E-mail gets personal

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Ryan Phelan, director of e-mail marketing at Sears Holdings Corp.
Ryan Phelan, director of e-mail marketing at Sears Holdings Corp.
To promote the new e-mail program, Sears ran a coupon campaign that offered customers who signed up for the e-mail program a coupon for $10 off. The acquisition effort ran on the Sears site and at the point of sale at retail stores. Since beginning the promotion last June, Sears has seen a 50% growth in its e-mail list.

Sears is also in the process of experimenting with Rich Relevance, a company that offers personalized product recommendations, to add marketing messages in their transactional e-mails — the vendor also works with Sears Holding Corp.'s Kmart brand — but only if it makes sense for the specific customer. For example, if a customer purchases some towels and a children's game for six-year-olds at Sears.com, a transactional e-mail might also suggest other games for children of the same age.

“We are working to make sure that not only were we acting in response to compliance, but also to make sure that it is good for customer experience,” Phelan explains. “We've worked on strategy to provide a promotional message but keeping the mainstay of the message about the transaction.”

Video is also a part of the program. For the holidays, the retailer promoted the “Heroes at Home Wish Registry,” which encouraged shoppers to help military families with their Christmas wish lists. The e-mail included a video about a war veteran, as well as wish list items from the veterans and their families that recipients could click on to purchase as gifts.

Sears plans to continue with its personalized e-mail efforts, and use segmentation at an even more micro level to give customers a more substantial one-to-one experience.

“We really want to be able to speak to them in a very targeted way, one that is specific to their interests. This will build loyalty, as customers will see that offers are hand picked for them individually,” says Kordek. “If a customer goes on the site to buy a hammer, we will provide them with a cross-sell and upsell that would go along with a hammer to make the experience more personal.”

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