August 21, 2003, 12:00 AM

How retailers can build better e-mail marketing relationships

At a time when consumers’ in-boxes are swamped with unsolicited e-mail marketing messages, retailers like T.J. Maxx are seeing higher click-through rates by researching customers’ interests before e-mailing them.


At a time when consumers’ in-boxes are swamped with unsolicited e-mail marketing messages, retailers must be more careful than ever in the way they design their own e-mail campaigns. One method being used by T.J. Maxx and other retailers is to first survey customers to find out what kind of merchandising information they’d like to receive, then e-mailing marketing messages based on their survey responses, says Jere Doyle, president and CEO of Prospectiv Direct. “Retailers are getting extremely high open and click-through e-mail rates by matching their customers’ interests,” he says.

“We’re starting to see more retailers use this as an effective means of e-mail marketing,” he says. “Over the course of a year, they get more bang for the buck by focusing on building their relationships with customers than by renting a lot of lists to target new customers.”

Following are 10 steps he suggests for developing stronger e-mail relationships.
• Build files responsibly. There should be a clear opt-in system requiring an action by a consumer to join.
• Affirmative consent. Every e-mail marketing campaign should be permission-based. No third-party opt-ins or opt-outs should be included on lists.
• Confirm e-mail registrations. An immediate e-mail should be sent to customers when they sign up to validate registrations.
• Consumer privacy is the No. 1 priority. Do not sell or share e-mail addresses or personal information without the express consent of consumers.
• Information must be relevant. Send only valuable, relevant offers to consumers.
• Don’t over-communicate. Carefully manage the amount of offers sent to customers. The goal should be not to exceed one e-mail per day per customer.
• Opt-out must be immediate. Provide clear, easy, one-click opt-out system in all e-mails and on web site.
• Consumer assistance. Provide full customer service to answer in-bound e-mail messages from customers.
• Maintain a fresh, responsive database. Pro-actively remove non-responders from files after a period of time.
• Privacy policy must be clear and visible. E-mail messages and web site pages should contain conspicuous links to clearly stated standards, such as a certified privacy policy.


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