Fashion retailers set trends in e-mail marketing

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In a down economy, one might think a sale is the way to a consumer's wallet, but you may be surprised to know an innovative group of marketers is focusing on why to buy. Fashion retailers are proving to be trendsetters in more ways than one — they're giving e-mail subscribers a strong point of view.

According to Forrester, trendy consumers who care about "what's hot and what's not" are heavy retail e-mail subscribers. They're looking to save money on stylish items, but also subscribe for new product information. Style-savvy retailers are responding with clever content angles, including exclusive invitations to shop time-limited sales, editor picks, featured products, top-rated items, new ways to shop, social networking tie-ins, ways to wear and finds under a certain price.

Fresh approaches and relevant content highlight the assortment and give shoppers motivation to keep engaging with the brand. Strategic retailers give customers enticing e-mail content and still reap a good ROI.

First, look at the big picture. Focus less on how each e-mail performs individually and more on overall success. E-mail is an ongoing conversation. Measure results over a long-term period.

Next, build a cadence. Create a calendar dedicated to a messaging and frequency strategy. Planning ahead will develop a balanced messaging mix and manage how often you're engaging.

Be sure you make the message matter. Cultivating an audience that sees you as a trusted shopping resource is key to moving the needle. Beyond ROI, an e-mail dialogue can help create brand awareness, change perception and ultimately, build relationships with loyal customers.

Address every channel. Engage every customer's shopping habits whether in-store, online or by catalog. Use e-mail to inspire shoppers and encourage browsing. This will lead to a more confident purchase in the shopper's preferred channel.

You also should drive it home with discounts. A special offer is the incentive to convert consideration into transaction. Tell them why a patent leather bag is essential for their fall wardrobe and follow it up with a coupon, percentage off or sales event. A reason to buy your product, plus a great deal, is more powerful.

Finally, get ready to react. Hear what your audience has to say and be flexible enough to adapt and respond. E-mail is more than a mechanism for pushing content.

Katie Kirkpatrick is senior copywriter and content strategist at T3. Reach her at katie.kirkpatrick@t-3.com.

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