Experiential or Promotional: How Most Brands Use Email Marketing Incorrectly
Why do people prefer to travel to Paris instead of seeing the Eiffel Tower in pictures? Why were (and in some places, are) so many people eager to get back to live events like sports games and concerts during COVID restrictions? It comes down to experience.
We might not be able to fully explain it, but there’s just something different about going to a basketball game in person vs. watching it on TV. The difference between using all five senses and just watching something on a screen is monumental.
A similar principle applies to marketing.
If you can create a relevant experience, personalized for each customer, you can build a connection with them and tap into something that promotional campaigns simply can’t reach.
The Wrong Perspective
Retailers often look at email marketing like it’s just another way to advertise their products. Although email marketing is an effective way to let your customers know what you have to offer, that shouldn’t be the primary reason to send them emails.
Email should be a personalized experience for each customer. You want to entertain and engage them so they come back for (and spend) more. In the same way that people look back for years at memories of concerns, you want customers to associate your brand and the experience delivered through email with excitement and positive emotions.
However, experiences need to be tailored to each customer. Otherwise, you won’t provide them with something relevant and engaging.
Imagine for Christmas you bought everyone the exact same present: let’s say, a medium-sized men’s T-shirt. For some people, it might be the perfect gift. But for the majority of people, it would be the wrong gift (they wouldn’t like it), or the wrong size.
Over time, if you kept doing the same thing every Christmas, family, and friends would get “gift fatigue,” and you might not get invited to holiday gatherings.
Now, look at this situation like it’s your email marketing strategy. If you send all your customers the same email content, it might work for some people on your list. But for most, it would be an irrelevant or a bad fit.
Your email messaging has to be better than “here’s a product, you should buy it” or “here’s a product on SALE, you should buy it.” It has to engage customers on a personal, one-to-one basis, using the information they provide to create an optimal experience every time they open your emails.
Otherwise, your emails will become undeliverable and you will lose valuable opportunities to say something relevant and interesting to your customers. Considering email has a high ROI — 42:1 — it's important to keep it as an available channel to speak to customers. There's a lot of value in keeping customers on your email list and maintaining deliverability.
It’s not a great customer retention strategy, is it?
Beyond that, email strategies can either help or harm your customers’ lifetime value. They can create better customers (by being relevant, timely, encouraging them to shop across more categories, reducing their dependence on sales to purchase, etc.) OR focus on immediate value (by sending lots of coupons/discounts, cutting into their own margins, and trains customers to only shop when there’s a sale).
Which one would you prefer?
The Personal Shopper Model
A great way to keep and grow customers is by treating each one like you’ve assigned them a personal shopper.
Treat every customer like they’re the ideal version of themselves. Market to both where you want them to be as a shopper, as well as where they are. Reinforce the categories that your customer already loves, while helping them discover new products that could resonate.
Our clients have seen that sending customers a personalized “balanced diet” of content leads to better experiences and “healthier” customers, who spend more and stay on the email list longer.
This starts with knowing the true value of each creative asset to gauge how effective it will be among different audiences.
This graph shows the effectiveness of one creative asset among different audiences (1.0 is average performance). We use a proprietary model to predict how much a given customer’s spending will increase when they’re sent this creative asset.
In this case, the creative asset measured would have the highest level of effectiveness among shoppers who have bought in the “Infants” section in the past.
By sending customers the most relevant content possible, the best experiences are delivered and sales are propelled, while maximizing the LTV of each subscriber on your list.
What is your brand doing with email?
Are you creating an engaging experience for customers to build excitement for every email you send, or pushing irrelevant products to disengaged customers?
Interested in more content like this? Check out this post on the Coherent Thoughts blog or register for our New York City Peer Forum in October, where we will be delving deeper into topics like personalization and the intersection of data science and email marketing.
James Glover is the co-founder and CEO of Coherent Path, an email marketing optimization and email personalization solutions provider.
Related story: 3 Ways You Can Turn Email Into a Retention Powerhouse