September 3, 2008, 12:00 AM

Cultivating right e-mail formula grows sales at GreenwoodNursery.com

By reworking its e-mail marketing with a cleaner list of addresses, better frequency, and the right mix of instructional and promotional information, Greenwood Nursery has grown web sales 200% or more on the day after it sends e-mail, the retailer says.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

By reworking its e-mail marketing strategy with a cleaner list of addresses, better frequency and timing, and the right mix of instructional and sales information, Greenwood Nursery has grown online sales by 200% or more on the day after it sends e-mail, owner Steven Jones says.

“Once we started doing our regular e-mail campaign on Thursday evenings, on Fridays we do 200-300% more in sales on our e-commerce site,” Jones tells Internet Retailer. Sales continue to rise on Saturday and again on Monday, he adds.

Greenwood Nursery, based in McMinnville, TN, opened for business about 30 years ago and launched its e-commerce site, GreenwoodNursery.com, early in this decade. Although it doesn’t report financial numbers, sales have been growing at about 15% per year.

Until it switched its e-mail marketing to a program managed with e-mail services provider SubscriberMail, however, it was experiencing poor response from e-mail promotions, Jones says. “We had a small program with our site hoster, but weren’t getting much response. We checked and found out many customers weren’t getting our e-mail.”

With SubscriberMail, Greenwood has since cleaned up its e-mail list to rid outdated or inaccurate addresses. It has also experimented with timing and frequency of mailings, settling on about three or four per month to each customer on its e-mail list. Initially worried that he might irk his customers with too many e-mails, Jones started sending them once every two weeks. But while the customers didn’t reject that frequency, the campaign didn’t produce much of a bounce in sales.

He eventually settled on sending e-mails once a week on Thursdays, which proved to be the best time for addressing the weekend planting needs of customers. “Once they begin getting e-mail on a certain day, we find it’s important not to keep changing the day,” Jones says.

Greenwood also mixes up the weekly e-mails with instructional messages, including Jones’s “Plantman” newsletters (which also appear in print version in about 90 weekly newspapers in several states), and periodic promotional e-mails that may offer sales on particular products or close-outs of excessive merchandise.

Under the new e-mail campaign management, performance rates have surged, Jones says. Delivery rates are now at 95% or more; open rates are 11-13% and as high as 20% during peak shopping seasons, Jones says.

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