Those Emails Keep Coming and Coming

Discussion
Jan 06, 2010
George Anderson

By
George Anderson

In
his Email Insider blog, Chad White, research director at Smith-Harmon,
provides statistical data to support his contention that email volume from
retailers hit an all-time high in 2009.

While
it’s no surprise that more companies are sending out emails — especially with
larger numbers of consumers opting-in to receive them — there is clearly a
challenge in this for marketers. As with so many other ad vehicles, how do
marketers cut through the clutter and avoid the delete button?

According
to Mr. White, retailers he tracks sent him an average of 11 emails per month.
During December, the average climbed to 15.4 emails. This number trend, he
insists, cannot be sustained and merchants need to focus on finding more effective
(see targeted and personalized) means of communications rather than trying
to stuff more emails into consumers’ in-boxes.

Among
his recommendations are:

  • Offering consumers a preference center
    to give them greater control over the email they receive.
  • Building triggered email programs around
    events such as anniversaries and birthdays. Emails in response to abandoned
    shopping carts can also be effective “if done right,” according to Mr.
    White.
  • Add personalized content and promotions
    to increase their relevancy to individuals receiving them.
  • Use detailed customer profiles from loyalty
    programs to increase the effectiveness of target offers.

Discussion Questions:
Are the sheer number of retailer emails making them less effective from a
marketing standpoint? What do you think are the keys to achieving the greatest
return on investment from email marketing programs?

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20 Comments on "Those Emails Keep Coming and Coming"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

Too much email = spam. Retailers need to be targeted and judicious when emailing customers. Over the recent holidays, Costco sent me 3-5 emails per week. They were not targeted to my purchasing habits and did not contain offers that were exclusive to my needs. In short, they were spam.

Mr. White is correct in saying that retail email campaigns need to be well thought out, highly targeted, filled with offers that pertain directly to the recipient and contain special promotions.

One thing that Mr. White did not point out is that email campaigns don’t work with all demographic groups. Young consumers are not heavy users of email. To reach them, retailers need to develop social media and mobile campaigns.

Warren Thayer
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

White’s points are all well taken, and would do a lot to help make e-mails more effective and welcomed. I think a lot of people, me included, increasingly opt out because inboxes get so darn full so fast. Anecdotally, I was in a Kmart the other day (don’t ask why) waiting forever thru checkout, and the cashiers on both sides of me were asking every customer if they’d like to provide their e-mail address for some small incentive. The entire time I was there, nobody would give out their e-mail address — about 8 people, I believe. People were even laughing about it. Okay, so it was Kmart. But still.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

We are now being bombarded by retailer emails to the point that our household does not just delete, we cancel many of them. The recommendations discussed this morning need to be implemented but creativity and personalization may still be difficult if most retailers figure it out and you still get 15 per month, per retailer, with your name on it.

Retailers need to segment their best customers (much as the good ones have done in store) and concentrate on using the data they have on these customers to keep them loyal and to incent them to expand their spending. Targeting of consumers and categories of interest might help cut through this clutter.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

Retailer emails have become like television commercials, too many, too often. At this point there is the clutter factor. Unless the email catches the reader’s eye in less than 1 second, it is deleted. What retailers don’t know is how many receivers have moved these emails into junk mail.

I like many people have more than one email address. When giving out my email to retailers, I have one reserved for them. Weekly I delete in mass. Retailers relying on email are late to the game. Electronic social networking is the future and this one is even more difficult than 300 channels of cable/satellite television.

Ben Ball
Guest
11 years 4 months ago
First, the universal truth. Consumers welcome messages from companies they want to hear from and resent all others–regardless of the medium. Now, the conundrum. Is your email more like your television or your telephone? Consumers accept unwanted messages, albeit somewhat grudgingly, on television because we have come to understand that it is a commercial medium and, well, that’s the price of watching free TV. Consumers reject almost ALL unsolicited messages delivered via telephone–even from organizations and companies we like/support/do business with–because that is our personal medium for which we pay. We were not using the telephone at the time we received the unsolicited call, nor do we derive any value from the phone for which the “price” is taking the call. It is just a pain in the @@@!!1 So, is the fact that companies are sending more emails a problem? I think so and here’s why. My computer, particularly my use of the internet and web browsers, is like my TV. I choose to use it and know that the price of free access… Read more »
Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 4 months ago

I’m really impressed with some of the emails coming out of the retailers lately. FactoryDirect.ca does a weekly email blast with all their specials and the layout and graphics really send the value message home.

There is a danger of merchants getting lost in all the emails, so it is important to have something that delivers more than just information. There has to be some kind of value attached to it. Coupons or discounts are a good start but I can see that blending in with the background. When your customers are actually looking forward to your email is when you are in your email marketing sweet spot.

David Biernbaum
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

With most retailers now using e-mail so aggressively and often, it means that the competition for the reader’s attention is more intense and therefore this form of communication requires greater competitive skills than it did in the past.

1. Send consumer emails enough to stay competitive but definitely have something very clear to say when you do. Don’t send out an email just for the sake of sending out another email.

2. Your consumers won’t bother to read your emails if you send too many, or if you make a habit of sending out emails without a meaningful point.

3. Your subject line needs to be to the point. Don’t tease unless you can do so very creatively and in a meaningful way that your consumer will appreciate.

4. Don’t use attachments or big files. Use links instead.

5. Keep your e-mails short enough where images and words can be seen all at once without much scrolling.

This is now a professional business. Treat it that way.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
11 years 4 months ago

Einstein said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Marketers have used a new technology (email) to replace an old technology (snail mail) with exactly the same approach in terms of content. While the cost is clearly less than postage, they shouldn’t expect different results as consumers (like me) are using their “junk mail” settings in Outlook to replace the trash can that they once used to get rid of the physical mailers in the past.

The author is right in that marketers need to use a different approach to take full advantage of the different technology. Merging CRM strategies with this delivery vehicle makes a lot of sense. The more personally focused the message, the more likely the consumer will actually read it.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 4 months ago

When consumers feel weighted down by the continual snowstorms of emails, they tend to seek comfort before a warm quiet fire devoid of today’s pulsating and grating email thunder.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

Four large retailers send me mail every DAY. What in the world is their strategy?

Mark Baum
Guest
Mark Baum
11 years 4 months ago

An interesting string of comments on this topic, and most believe that too many emails leads to clutter/spam, etc, and become less effective. There is a lot to be said for alternative messaging (customization, social media, etc), but with regard to email, even those of us that opt-in are beginning to regret that decision. Way, way too many emails (from retailers) are flooding in-boxes, and like others, I am now often deleting them without even opening them–and worse–begin to resent the sender, which will have the opposite of intended effect–watering down brand equity and customer loyalty.

It took many years for retailers (and manufacturers) to realize the perils of direct mail. Let’s hope it doesn’t take as long for them to realize the limitations and potential pitfalls of email.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 4 months ago

Like direct mail, email campaigns are all about the numbers and percentages. Send a lot, drive open rates, measure response rates. The negative impact of the many unwanted and unopened email is far outweighed by the positive impact of the few that are acted on. And with the cost of sending programmed email essentially zero, it’s hard to see the tidal wave of emails letting up in the foreseeable future.

Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
11 years 4 months ago

The keys are relevancy, timeliness and engaging form/factor.

We need to use data, analytics and modeling, and a voice-of-the-customer approach to make sure we are effectively addressing our customers.

Michael L. Howatt
Guest
Michael L. Howatt
11 years 4 months ago

Not only will consumers ignore emails they don’t care about, but also, even if they read them–unless they have an immediate need for the products being advertised–they won’t prove useful. Plus, an email can’t encourage impulse buying, or that “oh, I forgot I needed something” experience we all have.

The best way to sell is still to get them in the store and then make them happy.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

DECLARATION: “Email is DEAD.” Social media is the new email…and even social media is showing signs of maturity already. Many great points have been made in previous posts here on email. The most obvious being: keep the emails targeted. With all the great successes and case studies with social media (http://bit.ly/6SCgN), there is a definite migration away from email, since they are largely considered to be spam. Here’s a couple other hints to make communications more effective.

Shilpa Rao
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

I agree with Max; too many emails = spam. One of the retailers we have worked with has harnessed the power of analytics to gain insights and design the campaign. They piloted propensity models on loyalty data to identify which customers were most likely to respond to a campaign and the type of campaign they would most likely respond too. Based on this data, many targeted offers were sent to the customers. The pilot was a success.

Retailers can leverage their own data to gain useful insights, making it meaningful for both, the retailer and the customer.

Mike Romano
Guest
Mike Romano
11 years 4 months ago

Would readers here consider a DAILY email from Proflowers.com or Dick’s Sporting Goods spam? Considering the average customer frequents each of these retailers 2.5X per year, I would consider 365+ emails from each a bit overbearing and abusive. No?

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

Smart people have spam filters and know how to press the unsubscribe button. Bothering people with junk email sends the wrong message of negativity. Why associate your company with negativity? Reputable companies do not send junk mail.

Kai Clarke
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

Computer protection now includes spam protection…i.e., unwanted emails in your in-box. Just because there are more emails, does not mean that they are being read. Instead, our spam protection and email filters are becoming more sophisticated as software companies respond to consumer’s complaints about too much spam in their email in-box.

This is not about sending more, but getting everyone to abide by the same set of rules…only send out emails to people who request them, and never release their names to another party without first getting specific approval that this is OK. Until this is done, we have to deal with spam….

Bill Hanifin
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

In a study that I conducted of how loyalty program sponsors use email to communicate with members, I found similarity in email volumes across the industry but wide disparity between industry participants.

Overall, the trends support the research pointed out by Mr. White.

Among hotels, airlines and retailers, we found the averages among the groups to be in range of 4-6 per month, while the range of email within the airline category for instance was between 2 – 14. Generally speaking, the discount airlines email more frequently and focus on promotions rather than delivering personalized messages or those triggered by behaviors.

Email will become less effective as a marketing tool for companies who push out volumes of promotional messages. Those that use the data on file and send selective messages that shout “we know you and are listening to you” will continue to find email an effective tool.

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