July 3, 2013, 12:01 PM

The right timing

The e-mail buzz at IRCE was all about using data to make e-mail more personal and relevant.

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At its most basic level, the retail world has two components: Buyers with money to spend and sellers with goods to sell. Retailers, wanting to sell, are increasingly layering data insights into their e-mail marketing communications to help them create the perfect buying moments.

Gathering and applying relevant data in e-mail marketing helps encourage these buying moments, and speakers and exhibitors at the 2013 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition last month had lots of ideas on how to make these moments happen.

Browse Manager, a new remarketing service from marketing technology firm SeeWhy Inc., puts a new spin on e-mail remarketing by introducing it earlier in the buying process. E-mail remarketing commonly refers to e-mail triggered when a consumer puts a product in her online shopping cart but does not convert. Putting the product in the cart is an overt sign of the consumer's intent to buy, and the remarketing e-mail encourages the consumer to complete the purchase.

Browse Manager goes a step back in the process, letting retailers send personalized e-mails to consumers based on their on-site browsing behavior, said SeeWhy founder and chief strategy officer Charles Nicholls at IRCE. For example, if a consumer views dresses on a retailer's site, the retailer can immediately generate a timed series of follow-up e-mails showcasing the products viewed.

Marketing services vendor Silverpop is also seeing its e-mail clients incorporate content based on previous browsing or buying behavior to personalize e-mail. Loren McDonald, Silverpop's vice president of industry relations, said retailers are connecting their customer relationship management databases to their e-mail templates, using the CRM data to personalize portions of the e-mails based on consumers' behaviors, typically from the last 30 days.

Purchase data, combined with seasonal data about clicks and opens, helped David Workman, manager of e-commerce operations at retailer Delta Apparel, pinpoint perfect buying moments during the last holiday season. Pointing to SaltLife.com, one of several e-retail sites Delta Apparel operates, Workman explained during an IRCE session how he applied trend data provided by his e-mail marketing service provider, Bronto Software Inc., to improve the effectiveness of e-mails sent the Monday after Thanksgiving, commonly referred to as Cyber Monday.

Even though SaltLife.com decreased the offer value (from 30% off in 2011 to 20% off in 2012) and ran it for a shorter period (48 hours in 2011, 24 hours in 2012), SaltLife.com generated 168% more revenue from its e-mail in 2012 than 2011. It also sent the 2012 e-mail at 3 p.m. instead of 9 a.m.; Bronto analytics showed 3 p.m. as a peak shopping time, and a time where SaltLife.com's e-mail was more likely to stand out in recipients' inboxes.

Moving forward, multiple e-mail marketing vendors on the Exhibit Hall floor talked about ways merchants can further apply data to personalize e-mail marketing and make it more of a one-to-one communication. While no vendor spoken to had yet incorporated data consumers share on social networks like Facebook and Twitter into e-mail marketing, all noted they are looking at ways to do so.



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