Still Time for E-Mail Holiday Marketing

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Looking for ways to lift response this holiday season? While it's probably too late to put another catalog in the mail, there's still time to rush out an e-mail marketing campaign to drive last-minute shoppers to your Web site. While a postal mail campaign can take weeks to get out the door, an e-mail campaign can be completed in a couple of days, sometimes even a couple of hours.


And, thanks to the boom in online shopping this year, consumers are more likely than ever to stay away from the mall and shop the Net instead. Here are four ways you can use e-mail marketing to ring up some extra jingle from your catalog this season:


Mail your e-mail house file. The maxim that there's no better list than your own list holds just as true in e-mail marketing as it does in the world of paper and stamps.


If you've been collecting a list of names and e-mail addresses of the shoppers who've come to your Web site during the year, now is the perfect time to contact your online customers about holiday specials and promotions.


Not only are e-mail house file mailings fast (messages typically arrive in a recipient's e-mail box within hours or even minutes of being sent); they're also cost-effective, costing pennies per message mailed. J. Crew, for example, sends out promotional offers to its e-mail house file throughout the year and has enjoyed tremendous success this holiday season.


The apparel company's e-mail campaigns typically feature colorful HTML graphics and offer customers savings on purchases above a certain dollar amount. The goal of the campaigns is to encourage customers to return to the J. Crew site, type in their credit card numbers and order online.


Rent holiday-specific prospecting lists. Unlike the postal world where lists are segmented by purchase history and demographics, e-mail lists are typically organized by topical category according to the recipient's interests.


For example, the PostMaster Direct Response database of nearly 2 million list members contains thousands of categories, from computing and business to travel, gardening, and gourmet food. This allows mailers to send offers to Internet users who have voluntarily signed up to receive holiday- and gift-related offers, removing any guesswork about when the prospect is likely to buy.


Make a special offer. E-mail marketing also allows mailers to test a wide variety of incentives to a select audience before making them available to customers at large. This season, we've seen many mailers offer free shipping, limited-time discounts, and other incentives to encourage shoppers to respond.


Offer online gift certificates. Even procrastinators have no excuse not to buy from you this season when you offer gift certificates online. Because these online certificates can be shipped by e-mail, even someone who orders one on Christmas morning can have it delivered anywhere in the world the same day. MuseumShop.com offers gift certificates in denominations of $25, $50, $75 and $100. Online bookseller Amazon.com offers gift certificates priced from $10 to $500. The other nice thing about gift certificates is that they introduce more shoppers to your online store, hopefully spurring yet another purchase and adding one more name to your e-mail house file.


As one of the Internet's leading e-mail list managers and brokers, we've seen a huge jump in the number of mailers conducting holiday e-mail campaigns this fall. I believe that the volume of mailings -- both to e-mail house file and prospecting lists -- will increase substantially in years ahead as more consumers switch from telephone ordering to online shopping.


My advice: Start building your e-mail house file today and get some e-mail marketing experience under your belt.


Rosalind Resnick is president and CEO of NetCreations Inc., the New York Internet marketing firm that operates the PostMaster Direct Response e-mail marketing service. She can be reached at www.postmasterdirect.com or by e-mail at rosalind@netcreations.com.
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