August 29, 2007, 12:00 AM

How to engage customers in e-mail marketing

Engaging online customers requires more than quick thank-you notes for buying or opting into newsletters. To win over long-term customers, e-mail marketers should ask shoppers what they like and offer information that makes shopping easier, experts say.

Engaging online customers requires more than quick thank-you notes for buying or signing up for newsletters. To win over long-term customers, e-mail marketers should ask shoppers what they like and offer information that makes shopping easier and more rewarding, experts say.

To be sure, e-retailers are getting smarter and more effective in e-mail marketing, says Rachel Bergman, senior vice president of client services at CheetahMail, a provider of e-mail marketing technology and services. “The number of retailers we’ve seen using analytics data in e-mail marketing shot up in the last quarter,” Bergman says.

One of the most common and effective ways of combining analytics and e-mail marketing, she adds, is to e-mail customers soon after they abandon a shopping cart with an offer to help complete a purchase through simple shopping advice or a promotional incentive. A surprising number of recipients of those e-mails are thankful for the follow-up because they had either forgotten to return to a cart or thought they had actually finished the checkout process, Bergman says.

Retailers are also using web analytics more to identify cross-selling and upselling opportunities, she adds. “Retailers are figuring out basket analysis, which products are often purchased together, so they can determine if people who typically buy dresses also buy shoes, so they can cross-sell shoes with dresses in e-mail marketing messages.”

It’s also important to go beyond product promotions to engage the customer’s interest in the retailer’s brand and service, says Ben Ardito, group director of client services for e-mail technology and services provider e-Dialog.

As soon as shoppers either make a purchase or take some other action like opting in to an e-mail newsletter, retailers should immediately e-mail a welcome note that explains the total value they offer customers, including such information as new features that make the retailer’s site easy to shop. “Immediacy is the key,” Ardito says, adding that retailers shouldn’t wait hours or days to send a welcoming message.

It can also be effective to e-mail customers personal tools that can aid in shopping. Ardito notes a beauty products retailer that recently e-mailed customers a skin care planner-a tool designed to keep them engaged over a long term.

Netflix Inc., the online DVD rental company, is particularly good at sending helpful e-mails, Ardito adds. In addition to an order confirmation e-mail, Netflix will follow up with an e-mail message that informs a customer the DVD order will soon arrive-even though in many cases the order has already arrived. That leaves the customer feeling good about the attention from Netflix but also good about getting the order early, he says.

 

 

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