Mr. Bluelight And Deal-a-Day Emails

With Kmart reincarnating the Blue Light Special as a helpful spokesperson/"retail superhero" named Mr. Bluelight, I thought it was an auspicious time to talk about deal-a-day emails. Just like the Blue Light Special, these promotional emails promise a good deal for a limited time.

But before I get to that, I wanted to alert everyone to an update of my column from last week. Microsoft's Craig Spiezle and I have worked together to pull together data on the adoption rate of Sender ID among the retailers I track via RetailEmail.Blogspot. That way we're giving you an apples-to-apples comparison of Sender ID adoption versus DomainKeys adoption among the top online retailers. Currently, that adoption rate stands at 59% for Sender ID and 48% for DomainKeys.

OK, back to deal-a-day emails. During the past holiday season, several retailers including Petco, Home Depot and the Sears brands (Sears, Kmart and Lands' End), which sent emails collectively as part of their Web site, launched special deal-a-day email programs that were separate from their core email marketing programs and required separate opt-ins. Home Depot highlighted one product per email, while the Sears brands highlighted three. Those programs were temporary, however, wrapping up in December and January after the holiday selling season.



But more recently, ShopNBC launched Spotlight program, which is a permanent deal-a-day email program. First announced in a March 20 email, these emails go out every day, and carry a subject line that incorporates the day of the week to create urgency (i.e., Thursday's Spotlight Offers, etc.). The emails highlight three, six, nine or 12 deals.

Two other retailers, Musician's Friend and TigerDirect, have incorporated deal-a-day programs into their core email marketing program, choosing to provide their daily deals on their Web sites and link to them from emails. Musician's Friend added links to its "Stupid Deal of the Day" to its emails back in October, whereas TigerDirect started adding links to its deal of the day just this month. In both cases, the retailers don't plug a particular deal, just the program itself. Subscribers have to click through to see the deal.

One of the key logistical issues with these programs is how to handle the pricing for a particular product when the email may not be opened on the day it's received. Retailers have tackled this problem in one of these three ways:

1. Don't show products or prices. You get maximum flexibility when you show neither prices nor products, just a banner promoting the program. You run the program through your Web site, changing deals every day or as merchandise sells out. This is a good way to do things if you plan on using a deal-a-day program for liquidations. Musician's Friend, TigerDirect and the Sears brands have all used this tactic.

2. Show products and prices, but use pricing windows. To keep subscribers who were late in opening their email from being frustrated, keep prices good for two or three days. Providing both the product and price should encourage higher click-through rates because of the specificity of the deal. The Home Depot and the Sears brands included prices in many of their emails during the holidays, although they partially shifted to strategy No. 1 later in the season.

3. Show products but no prices. This is a strategy that ShopNBC is using with its Spotlight program. If you're not doing closeouts, I think this is a great compromise between strategies #1 and #2. Showing the products helps subscribers decide if they're interested enough to click through and see the price. But at the same time it doesn't tie you to a price, so if the deal has expired then subscribers will arrive at the product page with the non-sale price.

Deal-a-day programs can provide excitement and urgency, especially around the holidays when people are in a spending mood. If you're contemplating starting a program, hopefully this gives you some ideas.

Next story loading loading..