May 2, 2002, 12:00 AM

When a best practice in e-mail marketing isn’t a best practice

Sometimes plain text works better than HTML and sometimes a retailer is better off not sending an e-mail at all, says a new report on e-mail marketing from Jupiter Media Metrix. And success is measured not just on response rates, Jupiter says.


When designing campaigns, e-mail marketers looking to squeeze out best results often look for best practices. But a new report from Jupiter Media Metrix says best practices for campaigns are a moving target, depending on campaign objectives. While HTML is generally used by retailers for e-mail campaigns, for example, Jupiter cites a successful campaign at one retailer who decided to use a text-based e-mail to promote a “last minute” sale.

“Consumers responded to the perceived urgency of the promotion implied by the text format,” says Jupiter analyst Jared Blank. “E-mail marketers too frequently seek best practices. For example, is a hard-sell subject line better than a soft-sell subject line? There is no one best practice for these factors. Only with testing can an e-mail campaign be fully optimized.”

Several versions of audience segmentation, message content and e-mail format should be tested prior to rolling out any campaign across the board, say Jupiter analysts. Jupiter also notes that while the cost of blasting out e-mails to customers already on a retailer’s list is very little, merchants should weigh the size of the opportunity in such customer retention campaigns against the campaign’s potential to create fatigue in a user base already receiving lots of e-mail.

And rather than simply looking at conversions to gauge a campaign’s success, retailers are better off taking a broader view and looking at other metrics as well. For example, Jupiter cites one company that measured the success of an e-mail campaign by determining whether e-mail recipients used the call center less frequently than other customers.

Ultimately, successful e-mail campaigns should be measured not only by the effect they have on customers but also by their impact on improving the practices of marketing organizations, according to Jupiter.


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