Why Open-Time Personalization Matters

  |  February 11, 2014   |  Comments

Marketers need to start speaking to customers in real time, meaning they need to understand what shoppers are thinking at the moment they open your email, not at the time the email brief was developed in your organization.

Email is failing you in its current form.

Don't just take it from me. Studies show that open rates for email marketing are declining and click-throughs are continuing to decrease. Website visits from email are down nearly 20 percent in just one year, while the number of sessions from email that included purchases fell 25.18 percent.

So what are retailers doing? Sending more emails of course.

But if we stop for a moment to take a closer look at the emails being sent, we see a pattern. Retailers are creating emails based on what a customer has searched for most recently on their site. So, let's say for example, a shopper is looking for a swimsuit for an upcoming trip to Miami. By the time the marketing department gets around to sending the customer an email a few weeks later, it could be obsolete before it even reaches her inbox. Within that time the customer had revisited your site, looking for a sweater to get her through the polar vortex hitting New England, yet she is still being sent that bathing suit promotion - would she have preferred a sweater promotion instead? YES!

The reality is that marketers need to start speaking to customers in real time. This means understanding what shoppers are thinking about at the moment they open your email, not at the time the email brief was developed in your organization. Even just understanding basic information like where your customer is located and whether they are on a mobile device can help you better serve them.

Let's look at some information that can be leveraged at email open time for dynamic content and why it matters:

  • Up-to-the-minute on-site customer behavior, using real decisioning, will allow you to give the customer content or a callout for their most recently browsed categories or products.
  • Geo-targeting will help you detect where a customer is at any given time, which will allow you to highlight nearby store locations, hours, or even what type of products to recommend. With the proliferation of mobile device email opens, this is particularly important.
  • Mobile optimization will help you detect a mobile email client, which allows you to promote optimized and relevant content.
  • Time of open will help you determine which time sensitive offers or information to display. Understanding whether a customer is opening your email at 8 a.m. or 9 p.m. will allow you to update content with a current message or promotion if the customer opens the email outside the promotional window.
  • Weather will help provide valuable context to product or promotions you may offer. Knowing whether a sweater buyer is in Minnesota or Florida will allow you to tailor your product recommendations accordingly.

The data shows that personalized emails make a difference. According to a new survey by Harris Interactive, 77 percent of online shoppers who have signed up to receive promotional e-mails from a retailer say they are more likely to make a purchase on the Web or in stores if the messages feature personalized product recommendations. In addition, 82 percent of shoppers say they would also buy more items from that merchant if the e-mails they received were more personalized.

True Religion Brand Jeans has taken note. The company promotes what's going on in its brick-and-mortar locations by geo-targeting email content to subscribers to effectively promote in-store events and drive revenue. In one campaign True Religion launched, which was tested in different regions across various media, 65,000 geo-targeted email messages were opened with a 2.5 percent click-through rate, which resulted in a 1 percent in-store conversation rate. No small feat.

That's not all. In a separate test, True Religion determined that mobile-optimized emails had a better click-through rate not just on mobile phones, but on desktops as well. Understanding this data allowed the company to save time and money because they no longer needed to create two separate email campaigns.

Consumers have told us they want personalized emails. Now it's up to us as marketers to react in the moment and make it happen.

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Nathan Richter

Nathan Richter advises top enterprise clients including Best Buy, QVC, Urban Outfitters, Sports Authority, and PETCO on website optimization. A veteran of digital marketing and online retailing, Richter has extensive hands-on experience helping enterprise clients implement successful multichannel marketing campaigns. Richter has directed online marketing and site optimization programs for David’s Bridal, QVC, The Franklin Mint, and dELiA's.

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