Personalising and targeting email marketing campaigns delivers the best results

Despite the attention on social media as an online marketing channel, retailers are still developing the humble email to effectively communicate with their customers. But to do so, they need information about their customers in order to be able to decide which emails they should send them. So, how do they go about it?

Argos eCRM insight and marketing manager Grant Baillie says that targeted campaigns typically generate twice the revenue of an untargeted campaign, and half the unsubscribe rates. Incentivising customers to opt-in to receiving emails is a key challenge. Baillie says: “To help achieve the conversion of people signing up or completing the profile centre,

customers are now incentivised to join with a chance to win £500 of Argos vouchers.”

This is definitely a wider trend. “A few retailers are discussing competition entries with us at the moment,” says Nigel Arthur, UK managing director at email marketing supplier ExactTarget.

H&M will allow its newsletter subscribers to shop exclusively on its UK ecommerce website on September 9, before opening it up to other shoppers a week later. The highly anticipated launch will reward loyal customers and encourage eager fans of the brand to provide the retailer with their personal information to gain early access to its ecommerce offer.

Data capture

Richer customer registration data is allowing retailers to send more highly targeted emails than ever before. “Retailers are getting serious about using data and consumers are divided into more segments,” Arthur says. “The more data you aggregate, the more relevant promotions will be.” Personalising the content of marketing emails is much more prolific than a few years ago, says Simon Bowker, UK managing director at online marketing provider eCircle.

Argos went live this month with its new preference centre, collecting more detailed information from consumers, to help the retailer select targeted promotions. Rather than just asking for standard delivery information, preferences are now more about interests and lifestyle and dividing those interests down to sub-product categories. For example: not just entertainment but an interest in iPods. “We will also introduce seasonal questions that tie-in to our promotional strategy such as back-to-school,” Baillie says.

However, email marketing doesn’t rule supreme and cannot be standalone. It needs to be integrated with other digital marketing channels, as one recent Oasis campaign showed. Oasis invites shoppers to subscribe to its promotional emails and discount offers via text messaging a code seen at point of sale in its stores.

Aurora Fashions e-communications manager Jean-Claude Mighty says: “The integrated campaign is about getting more subscribers and to achieve this we catch consumers that are not online all the time and optimise on people using their phones.

“Customers connect with the brand more in-store and are more likely to sign-up when they see the product offering in-store, than when at home.”

Aggregating subscriber data from both email and text messaging in the same system provided by ExactTarget means the provider can manage subscriber preferences. “On Saturday an SMS can be sent, as many people usually sign up to their work email. Every piece of information will have an impact on the next communication,” Mighty says.

Argos is on a similar track in connecting its marketing approaches, where the Argos Twitter feed appears in its emails. “Argos now has more than 5,600 followers on Twitter, helped in part by having a link to this from the Argos emails,” Baillie says.

Integration of online marketing channels makes sense, as customers are engaging in the same space. In five to six years time, companies will just have digital experts, Bowker says.

However, Bowker also warns that sophisticated, personalised campaigns should not be at the expense of getting the basics of email marketing right. Make sure the basics are right, where delivering the best message with a bigger reach is also significant, not just highly personalised, targeted campaigns, he adds.

And also, just because you personalise emails, that does not give you carte blanche to bombard customers with your marketing messages. Whether you send generic or targeted messages, the same rule about the diminishing law of returns will apply.