E-mail plays major role in spurring healthy holiday sales

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Holiday sales in 2009 turned out to be better than expected despite a tough year economically, rising by most accounts compared with 2008. E-commerce drove that improvement as consumers both loosened the purse strings and became more comfortable shopping online.

MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse released year end numbers, reported by DMNews in January, pointing to a 15.5% increase in online sales, and researcher ComScore reported a 5% increase in e-commerce sales this holiday season.

One marketing services firm found e-mail played a major role.

E-mail-driven sales were up 11% during the 2009 holiday season, according to Schaumberg, Ill.-based Experian Marketing Services, based on e-mail data collected through its Cheetahmail e-mail subsidiary. The findings are part of The 2010 Digital Marketer: Benchmark and Trend Report, published on February 23. E-mail is still tops in marketers' toolkits.

“We looked across the marketing services landscape, and e-mail is still proven to be the mostly widely used digital channel for marketers,” said Ashley Johnston, vice president of marketing, Experian Marketing Services.

Experian found that e-mail promoting in-store visits in 2009 grew by 50%, highlighting marketers' increased usage of e-mail for cross-channel marketing.

Marketers also continue to refine their approach when it comes to e-mail marketing.

Johnston explained, “One interesting trend we're seeing is that marketers are recognizing that being relevant is no longer enough. They understand that they need to build relationships and connect with their customers individually in order to grab their attention and ensure loyalty and advocacy.”

She added, “They're doing this by moving towards e-mails that are not only meaningful, but connect with their customers by speaking directly to them and adopting a practice of including ‘you/your.' Our data says 19.94% include this in their subject lines to engage audiences.”

In addition to e-mail, channels analyzed in the report included digital advertising, mobile, search, and social media.

The study found consumers start offline shopping trips while online at home with searches that usually are branded or navigational and comprised only one or two keywords.

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