Powell's Books credits 70% open rate jump to personalized e-mail

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Powell's Books, one of the nation's largest booksellers, has reported an increase in e-mail open rate thanks to its new focus on personalization.

The Portland, OR-based retailer began an e-mail effort with e-mail service provider ExactTarget that targets customers based on their favorite kinds of books. The effort began in February, and the most recent mailing in June saw a 70% increase in open rate.

Customers can personalize their profile and receive the monthly e-mail with books specific to their interests in up to 10 different subject areas.

“We want the e-mails to be as targeted as possible,” said Dave Weich, marketing director at Powell's Books. “People are busy and they are not necessarily going to seek out all of the special deals and promotions. If you want to maintain an active relationship with the customers, you have to do that work for them.”

The company, which began its e-mail marketing efforts in 1999, offers book readers seven e-mail newsletters, including a daily book review and a listing of its recently arrived used books. In total, Powell's sends more than 27 million e-mails every year to its 500,000 opted-in subscribers.

The move to personalize the content of its e-mails comes is tied into Powell's growth in online marketing efforts with social media. Powell's uses e-mail to promote social media and in turn the medium is used to drive e-mail rergistration. Through its e-mail newsletters, the book retailer calls customers to join their Facebook, Twitter and MySpace pages. The company is also using a Facebook page to get fans to sign up for an e-mail newsletter.

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