June 8, 2006, 12:00 AM

E-mail the best way to target marketing message, say IR2006 panelists

It takes a segmented approach to get the most out of e-mail campaigns, workshop panelists told IR2006 attendees.

 

“There’s competition in the in-box,” Matt Seely, CEO of CheetahMail, told a packed workshop session on e-mail marketing at the Internet Retailer 2006 Conference & Exhibition this week. “If we don’t get more relevant, we are going to see our customers go away.”

Seely was one of three panelists for the session, “E-mail marketing: The best way to target your marketing message,” which provided marketers at the session with insights and examples of how to drive the most utility out of outbound email.

Boosting e-mail relevance begins with data and audience segmentation, something that’s applicable even at a basic level. Panelist Don Zeidler, director of direct marketing at The W. Atlee Burpee Co., for example, shared Burpee’s experience with an A/B test of segmenting e-mail messages at the subject line level, when it ran the response to “last chance” against “free shipping.

“It all starts with a compelling subject line and success is relevant to the segment you are trying to reach," Zeidler said. That subject line, he added, should ring true, contain branding where possible, personalization where appropriate and also articulate the value proposition of the e-mail in a concise way.

Yet advanced segmentation has its challenges, noted the panelists, leaving some marketers wondering if it isn’t just easier to put out an unsegmented general e-mail and simply hope it works. Following an earlier show of hands indicating the larger share of marketers in the audience aren`t yet doing advanced segmentation, panelist Mark Friedman, chief digital marketing officer at brand manufacturer Warnaco, noted that until such unsegmented campaigns start producing effects such as significant drops in click-through or open rates, “You might not see widespread adoption.”

Yet beyond segmentation by demographic or geographic factors, mining customer behavior and information on the site provides fertile ground for segmenting e-mail outreach to those customers in ways easily within most marketers’ reach, according to the panelists. The Wedding Channel’s site, for example, takes a life cycle approach to segmenting e-mail campaigns that helps them reach customers with the right offer at the right time. “Once they get the wedding date, they understand where the bride is in the process and as a result, they understand what are the relevant products to show her in an e-mail,” says Seeley.

Routine e-mail communication to customers on operational matters can be used for multiple purposes, an opportunity some marketers leave untapped, Freidman says. By sending a customer a plain text e-mail confirming shipping, for example, “You’re getting the customer to open up the e-mail, but with a plain e-mail, there’s no upsell,” he said.

By contrast, he called out how Coach’s HTML e-mail reinforces the brand with the right look in confirmations of shopping cart orders or registration forms completed. Such programs can include relevant cross-sell or upsell offers, and, when successful, even help decrease call volume. Also cited were e-mail campaigns that target re-marketing, such as J. Jill’s practice of e-mailing customers who’ve abandoned carts with a reminder that includes a free shipping offer, for example.

 

 

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