Will content ever top discounts in e-mail campaigns?

Discussion
Source: Macy's email promotion
Mar 06, 2017
Tom Ryan

According to the DMA’s new “Marketer Email Tracking Study,” 47 percent of marketers believe exclusive content helps to achieve their e-mail marketing campaign objectives. Yet an accompanying survey of U.K. consumers found only four percent want exclusive content from e-mail pitches.

Not surprisingly, consumers are looking for deals. Fifty-one percent want money-off discounts; 50 percent, percent-off discounts; and 43 percent, free samples/gifts. Free delivery and loyalty program awards are each desired by 38 percent of respondents.

For marketers, percent discounts, cited by 39 percent, came in as the second most valuable tool to enhance e-mail marketing objectives, followed by notice of new products, 34 percent; user guides, 30 percent; and competitions, 27 percent.

Addressing the wide difference in content’s value, the U.K.-based marketing organization stated, “There may be inconsistencies in the language used — consumers may not understand ‘content’ in the same way as marketers, but such a huge disparity in the perception of ‘content’ must be significant. Rationally, consumers want ‘free’ offers or ‘discounts’, but practically, they respond to content, according to marketers.”

The DMA survey also found that 42 percent of marketers agree that some or none of their e-mail is actually relevant to the consumers they’re sending it to. Consumers have a lower view of how much marketing e-mail they receive is targeted and relevant.

Consumers may have grown used to discount-driven e-mail campaigns. According to a new survey from Coherent Path, 76 percent of retail marketers rely heavily on promotions in their e-mail marketing campaigns. Of the respondents, 55 percent feature a promotion or discount in about half or more of their e-mail campaigns.

E-mail marketing, with its apparent promotional slant, has also proven to be relatively inexpensive and effective. A June 2016 survey of U.S. marketers conducted by Data & Marketing Association and Demand Metric found that e-mail had a median ROI of 122 percent — four times higher than social media, direct mail and paid search.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you agree that although consumers say they want promotions from their e-mail marketing pitches, they will respond to content? Will retailers be able to deliver enough compelling content to reduce the lure of discount offers in e-mail campaigns?

Braintrust
"Great content is a pull tactic more than anything else, promotions are a push."
"In today’s information economy it is more pivotal than ever to become a resource for customers, which can only happen through informative content."
"Most retailers who struggle with content are, in actuality, struggling with what their brand stands for and their core message."

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12 Comments on "Will content ever top discounts in e-mail campaigns?"

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Susan O'Neal
BrainTrust

ROI is a function of both cost and impact. As long as email is low-cost, there will always be spam and spam will continue to decrease consumer responsiveness to email as a tactic overall. As such, I am not optimistic that content can be compelling enough on its own. Great content is a pull tactic more than anything else, promotions are a push.

Dave Nixon
BrainTrust

Good email campaigns should have BOTH. Discounts and promotions are short-cycle, immediate-interest opportunities, but adding in more custom content as a secondary method of engagement should never be discounted (no pun intended). Promos are immediate calls To action, but personalized, relevant custom content gains longer term “stickiness.” Good content ALWAYS helps to tie shoppers to brands if they do not have an immediate need for a promo to stick.

Phil Masiello
BrainTrust
There are two parts to a successful email. First, the subject line to get consumers to open the email. Compelling content enables this open rate to happen. In my 19 years of experience with email marketing, a subject line like “The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)” will have a significantly higher open rate than “10% off with this coupon.” Once you have gotten the customers to open the email, then you have to get them engaged with what you want them to do. And that is to buy. So you need an incentive to purchase. High-quality and engaging content will lead them to where you want them. Which is to click through to your site and buy. Content is what gets consumers engaged with your brand and enables the deal you are offering to be successful. They go hand in hand and are not mutually exclusive. One of the most important aspects of marketing today is content. Consumers may not call it content, but if you look at the more successful brands they are content-rich, forming a connection with the consumer. Most retailers who struggle with content are, in actuality, struggling with what their brand stands… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

The constant barrage of discount-oriented emails — some daily — gets downright numbing. Lands’ End was successful, in part, because of compelling descriptions of its products. Retailers selling products at a similar investment level should consider providing more information. They should consider making this content available in stores as well.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
BrainTrust

The rise in “native” advertising as an alternative to mobile banner ads moves the exchange to an information-based relationship from simply a promotional one. By better informing, rather than just enticing the purchase, the value exchange is improved. Benefits-based selling works across all demographics.

Jasmine Glasheen
Guest
Jasmine Glasheen
1 month 21 days ago

Great content leads to loyalty and engagement while discounts lead to instant traffic. Although both forms of marketing have their place, it is content, not sales, that creates lasting engagement. In today’s information economy it is more pivotal than ever to become a resource for customers, which can only happen through informative content.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust
Have you ever heard of a cycling brand called Rapha? If you haven’t, I would recommend you check them out (google: Rapha cycling). They are masters of content marketing. What they email you is stories of riders, where they ride, high production value videos of the rides — of the beauty, the suffering, the camaraderie, the food, the places they stay on rides, etc. For an outsider this sounds corny, but if you’re a rider you know that they GET it. That they REALLY get it. Then, oh by the way, here’s some product that goes with said ride. This M.O. works in so many ways, but primarily it allows you to absorb and identify with the brand vs. diving right into price. As a matter of fact very rarely do they even talk about price and, when they do, it’s not with any of the stories or excellent videos. Of course, it helps that their product is off the charts in terms of quality, but that’s the price of entry for any brand pushing something other than price. Long story short, Rapha is a great case study for best-in-class modern lifestyle marketing sans price push. We need to see… Read more »
Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Value comes in many different forms. Discounts and promotions — and content. If all you do is try to sell and promote, a customer may turn off from the retailer by opting out of an email list, deleting an app, etc. You must provide value at all levels. Content is a great way to engage and retain interest and relevancy with customers.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

This is right on. There’s no one thing that works for everyone, and what that thing is varies person to person and over time. Getting relevant content, discounts and offers in front of the customer at the right time (sometimes even in the right place) is key to how retailers look at reaching out to customers.

Anna Tolmach
BrainTrust

At this point, consumers are certainly conditioned to expect discounts. If that’s part of a brand’s strategy, then email is likely the right medium to deliver the discount. Content, on the other hand, is a top-of-the-funnel activity. While sending out an email can help amplify content and draw your customers’ attention to the knowledge your brand has, content is instead more useful for SEO and for drawing in customers who are searching online. Content gives the opportunity to add value and answer questions beyond those that simply relate to your product. In general, I would treat content as a way to engage not as a way to convert which is the explicit purpose of discounts.

Nir Manor
Guest

The results of these DMA studies are hardly a surprise. Consumers always say they want more discounts and generally to pay less and “don’t care about content.”

However, we all know that consumers respond to good content, and quality content supports engagement and stickiness.

A new angle to think about this topic is related to which retail vertical are we discussing. For food and grocery retailers, drugstores, and other high frequency multi category retailers, targeted and personalized discounts based on customer demographics and past purchases would be a highly effective tool. Quality content that is really relevant to their customers would be more difficult and costly to create.

Contrary, for specialty, vertical shops and sites with more engaged and homogeneous customers base, such as mountain bikes, hiking equipment, cooking accessories, baby accessories etc, quality content can be a much more significant part of their communication mix, so that should include occasional discounts as well.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Non-stop, constant discounting is numbing to many shoppers. Yes, shoppers will say they want discounts, but it’s more relevant a question of *when* they want those discounts — when they are ready to buy. When they’re not ready to buy, they want content and information that helps them on their path to purchase, whatever path that may take (online, mobile, in-store, combination of all of the above). The key for retailers is not just to have the right mix, but to deliver the right message at the right time. Endless discounting only conditions shoppers to hold-off buying until they see a discount and is still a race to the bottom — one that most retailers shouldn’t want to win.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Great content is a pull tactic more than anything else, promotions are a push."
"In today’s information economy it is more pivotal than ever to become a resource for customers, which can only happen through informative content."
"Most retailers who struggle with content are, in actuality, struggling with what their brand stands for and their core message."

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