December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

You`ve got sales

By Todd Savage

Editor in Chief

E-mail marketing is an attractive medium both for appealing to new customers and retaining past ones by updating them on a site’s offerings and promotions. E-retailers are finding e-mail to be a cost-effective and high-response approach to promoting products and reinforcing branding, and it’s growing as more e-retailers turn to e-mail newsletters as a way to boost click-through rates and sales. By 2005, commercial e-mail is expected to become a $7.3 billion market, according to a new study released in May by Jupiter Communications Inc. But as the volume of e-mail increases, e-retailers must pursue it with sensitivity or they risk driving away the customers whose loyalty they are seeking.

Newsletters that fail to deliver content tightly targeted to things a customers cares about may be ignored or unsubscribed, says Charles E. Rider, senior analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group. “The old adage I learned as a salesperson holds: ‘Don’t call a customer unless you know you have something to say that will interest the customer,’” Rider says.

E-mail marketing has proven to be an especially effective tool for fashion discounter Bluefly.com, says Jonathan Morris, executive vice-president of Bluefly.com. Because the company’s inventory is limited and constantly changing, e-mail newsletters sent out every three to four weeks are a practical way for the company to notify customers about new merchandise.

Morris says Bluefly strives to keep its newsletters-which are both standard and personalized based on a customer’s past purchases-simple and to the point. He recommends considering the experiences of customers who may receive dozens, even hundreds, of e-mail messages a day, Morris says. “You ask yourself, ‘How can I provide value to this customer and get them to pay attention?’” he says. “If you start with that approach you’ll craft a much better message.”

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