10 Terrific Uses of E-mail
Although it’s still new territory for most catalogers, e-mail marketing can work extremely well in conjunction with catalog mailing programs. This month we offer 10 tips to make the most effective use of your e-mail marketing campaigns.
1. Get registrations and opt-ins. Successful e-mail marketers concentrate on prompting prospects and customers to register their e-mail addresses for future mailings. (A common technique is to get registrations through a sweepstakes or online contest.)
Once customers have registered or opted-in, the ideal number and frequency of follow-up mailings will vary by type of offer. (For more on this, see “24 Tips for E-mail Marketing Success,” November 2001, Catalog Success, or log on to the article archive site at www.catalogsuccess.com.)
2. Test a few different approaches. The cost of changing creative content in e-mail is a fraction of the cost in regular mail campaigns. Indeed, e-mail is the perfect medium to test different offers.
Use the e-mail’s subject line to test offers such as free shipping, a free gift with purchase or a percentage savings off the purchase price. Also test different price points and types of merchandise (i.e., hard goods vs. apparel). Customers may be more responsive to specific items offered in an e-mail than to similar products offered in a print catalog.
You may find that existing customers are attracted to different merchandise and offers than prospects. Separately track responses from each group for each test.
3. Use e-mail to promote specific products. E-mail can be used to target specific products for sale, including:
*top-selling items for which inventory availability is not a
*leftover merchandise from last season for which there’s not enough inventory to warrant putting back in the catalog; and
*poor-selling items that require discounting to sell. You’ll realize a higher recovery of cost by selling through an e-mail campaign than by selling to a liquidator.
4. Use e-mail to support the catalog mailing. The most common use is to follow up a catalog mailing with an e-mail message within a couple of days. (This is used mostly with housefile mailings.) Mailers have seen a significant increase in response rates when both e-mail and printed catalogs are used, compared to mailing a print catalog by itself.
It’s also smart to test the strength of specific items before a catalog is mailed. By measuring customer response to a product from an
e-mail campaign, it’s possible to anticipate appropriate inventory levels for a mailing, or even to help discern which products should be featured on the catalog cover.
5. Stay in touch with customers between catalog mailings. One of the challenges all marketers face is maintaining brand awareness and customer loyalty. E-mail can help.
Using e-mail, you can communicate frequently with customers. Messages can be informative, as well as sales-oriented. For some product categories, an e-mail containing helpful hints could be used. For instance, a gardening catalog could send e-mails with tips on combating garden bugs. A kitchen products catalog could e-mail recipes.
At minimum, a thank-you note from the catalog president for an order is a valuable tool toward maintaining customer loyalty.
6. Conduct customer surveys. Send e-mails to recent customers to discover what they thought of their shopping experiences. Were phone operators courteous? Did the merchandise meet the customer’s expectations? Was the order delivered on time? Asking customers about their experiences helps them think of you as customer-oriented. It’s also a chance to identify issues with your merchandise or fulfillment that can be fixed before they become major challenges.
7. Reactivate previous customers. You probably won’t have e-mail addresses for many of your inactive customers. Several services can provide e-mail addresses based on your customers’ names and mailing addresses.
Once you have those e-mail addresses, try targeting special offers to inactive customers. Alternatively, the e-mail campaign can be a survey to determine why those customers no longer shop with you. Then test different approaches to reactivate them based on the survey’s results.
8. Reduce customer service calls. As you know, many customers call simply to ask about the status of their orders. Many of these inquiries can be reduced by using e-mail to inform customers about their order status.
An initial e-mail from you could confirm receipt of the order, particularly for orders received by mail, fax or e-mail. Provide an expected shipment date.
A second e-mail could contain the following: a confirmation that the order was shipped; the expected delivery date; and a tracking number if the customer needs to contact the shipping company directly.
9. Drive retail traffic. If you also have brick-and-mortar channels, e-mail provides a great way to get customers to shop at your retail stores.
E-mail deliveries can be timed much more easily than printed promotions. For example, you can send e-mails on Thursday or Friday to drive weekend traffic to a store. E-mail also can be timed to arrive just before a special sale begins. Or, with the right delivery system, an e-mail campaign can be targeted to arrive in the morning to encourage customers to shop at stores during the lunch hour.
E-mail also can be used to announce the arrival of new merchandise in stores—a tactic that’s particularly valuable when new seasonal merchandise arrives.
Many retailers are increasing retail traffic by sending discount coupons via e-mail. The coupons can be printed copies of the e-mail. Alternatively, e-mails can include a code that’s entered into the retailer’s Web site. A coupon then can be printed from the site.
10. E-mail also is an ideal vehicle for offering gift certificates.
Consider your e-commerce channels, including e-mail, as part of your overall marketing mix—and watch your results improve.
Stephen R. Lett is president of Lett Direct, a catalog consulting firm specializing in circulation planning, forecasting and analysis. He can be reached at (317) 844-8228 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Bob Josephson is an account executive for Abacus Direct Corp. He can be reached at (303) 410-5173 or by e-mail at bob.josephson@abacus direct.com.