January 23, 2002, 12:00 AM

Blending e-mail with direct mail gets higher response, AMR says

61% of companies that followed e-mail with direct communication boosted response rates by 5% to 10% -- yet 40% of marketers still don’t integrate e-mail and direct campaigns.

Nearly two-thirds of companies polled in a new AMR Research Inc. study on e-mail marketing campaigns got a better response rate when they combined e-mails with other follow-up messages to customers -- yet almost 40% of companies surveyed still haven`t integrated their electronic and direct campaigns.

The integration of traditional channels significantly increases the lift of e-mail campaigns, according to AMR. 61% of the companies polled who followed up e-mails with other direct communication saw an increase of 5% to 10% in their response rate, while 5% saw an increase of 15% or more.

Yet mass e-mails aren’t necessarily an effective approach on offers of products and services, AMR found. “Since e-mails are cheaper than direct mail, the ‘throw it against the wall and see what sticks’ strategy seems like a good idea. It’s not,” says Kevin Scott, research analyst with Boston-based AMR. “You run the risk of confusing and upsetting customers, making each mailing less and less effective.”

AMR found that targeted e-mail campaigns with more specific offers have a response rate that’s on average 7 to 10 times higher than those using a mass mailing approach. And while some marketers argue that targeting e-mail campaigns can help companies reduce cost by limiting the number of e-mails they send, AMR believes that sharpening the focus of e-mails, rather than reducing their number, is a more effective strategy. As an example, Scott cites one electronic goods retailer that sends 1 million to 4 million e-mails to customers each month – but the messages are so specific that some mailings target customer groups as small as 1,900.

The only way to know which groups to target with which offers is by sending test samples and analyzing the results, according to AMR. Testing different versions of a e-mail’s subject line, salutation, lead sentence and promotions while holding other elements constant can yield significantly different results, adds Scott. He cites the example of a Crayola.com test of different e-mail content that found that its best e-mail was 3.5 times more effective than its worst.

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