Why Emails Lists Are Still A Huge Assets for Retailers
Email lists aren’t dead. While it’s not a new marketing channel and open rates have been dimnishing, email lists are still highly strategic for most retailers. Furthermore, an increasing number of retailers are using their own email lists to get greater insight on their customers through email surveys, a quick and less expensive manner of reaching consumers.
Whether it’s gauging their store experience and the store’s overall service to questions about products, surveys through emails can be an effective marketing tool today for retailers in the age of instant technology.
And because of the ability to gather information so quickly, retailers today can adapt their offerings and how they operate in a more timely fashion.
Andrew Jennings, a former CEO of Holt Renfrew and author of the new book, Almost Is Not Good Enough, says the use of digital channels in retail has increased significantly and email is an important part of this mix especially for some demographic groups.
“You can track so much at an individual level,” says Jennings, who had a 45-year career as a senior retail executive at leading brands including Woolworths, Saks Fifth Avenue, Holt Renfrew and Harrods. “Every open, every click, what day of the week, time of day, what keywords appeal, what channels work. Outside of just using transactional or purchase data, you can use communication engagement to supplement customer understanding, not just to optimize communications strategy but to understand a lot more about customers.
Jennings wrote his book to share his insights gained from nearly five decades in the retail industry.
In the book, he writes that technology is transforming every aspect of the retail business and the pace of change is breathtaking. He says technology has a key role to play in experiences that customers now crave and that retailers need to use technology creatively to enhance every aspect of the shopping experience from the dressing room to the checkout process.
When well executed, personalized communications can deliver increased customer engagement as well as increased sales.
He says there are two key drivers for success in using emails by retailers. One is the speed retailers can act based on customer behaviour and capitalizing on what customers are telling them. The second is being personal and relevant to customers. “This isn’t just about remembering what customers have already bought but making intelligent use of it,” he says.
Frequency of communicating with customers has increased significantly. The trend is for shorter, frequent communications assuming that we will catch the customer at some point when she’s (or he’s) in the mood. We are seeing some online fashion retailers communicating to customers more than twice a day.
“Unsubscribe rates are not increasing as one may expect with such an increase in frequency. The retailers that are maintaining their opt-in rates are the ones that are getting their personalization right . . . Interactive e-mails are the next new thing – turning your inbox into your website or application. So shopping in your email.”
David Ian Gray, of Vancouver-based Canadian retail advisory DIG360 Consulting Ltd., says good opt-in email lists, where people have engaged with a brand and want to be in contact, can really cut through all the noise and the clutter on the web.
The challenge is it’s absolute noise when it’s not a relevant message or an engaged relationship.
But he warns that it can become “noisier and noisier the more retailers use email.”
“When it’s done properly, it’s a very important part of the arsenal of communication tactics,” adds Gray.
“When email works, it’s incredibly valuable.”
He says retailers, especially in Canada, have not been quick adopters of research.
“But in everything you can overkill the trend. I’m nervous of where we’re at right now. For email marketing and also for email surveys when everybody’s doing it, it becomes noisy,” says Gray.