April 16, 2012, 8:54 AM

Witty e-mails spice up the inbox

One Click Ventures capitalizes on obscure holidays to connect with consumers.

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On April Fools’ Day 2011, e-mail subscribers to Sunglass Warehouse received this e-mail message: Sunglasses darken your day—moonglasses brighten your night! Only $12.95! Clicking through from the joke e-mail took subscribers to the web site, which was having a 15%-off site-wide sale. Within 24 hours, Sunglass Warehouse’s site experienced its highest click-through rate of 2011 and the most visitors in a day that year. Compared to a typical Sunglass Warehouse e-mail campaign, the e-mail open rate increased 20%, clicks 67% and revenue 24%.

Only conversion rate took a hit—down 25%—but One Click Ventures, the e-commerce  company that manages Sunglass Warehouse along with eight other brands, guesses that came from amused or curious readers interested in following the joke to the site, or perhaps actually looking for moonglasses. One Click Ventures is No. 788 in the Internet Retailer Second 500 Guide.

With similar results from other creative e-mail marketing campaigns, including Cinco de Mayo, Nov. 11, 2011 (11-11-11) and holiday shopping procrastination promotions, the company had its best year for e-mail marketing results in 2011, says One Click Ventures director of e-mail marketing Alessandra Souers. Altogether, the boosts in opens, click-through rates and revenue were enough that One Click is expanding the humorous campaigns to more products, obscure holidays and creative themes in 2012.

“I see it as a way to have fun with our subscribers and let them know we’re human,” Souers says.

The other two One Click Ventures brands included in the April Fools’ campaign, Reading Glasses Shopper and Handbag Heaven, offered invisible reading glasses and a free puppy with every oversize handbag, respectively. That day, each saw its second highest number of site visits, and record-high click-through rates.

Reading Glasses Shopper did take a revenue hit that day with sales down 20% compared to the revenue produced by standard e-mail campaigns. Souers suspects some customers were a bit angry with the ad’s undesirable portrayal of reading glasses. This April Fools’ One Click instead went with a less offensive “reading glasses finder” free with each purchase.

For Cinco de Mayo, One Click lined up five-for-$5 deals for both sunglasses and reading glasses. It was the highest-grossing campaign for Sunglass Warehouse in 2011 and garnered the most clicks and the highest revenue in Q2 for Reading Glasses Shopper.

Similarly, the 11-11-11 campaign, used with sun and reading glasses as well as handbags, offered 11 styles for $11 (or $11 off in the case of Handbag Heaven), plus 11% off the entire order. One Click also optimized these deals for mobile viewing and created unique 11-11-11 landing pages for each of the three brands. As an experiment, Souer says they held off on sending the Handbag Heaven e-mail until 11:11 a.m., which didn’t turn out so well—that e-mail returned only average results. The other two brands performed better. The Sunglass Warehouse e-mail received the tenth-highest click-through rate of the 242 e-mail campaigns the brand ran that year. The Reading Glasses Shopper e-mail produced the third-highest click-through rate and the third-highest revenue of 235 campaigns.

The last new promotion by One Click Ventures in 2011 was the Procrastinator Package, which One Click Ventures considered an alternative to the last-minute holiday shopping campaigns run by other retailers. On Christmas Eve subscribers received an offer playing on the idea that, although they could no longer ship in time for the holiday, gifts are better late than never. Along with a discount, consumers received a downloadable fill-in-the-blank card with a message that apologized for the gift being late. “We didn’t see great results from this,” Souers says, but she suggests the procrastinator theme may have future uses at other times of year.

This year, the One Click marketing team expanded the off-beat trials from 2011 to more brands and added campaigns for tax week, pi day, leap day and Easter. Pi Day is an unofficial holiday celebrating the mathematical constant of π, or pi.

It also added campaigns attuned to the products it sells on its various web sites. For the Scarves.net site, one crafty employee created a library replete with pictures and tying directions for 50 different knots. The day it went live, referral traffic from the Pinterest social network caused Scarves.net to crash. Souers realized she could build a campaign on that interest. “We’ve got 50 ways to tie a knot and 52 weeks in a year, so why not turn this into an e-mail campaign?” she says. Now Scarves.net subscribers receive e-mails with a new knot every week.

Jason Miller will speak June 5 from 3:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in Chicago during a session titled “Marketing Technologies: The engines behind the promotions.” 

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