Email Performing; New Tactics Abound

According to Internet Retailer's new e-mail marketing survey of web-only retailers, chain retailers, catalogers and consumer brand manufacturers, 56.4% of retailers report their typical sales conversion rate for an e-mail marketing campaign remains about the same compared with last year. More than one quarter of survey respondents, though, report conversion is up, 22.8% say up slightly and 3.7% up significantly, Only 17% report conversion is down, 13.7% say down slightly, and 3.3% down significantly.

Stephen Webster, chief strategy officer at iPost, said "2008 was an interesting time for a lot of our retailer clients: Revenue plummeted, but e-mail interaction and conversion stayed up quite well. The key factor was the order size dropped,"

According to the Internet Retailer survey of IRNewsLink e-newsletter readers conducted last month, about half of retailers report between 1% and 10% of all online sales stem from e-mail marketing:

  • 15.7% say 1% to 2.5%
  • 15.7% say 2.6% to 5%
  • 15.4% say 5.1% to 10%

"That's surprisingly low," Webster says.

51.6%, of retailers plan to increase their use of e-mail marketing during the recession. 43.7% plan to keep e-mail marketing volume about the same while only 4.7% plan to decrease it.

In last month's Internet Retailer survey, 55.2% of retailers said e-mail marketing will perform better than search during the severe recession. Many marketers are turning more to e-mail today because they know they can control the message better.

Arthur Sweetser, chief marketing officer at e-Dialog, says "...marketers are going to their bosses and saying we can make more money with e-mail for less expense."

Webster of iPost, goes on to say "... the beautiful thing about e-mail marketing is that the message and call to action and the means to take that call to action are in exactly the same place at the same time... rare in marketing channels."

46.7% of retail marketers say they will be fine-tuning their mix of graphics and content to improve the effectiveness of e-mail campaigns during the economic recession. Some experts, however, say graphics and content are overemphasized at the expense of more effective tactics... and 40.8% of retailers surveyed say they will be increasing their use of e-mail segmenting.

In addition, 40% of retailers are working on acquiring e-mail addresses to grow lists at every point of contact, including in store, in the call center and through social networks.

Sweetser of e-Dialog, says " (if) the people who shop your stores, in your catalog, who visit your web site leave, and you never get their name, that's bad."

More retailer tactics being used today to improve the effectiveness of e-mail marketing include:

  • 38.8% are triggering e-mail marketing messages based on behaviors or events
  • 36.5% are personalizing messages (such as by addressing customers by first name)
  • 28.2% are adding Forward-to-Friend links
  • 22.7% are leveraging transactional messaging for marketing communications
  • 18.4% are providing multiple options (for example, opting out of promotional e-mails but remaining on the e-newsletter list) during the opt-out process
  • 17.6% are including customer reviews
  • 14.1% are adding Share This links to social networks
  • 13.3% are adding more video-related content

All of these tactics help make e-mail marketing messages more relevant to customers-and in e-mail marketing, relevancy rules, Sweetser says.

"Do we have their name, do we personalize it, do we know their past purchase history, can we segment based on age or gender? As soon as retailers invest in relevancy, they see conversion rates rise," he says. "So many of these organizations have lots of data residing around the company. Sometimes getting it so it is feeding into a database for marketers is difficult because of the way an organization is structured. But when you do get it, that allows you to trigger a more relevant and timely message."

Even though consumers are spending carefully, retailer marketers can still count on e-mail marketing to perform, concludes the study.

For additional information, please visit Internet Retailer here.

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