Silverpop Study: Making Changes Can Help Retail Marketers' E-Mail Efforts

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Personalization, calls to action and better placement of registration requests are all areas in which e-mail marketers can improve, according to a Silverpop study released yesterday at the Annual Catalog Conference in Orlando, FL.

"What we found was actually quite surprising," Silverpop CEO Bill Nussey said. "There are a few very simple changes retail marketers can make that will go a long way to distinguish their e-mail campaigns from those of their competitors."

The findings are part of Phase I of the company's "Retail Email Marketing Study." Silverpop's study found that three-fourths of retailers don't respond to prospects' requests with even simple personalization like the recipient's name. The study also found that retail e-mail marketers can improve how they encourage site visitors to sign up for e-mails with both stronger calls to action and better placement of registration requests.

One-fourth of the companies studied failed to offer a simple explanation of benefits to encourage visitors to sign up for e-mails. When a call to action was offered, 45 percent offered notices of sales and promotions and 14 percent offered news. An offer for a catalog or other direct mail was the incentive used by 11 percent of retailers.

"I was very surprised to see that as many as 23 percent of the companies we looked at failed to include e-mail registration requests on the home page," said Elaine O'Gorman, vice president of strategy at Silverpop, permission-based e-mail marketing company. "The company that wants to establish a relationship with its customers through e-mail should never bury the call-to-action by placing it off page."

Other study findings include:

· The type of information retailers offered was generally limited, with almost eight of 10 companies offering only one communications choice like notices of sales, newsletters or information bulletins.

· Thirty-seven percent of retailers asked recipients only for an e-mail address while 39 percent asked registrants to complete a four- to five-line profile that included a postal address. Phone numbers and demographic information were requested by 25 percent of retailers.

· Forty-three percent of companies sent a registration confirmation message. Eight of 10 sent the confirmations on the same day and 76 percent displayed product or brand names in the messages. Only 12 percent asked to be added to the recipients' address book or white list and 25 percent of the confirmation messages were personalized.

"Marketers should think about how they respond when they meet someone for the first time," O'Gorman said. "You score points when you use the person's name."

The project reviewed the registration procedures, marketing messages and opt-out practices of 175 firms, including companies such as Crate & Barrel, Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney. Silverpop expects to release a full report of Phase I of the study in June.

Silverpop has scheduled the release of two other parts of the study for later in the summer.

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