July 23, 2002, 12:00 AM

Personalized e-mails have a measurable effect, Yesmail says

Yesmail analyzed 90 million e-mail marketing messages that it was involved in sending on behalf of clients in the first quarter and determined that response rates can reach 14.8% from a typical 4.7% if a marketer includes personal information.

The more a marketer personalizes an e-mail, the more effective the message, says new research from e-mail marketing company Yesmail Inc. Yesmail analyzed 90 million e-mail marketing messages that it was involved in sending on behalf of clients in the first quarter. It determined that response rates to e-mail messages can reach 14.8% from a typical 4.7% if a marketer includes personal information such as name, interests, purchase history, gender, age and message frequency preferences.

Beyond the obvious kinds of personalization--Nine West’s knowing a customer’s shoe size and style preference or Illuminations referring to a recent candle purchase by the customer--a more subtle kind of personalization can drive clicks, says Ed Heinrich, vice president of client services for Yesmail. “Education is a bigger component with a consumer electronics purchase than with other purchases,” Heinrich says.

Heinrich says consumer electronics marketers can stress what a customer can do with an electronics product and what other products might be used with it. For instance, buyers of a digital camera will respond better to an e-mail about how they can take better pictures with their cameras or improve the quality of their prints. “Consumer electronics can end up looking almost like a financial services product because you’re dealing with a product that has a life span,” he says.

Heinrich says Yesmail saw dramatic jumps in response rates as marketers personalized on 5 to 15 elements. Further research is necessary to find if there is a point of diminishing returns, he says.

Heinrich stresses that click-throughs are not the only measure of an e-mail marketing campaign’s success. “Click-throughs will level off at some point,” he says. “But if you get closer and closer to emphasizing the right interest for each individual, your unsubscribe rate will drop off as well.”

Reactivation e-mails also can be successful if they are personalized, he says, but the key is to offer something unique to customers who have been inactive. “Make sure the recipient recognizes that this is not an offer that everyone is getting,” Heinrich says.

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