How to use e-mail to engage past customers

Discussion
Nov 09, 2016
Bob Phibbs

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from The RetailDoctor’s Blog.

It’s been said it costs seven times as much to attract a new customer as it does to retain an old one. And while social media is great for getting exposure, e-mail is a truer connection with your own list of people who have actually spent money with you.

Since you hopefully have their e-mail addresses because they’ve purchased from you before, don’t be afraid to e-mail them on a regular basis to keep them engaged and interested in your brand. That old saying is still true: out of sight, out of mind.

That said, no one wants clutter in their inbox. Before you hit send, ask yourself, “If I was receiving this, would I click on it?”

Here are five types of e-mails to re-engage your customers:

  1. The replenishment e-mail. Is there something that you carry that runs out and needs replenishment towards the end of the year? It could be as simple as shoe polish, as necessary as dog food, or as complicated as a vintage wine.
  1. The joint event e-mail. I had a window coverings client who co-hosted an event with a woman’s apparel store to show the similarities between getting dressed and creating a great room. With holiday entertaining right around the corner, she got more business and the apparel retailer did too.
  1. The weather e-mail. Being local has its advantages. A sunscreen e-mail could be effective on a hot day. You could use similar product tie-ins in a similar format if you are a hair salon, a home center, a sporting goods store — you name it, and humor is a bonus.
  1. The informational e-mail. Take a common problem or topic of your customer — not drinking enough water, stuck wearing the same old thing, etc. — then give them some reasons why it happens and strategies to help. Ideally, this is a blog post you link to your website.
  1. Make them aware it’s time for an upgrade. Admittedly, this seems more geared to electronics but it could be adapted to shoes, place settings, jewelry, clothing, etc.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How would you advise retail independents to best re-engage with past customers via e-mail? What tactics could you add to the list in the article.

Braintrust
"Email is a great way to communicate with customers and an easy way to alienate customers."
"I have a suggestion for a number six: “Your Wish List is Now Your Watch List.”"
"In a knowledge economy, we make money by teaching the customer how to save theirs."

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11 Comments on "How to use e-mail to engage past customers"

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Ross Ely
Guest

The key tactic that the article leaves out is for the email content to be relevant to the shopper. The marketer should analyze the data from the shopper’s past purchases to create an offer that will be relevant and attractive. Furthermore, the offer should be highly aggressive in order to generate the intensity of demand necessary to re-energize the shopper from her lapsed state.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

Personalization and relevancy should be a fundamental for all emails (and to a large degree, all communications). If it’s a replenishment message, make sure it’s encouraging replenishment of products in which the customer is actually interested. If it’s an informational email, it should be information that’s pertinent to that customer. Connecting with customers on an individual level relative to content, price points and timing works every time.

Charles Dimov
BrainTrust

Yes, email makes sense. But with Millennials and Generation Z accounting for a growing proportion of retail purchases, we need to cater to whatever medium on which they want to be contacted. For omnichannel retailers, you will want to have flexible communications abilities such that your order management system sends a message to your clients when their order is ready for pickup, for example. And you need to do this on the medium THEY want (Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, etc. … ). Email is great, but make sure it plays in harmony with your other communication vehicles (it’s all about omni-presence).

Tom Brown
Guest
1 year 1 month ago

73 percent of Millennials prefer email communications from brands they do business with.

Jasmine Glasheen
Staff
Jasmine Glasheen
Contributing Editor
1 year 1 month ago

I would add the promotional email, which informs customers of sales and buying events. And the trend email, which is similar to the upgrade email but showcases innovative ways to wear trends and to maximize their purchase. In a knowledge economy, we make money by teaching the customer how to save theirs.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Email is a great way to communicate with customers and an easy way to alienate customers. If you’re going to use email then the messages must be relevant, pertinent and timely. There is a trend toward personalized content marketing, which email is a part of. If you know (from data you have on me) that my buying pattern is to buy ice cream during the summer, and usually on the weekends, it would be a mistake to send me a promotional email on a Tuesday morning in the middle of winter. Make sure messages are what the customer wants and needs.

Kim Garretson
BrainTrust

I have a suggestion for a number six: “Your Wish List is Now Your Watch List.” Today, most wish lists are latent, meaning the listers need to remember to return to their lists as they traverse their paths to purchase. Many retailers report poor return visits based on forgetting what’s there or deciding to buy from a competitor. But some major retailers are now offering alerts on individual wish list items that send reminders when items change in price, when a newer model is launched, etc.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

E-mail campaigns continue to be surprisingly effective, as long as they are succinct, relevant, compelling and timely. That’s not always accomplished, though. The key is to leverage the data around you. Internal (e.g., company website comments, customer reviews, call center feedback, etc. and external (e.g., social chatter, weather, local events on a by-store basis, news items, etc.) data are typically not captured, and if they are, they are not analyzed effectively to drive conversion via targeted e-mails. There are technologies available today that can actually capture and crunch this data to provide insights that almost craft e-mails autonomously.

Matt Henderson
Guest

From a personal standpoint, I get tired of being bombarded with commercial interests, whether it’s billboards, television advertisements or emails. I think that retailers need to be conservative in their frequency of emails. If I do business with a company, and then start receiving daily or multiple emails each week, I quickly mark them as spam. It also makes me hesitant about doing business with them again.

Al McClain
Staff

I don’t know anyone who wants more e-mails in their in box. More relevant e-mails, yes. More frequent, no.

Adam Simon
Guest

It’s all in the title — if you can just have enough interest in the title line, you then can achieve the goal of getting the customer to open the email. Then you have a few seconds to grab them with the content inside the email. No more than 2-3 paragraphs because people want to be able to scan read very quickly — the first line of each paragraph is key.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Email is a great way to communicate with customers and an easy way to alienate customers."
"I have a suggestion for a number six: “Your Wish List is Now Your Watch List.”"
"In a knowledge economy, we make money by teaching the customer how to save theirs."

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