May 24, 2005, 12:00 AM

Small changes can make a big difference in e-mail opt-in, study says

Silverpop’s review of e-mail registration procedures, marketing messages and opt-out practices at 175 companies against best practices shows that it takes only small changes to leap ahead of competitors.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

 

Online marketers from Neiman Marcus to J.C. Penney are using e-mail to reach customers, but of 175 of them reviewed by permission-based e-mail services provider Silverpop in a new study, many have a long way to go in learning how to use e-mail for best results.

“What we found was actually quite surprising,” says Bill Nussey, CEO of Silverpop. “There are a few very simple changes retail marketers can make that will go a long way to distinguish their e-mail campaigns from those of their competitors.”

Silverpop reviewed the registration procedures, marketing messages and opt-out practices of the 175 companies against best practices. In a preliminary release of results that will be rolled out in June, the study found, for example, that three-quarters of the companies reviewed don’t take one of simplest opportunities to build relationships with customers: their responses to customers’ e-mail queries don’t include personalization such as the customer’s name.

Marketers also can achieve better results in getting web site visitors to sign up for e-mails with stronger calls to action and by better placement of registration information on the site. One-quarter of the companies reviewed didn’t offer any explanation of benefits to provide incentives for visitors to sign up for e-mail. When a call to action was offered, 45% offered notices of sales, 14% offered news, and 11% offered a catalog or other type of direct mail.

“As many as 23% of the companies we looked at failed to include e-mail registration requests on the home page,” says Elaine O’Gorman, vice president of strategy for Silverpop. “The company that wants to establish a relationship with its customers through e-mail should never bury the call to action by placing it off page.”

O`Gorman also noted that the ability to provide content preferences and a variety of choices can help increase the number of people who will opt in to receive e-mail from a company, yet only eight out of 10 companies studied offered only one choice, such as notices of sales, or newsletters.

A total of 37% of retailers asked only for an e-mail address, while 39% asked registrants to fill in a short profile and typically, a postal address. About 25% of the companies asked for a more extensive profile including a phone number. When customers complete a registration, 43% of the companies sent a confirmation, but only 25% of the confirmations were personalized with the registrant`s name.

“Marketers should think about how they respond when they meet someone for the first time,” says O’Gorman. “Just a few simple practices can make a big difference in the success of an e-mail campaign.”

 

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