Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Inbox Battle: Studies Show Paybacks Retailers See From Personalized Emails

Written by Debbie Hauss
Today’s email-savvy consumers appreciate a personalized, well-targeted email promotion, but many abandon a retailer if they have a negative email experience. Smart retailers know their best customers and provide them the best deals at the best times via opt-in permission-based email. Two recent research studies confirm this assertion.

The average consumer has opted-in to email communication from nearly four retail companies, according to Epsilon’s 2008 email branding study, conducted in October 2008 by ROI Research of Lancaster, PA. Of the sample that receive permission-based emails from retailers 56% say that they are “more likely to buy from companies that send (them) email.” Furthermore, 61% of the same group report that “the email (they) receive from retail companies has a direct impact on offline activities like shopping and making purchases.”

Email users also are spending more time with permission email, reports Merkle Interactive Services in its sixth annual “View from the Inbox” study. 69% of permission email users spend 20 minutes or more reading their email on a weekly basis in 2007, up significantly from the previous year. The study reports that 50% of survey respondents made an online purchase in the past year as a result of PEM – up 3% from the previous year. 50% of respondents also claim that a company that does a good job with email influenced their decision to do business with it, either online or offline.

Bad Email Practices Lose Customers
An email practice can be considered “bad” when it results in a decrease in sales or lost customers. Email recipients may respond negatively to too many emails sent too frequently or emails that are too general (not personalized or relevant to the recipient). Nearly 75% of Merkle respondents ranked irrelevancy as their top reason for unsubscribing from a company’s email program and 66% of email users list mail frequency as a reason to unsubscribe. Approximately 32% say they stopped doing business with at least one company as a result of their poor email marketing practices.

To reach the best balance of email frequency and relevancy, retailers must know their customers, particularly their best customers. Nearly 67% of respondents that receive email communications from retailers want to receive personalized content from companies, according to Epsilon. Specifically, consumers want content and offers based on their personal online behavior such as website and browsing activity and past purchases. Data from loyalty programs can help marketers target their best customers.

Another way to evaluate the effectiveness of current and future email campaigns, marketers should incorporate feedback mechanisms into the emails. Customers who are able to communicate their individual preferences have been shown to have 50% higher levels of engagement compared to those who don’t, Merkle reports.

Type of Email Determines Open Rate
Consumers appreciate relevant information. Approximately 41% of consumers ranked transaction confirmations as the number-one type of email they are likely to open, Merkle reports. Armed with that knowledge, retailers should consider adding promotional offers to those transaction summaries. Consumers also are likely to open account summaries (18% ranked #1).

But retailers should be careful about the type and frequency of promotional messages packed into transaction or account summary emails. A full 26% of customers do not react positively to promotions combined with informational emails. Marketers should be careful not to obstruct the main message of the email.

Other Key Findings
Epsilon reports that survey respondents said they took the following actions as a result of receiving permission-based email from a retailer:

  • 88% downloaded/printed a coupon;
  • 79% clicked a link in an email to learn more;
  • 75% purchased a product online;
  • 69% researched retail locations that carry a product;
  • 67% purchased a product offline;
  • 60% tried a new product for the first time;
  • 55% shared a coupon or forward the email;
  • 33% typed/copied the URL into their browser.
For more information on the Merkle study, go to:
For more information on the Epsilon study, go to:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Timex Makes Time to Upgrade Cross-Channel Presence, Dials In Social Commerce

If ever there was an American brand that represented the past and present of marketing its Timex. After its legendary days of “takes a licking and keeps on ticking” the watch company now has to focus on the future and that means some creative budget management and cross-channel innovation. Its new marketing team is moving toward both goals.
“We did a fair amount of brand research last year and found that there was a very high unaided and positive awareness of Timex as a brand,” says Online VP Calvin Crouch. “But people did not see us a very exciting or stylish brand. We felt like we were in a very similar spot to Oldsmobile a few years ago where it needed to prove that ‘we’re not your father’s Oldsmobile.’”

With a limited budget and marketing staff, Crouch set out in May 2008 to define the brand’s customer base, business goals, branding targets and ecommerce mission. Timex matched its three sub-brands to its most active customer segments. TimexStyle is the mid-priced women’s oriented brand. It has recently scored a few public relations wins, placing one of its models in People’s Magazine’s “hot and not” issues. It also makes use of style guru and Timex spokesperson Amy Goodman on its website. Timex Ironman is the closest thing to a traditional brand the company has, creating mid-priced digital watches for casual and style conscious athletes. TimexExpedition is where Crouch wants to break out. It is a higher-priced more extreme sports focused brand.
Crouch has implemented distinct images and web presences for each separate brand, but would like to move toward funneling all traffic to the site. That site generated a 15% traffic boost from 2007 to 2008. So far this year, traffic is up another 10%.

Its ecommerce effort is in its nascent stages. Crouch says Timex doesn’t currently have a large customer database. One of his goals is to increase it and the corresponding voice of the customer that comes with it. Toward that end Timex recently added BazaarVoice’s online review software. He believes it will create a wealth of user-generated content that the brand will leverage in its quality assurance efforts, as well as its new product development.

“We run our site on the Amazon platform, but we chose to work with Bazaarvoice on our social commerce initiatives because they are on the cutting edge of the market, and we appreciate their culture and focus on innovation,” Crouch says. “By adding Bazaarvoice, we are ensuring that our customers can share their authentic opinions about our products and make the best purchase decisions possible.”

Timex worked with the Bazaarvoice team to integrate into its Amazon eCommerce platform. That included hosted technology, advanced analytics, and syndication. Tag-based social navigation allows Timex shoppers to immediately surface the most relevant reviews from their peers.

Timex’s ecommerce effort may be starting to find its legs but its retail partners lack nothing. WalMart, JC Penney, Target and many sporting goods chains have been in its corner for years. Crouch says the customer data and website traffic data are shared with key accounts by sales teams on an “informal” basis.

“We know that traffic is up, our ecommerce numbers are improving and we’re finding out more about our customers,” he says. “We’re going to look to paid search and organic search to drive down our costs per lead, and keep our eye on the goal of driving more traffic.”