Amazon: If the Customer Doesn't Request it, Send Anyway!

Amazon is the standard by which all other email marketing programs are judged.  The Amazon commitment to customer experience is so ingrained, that Don Parsons, Amazon director of email, didn't even mention it in his keynote this morning. It's just understood.  Frankly, it comes out in every word he speaks.  Their focus is on creating a customized email conversation with every customer.

That is why it was suprising to hear him extol the virtues of sending occassional messages that are not specifically matched to the customer interest.  

"It’s perfectly okay to bring up in a valued email conversation something that is important to you even if it’s not important to the customer," he said.  We have algorithms that help us decide how to prioritize the offers and messaging to customers.  Sometimes we include promotions that are outside whatever the customer has defined as valuable.  "The cardinal rule is that the Customer Always Decides" [what is valuable]," he said.  "However, there is always value to the customer if we suggest something of value, even if the customer behavior or demographics don't match perfectly.

"It’s the one time you break that customer decides rule," he said.  "It is an offer or product that matters to us and we want you to think about it, even if you haven't told us you would like it."

However, this practice doesn't happen in a vacuum.  "You have to listen to their response," he said.  "If you discover that they don’t think it’s cool, then stop.  Be careful.  This sort of randomizing element is very addictive.  You have to have some discipline. "

The ability to do this has to be earned.  When you have such a trusted brand, you can afford this kind of interruption in the promotion schedule, and customers tolerate it well if the relationship is good. I've always said that you have to earn the right to send the next email message with every message you send.  Permission is a priviledge, not a right.  It sounds like Amazon has figured out how to introduce new ideas, and maintain loyalty.  

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