Keep it Simple, Silly

After three campaigns for our outlet center retail client, we continue to learn. So I thought I’d share some real-life information. You might glean some tips to help your own email campaigns — or just get some inspiration if you’re pondering reporting, timing, day of week, subject lines, offer complexity, or execution.

Many outlet center stores are located in resort areas. Our initial decision was to deliver an email offer prior to the weekend, assuming stores are a road-trip “destination” (one of my favorite pastimes). Our first email promotion linked to coupons already posted on the client’s nine Web sites (the individual locations included in the promotion). With percent click-through rates averaging over 38 percent, the results were phenomenal, even for a house list!

Simplicity was the primary challenge in developing this offer. Email was not in our original budget. We created an HTML template that echoed the creative of offline advertising efforts, such as billboards. Using the existing online coupons that are printed and redeemed offline required few additional design or copy resources but provided value to the audience. Although the coupons are updated monthly on the site, customers getting the email were glad to be reminded to visit the site for new offers.

Below is an outline of our mailings to date, a bit of related data, and some preliminary assumptions about results. I’m looking here at the offer (of course), the day of the week the email went out, and, of course, the open rates and click-throughs.

We are still working on a better way to track the success of coupon redemption and offers. The retailers are a bit sluggish in helping us keep track of the redemptions. As this was a new budget item, challenges are inherent in the offers. We looked for offers that would provide value but not increase costs. This will all factor in the planning for next year.

Campaign 1: Summer Specials Coupons

Subject line: Sizzling Summer Specials

Links: Center name (in header) and center location (in footer) links went to the home page. We made sure to skip the referring page preceding the true “content” home page to save the user time — or an extra click.

The other links in the email went to monthly specials (or summer specials, as they were called for this promotion). The offer was special savings at specific stores that only customers visiting the Web site would know about.

Day of the week deployed: Thursday, 2:00 p.m.

Open rate: 32.82 percent (HTML only, because we cannot track text opens)

Overall click-through average: 38.84 percent

Summary: An extremely successful campaign. This was the first HTML message we sent to the list, and we saw what might be our best response right out of the gate. We will continue to strive, but we will probably have a challenge matching these results. A contributing factor to the success was providing value to customers without complicated execution, as we learned in the second campaign.

Campaign 2: Back To School

Subject line: School Days. Shopping Craze!

Links: Center name (in header) and center location (in footer) links same as noted in number 1.

The other links directed to a form. We had two goals: to learn more about the customers and to require a specific coupon for redemption — to get those offline redemptions tracked. Customers were asked three short questions to receive a coupon via email. The form had to be built along with getting approval of the copy and graphics in the message. The follow-up email message was generated by the form’s submit button. We felt the extra work would be worth the effort. The customer would receive a backpack with a purchase of $250 or more. If you’re familiar with outlet shopping, you know that’s a reasonable price point for total purchases.

Day of week deployed: Wednesday afternoon. We thought Wednesday would be a less email-heavy day and that earlier information would motivate consumers to act. People often work less on Fridays, particularly in summer months. So Thursdays are hectic, we reasoned. After all, this was during peak vacation season.

Open rate: 26.16 percent (HTML only, because we cannot track text opens)

Overall click-through average: 11.70 percent

Summary: The campaign was not worth the additional effort we’d invested. Feedback thanked us for the “new” coupon, but customers said they missed the old ones. Customer feedback is invaluable. The timing of the message, right in the middle of peak vacation, was a barrier to achieving the stellar results of the first campaign. But hey, 11.7 percent click-through is nothing to sneeze at!

Campaign 3: Fall Specials Coupons

Subject line: Your Fall Specials Coupons! — straight up, no surprises…

Links: Center name (in header) and center location (in footer) links as noted in number 1. The other links went directly to monthly specials: a simple offer of special savings for specific name-brand stores that you would not have been privy to had you not visited the Web site to retrieve them.

Day of week deployed: Thursday 2:00 p.m.

Open rate: 28.65 percent (HTML only, because we cannot track text opens)

Overall click-through average: 19.10 percent

Summary: This campaign reinforces the value of coupons in email messages (we like to look at a campaign as “final” after seven days — though results truly trail after about 48 hours).

Customers want savings. They click on coupon links more than anything else. As the saying goes, K.I.S.S., or Keep It Simple, Silly (don’t like the word “stupid”). We have not abandoned the form we used in “Back To School,” but the backpack didn’t carry enough perceived value. August will likely be weaker because of vacations.

I hope this information gives you something to chew on. As email marketers, we love feedback and can always learn from each other. Let me know what you think.

Have a great week! — Jackie G.

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