As the inbox becomes ever more crowded and the number of communication channels continues to proliferate, personalisation, mobile optimisation and customer experience are becoming increasingly important to both retailers and customers in the rapidly evolving digital market.
Despite these increasing pressures 77 per cent of the top 50 retailers in the UK are failing to deliver tailored marketing collateral to their customers, both existing and potential, each month. We recently carried out research into the consumer email marketing campaigns of the largest retailers in the UK (by turnover) and discovered that whilst 84 per cent of them have a regular newsletter, the content is largely generic.
Targeted communications are an effective way of bolstering sales and making your customers feel valued. If your customers feel like they are being targeted with content that is valuable to them, they are more likely to buy from you and establish a long-term relationship with you. At a time when the high-street is witnessing a dramatic decline and online spend is rising, retailers need to recognise and utilise the benefits of email. As new technologies emerge, it’s always assumed that it has to be at the expense of another, but it needn’t be. Email is still in fine health.
If you look at the numbers, there are 3.1 billion email addresses in the world, a figure that is expected to grow to 4.1 billion by 2015 [Radicati Group, May 2011]. If you then consider that 95 per cent of people check their email accounts at least once a day [eCircle, The European Social Media and Email Marketing Study] there is immense opportunity for retailers to communicate and engage their customers.
With 77 per cent of retailers not sending targeted content to their customers, they are failing to not only to incentivise sales but to enhance the customer experience and build positive brand relationships. This is a missed opportunity which could ultimately prove damaging to your brand’s reputation, influence swings to competitors or prevent you from creating new sales opportunities, especially if you are sending up to 16 emails a month with content which is irrelevant to the recipient.
This is a common case of data mismanagement. Retailers are clearly failing to collect and utilise the demographic and behavioural data they hold about their customers and channel it into an effective CRM strategy, with a strong email component at the centre.
In contrast, retailers are clearly embracing new technology. Smartphone and tablet ownership has dramatically increased the need for mobile optimised emails and websites as more and more consumers are reading content on the move. The retailers in our study clearly understand the value and importance of mobile in making sure the customer experience is as user friendly as possible.
We found 92 per cent of the emails sent were mobile optimised. So why, when a retailer has invested in a mobile solution, and improved the ability for customers to engage with content, are they not taking full advantage of the opportunities they are creating?
The email newsletter is a key marketing asset – it’s a great way of directly targeting customers, and a great way of collecting data and insight about their shopping habits and preferences. First impressions are therefore vital. The welcome email is the perfect opportunity to set out your shop and provide immediate rewards and incentives to shoppers. Whilst 84 per cent of retailers had a newsletter only 61 per cent were found to have a welcome email, of which only 5 per cent had a welcome offer of discounts on their first spend. If retailers really want to provide a reason for engagement, they should be considering personalised content that is going to make their customer feel valued.
By adopting a ‘preference centre’, retailers are able to target customers with information that is relevant to them. Some provide the opportunity to subscribe to multiple newsletters based on their gender or whether or not they are a member of their loyalty card scheme. As a result they are able to send out specific emails relating to specific products. That might be anything from men’s health or allergy advice or women’s fashion.
Only 38 per cent of the retailers in our study had a preference centre attached to their newsletter campaign. This is a great tool for not only capturing valuable customer data to use across the entire CRM strategy, but an opportunity to enhance the customer experience further with personalisation – emails addressed to the recipient and targeted content. If they’ve told you that they are a male interested in male fashions, don’t send them information about your upcoming sale on women’s shoes. The data you collect in your preference centre should clearly match the content your customers have asked to receive from you. Based on the disparity between those with a preference centre and the level of personalisation retailers are delivering, it shows that some retailers have got it spot on, but a large majority are not taking full advantage of the data they collecting. Personalisation and relevancy is key to ensuring higher open and click-through rates.
With 2013 now upon us, retailers need to assess their approach to email marketing. Are you providing incentives and driving customers to your online store? How frequently are you contacting them? Are you sending too many or too few emails? Are they personalised? Are they targeted? Do you have a preference centre? If you do, are you using the data generated from it effectively? Are you optimised for mobile?
These are all key questions that retailers need to address in order to take full advantage of their customers and their product portfolio. Email is an ideal way to manage the increasing levels of competition triggered by savvier more demanding shoppers, but in order for it to provide true value and deliver high levels of ROI; retailers need to adopt an integrated CRM strategy with email at its heart.