February 7, 2008, 12:00 AM

How Abt Electronics boosts e-mail open rates and conversion rates

At Abt Electronics, striking the right balance of product images and text in e-mail has led to a lift in open rates of about 10% while adding a couple percentage points to conversion rates, co-president Jon Abt says.

At Abt Electronics, images of the digital cameras, TVs and microwave ovens it sells can make all the difference in how customers respond to e-mail marketing messages. “Our products sell themselves,” co-president Jon Abt says.

But with up to 80% of recipients unable to view images attached to e-mails in marketing campaigns, according to industry-wide figures, Abt worked with e-mail services provider SubscriberMail to take steps that boosted e-mail open rates by about 10% while adding a couple of percentage points to the rate of e-mail recipients who converted to buyers, Abt says.

Many e-mail systems are set to block images from appearing in e-mail for privacy and security reasons, and most consumers don’t take the steps necessary to un-block images, Abt notes. But by embedding alternative text, or “alt-text,” to describe images that may not initially appear in consumers’ inboxes, Abt has increased the likelihood that e-mail recipients will click to enable images to appear, in turn making it more likely consumers will click through to make a purchase, Abt says.

The retailer has also taken steps to ensure e-mail gets delivered into recipients’ inboxes and to increase open rates, Abt says. It always includes its brand name in subject lines, for instance, and strives for a balance among e-mails with and without product images. Although it has been reducing the number of images in e-mail, it will use them in targeted promotions such as of introductions of new products.

Abt also limits the frequency of e-mail blasts to about once a week during peak shopping seasons, once every two weeks during non-peak periods.

“We try to keep our subscribers happy and on the list,” Abt says.

Abt Electronics is No. 156 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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