Silverpop’s Richard Evans talks through a study undertaken by Silverpop and the IMRG into the UK’s Top 100 online retailers and the issues that face marketers today.

Email marketing is as critical to a successful marketing programme today as it has ever been. Many are extolling the death of email in the media without comprehending the new role that it plays – not customer acquisition (social networks were designed solely for this purpose) but in relationship nurturing and sales conversions. Unfortunately this lack of understanding pervades more than just the media. Many marketers themselves are struggling to grasp the full implications of this new space that email marketing has filled, and their campaigns are suffering as a result. To fully utilise the potential of email to eradicate inefficiency and drive ROI, marketers must act upon the following areas:

Be courteous – consider Welcome Emails

Only 60% of the UK’s Top 100 online retailers utilise welcome email programmes, despite the tactic having a proven track record in engaging new subscribers while helping to reduce unsubscribers, spam complaints and future inactivity.

The most effective welcome programmes consist of a timed series of emails that show subscribers more of what your company is all about. These emails can contain highlights of a new product line, a reminder of return policies or a survey to gain more insight into your recipients and their shopping habits.

Welcome programmes also give a reason to contact the customer in the important early stages of the relationship. No interaction in the first 30 days of a relationship (which over 20% of online retailers are guilty of) could cause the consumer to forget about you, leading to increased spam complaints, decreased open and click-through rates, and ultimately lost revenue. It sounds simple, but don’t ignore people who want to interact with you!

Customers appreciate this interaction when it is personal and humanised. If you’ve not met someone before, you introduce yourself – the same should be applied to retailer/customer conversations too. In this way, welcome emails are essential to get that relationship off to a good start. But how do you develop it into a profitable one?

Give power to the customer

Consumers today have more power and control than ever before—they can find out almost anything they want to know about a company on their own and with ease. Therefore, marketers must not only listen carefully to customers and learn what options they want to hear about, but also act on this information. How? Preference centres.

In last year’s study, only 46 percent of retailers were beginning their relationships with subscribers by asking about specific interests, and this year’s research indicates two-thirds are doing so.

A preference centre can include a wide range of options, without which it’s more difficult to understand how customers want to be interacted with and what their interests are. For example, what type of content do they want, and how do they want to receive it? This information is important enough to affect the strategy of your campaign as a whole, especially if your customers show a penchant for social media.

Capitalise on the power of Social

As the number of communication channels grows and customers move between these channels throughout the day, many marketers are realising that taking an integrated multichannel approach can significantly increase the chance of getting a key message front and centre. Retailers are increasingly using email to promote social sharing and social channels, but there is still a lot of room for expansion – only 59% of online retailers are linking their email activity with their social network presence.

Consider including social-sharing tools within your email messages, which will benefit you by driving new contacts – be they new subscribers, new Twitter followers, new customers or all of the above—your way. The great thing about this activity is that it can work two ways, with social network followers moved into an email marketing scheme to drive revenue generation and an ROI for both email and social activity.

Single Opt-in – a relic

Many marketers assume that revenue and ROI increase with the number of email recipients. This is an utterly wrong, but unsurprising misconception. No matter how many potential customers you are targeting, if none of them are actively engaged with you or your brand, no end of emails will drive ROI. So how do you refine your recipient list to include only those who will realistically purchase from you? Double Opt-in.

It’s no surprise that more than 90 percent of the top UK retailers still stick with the single opt-in approach – a large email list looks good when reporting, and can provide false hope for success.  Double opt-in however, is a way to ensure high list quality, increased responsiveness and minimise future spam complaints. In today’s world of overflowing inboxes, targeted campaigns are far more likely to illicit a response than blanket messaging, and the 90% of online retailers who don’t do this need to take heed.

As more consumers demand relevant, personalised content, the best marketers will be the best listeners. By giving subscribers control of how retailers communicate with them, marketers can help ensure they deliver the content customers want to receive, as well as how and when. Email dead? Not in the slightest.

Richard Evans

Richard Evans


Richard Evans is Director of Marketing, EMEA at Silverpop