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A Soup to Nuts List of Email Marketing Touch Points

Over the years stores have learned to better integrate their bricks-and-mortar operations with their online presence. Often, though, the point of sale is overlooked. At some Abercrombie & Fitch stores however, the sales clerks are asking customers if they have checked out the site on Facebook, reports Fresh Networks. It is a great example, it said, of how to implement the simplest of all strategies to build a social media base: "use every existing customer touch point."

Despite such oft-repeated words of wisdom it often seems - at least to email marketing managers - that they are fighting an uphill battle. Many firms don't even take advantage of the most obvious touchpoints - a welcome email for instance - much less more unorthodox ones such as integrated point of sales approach.

Indeed, an astounding 1% of retailers on the Internet Retailer 500 send a series of automated welcome messages to new subscribers, according to Listrak. Furthermore only 51% of this group deployed even a single welcome message to new subscribers. Only 16% of the messages that were sent were personalized with the first name or other relevant information, and only 40% offered a special discount as a thank you for subscribing.

All of these tactics - personalized messages, first-time buyer offers, and most fundamental, a thank you for joining message - are best practices that not only must be followed but can promise to deliver near certain return. For instance campaigns to initial subscribers get higher click through rates, according to a new report by Experian called the "Welcome Email Report" - possibly because the recipients are learning more about the offers and products (total click rates of 15.1% for email sign-ups, versus 11% for first purchase).

It also found that post-purchase welcome email recipients are slightly more likely to repeat a purchase, as they had 10% higher transaction rates than email sign-ups (transaction rates of 0.51% for post-purchase versus 0.47% for email sign-ups).

Another smart tactic to keep in mind is the power of discounts or offers. In short, include one with just about any email sent to your customer base. Some can be small, include occasionally significant bargain, if only to keep your customers intrigued and willing to click on the next email. Here again, statistics show returns can be expected from such tactics. According to Experience welcome emails with offers tend to have higher transaction rates and revenue per email than those without. In particular, real-time welcomes with offers have more than double the transaction rates and revenue per mail compared to real-time welcomes with no offers. With these numbers in mind, consider the following touch points:

Welcome Emails

Getting a new customer should be an event , for both the company and the customer. Use the occasion to reach out to your new customer as often as possible - without becoming too annoying of course. Acceptable initial emails include:

  • A welcome message;
  • One in which the subscriber must register for services;
  • A"getting to know you better survey." Make sure the customer understands it is to her advantage to fill out the survey - advertise a promised discount for completing it, perhaps in the subject line. Then use that data to send out offers on the relevant dates, like a birthday.
  • Providing a website tour and instructions;
  • Explaining member benefits; and
  • Providing additional means of interaction such as social networks.

First Purchase

Eventually – hopefully sooner rather than later –the customer will make a purchase. Thank him or her! For the first purchase, offer a first-purchase discount thank you.

Subsequent Purchases

At this point you don’t want to annoy your customer. Once the novelty of signing up with you has worn out, pace your emails. Send emails about products he may be interested in based on his past purchases – but only that are truly relevant. The integration of analytics into email marketing and mobile marketing campaigns is, of course, a whole other subject. Just be aware that there are a host of new applications are enabling this. These advances - along with a greater understanding of how to better leverage data that companies already have in house - are bringing marketers closer to the as-of-yet unrealized industry ideal of personalizing emails not only based on what someone has purchased but even where and how long a consumer lingered on a particular site.

To cite just one example, last year Contactology - a provider of email marketing and online survey technologies - and web analytics firm ClickTale, partnered to deliver a new post-click analytics offering based on subscriber behavior. With the product, marketers can track web movements of opt-in email subscribers through visitors' actions on subsequent visits to a website based on collected demographic data that is "tagged" in an email campaign. Marketers can then optimize their email campaigns and landing pages based on certain behaviors or demographic segments, measuring for example, how long men in their 40s are lingering over a certain device or product, compared with men in their 30s.

Using automation to trigger a timely email - i.e. a customer viewed data on Product A, and now you are sending them an offer for a discount if they buy this week, can work very well, says Rhonda Wunderlin, director of Marketing Best Practices and Education at Eloqua. She also suggest these additional tips to stay in touch:

  • Use ongoing surveys - and in return for completing it offer the recipient a copy of the report or the opportunity to see where they stack up against their peers.
  • Interactive offers via games or participating in a contest may have less participation than a survey, but those who take the time to participate are truly committed and turn into some of your hottest prospects or most loyal customers.

Social Media

We are not here to debate the erosion social media has had – or not had – on email marketing. For the most part, it is assumed that the two channels can be very complementary in outreach, providing in some cases even more opportunities to communicate with a customer. Email marketing messages with a social sharing option generate 30% higher click through rates than emails without these features, according to a survey by Get Response.

Some ways to leverage a complementary Facebook page or Twitter account include:

  • Offering share to social tools. A Silverpop study found that on average, an email will collect an additional 1% of views when shared on networks, a number Silverpop expects will grow as social sharing moves into the mainstream. Also, shared email has a powerful "multiplier effect." Using conservative numbers, the Silverpop model estimates a posted email message has an average increase in reach of 24.3% (based on original emails delivered), but it also expects this figure to increase exponentially when sharing becomes mainstream.
  • Allowing customers to embed content in their own blogs or Facebook pages. This, in fact, has shown to generate a 20% conversion rate, according to StrongMail. That is is nearly 7 times as effective as Facebook, at 3%, and ten times better than Twitter's conversion metric of 0.35%.

When They Leave

Marketers usually know when a customer is about to leave or ask to be removed from an email marketing list. He or she has not clicked on an email in a long time, for starters. Indeed, it is then – and not when the customer requests removal from the site – that marketers should reach out to ask if the customers’ preferences need to be adjusted. Perhaps he or she will stay if less emails are sent – and if these rare emails come with enticing bargains.

If the customer does get the point of asking to be removed, it doesn’t hurt to respond with an affirmative - along with a query as to whether they would like to stay if fewer emails are sent. Morgan Stewart, principal, at ExactTarget's research and education group. "Give them a choice of two options: one will opt them out completely, the other will continue the relationship if they want. Most people end up clicking yes, they want to continue," he says.

It is a misconception is that if you only offer a 'Yes, please subscribe me' option that more people will react positively by opting into the program, he writes in a blog post. "We have tested using a single "Yes" option vs. the "Yes and No" options for at least 6 different clients. In every instance the "Yes and No" option resulted in significantly more opt-ins! There is something about seeing both options that drives more people to respond. Maybe these emails seem like less of a gimmick, more genuine, or more serious."

For these emails, he says:

  • Be clear in the subject line. Email subject lines like, "Verify your subscription continue receiving [XYZ]" or "Your subscription will end soon" tend to work well.
  • Restate your value proposition. "A concise restatement of what your subscribers can expect reminds them of what you are all about… and what they will miss if they do not confirm their email subscription."
  • Send a second request. "We find that these second requests consistently get nearly the same number of opt-ins as the first, so failing to do so could have a material impact on the success of your campaign. We have worked with organizations that have tried a third request using the same logic, but the dropoff at this points has been substantial in our experience - two appears to be the right number."

Finally if all else fails,  be graceful. Send a thank you note for their past patronage.

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