October 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

For books e-retailer, timing is everything in e-mail marketing

After testing segmented e-mail marketing campaigns, A1Books.com learned the time of day most customers are most likely to respond to messages and hit the buy button. It has also learned what it can cross-sell to its customers based on their reading interests.

Nothing sells a book like a timely topic, but it also helps to promote it to the most interested customers when they’re most likely looking to buy. For A1Books.com, nothing fits that strategy like a perfectly timed e-mail, says marketing manager Shrevas Telang.

After deploying a new e-mail management system from e-mail services provider SubscriberMail a year ago, A1Books tested e-mail campaigns segmented by time of day and learned when to produce a 25% open rate, Telang says.

“We started this with SubscriberMail in August 2006, and by the time we got to Thanksgiving we had a good idea of when people open their e-mails,” she says.

In the final segmentation by time test period, Netcong, N.J.-based A1Books split a list of about 75,000 customers into three groups, e-mailing them at 12:30 p.m., 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Eastern time. The most popular time turned out to be 12:30 p.m., with an open rate of 25%, followed by 1:30 p.m. with 18% and 1 p.m., 16%.

Branching out

The retailer also learned a few other things while using the SubscriberMail system, which offers an ability not available in A1Books’ former in-house system to analyze e-mail activity. With a strong customer base for medical education books, for example, the book seller learned that students will respond to e-mail equally at almost any time of day.

A1Books, a unit of WebNotions Inc., has branched out in recent years from books into products such as iPod accessories and medical equipment, following up on the interest customers initially showed in books. With its new e-mail management system, it’s now finding ways to tie the multiple product lines more closely together, Telang says.

After analyzing the response to an e-mail promoting the sale of iPod accessories, for example, A1Books sent to those who had opened the iPod accessory promotion follow-up e-mails with an offer for a book about how to use the iPod. “We got really good open and click-through rates on the follow-up e-mail,” Telang says.

In another campaign, A1Books developed a new market for illustrated books after a successful e-mail campaign about a new Spider-Man collector’s edition comic book, Telang adds. “When we promoted the Spider-Man book and saw the number of clicks on the e-mail, we realized we could serve a demand for graphically illustrated novels.”


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