Are mass e-mail campaigns here to stay?

Discussion
Mar 28, 2016

Many advertising mediums (TV ads, billboards along highways, mail flyers, etc.) are considered annoying, but consumers have become used to them. E-mail has joined that pack.

According to a survey of 1,112 consumers from predictive analytics company First Insight, customers only open one in four e-mails from retailers and find only one in 20 e-mails relevant to them.

The survey found:

  • The average consumer subscribes to 2.3 retailer e-mail lists and receives a combined 13.1 e-mails a week. On the high end, 5.8 percent received 40 or more e-mails weekly;
  • When asked about frequency, two-thirds of respondents who receive six or more e-mails a week said it was “too many.” Just 21 percent found five or fewer to be too many;
  • Asked why they aren’t opening more, the discount and the repetition of the same offers were the primary reasons;
  • Forty-five percent had unsubscribed from a retailer’s e-mail list in the past six months.

The study was designed to underscore the benefits of personalization over mass mailing approaches. Forty-three percent would be more likely to open e-mails from retailers if they contained personalized suggestions based on past purchases, rather than promoting products that were generally available or “on sale.”

Yet the study also acknowledged that e-mail marketing, with much of it still the mass mailing variety, had “become an affordable and effective way to reach and maintain customer loyalty and inspire purchases.”

For every $1 spent on e-mail marketing, the average return on investment is $44.25, according to a July 2015 report from The Direct Marketing Association. The study also noted that half of marketing executives, according to an August 2015 report from The Relevancy Group, estimate that e-mail marketing drives 15 percent or more of their total revenue.

Moreover, the study noted that eight percent of respondents enjoy receiving e-mails from retailers. Identified as deal seekers, these consumers were okay with receiving at least 10 e-mails weekly, and some feel they received too few. On average, this group opens 59 percent of the retail e-mails they receive and find 28 percent of their e-mails “personally relevant.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
Despite their effectiveness, what flaws do you see in retailers’ mass e-mail campaigns? Do you see personalized approaches replacing or complementing mass e-mail approaches?

Braintrust
"Retailers should replace mass emails with personalized emails wherever possible and clearly communicate to each shopper that the emails are personalized to their needs."
"It all comes down to ROI. Customized emails’ return on investment is extremely high as it caters to that individual."
"Personalization is merely a step in a medium that has hit its peak. Most consumers and executives are inundated with emails."

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18 Comments on "Are mass e-mail campaigns here to stay?"


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Cathy Hotka
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

The real problem with retail emails is frequency. I have an email address that’s solely for commercial email, and there are a bunch of retailers who’ll send a message every single day. The solution is better customer targeting, with the goal of sending fewer but better targeted messages.

Max Goldberg
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Too often retailers send out too many emails which are not relevant to the recipients and therefore become an annoyance. If email campaigns truly produce $44.25 for each dollar spent, retailers need to do everything they can to preserve this ROI, and that means not upsetting consumers.

Dick’s Sporting Goods and PetSmart come to mind as retailers who did not ask me to opt into their email campaigns after making a purchase yet bombarded me with notes, even after multiple requests to unsubscribe. These experiences left me with a negative view of both merchants and hesitant to do online business with them again.

Retailers need to let consumers opt in to email marketing. Ask consumers what type of information they want, as well as the frequency of communication, and then don’t violate consumers’ trust.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

We are seeing relatively good responses from the more targeted email campaigns some innovators are leveraging lately. Relevancy is, of course, key. With some deep personalization analytics available now, some retailers are reaching their audience and generating compelling content to drive actions by the shoppers. It’s tough to say that anything is “here to stay” these days, however we are seeing great open rates with some new campaigns that use analytics more than we have in the past.

Kai Clarke
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

This is still spam and usually unwarranted. Personalization allows for better differentiation through target market segmentation, which has proven to be a superior way to market and sell products.

Bob Amster
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Mass emails can be (are) annoying. The good news is that more and more retailers are getting to know who their customers are, their preferences, and can or will be able to target their emailing campaigns so that they are more relevant and less annoying.

The mass advertising channels where everyone receives everything are radio, TV, billboards and print and those will continue to be, but in ever-diminishing scale, but emails can be controlled to the point where the recipients will want to get them and they will be extremely effective.

The personalized approach to email campaigns will replace mass emails.

Ross Ely
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

The biggest flaw in retailers’ email campaigns is using a shotgun approach: sending the same generic offers to all their shoppers. The recipients quickly tire of the irrelevant offers and begin to ignore the emails.

Emails with personalized offers are more highly valued by shoppers, which is proven by their much higher redemption rates. Retailers should replace mass emails with personalized emails wherever possible and clearly communicate to each shopper that the emails are personalized to their needs.

Joy Chen
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

It all comes down to ROI. Customized emails’ return on investment is extremely high as it caters to that individual. Mass emails’ return on investment is lower but may still be higher than alternative marketing spending. If that is the case, we will continue to see a combination of both mass and customized email marketing with continued growth toward customization.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
1 year 9 months ago
The risk is irrelevance. The more mass the mailing the more it becomes irrelevant to the receiver. The more irrelevant it becomes, the more likely the receiver is to find ways to separate it from those communications that are important. Some unsubscribe. Some put them in special folders. Gmail separates them for you. Once separated does that person go back? If they know from experience that they are not interested in 99 percent of the communication, will they be compelled to return in any way? I have referenced people’s behavior to mass flyers in the mail room of my apartment building. You can watch the people behave. They open their mailbox, take the contents out, separate the mail from the flyers and deposit the flyers in the recycle bin without even looking at them. Might there be something valuable for them in there? Of course, but they will never see it, because they are have learned that to spend time looking for it is a waste of time. Email is the perfect solution, if and… Read more »
Tom Redd
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

This $44 ROI on $1 sounds like an early retirement deal and eat. comes with payment terms. Highly targeted emails to recent shoppers may hit a high ROI, but I question these metrics.
Mass email will bite the dust just like the direct mail did. Targeted, very targeted email will work, but the mass attempts will be gone. Eat two more years and the new email rule-set expansion and email functions will torch this gig. These kids and young adults that just like to get ANY email will tire of it soon.

Zel Bianco
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Macy’s does well with providing targeted emails based on their individual customers buying preferences. For instance, they will send out emails when they have new arrivals in a brand that the customer has previously purchased and they will send additional emails when the brand is on sale. The more specific the content is the better.

Concise, unique subject lines should also help with the open rate. In my opinion, offering their customers the option to easily change their email preference (whether they receive weekly/daily emails, etc.) is an underutilized tool.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Personalization is merely a step in a medium that has hit its peak. Most consumers and executives are inundated with emails. In a period where few have unlimited time, emails are the first to go.

Anecdotally, I cannot read all the emails I’d like to read. Best guess is I read less than 10 percent of my subscribed newsletters. Another guess is I am no different than most.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

After a company gets a business-worthy reply from an email blast the focus should be to personalize and inform with relative interests as well as inquiry for what might also be of value to the consumer. While this is an expensive and time consuming effort the companies that focus and achieve in this direction do have stable and continuous growth with remarkable predictability. It is always amazing to me how many companies are willing to guess or follow a retail maven’s newest vision in place of a performance work effort. Is it any wonder that red ink is selling so well?

Tom Brown
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Most email marketers are definitely moving towards a more personalized approach. But this will compliment and not replace mass emailing for the foreseeable future. Mass emailing still generates enormous ROI, especially for small businesses that will never see a return on expensive marketing automation. First Insight, like most companies that sell MA, will tell you how much personalization increases ROI. What they wont tell you is that not personalizing emails often provides more ROI because the cost of their service cuts much too deeply.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Mass email campaigns keep getting louder and louder and the noise is now getting deafening. Sooner rather than later the audience is going to quit listening altogether. Those who focus on personalization and privatization will come out on top. The rest will end up in the garbage.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
1 year 9 months ago

OK. Let’s talk about customized and personalized approaches. In spring 2014 we were on a concentrated quest to find and purchase leather chairs to update our dining room. That process involved visiting several stores and many websites — comparing leather quality and seat heights and sizes — and getting quotes. In a couple cases we put a chair on our credit card in order to actually take home a chair candidate for a day for a trial run. In May 2014 we ordered eight chairs from a local furniture store. Because of the color and back shape we wanted they had to be custom built and made in North Carolina. They arrived in late October 2014 in time for Thanksgiving. They are perfect.

So in spring of 2016 I am still regularly receiving emails about leather dining chairs from two of the national retailers I spent time with two years ago. Really? Do they not consider that after two whole years I probably am no longer in the market for leather dining chairs?

Peter Charness
Guest
1 year 9 months ago
I find some of the personalized approaches to just be mass mailings anyways. Perhaps if the promotions get more accurate, they will be less irritating. Without naming names, one home products retailer I tried to buy stuff from couldn’t supply what I wanted (coffee table and matching end table — how hard is that?) because when I was in the store they couldn’t fulfill my order as the inventory evidently was in the online warehouse. Their “store inventory” system showed availability which they confirmed getting allocated to me, but in the end failed to materialize. Guessing the inventory positions were wrong. Would I mind fixing their problem by going to the web and buying it there? The product that was supposedly in the online warehouse was going to cost me more due to delivery charges, (no pick up at store available, sorry) but then a handy coupon came that covered that cost. Placing the order created a delivery date 3 months out (how can you put stuff on the web that is not available for 3… Read more »
Shep Hyken
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

I think this article answers the question. Too much is too much. The customer wants quality over quantity. They will more likely open if they know the retailer delivers on that front. And, to customize is even better.

Take a look at most of the answers to today’s question. Many of them are saying the same thing. The answer for the retailer is to build a relationship with the customer. Get their permission to email. Then only send them quality!

Phil Rubin
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Mass email equals mass irrelevance. It’s that simple. And ultimately the more resonant messages get lost because consumers tune out. And then opt-out. Customers increasingly expect brands to be responsible with their data and this is certainly the case with Millennials.

It’s a simple quid pro quo and as Gartner stated:

“Customers will not tolerate companies that have amnesia when it comes to remembering them and their preferences for recognition.

[They] …believe that they have a relationship with a provider once they have transacted with that provider … the experience should be mutually beneficial, and therefore designed with them in mind — similar to most relationships.”

Email is part of the customer experience. It’s that simple and it’s why Amazon is the most valuable retailer in the world. They get it and have since the late 1990s.

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Braintrust
"Retailers should replace mass emails with personalized emails wherever possible and clearly communicate to each shopper that the emails are personalized to their needs."
"It all comes down to ROI. Customized emails’ return on investment is extremely high as it caters to that individual."
"Personalization is merely a step in a medium that has hit its peak. Most consumers and executives are inundated with emails."

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