Borders' E-Mail Promotions Hook Readers

An e-mail marketing campaign sent by Borders Inc. to its database of in-store customers is climbing the company's best-seller list with double-digit response rates.

Borders sends a promotional e-mail blast called “Borders Store Exclusives” once or twice a month to its brick-and-mortar customers, offering exclusive promotions, specials and discounts.

“The goal of [these e-mail blasts are] to drive customers back to the stores and at the same time give our store customer special offers and sales information that we are not giving to the rest of the country at the same time,” said Mary Campbell, senior marketing manager for Borders.

On July 20, for example, Borders sent e-mail to all its Borders Store Exclusives subscribers that included a 20 percent off coupon on any merchandise bought in the 346 Borders stores nationwide. The promotion, which expired July 29, was designed to drive immediate sales and traffic into stores.

“We really wanted to focus on repeat business,” Campbell said.

The Borders Store Exclusives mailing list has more than 1 million unique subscribers. Borders built this database by asking customers at the point of sale whether they wanted to sign up for the newsletters and store exclusives. “Then, when they give their address, within 48 hours they receive a welcome, letting them know that they are signed up for a particular newsletter,” Campbell said.

Customers also can sign up for the newsletter at kiosks in the stores or at, she said.

When the information is collected, it is routed to Borders' e-mail marketing agency, Digital Impact, San Jose, CA, which cleans the e-mail addresses and sends subscribers the welcome. Then the information is reported back into Borders' campaign management system, which is from E.piphany, San Mateo, CA. The program is on top of Borders' data mart, which includes a plethora of customer information. The system lets Borders plan, execute and analyze multichannel campaigns as well as coordinate and communicate messages across all campaigns and customer touch points.

“The system basically allows us to segment customers by their choice versus ours,” Campbell said.

Though she could not be specific, she said “from the people who actually opened up their e-mail and redeemed a coupon, the response rate was in double digits — very impressive.” The campaign had a 65 percent open rate and an almost 30 percent click-through rate on its “forward to a friend button,” whereby customers could send the coupon to someone.

Borders plans to use E.piphany to send more targeted e-mail marketing campaigns through the holiday season, Campbell said.

For example, Borders has several e-mail newsletters, such as “Borders Lit” and “Borders Business Class.” Each caters to different customers with different needs. About once a month, subscribers receive e-mail variety packs containing book, music and movie features and titles the company thinks subscribers want to know about.

This holiday season, “at the top of their Borders newsletter, we may feature something that makes sense to them,” Campbell said. “We would never, however, send out an e-mail that basically says, 'We saw that you bought this, and we thought you might like this.' I am a little uncomfortable with people wondering how much we are watching them.”

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