You know the holiday shopping season is upon you when every trip to your physical mailbox you find it stuffed full of catalogs. Similarly, our email inboxes start to overflow as well — though this year it started earlier than usual. By the last week of October, I was getting daily– or even twice a day– emails from some of my favorite retailers.
Although I’m focusing in on one specific retailer with this photo, let me assure you there are a number of others also engaging in daily contact with their current/past customers.
But here’s the thing: no matter how much I love your company, once you start hitting my inbox daily, and with offers that are not tailored to me (I couldn’t fit a roaster into my apartment’s oven if I wanted to, and have bought all of my pots and pans from Macy’s), your emails become white noise.
So how do you avoid causing your customers to tune out to your messages, and cut through all this email clutter? By making sure that every email you send to them is targeted to their interests and past purchases, adheres to a customer contact strategy of no more than 1 email per week, and has a unique offer.
Target email content to customer interests
I’ve shopped at Williams-Sonoma a ton over the years, and it’s all been centered around baking and kitchen tools, and specialty food items. Given that context and the shopping data they should have on file about me, a few of these emails (10/30, 10/28) are on target with my interests, and two general offers (10/27, 10/29) could reasonably be assumed through data to be one that I’d respond to. If I’d received those emails over the course of several weeks, instead of in a span of 4 days, I might have considered the offers instead of leaving them unread in my inbox.
Define–and stick to– a reasonable customer contact policy
Do you think it’s OK to email your customers every day? When they provided their email adddress to you to receive a confirmation of their order, could they have reasonably expected that your idea of “occasional emails” was every day? I can’t think of anyone I know who emails me daily.
Just because you have an email campaign to send out every day doesn’t mean any one of your customers should be receiving all of them! Set a maximum number of emails per month (I strongly suggest one per week as a good base for promotional emails). Define what kind of email (i.e. customer service or shareholder announcement) is allowed to go out to a customer above and beyond the contact strategy. And finally, on a quarterly basis, prioritize the monthly campaigns so it is clear to the person managing your email lists which 4 emails are the most important ones to send to which groups of customers.
Always have a unique offer
Looking through this inbox example, I could come to the conclusion that if I am ever paying full price for my purchase, then I’m doing it wrong. Surely if I wait another week, I’ll get 20% off. That’s not how you want your customers to feel! But as a result of many retailers having frequent, generic 20% off sales, that is how many consumers feel about your regular prices.
So how do you get around that? By focusing on new products related to past purchases, tips on how to put my past purchases to use (which can include a related item I didn’t purchase that works well with it), and alerting me when something new is added to a collection I keep purchasing (like those super cool Star Wars cookie cutter sets).
Creating targeted offers and campaigns takes more time and data resources, but that should pay off with a more engaged customer, who’s purchasing from you more often. Resist the urge to email your entire list unless it’s absolutely, positively something that appeals to all of them. You should see a lift in your open and clickthrough rates, and most importantly, in your ROI and lifetime customer value.
For more food for thought on improving your email list’s engagement, check out these recent articles from some of my favorite marketing blogs:
- Email Open Rates: Truth, Lies, and What to Do About Them (MarketingProfs)
- Jonah Berger’s 6 STEPPS for Success Applied to Email Marketing (ClickZ)
- 2 Key Techniques for Making Email Content More Mobile-Friendly (Content Marketing Institute)