Category Archives: Retail

Retailers supplement email marketing with social media

Retailers supplement email marketing with social media

Having a reliable email contact list can be one of the biggest weapons in an online marketer's arsenal, but is social media on its way to replacing email marketing as the primary way retailers reach their customers via the Web? According to a recent report from AllBusiness Experts, social media is an invaluable channel of communication but not as critical as a well-planned email marketing campaign. Businesses should take social media hype with a grain of salt and rely on their traditional email marketing solutions. 

The main reason that email should remain the primary focus of businesses' online marketing initiatives is that it shows a much better return on investment than its social media counterpart. AllBusiness Experts cited a post on Forbes from McKinsey and Company that revealed email marketing products convert more than 40 times the number of customers than Facebook and Twitter combined. While social media efforts can be optimized to produce greater results, the disparity between the two methods is still a large one. 

Increasing use of mobile platforms is another reason why retailers are sticking to their guns and going with classic email marketing strategies. AllBusiness Experts showed that 91 percent of mobile users check their email at least once a day. At such a high rate of exposure, businesses would be making a mistake by failing to implement their best possible email marketing strategies and optimize them for smartphone viewing. 

Retailers are revisiting the email contact list
Despite a lot of industry discussion surrounding the role of social media in the next generation of marketing initiatives, a recent report from Internet Retailer suggested that online vendors are only increasing their emphasis on email marketing. The news source cited a study from marketing analysts Monetate revealing that retailers sent almost 23 percent more emails to inboxes this Q3 than last year's. Buyers are also making bigger purchases when they click on email offers, as retailers' average order value increased from $93.43 to $100.48, a leap of 7.55 percent.

Email marketing efforts are certainly bringing in a lot more business than they used to, although social media is bringing in some big sales for retailers across the board. Internet Retailer noted that the Monetate study saw a 26.13 percent increase in the average order value of purchases resulting from social media marketing. Businesses should balance the two, but email marketing reigns supreme for the time being. 

Email marketing is a necessary tool for holiday business

Email marketing is a necessary tool for holiday business

As the holidays grow closer, people of all ages are starting to wonder what they want to give their loved ones as gifts. Fortunately for retailers, this is a large market that can be easily attracted from the safety of their own inbox. A well-planned business email marketing campaign could mean the difference between a holiday sales rush or a fiscal flop.

According to a recent report from Internet Retailer, many email marketers have doubled their output from November to December in an effort to draw more buyers to their stores online and at the mall. After signing up for the email lists from 843 of the top 1,000 online merchants with available newsletter registration, Internet Retailer saw 3,559 emails in the first 12 days of the month. Despite not providing any shopping history or unique customer information, the news source saw an average of 6.88 messages from each business.

"Open rates have increased by about 20% from the norm," Melina Ash, co-founder and chief merchandising officer of NoMoreRack.com told the news source. "We've seen a particular increase in traction when we release door busters." The holiday season is a busy time for retailers around the globe, but this applies especially to the world of ecommerce."

How email marketers can get more from their efforts
While the Internet Retailer study showed that many online vendors are opting for heavy volumes of advertising to reach more customers, a recent report from MediaPost suggested that email marketing needs support from other aspects of business in order to reach its highest potential. The advantages of using email as a marketing tool are undeniable – by including brand names in confirmation emails retailers saw a 7 percent sales increase this past quarter – but businesses cannot overlook other important factors such as well-managed inventory and fully-prepared IT.

MediaPost referenced an Experian Marketing services Q3 benchmark survey that found consistent increases in the volume of email marketing rose by 12.7 percent from last year. Despite the spike in marketing efforts, click rates on ecommerce channels fell 57 percent, a figure that has businesses scratching their heads. MediaPost pointed to a lack of preparation on the part of retailers who do not have enough extra inventory for their online stores or IT departments who can't keep up with the increase in web traffic.

Before barraging customers with email offers and updates, retailers need to make sure they have their business fundamentals in place.

Aim for a low unsubscribe rate in holiday email campaigns

Aim for a low unsubscribe rate in holiday email campaigns

Black Friday is now behind us – but the holiday shopping season has just begun. Important as the day after Thanksgiving is for retail sales, companies can't risk putting too much focus on that one 24-hour period and thereby downplaying the crucial weeks leading up to December 25. Email marketing plays a vital role in attracting the kind of customer attention that will result in conversions for your brand.

As such, it's key that marketers implement techniques that will help customers stay engaged with companies' content and promotions rather than unsubscribing from their email marketing lists. Consider these simple tactics as you bolster your efforts to keep unsubscribes low and conversion rates high this holiday season.

Understand why contacts unsubscribe
Although the need to discover the root cause behind customers' choice to opt out of your emails may seem obvious, it's an often-overlooked necessity. Alexis Anderson, director of marketing and partnerships at email marketing firm PureWow, recently told Mashable that she's seen a connection between high-volume email campaigns and increased unsubscribe rates.

"We can map spikes in unsubscribes back to large email campaigns – it's a natural transaction in email marketing, and we're able to easily and accurately plan for it," Anderson told the news source. She went on to point out, however, that this is a relatively common occurrence in email marketing, and the benefits of reaching a large base of customers often make up for the loss of contacts.

In order to get a clearer, more micro-level grasp of why people in your email database unsubscribe, it may be necessary to retrieve and analyze more personal information from them. Mashable noted that marketers can build a brief exit interview into the opt-out process. A simple, multiple-choice answer set can help you get a better understanding of whether customers are unsubscribing due to too-frequent emails, irrelevant content or other factors.

Engage as early as possible
It's likely that customers who unsubscribe from your email list during high-volume sends feel that the promotions and information being offered simply don't apply to them, so when it comes to making sure your newly acquired email contacts see your brand as a source of relevant, engaging content, there's simply no time to spare.

Cassie Lancellotti-Young, vice president of client optimization and analytics at email marketing solutions provider Sailthru, spoke with Mashable about the importance of sending engaging content to new email contacts from the moment they're acquired.

"Even the best marketing programs fall victim to this issue," Lancellotti-Young told the source, although she went on to note that it's "mission-critical for marketers to develop compelling onboarding series that go well beyond just the customer's first week."

Given how busy email marketers lives are during the holidays, it can be easy to forget to employ strategies that pay this kind of individual attention to new contacts. In an effort to fend off quantity-over-quality syndrome, marketers might consider developing holiday-themed email onboarding campaigns for customers who join their firms' email lists during the month of December.

Take time to reflect
Similarly, it's vital to apply the same levels of conscientiousness and targeting to your December emails as you employ throughout the rest of the year. In a column for Business2Community, Vocus Marketing Strategist John Hayes argued that marketers should reflect on the quality of their emails during the busy holidays.

"Ask yourself why you are sending your subscribers each email. If it's because you believe they will be engaged by your offer – hit the send button. If not, it's time to go back to the drawing board and plan something better," Hayes wrote.

If you implement strategies like this, you may find relevance comes more easily than you thought.

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How email marketers can target Thanksgiving weekend shoppers

How email marketers can target Thanksgiving weekend shoppers

Black Friday and Cyber Monday – the two most important 24-hour shopping periods of the year – are now mere days away. It's not too late, however, for marketers to make that last ditch effort to beat the competition and generate sales from their email marketing lists

If you find yourself staying up late the night before Thanksgiving or waking up early on the holiday to put the finishing touches on the email campaign you hope will seal the deal with your customers and maximize revenue this weekend, it's key that you know the market predictions for this year's holiday shopping season so that you can effectively target your promotions.

Cyber Monday will be crucial this year
The Monday after Thanksgiving is the traditional date on which retailers offer a range of great deals on purchases made through digital storefronts, and this year in particular, ignoring Cyber Monday can spell disaster.

Adobe's Digital Index revealed that Cyber Monday is expected to generate considerably more revenue than Black Friday this year – $2.27 billion, compared to the day after Thanksgiving's $1.628 billion. What's more, online sales on Thanksgiving Day itself will rise by 21 percent this year over 2012.

As such, marketers should consider sending promotions that customers can take advantage of instantly on Thanksgiving weekend by going to the company's website to make a purchase.

Brick-and-mortar retail remains relevant
That doesn't mean, however, that firms should bank on in-store shopping becoming a thing of the past. A recent study by WD Partners found that consumers still go to brick-and-mortar retailers for experiences that online stores like Amazon simply can't provide.

The researchers found that 79 percent of consumers value physical stores for the instant gratification of making a purchase and having the item immediately in their possession, as opposed to waiting for it to ship. Furthermore, 75 percent said they liked in-store shopping for the richer sensory experience it provides.

As such, retail stores need to meet certain customer expectations.

"The store should be a place of inspiration and ideas that leaves shoppers with a high or sense of euphoria. The in-store shopping experience must offer more than a warehouse does," noted Lee Paterson, WD Partners' executive vice president of creative services.

For companies that have an online presence but still want to bring consumers into their stores this holiday season, email marketing plays an important role. Your emails should position your brand in a way that highlights its unique character, and you might also consider making some – but certainly not all – promotions available exclusively in-store.

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Don't let quantity trump quality in holiday email marketing

Don’t let quantity trump quality in holiday email marketing

For email marketers, the holidays are a time of considerable pressure. Cluttered inboxes mean stiff competition for customers' attention, and in such an environment, it can be easy for marketers who've developed sophisticated campaigns in the past to forget those best practices and bombard their email marketing lists with batch-and-blast style messages that lack subtlety and effective targeting. Rather than letting the holiday shopping season throw you off your game, consider employing a few straightforward techniques that can help your customers differentiate the signal from the noise.

Stay relevant
The principle that not all customers on your email contact list are interested in the same promotions holds just as true in December as it does year-round. In a post for Marketing Land, Adobe's Director of Deliverability Alyssa Nahatis pointed out the effectiveness of real-time marketing, which tailors messages based on customer location and other factors, in the competitive holiday season.

"By sharing meaningful content, consumers are more likely to be engaged and open the email," Nahatis wrote.

Adopt an informative tone
Your marketing emails attempt to persuade customers to buy a product, of course, but that doesn't mean they have to be transparent in their methods. Drew Berard, senior director of brand management for Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway, revealed in a column for EContent that one of his recent email campaigns enjoyed a 126 percent open rate when a message sent to 11,000 contacts was opened 13,000 times. 

In Berard's opinion, one of the keys to the email's success was the authoritative, information-based tone it took.

"It did not hard sell. It simply informed," Berard noted. "It goes back to the age old principle of adding value to your audience's life and that will come back to you tenfold in loyalty and purchases."

Optimize for mobile
Marketers are well-aware by now that they can't ignore the mobile shopper, but new research suggests that customers who make purchases on smartphones and tablets may be even more valuable than previously believed. A recent study by GE Capital retail bank revealed that 40 percent of consumers are more likely to increase the purchases they make with a given retailer if that company offers them promotions they can take advantage of on their mobile devices.

As such, marketers who fail to design emails that look good on smartphone and tablet screens risk losing the business of this considerable customer segment to the competition. Consider how you might tweak your email campaigns with the goal of increasing mobile sales in mind.

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Do's and don'ts for email marketers this holiday season

Do’s and don’ts for email marketers this holiday season

Competition in the email marketing realm is as stiff as ever this holiday season, especially with the new Gmail layout's separate tab for promotional messages making it harder for marketers to win a prominent place in their contacts' inboxes.

As such, it's important for marketers to keep themselves on-message and on-target for achieving the desired returns on investment this November and December. These six email marketing tips can help you create campaigns that will have your email list engaged and responsive as they make their important purchases.

Don't over-send
Finding the right frequency for email sends can be a long-term challenge. If you're still struggling to optimize the timing of your promotional messages, consider opting for fewer sends rather than overwhelming your customers with too many emails in too short a timespan.

Mobile email marketing firm Elite Email recently affirmed the validity of this principle.

"Over sending emails annoys your audience and causes people to unsubscribe. Don't become spam," the company told marketers.

Write a great subject line
Of course, if you cut down your send volume, you'll need to make sure that your emails grab your contacts' attention and stick out from the crowd. One of the most effective ways to optimize your emails for engagement is to craft perfect subject lines, and there are a few proven techniques you can take advantage of.

Business2Community pointed out the psychological effectiveness of phrasing subject lines as questions. By asking the contacts in your email database whether they've chosen the perfect gift for their loved ones, for instance, you can engage your contacts' individual needs and concerns without knowing very much about them.

However, more forceful subject lines can also be effective, the source noted. Commands – "Don't wait," or "Reserve your spot today," for example – avoid pushiness while still being direct, offering customers some welcome clarity amid the sea of promotions flooding their inboxes.

Don't forget to segment
No two consumers are exactly alike, which is why it's key for marketers to use the richest data available on their contacts and tailor the messages they send to their customers' interests and habits.

Segmentation lists based on demographic and purchase habit data help ensure that your customers will find your promotions relevant and engaging: It's easy to see why a woman who received one too many emails advertising men's products would unsubscribe. Furthermore, Elite Email suggested that marketers take the December shopping season to discover which holidays their contacts celebrate and temporarily segmenting their lists based on that criterion.

Keep it simple
While sophistication is the name of the game in email list segmentation – the more complex data marketers have, the better they can target consumers – simplicity is vital when it comes to the written copy and visual layout of your emails. Especially given the sheer volume of competition your emails are facing, it needs to be immediately clear to a reader what the promotion is offering.

"Some businesses try to say too much in one email, meanwhile nothing gets the focus. Multiple emails with more focus on individual products to customized lists perform much better," Elite Email noted.

Marketers should also be sure to create streamlined, uncluttered layouts that look good on mobile screens.

Don't be impersonal
CAN Spam compliance isn't the only way marketers can win the trust of their email contact lists. Elite Email suggested that promotional message have a person's name in the subject line, assuming that it will be clear to customers that the sender is a representative of the brand.

Marketers can also make sure they are personalizing content by sending promotions based on products contacts have already expressed interest in – an item saved but not purchased in an online shopping cart, for instance.

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For retailers, email branding is key

For retailers, email branding is key

As Black Friday nears, it's a race to the finish line among retailers who are trying to beat out the competition and generate as much profit as possible from their email marketing lists. As such, marketers in the retail space must take extra care that their emails communicate the identity of their companies in a meaningful, engaging way that will draw in customers.

In a recent column for Forbes, marketing expert Steve Olenski highlighted the central role email marketing plays in establishing brand awareness. In particular, he insisted that it's essential for firms to market to moms, as they are tasked with 80 to 90 percent of decision-making in regards to household purchases.

Olenski spoke to Kim Finnerty, senior vice president of research and insights at the Ryan Partnership, who pointed out that the mom demographic uses emails to help them shop at consistently higher rates than the average consumer. What's more, the relevance of email hasn't diminished.

"While it seems like an old-school tool compared to things like shopping apps and mobile payments, marketers have had years to perfect it so it achieves objectives," Finnerty told Olenski.

Given the importance of email to the shopping habits of retailers' key demographic, it's essential that marketers make the platform central to their strategies.

Fashion emails still not mobile-ready
Not all retail firms, however, are optimizing their email campaigns. In a post for EConsultancy, David Moth recently pointed out that many fashion companies' emails still don't look good on mobile screens.

After signing up for over a dozen fashion retailers' newsletters, Moth found that only four translated in an attractive way to the popular Android smartphone operating system. Furthermore, in the case of firms that did optimize for smartphones and tablets, he discovered uneven deployment of mobile readiness. The emails of retailer ASOS, for example, suffered from clumsy layouts with crowded images and large empty spaces in the design. Meanwhile, Moth noted that American Apparel's emails looked relatively attractive on an Android – except that their text was small and difficult to read and the copy lacked any clear calls to action.

Because smartphones are so easy to slip into a purse or coat pocket, they represent a helpful tool for shoppers who rely on marketing emails to guide them through their shopping. Neglecting to build mobile-friendly designs can be a huge oversight: It's easy to see how a mom overwhelmed with shopping duties, for instance, might make her choice of retailer based on whose promotions are easy to access on mobile.

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Essential email marketing tools for the holidays

Essential email marketing tools for the holidays

With the major shopping seasons of late November and December just around the corner, your holiday emails campaigns are probably well underway by this point. It's not too late, however, to take stock of your strategy and make sure you have in place the tools that will allow you to use your email marketing list in the most effective way possible.

There's a variety of tools available in these three cutting-edge categories that can help you provide your contacts with a better email experience than the competition and keep you informed about how recipients are reacting to your campaigns.

Analytics
You've probably heard the word analytics tossed around before, and most likely, you know that Google is one firm that provides them. The term covers a wide range of tools that help people make sense of data. As an email marketer, there are many benefits that an analytics platform can offer, and the vital holiday season is as good a time as any to acquaint yourself with them.

Marketing solutions provider Mailgen, for instance, integrates with Google Analytics to tell marketers when recipients open emails, click on embedded links and make purchases, Business News Daily reported. In the case of emails read on mobile devices, the tool also tells you what kind of smartphone or tablet each contact was using, so that you can optimize your email layouts for your recipients' preferred operating systems.

Contact management 
Large email lists need a lot of care and attention, and even the best analytics won't do the work of building segmentation lists based on pertinent data for you. As such, some marketers make use of contact management tools to help bear some of the burden.

ZDNet recently reported that Constant Contact had announced an update to its service that enables users to create a variety of email list segments based on enriched data, including how contacts are interacting with one another through email and other platforms.

Business News Daily noted that Constant Contact also has an automatic unsubscribe feature, so when users opt not to receive your emails any longer, you won't have to worry about manually removing them from your database.

A more stripped-down form of content management is offered by Canadian firm CakeMail, whose service comes preloaded with personalized campaign templates to help you speak more relevantly to your contacts, according to ZDNet.

Certain types of automation can help you manage your campaigns, too. GetResponse's Autoresponders 2.0, for example, helps marketers create an automated email send calendar so that messages will be delivered when they're most relevant, Business News Daily wrote.

Design
Great layouts can be an excellent way to ensure that your holiday emails aren't overshadowed by the numerous other messages that are appearing in your contacts' inboxes.

In fact, failing to design attractive emails can turn customers away from your brand, especially if they're reading on a mobile device. A study by Yesmail Interactive showed that 44 percent of the public found emails that require users to perform excessive scrolling on their smartphones were difficult to read. Meanwhile, 29 percent said that the emails they received were simply laid out incorrectly for mobile, and 27 percent thought there was too much content in the messages.

If you're a layman when it comes to coding and the prospect of laying out email designs seems intimidating, iContact's Message Builder may prove helpful. Business News Daily noted that the tool, which requires no coding skills, has hundreds of attractive, flexible templates you can tweak to your vision by dragging and dropping elements into the design.

Equipped with your chosen set of tools, you'll be able to market in ways the customers in your email database are sure to remember, even in the midst of the holiday promotion mania.

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This holiday season, mobile marketing is key

This holiday season, mobile marketing is key

The holidays are a particularly tough but vital time for marketers to set their promotional messages apart from the crowd. This year more than ever, mobile-friendly email marketing campaigns are poised to offer exceptional returns on investment by adapting to the habits of the contacts in your email database.

Email marketing firm Campaigner recently announced the results of a survey that revealed millennials, in particular, are going to their mobile devices to make purchases. According to the study, 85.7 percent of individuals between the ages of 18 and 34 who own smartphones or tablets are using them to read marketing emails and follow up on promotions.

What firms stand to gain from emails that cater to mobile is considerable, but marketers' efforts will have to be strenuous, as the attention of millennials appears to be uniquely difficult to earn. The Campaigner survey showed that 70 percent of the demographic is unengaged with holiday marketing emails, and 21 percent say they are inundated by promotions and therefore ignore them. Just under 50 percent said they weren't sure how the emails they receive this holiday season will impact where and how they spend their money.

However, the email malaise of millennials is no reason to leave the potential rewards of marketing to them unreaped, according to Campaigner's General Manger E.J. McGowan.

"This generation is a game-changer for retailers, and they will need to approach targeting this valuable demographic from all angles – mobile design, personalization, social and content that engages. It will be an exercise utilizing the best mobile email marketing practices, and Campaigner is here to help lead them to success," McGowan said.

How will your emails look on mobile?
In order to truly craft an effective, mobile-friendly email campaign, you'll need to consider how your messages will appear on a smartphone or tablet screen.

The virtues of designing for mobile are different than they are for the Web. Entrepreneur noted that writing a catchy preheader – the first content after the email topic, just above the header image, also known as the snippet text – is just as important as a solid subject line. In fact, the preheader is the first piece of content your recipients see on a smartphone. Rather than something commonplace – instructions on how to view the email in a Web browser, for example – intriguing, memorable text should appear in that space, the news source suggested.

Entrepreneur also pointed out the benefits of responsive design for emails. A Web design concept that has recently begun to be applied to email layout, responsive design helps ensure pages are coded so as to appear differently on respective users' browsers and optimizing systems, taking into account the parameters of each platform to optimize attractiveness.

Don't get left behind
Putting these mobile optimization tips into practice sooner rather than later may be essential for marketers who want to stay ahead of the trend, as mobile commerce is growing at an impressive rate.

Emarketer recently released a study that predicted mobile commerce in the United States would total $41.68 billion – 16 percent of total ecommerce revenue – in 2013 and grow to $113.57 billion in 2017, accounting for 26 percent of retail digital sales.

Large firms aren't the only ones who can embrace mobile, either. A recent survey by Manta showed that small businesses are catching on, too. According to the report, 13 percent of independent retailers expected mobile offers to boost in-store sales, while 20 percent said their total mobile purchases would increase this year. 

"With the changing demographics and mobile habits of millennials coming to the forefront, these trends will continue to accelerate and gain importance," said Manta's Director of Marketing Kristy Campbell.

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2 recent trends in email marketing for retail

2 recent trends in email marketing for retail

With the holiday season just around the corner, retailers may already be thinking about what kinds of promotions, offers and new products they'll be marketing to their email contact lists. Here are two of the most recent trends in retail email marketing for you to consider before you launch your next campaign.

Starting early
That said, don't spend too long considering them: The first trend is the early start date on which retailers are choosing to send holiday promotions. A recent study by Experian showed that 49 percent of marketers planned to get their campaigns in motion before the end of October. The survey revealed that marketers felt the best time to send their strategic emails was during the first two weeks of November. The planning stages started even earlier. June was the month of choice to start thinking about end-of-year marketing for 18 percent of respondents, while 69 percent said strategizing had gotten underway by August.

Perhaps careful, long-term planning shouldn't come as a surprise: Experian emphasized that marketers stand to gain more this holiday season than in many recent years.

"Our consumer confidence data shows it as the highest it's been since the recession, so we expect the early promotion trend to carry over into the holiday season with Black Friday deals being offered even earlier than last year," said Experian Marketing Services' General Manager of Global Research Bill Tancer.

Holiday campaigns should also prove to be sophisticated, as 83 percent of respondents said they planned to coordinate their efforts across a range of marketing channels.

Marketing to men
While much of retailers' efforts have traditionally been focused on marketing to women, that imbalance may soon be evening out. According to Forbes, men are becoming more conscientious about their appearance, and they're doing a good deal of their shopping online. It's hard to draw any other conclusion when Google searches of the term "pocket squares" have tripled since 2010, according to the source. The news source suggested that men like shopping on the Web in part because of the privacy, lack of time constraints and freedom from pressure it affords them.

Furthermore, a study by iProspect revealed that 70 percent of affluent men shop and research what they buy online, while 67 percent make purchases on a mobile device.

In light of these statistics, marketers might consider devoting a segment of their targeted email list specifically to male contacts, offering them promotions they can take advantage of from the convenience of the web or mobile browser.

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