Today, the most high profile campaign of 2015 gets underway, as political parties officially start their bids to be elected on 7th May. Over the coming weeks we will undoubtedly receive door drop mailers, the occasional knock on the door, as well as sees the swathes of billboards, placards and posters in windows and on the streets, that has become a familiar part of the electioneering landscape.  You can be sure that a lot of money will be spent on marketing for this election but in my opinion the major political parties are missing out on some of the low-cost yet high return tricks, which commercial organisations operating in the e-commerce world are employing.

In the run up to an election candidates are all attempting to engage and interact with the electorate, particularly the floating, disaffected and first-time voters. And, with the 2015 General Election likely to be one of the most tightly contested on record the pressure is on to get every vote possible. When you consider that in 2010 only 65.1% of those eligible to vote actually did then you can see there is a huge potential market out there for the parties to connect with.

I am pleased to say that all of the parties have invested in their websites and looking at them this week, it is refreshing to see that they have all placed an emphasis on visitor data-capture.  UKIP has a splash page inviting you to ‘get the latest news & updates from our campaigns’ by signing up with your email address.

Meanwhile, Labour is doing something similar with its data capture, but goes in to a little more detail wanting to know if you are likely to vote for them and asking why you vote…
Meanwhile, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are more ‘conservative!’ in asking for data…
This is all good so far, but delve a little deeper and none of them appear to be ‘tagging’ content. So, if for example I click on the policy section of the UKIP website they may know who I am but they have no way of knowing whether I am interested in immigration, or its stance on National Insurance contributions, as everything is all grouped together. It is the same as going on to an electrical retailers website and have all of their products in one long list. They wouldn’t know if I was interested in a £20 steam iron or a £3,000 4K television!

Imagine the goldmine of usable insight they would have if they tracked at an individual, or in more general terms what visitors to the site where specifically interested in. This knowledge could be used to inform not only who they should be engaging with but also on what topics.  This is what all good e-commerce sites do as a matter of course (presenting us with products and services we may be interested in based on our purchasing or browsing history). Similarly, when I return to the site it would be great if not only was I welcomed back but, as they would know from previous visits I was interested in taxation, they could present me with the latest updates. They could also push ‘crowd-sourced’ information to me based on the recent browsing habits of other visitors ‘Other voters have been reading’.

To take this a step further, once I have left the site the party could send me a personalised follow up email, using this information…

“Thank you for visiting the *** website and showing an interest in our manifesto pledge on National Insurance. We hope that we can count on your vote on 7th May. We look forward to seeing you at *** polling station and if you need any more information please contact us.”

It is a simple but highly effective tool, that is well proven by commercial e-commerce organisations to significantly increase sales and for political parties a sale constitutes a tick against the candidates name at the ballot box!  So, as it is clear the parties are capturing data and are intending to use it to enter our inboxes, let’s explore email a little further, as there is so more that can be done with it.

One of the most exciting innovations in email marketing in recent years has been the introduction of real-time content, meaning that regardless of when an email is opened, or re-opened the content the recipient sees, is the message the sender wants them to see at that precise moment. So, in the context of an election campaign where the messages are constantly being changed, shaped and refined this is could be a particularly compelling tool.

Imagine how effective it would be for the parties to be able to change all their emails to contain their response to the latest election story. With real-time images, they can replace content in the email with a direct response to events as they unfold.

It is also possible to embed the candidate or parties Twitter-feed (a social channel all parties have wholeheartedly embraced in recent years) directly in to the email, so the recipient sees the very latest tweets. You can also use a tool known as ‘web crop’ that embed a section of the website, which could be latest news, details of a particular candidate, or polling station information. Of course, you can also embed video.

The final real-time element and one that could help to address issues of poor turnout is the count-down timer. If you want the recipient of an email to take action at the decisive moment you need to deliver a strong call to action. A count-down timer helps to supplement this call by letting the recipient know exactly how much time they have left to act.

In the commercial world the application of these new countdown timers are vast and for this reason I expect will soon be ubiquitous. They can be used to build anticipation for the start of an end of season sale or alerting customers that it is due to finish; flag that a customer subscription or insurance policy is due for renewal; count down to the opening of a new retail outlet or restaurant; how long until a store opens and how long until it closes, or letting a customer know in a cart abandonment email how long they have to checkout, in order to take advantage of next day delivery, or a promotional offer.

In my experience of previous election days a countdown timer in an email could be the difference between voting and forgetting! You may recall angry scenes in 2010 at polling stations in Birmingham, Lewisham, Manchester, Milton Keynes, and Newcastle where queues of late arrivals meant some people were unable to cast their vote. I can empathise, as whilst I have always taken my democratic right to vote seriously, dashing from meeting to meeting can be distracting, so receiving an email or having one I can re-open that will tell me to the second how long I have until the ballot box closes would be a huge help.

By looking at how commercial organisations are using the latest digital marketing and e-commerce tool and techniques, political parties can learn how to better interact with those they are already engaged with, whilst at the same time engaging with other members of the electorate with whom they would wish to interact more closely.

I am reminded of a comment from the head of British Cycling, David Brailsford, who commented on how team GB did so well at London 2012 by explaining that was all about the incremental gains. When a race looks set to be tight making a lot of small improvements can make a big difference to the overall outcome. E-tailers along with other commercial organisations have had to become the very best they can be, to compete in very tough economic times and against stiff global competition. As a result their operations have evolved to become slicker and more effective than ever, as they have looked for the incremental gains. The political parties would be wise to look and learn.



Source: Reports/Triggered Messaging;  Posted March 31, 2015 by Eddy Swindell