October 11, 2007, 12:00 AM

Blair addresses delivery rates by informing customers of new e-mail source

To help ensure its e-mail marketing messages arrive in recipients’ inboxes, apparel and home furnishings retailer Blair alerted customers that its e-mail communications would arrive from a new address and advised them to update their address books.

When Blair Corp. changed the e-mail address it was sending from this fall it sent three notices to customers about the impending change, asking them to add the new e-mail address to their address books “to keep receiving our e-mail specials.” And when the address did change Blair again highlighted the switch at the top of the e-mail message and reminded customers to update their address books.

Having Blair in customer’s address books is the best guarantee the retailer’s e-mails will be delivered without scrutiny from an Internet service provider’s spam filter, says Darren Schott, senior director e-commerce. He says the first e-mail blast with the new address went out last month and that he does not yet have a complete report on delivery rates and customer responses.

Blair, which is No. 118 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, changed its e-mail address because its old address, blair@blair.messages2.com, had been provided by a previous e-mail service provider. When it switched providers to Yesmail the company needed a new address and chose one, blair@e.blair.com, that is a sub-domain of Blair.com. That way it will be able to continue to use the same e-mail address if it changes e-mail service providers in the future, Schott says.

This kind of advance warning of a changing e-mail address is a new and welcome development, says Chad White, director of retail insights and editor-at-large for the Email Experience Council, a unit of the Direct Marketing Association. “That’s something a year ago we didn’t see at all,” says White, who closely follows the e-mail practices of large online retailers. He notes that Williams-Sonoma, No. 20 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, also recently sent out e-mails to its customers with a note about a new e-mail address and a request that it be added to the customer’s contact list.

“Whitelisting is extremely powerful because it means those permissioned e-mails are going to automatically go to your inbox and have images turned on in most cases,” White says. Many ISPs and e-mail software clients automatically turn off images unless the sender is in the recipient’s address book.

This kind of communication is easy and essentially free, White says. “You just have to communicate with your subscribers,” he says. “It doesn’t involve going to the ISPs or anything complicated.”

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