Spirited Email Lessons From Total Wine & More

View each email as its own conversion funnel. And know that the goal is to give value to the customer — not  the other way around. Those are among the email tenets of Total Wine & More, a spirits retailer that has stores that occupy up to 45,000 square feet.

The company uses email as an outlet to build relationships and help customers get the most out of the website, the app and the in-store experience, said Bart Thornburg, director of email marketing for Total Wine & More, speaking on Wednesday at MediaPost’s Email Insider Summit. 

For starters, that means nurturing customers along the funnel and avoiding the hard sell.

“It’s not about any one email — it’s about the impression or relationship we build over time,” Thornburg said. He added: “It’s okay to lose on the open rate if you’re going to win on the conversion rate.” 



It also means serving as a thought leader in the space — for example, Total Wine & More may explain “the difference between left bank and right bank Bordeaux,” Thornburg said. “They’re coming to us for those answers.” 

And, again, it means keeping the customer top of mind at all times.

Case in point: the retailer launched a mobile app in January. But Thornburg’s team was not thrilled with the email. Why? Because it was done in a company-centric — not a customer-centric — way.

So they changed the subject line from simply announcing the new app, to one that assured readers that they would never miss a deal again with this app.

Finally, this approach entails not cluttering up the email with too many messages, or providing easy exit lines. The firm knows that response will suffer “if we distract them with things other than their intent.”

The secret? Provide a “lower-friction experience.” Finally, pay attention to what the customer wants.

Thornburg used the line — variously attributed — that likens email to a first date: You can’t spend the whole time talking about yourself — you also have to listen,” he said.




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