June 4, 2009, 12:00 AM

What retailers should know about why consumers sign up for e-mail

77% of online consumers have subscribed to e-mail. Understanding why drives stronger marketing program results for retailers, Forrester Research says in a new report.

Retailers send more e-mail than almost any other industry, according to Forrester Research Inc., but to get the most out of marketing e-mail, they need to drill down into why different consumers subscribe, and craft campaigns accordingly.

According to Forrester’s report, “Why consumers subscribe to retail e-mails,” most consumers now have a long history of receiving e-mails-seven years, on average-and they expect more from them than before.

68% of consumers queried by Forrester report subscribing to e-mail to receive discounts. That means retailers should determine whether subscribers want to hear about all discounts or only those most relevant to them, Forrester says. 50% subscribe simply because they like the retailer or brand, and for those consumers, Forrester advises retailers to capture ZIP codes so they can be informed of in-store events. And 49% of consumers sign up for a retailer’s e-mail because they want to hear about sales. If retailers can identify consumer preferences-for instance, that a particular brand is on sale-their e-mails to these customers can be made more effective, Forrester says.

To find out why different consumers subscribe and to encourage more e-mail subscriptions, retailers should improve their on-site preference center to capture information that can guide e-mail campaigns, Forrester says. With that data, retailers can, for example, feature language about sales in the subject line and first few message lines for customers who register to learn about sales, and new product information in the same areas for customers who subscribe to receive information about new products, according to the report.

Forrester also says retailers can make their e-mail programs more effective by showing consumers, outside the e-mail channel itself, the benefits of subscribing and displaying that information in catalogs, at the point of sale and during online checkout. Providing consumers with online tools that let them easily post e-mail they receive in other venues-their social network profile pages, for example-also can help drive program results, according to Forrester.

Forrester’s online survey queried 5,400 adults in U.S. and Canadian households in August 2008.

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