Squarespace Commerce and Stripe. How do you identify which eCommerce platforms to integrate with to bring value to your customers?

eCommerce has been an emerging area of focus that was only accelerated by the need for businesses to sell online without consumer access to brick and mortar storefronts during the pandemic.

We know from a recent QuickBooks survey that at least 50% of all consumer spending will be done online this holiday season, which is an increase from 2021. Integrations that help our customers combine the power of purchase data with marketing data and use those insights to help drive conversions, increase revenue and reach more customers at the right point of their buying journey are more important than ever. Our customers generated $3.6B through their connected stores in 2022.

We are a customer-obsessed company, and our greatest priority is listening to our customers. We want to help them grow and accomplish their goals. With this focus, we choose our eCommerce partners based on who our customers are working with the most and so we can provide support everywhere our customers are transacting online.

We integrate with over 3,500 apps and have over 300 strategic partners to help our customers connect all of their tools and leverage shared data between those platforms and inform their marketing strategy.

What are some of the biggest 2023 email marketing trends that businesses should focus on?

There are so many notable email marketing trends to consider for 2023, but there’s one trend that businesses should always focus on, which is leaning into data to inform your strategy.

Consumers are bombarded with content, which means it’s important to make every effort to personalize your marketing and stand out. To tailor their email marketing and get the engagement they’re after, marketers need to lean into the data and segment their audiences.

Can you share three tips on how businesses can maximize revenue in the upcoming holiday season with email marketing?

The holiday season is a critical time for small businesses. Based on responses from a recent QuickBooks survey, we know that small businesses view this year as being more important for small business health than it was in 2021.

The survey also shows that consumers plan to spend 40% of their total holiday budget at small businesses, representing an $88 billion opportunity.

Here are a few ways SMBs can make the most of their marketing strategy and drive sales this year:

  • Send personalized and targeted campaigns that capture the festive mood in the subject line and content, and set up abandoned cart automations to promote purchasing of products.
  • Participate in Cyber Monday and Black Friday, and offer discounts and promotions on Giving Tuesday and Small Business Saturday. Many small businesses are opting to run promotions throughout the month of November, too.
  • Offer discounted products to boost sales and run contests and competitions to increase engagement.

Thank you for your time Shani Boston. Best of luck to you and Mailchimp!

Keep up with Mailchimp on Instagram @mailchimp and read about other successful businesses here.

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