June 2, 2009, 12:00 AM

E-mails using images from site search drive 300% rise in sales at retailer

In a test, e-mails that draw on site search functionality to display products from a customer’s favorite brand produce a 250% increase in open rates, a 300% increase in sales and a 200% increase in revenue per visit.

A new program from site search vendor SLI Systems Inc. and e-mail services vendor ExactTarget has shown Footwearetc.com a whole new way to drive value out of site search-by using it to personalize customer e-mails. In a split A/B test, the personalized e-mails produced a 250% increase in open rates, a 400% increase in click-throughs, a 300% increase in sales and a 200% increase in revenue per visit compared with non-personalized e-mail, the retailer says.

To use site search to personalize customer e-mails, Mike Baranov, director of online operations at Footwearetc.com, and his team first choose the attributes they want to target–in the test, the retailer chose the brand each customer had most often purchased. ExactTarget stores this information, along with the corresponding e-mail address for each shopper and an e-mail template with open space for displaying a designated number of products from each customer’s favorite label.

To populate that open space, ExactTarget’s system automatically generates a query to SLI’s index for a selected number of products in the customer’s favorite brand.

It’s the same index that powers searches by consumers on Footwearetc.com. But for queries from ExactTarget’s system, SLI has developed a template that serves up results, not as they would display on a typical search results page, but formatted in a grid that fits into the open area in the preformatted e-mail. When the system has populated that grid with the relevant products, ExactTarget’s system sends the e-mail.

“Before, every customer would see the same e-mail. They’d see one main image shot and under it a selection of the same eight to 12 products, no matter what they had a preference for,” Baranov says. “Now we can make an e-mail campaign that says, ‘Check out the new spring arrivals.’ And the system will populate the e-mail with products based on whatever attributes we use with SLI.”

Footwearetc.com now personalizes almost every e-mail it sends. “This way, everybody is seeing more relevant content, and we are truly finding that the more relevant the content the more likely customers are to click through and eventually purchase,” Baranov says. “It’s such a simple concept-just put what customers like in front of them and they are more likely to click and buy. At a basic level, it’s very simple and the technology is allowing us to do that. The difference is night and day.”

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