E-mail Marketing: What Works Now
The great American author John Updike once said, “Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or doing it better.” The sentiment surely applies to e-mail marketing, and the operative words are “creative” and “better.”
Catalogers stand to benefit greatly from trying more creative e-mail marketing techniques. Even if you already consider yourself an expert in this space, upping the ante to a more sophisticated, more technical solution could be a smart move. Not only could you improve response rates, but you could also automate portions of the testing process when working in this online medium.
HTML vs. Text
The most basic upgrade for plain old e-mail messages uses Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), the native tongue of the World Wide Web. HTML allows creation of text-and-graphics pages that are far more attractive than plain text.
By and large the industry is moving toward HTML-coded e-mails as the standard. Effective catalog selling demands high-quality images, and the same goes for e-mail marketing. Plain text messages don’t always cut it.
Reggie Brady, vice president of strategy and partnerships for New York City-based e-mail marketing vendor FloNetwork, says two of her most prominent catalog clients—J. Crew and Omaha Steaks—prefer to send image-embedded messages.
“We know that, looking across e-commerce clients generally, [catalogers] will get three times the click-throughs [with HTML] than with text,” she explains. “That’s no surprise; a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Upgrading e-mail messages could help drive business to other channels. Kathryn Grant, a spokesperson for The Sharper Image, says some of her company’s e-mail incentives are intended to encourage those who have bought from the Web site to visit a retail location. Take the company’s Valentine’s Day incentive as an example (see screenshot on opposite page). HTML, or rich media, allows The Sharper Image to send an offer that would lose its punch in a text-only message as there would be no visual of the products nor a coupon. Customers receive the discount only if they print out the e-mail and take it to a store.