Increase in e-mail frequency a potentially risky endeavor

A recent evaluation conducted by Silverpop researchers of the e-mail practices of North America’s largest online retailers revealed that some are engaging in risky strategies. In comparing e-mails sent during the same 30-day period in 2007 and 2008, the study found a sharp increase in e-mail frequency. Top retailers sent 23% more e-mails to subscribers last year than the year before. At the same time, only 28% offered subscribers choices at opt-in.  This is down from 56% in 2007.

Retailers clearly understand that email marketing works well, even during a recession. With economic pressures on retailers worldwide, it’s not surprising that more are using e-mail marketing to help improve lagging revenue numbers. Despite the tight economy, e-mail continues to perform.

But these findings also remind us about the importance of relevancy. While increasing frequency can deliver increased revenue in the short term, it may be costly over the longer term—if the e-mails aren’t highly relevant.
As the economy continues to stagnate, the pressure to send more e-mail will become harder to ignore. As retailers begin to rely on e-mail more heavily, they must recognize that consumers are in control and become adept at engagement marketing. Consumers have indicated that lack of relevance is the No. 1 reason they hit the unsubscribe link, and frequency is No. 2. Marketers must find a balance between keeping their recipients informed and engaged and becoming intrusive.  There’s a fine line between too much and not enough when it comes to sending e-mail.

Ensuring that e-mails are relevant seems so simple.  Marketers need to ask customers what they want…and then listen. Answers can be identified through Web analytics or sought out directly through preference centers or surveys. Marketers need to remember, however, that today’s savvy consumers expect companies to actually use the information they provide. For example, a subscriber who shares his or her birth date will expect to receive a birthday promotion or targeted, age-appropriate content.

In a world in which consumers are constantly being bombarded with marketing messages, simply turning up the volume isn’t the best answer. Today’s consumers are the most informed buyers in history. They can find out everything they want to know about a brand and the company behind it without ever receiving a single message. Consumers no longer need marketers to provide them with information, they want to participate in a dialogue with them. The dialogue must be anticipated, welcomed and relevant.

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