By improving how they engaged consumers with targeted e-mail marketing campaigns, retailers boosted e-mail-driven sales by 2.5% year-over-year without causing a lot of customers to opt out of e-mails, e-mail services provider e-Dialog says in a review of holiday 2009 campaigns conducted by 38 of its clients.
In comparison, total retail sales during the 2009 holiday season rose 1.1% year over year, according to the National Retail Federation, while online holiday sales rose 4%, according to comScore Inc.
Laura Saati, e-Dialog’s retail group director, says e-mail marketers benefited from two general developments in the 2009 holiday shopping season: Marketers used consumer data more effectively to tailor e-mail campaigns to segments of consumers; and there was an increased expectation among consumers that they would receive more e-mails during the holidays, along with their willingness to accept those extra e-mails as long as they were relevant to their interests. “If marketers are sending targeted, relevant and personal communications, they can e-mail more frequently,” Saati says.
Marketers surveyed by e-Dialog also were notably less aggressive in sending promotional e-mail during the holiday 2009 season compared to a year earlier, Saati says. The drop in the number and the level of price discounts was most apparent at the beginning of the season during Thanksgiving week and late in the season during Christmas week, e-Dialog says.
The decreased emphasis on aggressive discounts reflected the fact that retailers were less concerned about getting stuck with end-of-season merchandise, Saati adds.
Relying less on aggressive e-mail promotions also supports a strategy Saati recommends to retain new customers retailers gained during the holidays. “Unfortunately, some retailers get consumers introduced to their brand in the fourth quarter, then put these new customers into a standard cadence of promotional e-mails,” says Saati, who is a former merchant for the May Co., which is now part of Macy’s Inc. “But retailers need to put new customers into a more careful, thoughtful sequence of e-mails that introduce the retailer’s brand and describe its value proposition. With that strategy, we see much better results in retention rates. And new customers on-boarded through a welcoming sequence of e-mails spend more.”
To better engage new customers on an ongoing basis, Saati says retailers have found it effective to solicit their customers’ feedback on products and the overall shopping experience. And to increase visitor to sales conversion rates, retailers have increased their personalization of e-mail by, for example, coordinating e-mail promotions with the merchandise available in the physical stores closest to e-mail recipients.