Engaging potential customers with the right message through the correct communication avenue is imperative to marketing success and, as an established ubiquitous channel, email is perfect to provide customers with relevant and personalised content. Over the last couple of years, we have witnessed retailers invest resources into mastering the basic principles of email marketing.
Most brands recognise that permission forms the basis of all online relationships, and ensure that customers have opted-in to receive brand communication before targeting them. While tools such as web analytics, ratings, reviews and recommendation engines have become vital in collecting users’ behavioural data to generate accurate customer profiles that connect online behaviour with successful marketing efforts.
With the majority of retailers using email to communicate with customers, brands need to avoid overwhelming consumers with a “batch and blast” approach. Instead e-tailers need to refine their email marketing practices in order to continue standing out in the inbox and develop long-term relationships with subscribers.
Advice for retailers
Personalise emails with dynamic content
Today’s customers are marketing-savvy. They know the information that brands are collecting about them and expect it to be used to make communications more relevant and interesting. As a first step, understanding channel preference, social footprint, interests and purchasing behaviour enables retailers to segment their customer base and tailor campaigns to ensure that different groups receive different content. However, developments in location-based services mean that brands can go one step further and target subscribers based on their whereabouts. For example, FourSquare and Facebook Places provide marketers with insight into customers’ locations and behaviour at a specific moment in time. Smart marketers will use this information to trigger personalised emails that target subscribers with information specific to their location in real-time.
Mobile devices have become a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives and brands have grasped the importance of mobile in their marketing strategies. The introduction of smartphones and the development of touchscreen interfaces have made it easier for individuals to interact directly with mobile-optimised emails. As mobile marketing continues to grow in popularity it also acts as a valuable way of delivering a value-add service to consumers. For example, Nokia’s software uses location to understand a bored commuter waiting for his late train and serves him a mobile ad to download the Angry Birds app and an email promotion for the station’s café to satisfy his appetite.
Integrate with social networks
Now that the majority of brands have a solid presence across social networks, retailers need to use email to target socially engaged customers and improve revenue streams. For example, fashion retailer Asos.com uses its email programme to offer customers exclusive access to sales if they connect with the brand over social networks. By using email to target social customers with relevant value-add promotions, brands can increase email open rates, boost social followers and increase conversions.
Beyond the inbox
As holistic marketing continues to evolve, display will emerge as an important tool for engagement, allowing marketers to tag subscribers with identifiers—such as a computer cookie—and target online display ads to those consumers based on their email behaviour. As a rich media-targeting platform that allows brands to be more subtle with the tone and content of their adverts, we have seen that consumers that are retargeted via email and display convert at nearly double the rate than consumers who only receive an email.
Reporting and analysis
Retailers need to implement more sophisticated methods of testing and optimising campaigns to improve return on investment and measure the performance of email campaigns. Imperative to this is implementing a “test and learn” plan that identifies why different groups interact differently and the information that will be of interest. Monitoring subscriber click-throughs and conversion rates can help online retailers ensure they see a return on investment from their email marketing strategy, and allow them to identify the content subscribers are most engaged with so they can adapt campaigns to boost engagement and loyalty
Ultimately, engaging today’s cross-channel consumers demands a more nimble approach, yet email remains the killer outbound channel for marketers to achieve a truly high-impact and holistic marketing approach. The benefits of email marketing are vast: it is low cost, adaptable, ensures prompt delivery of information to customers and drives conversions--advantages that can be amplified when marketers use it as part of a cross-channel approach.
Simon Robinson is senior director of marketing and alliances at Responsys EMEA, a provider of cross-channel marketing systems.
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