May 23, 2002, 12:00 AM

These e-mails were made for walking

Women’s shoe manufacturer and retailer Nine West Group uses e-mail marketing to drive customers into its stores.

It’s no joke that women love shoes. And at Nine West Group Inc., which has been using personalized e-mails from YesMail Inc. to target customers who shop online and at its 700 retail stores, the company can say that its customers also love shoe offers. As many as 70% of responses to its e-mail offers take place in the offline stores, says Dianne Binford, director of consumer direct at Nine West. Retailers who focus only on web site responses to e-mails are missing out on a key impact measurement, she says.

The women’s shoe and accessory designer, manufacturer and retailer started working with Chicago-based YesMail in October 2000 to develop a cost-effective way to communicate with its growing database of customers. Together they created a customized monthly newsletter that is personalized for each recipient based on information relevant to her shopping habits, such as shoe size, width and style as well as shopping history.

Ed Henrich, vice president of client services at YesMail, says the e-mails also rely on other key elements to determine the type of personalized offer, such as where the most recent purchase was made, regional offers and events and reminders of loyalty benefits. Nine West tracks such information through its POS system and provides it to YesMail for customizing the newsletters.

Even though the majority of response has come in the form of store sales, the personalization effort has become the top driver of traffic and conversion at Nine West’s web site. Personalized e-mails generate click-through responses of 20-30%. Nine West also experiences a 20-40% increase in sales within seven days following an e-mail campaign.

Going forward, Binford says Nine West plans to work on collecting more e-mail addresses from customers at its stores by encouraging clerks to ask customers for their e-mail addresses and to explain the benefits of receiving the e-mails.

Nine West has taken the smartest approach to e-mail marketing—putting together a list based on personalized information and consumer permission, says David Hallerman, senior analyst at New York-based researchers e-Marketer Inc. “Campaigns like that are bound to have high response rates,” he says.

Binford also points out that e-mail allows Nine West to communicate more often with its customers than does direct mail. Nine West says it costs only pennies to send each e-mail, a fraction of the cost of sending a direct mail piece. Binford says the low cost of e-mail allows Nine West to send communications to customers 12 times a year instead of the four it previously could afford.

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