April 21, 2005, 12:00 AM

More than a million e-mails, but nearly half didn’t reach customers

When Pier 1 found that more than 400,000 e-mails per mailing weren’t being delivered, it turned to DoubleClick to fix the problem. The solution: address glitches that had built up over time and re-engage customers in a phased e-mail program rollout.

Pier 1 Imports has boosted the open rate on its consent-based customer e-mail by about one quarter, from 20% to about 26% on average since it replaced its existing e-mail solution with DoubleClick’s DARTmail last year. Click-throughs as percentage of opened messages have climbed from 30% to 35% and higher, for a total of an additional 50,000-plus click-throughs per mailing, according to DoubleClick.

Pier 1 retained the services of DoubleClick last year when it realized that accumulated unresolved issues with its e-mail program were having a major impact on deliverability. More than 400,000 of its e-mail messages per average 1 million mailing weren’t reaching customers. “The situation was pretty serious, particularly for our AOL subscribers who are a quarter to a third of our total list. None of those messages were getting through,” says Sara Presley, Pier 1`s marketing e-mail analyst.

The situation creating the earlier low delivery rates was twofold: an older legacy system at Pier 1 wasn`t up to the new requirements of sending high volumes of consent-based e-mail. The second issue was organizational: Pier 1 needed a better system for identifying e-mail issues and escalating them to the appropriate people for resolution.

“By the time Pier 1 approached us, they understood they had a problem but they didn’t now how to approach it,” says Ken Takahashi, senior director of e-mail delivery management. Reasons that e-mail bounces back from an ISP could be that the e-mail platform is sending e-mails too fast, for example, or it may not be invalidating bounced mail correclty, which would cause higher and higher bounce rates. However, records of the reasons for failure in delivery are available from AOL only at a general and not an exhaustive level of detail, says Takahashi.

“So Pier 1 didn’t know exactly how it had happened or how to resolve it – they didn`t know how to get through to their customers,” he says.

DARTmail provided a more robust e-mail management technology than the home-grown system the retailer had been using, which addressed a number of issues that had caused AOL not to deliver Pier 1’s messages. And in light of the fact that Pier 1`s AOL subscriber customers hadn’t received marketing e-mails from the retailer in more than a year while the delivery problems were building up, the DARTmail team also worked with Pier 1 on a phased rollout to re-introduce the company`s e-mail program. Instead of just putting out the next e-mail, they re-engaged their customers with an introductory mailing explaining why customers hadn`t received e-mail from Pier 1 recently and why the retailer would like to communicate with them now.

Since working with DoubleClick, deliverability rates on e-mails at Pier 1 are in the low 90s on a regular basis, and most of the bounce backs are from new additions to the e-mail list, in line with expected levels, according to DoubleClick.

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