Study: Retailers Not Fully Leveraging Power of E-mail

Many email marketers are still treating email like traditional print ads. That’s the conclusion of a study of the content of retail email messages conducted by email service provider Silverpop.

Phase II of Silverpop’s “2005 Retail E-mail Marketing Study,” which compared message content and creative design of the email campaigns of 175 major retailers, found that the majority of marketers are not utilizing common email features like personalization, dynamic content, or advanced layout capabilities.

“The range of practices is quite striking. When we reviewed the creative elements of hundreds of email campaigns, we found stellar examples that truly maximize the medium right alongside well-meaning but misguided attempts to force traditional print formats into the email channel,” said Bill Nussey, CEO of Silverpop.

The study found personalization, one of the most common and easiest tactics to implement, was used in fewer than 5 percent of the emails. A specific call to action was missing from 27 percent of messages, and only 25 percent of messages included any kind of discount offer. Just fewer than 20 percent of messages tried to entice people to buy an item for an event or holiday.

When it comes to design, many email marketers are still thinking in offline terms. A majority of messages in the study used a postcard-style layout, with a single large image, despite the growing adoption of image-blocking functions in email software.

Frequency of message delivery varied widely, with anywhere from one to 21 messages sent by a retailer in a single month. While such a large number of messages in a month is usually too many, it worked for one retailer in the study, according to Nussey, who notes that content quality is as important as finding the optimal frequency for your audience.

“In order to achieve maximum impact and firmly establish a solid, revenue-producing relationship, companies must deliver such high customer value in their emails that customers actually anticipate receiving the next message,” Nussey said.

Nussey points to elements like compelling calls-to-action, high-quality design, and appropriate timing to reach consumers when they are most ready to buy.

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