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Make Sure Every Email Counts

Consumers want your emails, but a word of caution ...

As I think about our latest consumer survey of 2,000 shoppers, a few important findings stand out to me:

  • More than 82% of respondents prefer email as the communication method with retailers
  • 58% of buyers under age 50 want personalized text offers
  • Fewer than 20% of consumers cite loyalty programs as the “main differentiator” between competitors

As a marketer, this data provides some critical insights into how your customers want to communicate with you, and how you can streamline your marketing resources to comply.

Email remains the most desired channel for communications

[keystat number="82%" width="50%" text="Number of Merkle survey respondents who prefer email as communication method from retailers" last="yes" align="right"][/keystat]Email remains a critical channel. Duh. But what this really means is that it is an investment area. Not only do people want it, but it is the highest ROI channel in marketing. So, marketers need to staff their teams to get the most out of the channel, not starve the team and stifle innovation like so many retailers do. The study also shows that recipients have differing views of email in general – some feel they get the right amount and it is of good value, some feel they receive too much, others think they don’t receive enough. This points out two key realities:

  1. Your email is viewed in the context of all the others that people received so you need to stand out based on past value, offer, or some other emotional connection that you create with your brand
  2. Customers need an intimacy dial of how much you send them. The outcome is that retailers should either be explicit or implicit in how they manage velocity of sends to their subscribers.

From an explicit standpoint, retailers should ask or tell how often they send email at the time of opt-in so that people can make decisions about that cadence. At both opt-in and a click to unsubscribe, retailers should provide an opt-down path that allows users to dictate how often they want to receive email. Marketers will need to save their best emails for those mailings.

From an implicit standpoint, retailers should run analytics to determine optimal email velocity for the desired result at the individual level — presumably greatest revenue, but also possibly reduction in opt-outs. The point is don’t just let that list churn and do the same old thing. People want your email, they just may not want each one. Try to give them what they want and use analytics to figure that out.

Are you missing the boat on SMS?

Retailers are missing the boat on SMS and need to figure it out. This study shows that those under 50 want to receive offers via text. But the reality is that most retailers don’t actively collect SMS numbers for marketing. Some of this has to do with the 2013 TCPA change that impacted a lot of SMS programs by requiring most of them to re-opt-in their subscribers. It was a pain and made marketers rethink how valuable SMS is to them.

There is no question about it. But the fact that people want to receive text offers gives retailers an opportunity to add a channel and get through the clutter of email. Also, given that the majority of opens via email are on mobile device, the same purchase path exists. One of our retail SMS customers generated over US$24MM in 2014 via their US SMS program. The opportunity is there. Retailers should start collecting mobile numbers from the home page now. Build that list and act.

By streamlining their email programs and concurrently taking advantage of SMS, retailers can dramatically shift their engagement value with their customers. Take advantage of these three simple strategies to deliver better return and high customer value.

1. Ask your customers to choose their email frequency

Be transparent about how often you send emails and let the customer choose frequency. Unsubscribe also offers the opportunity to provide an opt-down path, ensuring you don’t lose your contact, but instead, limits frequency of touch. In either case, you can strategically align your most valuable emails to the highest volume mailings

2. Use your own analytics to evaluate email velocity

Run analytics to determine optimal email velocity for the desired result. Measure several outcomes from obvious (greatest revenue) to nuanced (reduction in opt-outs). By taking the time to analyze performance, you can streamline your email strategy and reduce costs while realizing improved performance and value.

3. Customers want text messages, so let’s give it to them.

Augment your email program with SMS. Text provides an additional channel for effective outreach on mobile device. This is a huge opportunity — start building that list by collecting mobile numbers and opt-ins wherever it makes sense.