When the going gets tough, the tough e-mail

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In these tough economic times, marketers are challenged to do a great deal more with less. One way to do this is to focus on giving current customers the best possible price at the best possible times in the purchasing lifecycle. To effectively target, track and deploy special offers, it's time to turn to our dear old friend, the inbox.

To cultivate the sort of precision needed to increase sales and gain ROI, it's crucial to understand consumer behavior patterns and align e-mail campaigns to support the buyer's decision-making process. Furniture retailers such as The RoomPlace know that most customers make time-consuming physical inspections and multiple price comparisons before they take action.

Capitalizing on this decision-making timeline to increase sales, the Usman Group created an e-mail marketing campaign for The RoomPlace, which is based in Lombard, IL.

We began by developing a comprehensive e-mail marketing campaign designed with this particular audience's drawn-out buying cycle in mind. We also took into consideration the discovery that most furniture shopping is conducted over the weekend.

We scheduled three compelling e-mail offers, each notifying the customer of the special offer and prompting them to download the coupon instantly. These three e-mails were to be sent over a seven-day period and were designed to coincide with the target prospect's decision-making process. To assess the effectiveness, we tracked every micro action — including bounce rates, open rates, click-through rates, coupon downloads, and actual sales.

The first wave was meant to pique customers' interest. This served as the awareness blast that allowed at least three full days for interested customers to research desired furniture selections and review competitive pricing ahead of time. Because the weekend is the most opportune time for target consumers to visit the store, it is essential to understand their normal time constraints and schedule e-mail blasts to accommodate their time requirements.

The next was a reminder blast. Friday afternoons are ideal, because most target consumers are at work, have already completed their tasks for the week and are looking for ideas and things to do over the weekend.

Finally, we sent out another e-mail blast three days after the sale had ended, inviting those who had not yet opened the previous two e-mail blasts with a "last chance" opportunity to extend the special offer and redeem a coupon for the upcoming weekend.

By leveraging strategic e-mail schedules that aligned closely to consumer behavior patterns, we were able to achieve a 32% click to open rate, a 22% coupon download rate and a 16% sales conversion rate resulting in a 4,865% ROI.

Naveed Usman is principal of Usman Group. Reach him at naveed@theusmangroup.com.

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