Why Email Marketing Requires Such A Supple Wrist

In order to succeed as an email marketer in a “customer first” world, you have to think more like a pinball wizard, Shelagh Stoneham, senior vice president-marketing at Chico's FAS Inc. said this morning during her opening keynote at the Email Insider Summit in Captiva, Fla.

Why a pinball wizard? Because the modern day omnichannel marketing environment looks more like a pinball machine than a classic marketing funnel, she explained.

In fact, Stoneham’s presentation was less about email marketing specifically as a channel and more about the broader mix of channels available to the modern-day email marketer, especially if you’re marketing a retail brand.

She began her presentation on a dour note, citing the wave of brick-and-mortar retail store closings over the past five years, including Toys R Us in the U.S. this year, and Nine West’s filing for bankruptcy.

“The retail industry has never been under greater pressure,” she said.

Not surprisingly, Stoneham cited the rise of ecommerce as the first reason for the transformation, noting that for some industries, ecommerce sales are not greater than physical retail sales.

She also cited the shift in consumer expectations from simply buying things to a “preference for experience”: going on trips, spas and high-end restaurants.

That emphasis has been so powerful, she said, that even pure-play retailers have opened brick-and-mortar outlets or acquired physical retailers.

She cited eyeglass marketer Warby Parker’s opening of retail outlets, because customers actually want to try on eyeglasses before buying them.

Even seminal ecommerce giant Amazon has moved into brick-and-mortar with the purchase of Whole Foods, she noted, saying the acquisition likely is due to Amazon’s interest in understanding and optimizing its customers’ experiences.

The reverse migration, she said, is leading to a convergence of physical and digital retailing into “one ecosystem.”

And for all of digital’s hyper-efficiency, she said the real world still is a key way for marketers to build relationships with customers.

“Face-to-face interaction has the power to build one relationship a a time,” she concluded.

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