By Andy Wood, managing director, GI Insight
On the surface, email marketing appears to be the ultimate cheap and easy communications tool – a way to hit vast numbers of consumers with direct marketing messages or company offers. However, if an email campaign is carried out without real insight and knowledge of individual preferences and behaviour, the hidden cost can be huge: the lifetime value of a lapsed customer – or, at the very least, a consumer who opts out of all future email communications, thus costing the company future marketing opportunities.
There are, though, a number of things companies can do to ensure sustained, and profitable, email marketing campaigns:
Do not waste opportunities
Though email marketing affords companies the opportunity to place a message in front of consumers – reported to have on average more than two email accounts per head in the UK – at a pre-determined date and time, securing their attention is no easy task.
The latest research by GI Insight reveals that more than half (53%) of UK consumers say nearly all the commercial email they receive is irrelevant to them – evidence that too many organisations fail to target and personalise, and thus engage, with their audience. Nonetheless, the research also shows that 73% of respondents have given a firm they have bought from before permission to email them and 51% have even opted to allow a company they have never purchased from before the message them.
This is an opening that firms need to value and use with care. Every time a company fails to deliver a relevant or well-timed message or offer, it risks alienating loyal or potentially valuable customers. Moreover, not only might wide of the mark messages close the window of opportunity – with the click of a button, unhappy recipients can opt out of receiving emails for good – but they also threaten to damage brand image and erode customer base if consumers are annoyed by off-target and poorly tailored communications.
Understand who you are emailing
Firms must develop a level of customer insight which allows them to effectively tailor offers and communications. The goal is to get consumers buying more and more often, encourage them to buy other products and services offered by the company, and generally build loyalty by improving the customer experience.
One of the best ways of capturing the information necessary to gain this level of insight is through a loyalty scheme, where the data collected enables companies to gain better understanding of their customers’ habits and tastes. This provides marketers with valuable transactional data as well as details on preferences and other personal information, making the job of aiming specific offers and incentives at the right individuals easier, and more effective.
Don’t just get the name right – tailor the whole message
Personalising an email message means more than just getting the name right in the salutation. Cleverly targeted, well-timed, properly personalised communications are essential to increase response and build customer loyalty. It is not advisable to simply send a mass email to everyone at the same time; rather, different messages should be sent to different people at different times based upon their commercial behaviour.
Segmentation techniques are a vital part of this process, and it is by tailoring images, copy, offers and timing that companies are more likely to engage their customers and make them feel valued. Successful segmentation goes hand-in-hand with personalisation, the heart of which should be a regularly refreshed and replenished Single Customer View (SCV) database.
Here, relevant information, drawn from the multiple channels through which a consumer interacts with a brand, can be integrated and analysed. Data from loyalty schemes, website behaviour, email responses, call centre conversations, transactions, and loyalty card swipes must be pooled together in one format to provide a full view of customer behaviour and preferences. This regularly primed data drives the powerful insight of an SCV and effective personalisation.
In order to create a sustained and effective email campaign, the clear message is that marketers must analyse data properly and use that analysis to inform communications. In ensuring correct targeting and personalisation, firms are able to offer more relevant promotions and incentives and, in turn, grow their customer relationships – enabling brands to ultimately steer consumers toward shopping with them more often and buying higher value items as well as products they have not purchased before. In giving permission for brands to email them, consumers clearly do not anticipate being bogged down with untargeted, redundant messages that are binned upon receipt.
Instead, they expect companies to earn, and keep earning, the right to contact them via email with targeted and relevant offers and messages – the brands in turn are rewarded with greater loyalty, more sales and, when the key principles of best practice database marketing are followed, greater lifetime value.
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