3 Steps to Stop Using Email Like a Billboard

How to transition from batch-and-blast emails to an individualized ones

This article was originally published in TotalRetail. Feature image credit: HostSorter

As any accident lawyer or dubious plastic surgeon would tell you, the success of billboard marketing is an exercise in volume. Masses of roadtrippers and rush hour drivers glancing at your ad will see the same message. As a result, only a fraction will feel compelled to act on it. But if that fraction represents a little of enough, the numbers work.

For most retailers, this is the state of their email program. But should it be?

Email is one of the few 1-to-1 channels marketers wholly own. They have unbridled access to their list and the data they need to drive the program. It offers them the opportunity to tell a tailored brand story, convert prospects and increase customer LTV.

In short, email lets you target down to the individual at a nominal cost. So why is it still a volume play for many?

The impact of email on the digital top-line is no secret to B2C marketers. Most of this performance is attributed to daily marketing emails being sent to vast databases, regularly containing new arrivals, clearance products or sales.

But in a recent analysis performed by Wunderkind, the data showed that these batch-and-blast emails generate only about $0.04 in revenue per send for the average ecommerce retailer. Think about what that means in relation to your business. How many emails are you sending to hit your numbers, and how many of those actually result in customers taking action?

Behaviorally triggered emails, on the other hand, generate $0.95 in revenue per send while also posting a 4.1x higher conversion rate, a direct result of improved relevance.

So, how can retailers transition from a batch-and-blast program to an individualized one?

1. Understand who is on your site

While triggered emails clearly outperform generic batch-and-blast, most retailers’ programs remain dominated by the latter. What’s preventing them from sending more of the former?

You can’t email a visitor if they haven’t given you permission, and you can’t know if you have permission if you can’t connect a visitor to their email address. Most online retailers can only do this for about 5% of their traffic.

Much of the remaining 95% is opted in, just anonymous in that visit. Retailers need to find ways to better recognize their visitors, even as cookies expire or shoppers move between devices.

2. Utilize data to personalize the buyer journey

The more accurately you segment your customers, the more personal your communication can get. Anonymous traffic has prevented brands from enriching known contacts with behavioral data from their site visits.

Once you’ve gotten better at recognizing more customers, you can collect more first-party data, allowing you to build deeper customer understanding. Then, you can building an advanced email program by diversifying your automated emails beyond basic abandonment triggers, segmenting your marketing emails using predictive cohorts and expanding to supporting channels like web push and SMS.

3. Ditch reliance on transactional emails

The pressure to hit revenue targets has resulted in most brand emails being transactional in nature. But consumers want brands with a mission. Retailers can use email to tell their brand’s story and build relationships.

The welcome series is a great time to familiarize customers with the brand story, history, and purpose. But today, they’re often being used to simply pass along a first-purchase discount. Follow-up emails in the series can familiarize customers with your mission or provide a personal letter from an executive.

Beyond that, use improved customer data to start inviting the right customers to local events, introducing your best customers to account reps or reactivating lapsed customers with major announcements.

As a rule, retailers need to move away from batch-and-blast, billboard-like emails if they want to build real relationships with consumers. This process starts with identification, scales with a blend of consumer data and ends with a renewed focus on brand story.


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Ryan Urban

Ryan Urban is the Co-Founder and CEO at Wunderkind. Under his leadership, Wunderkind has been ranked number one overall for both employee retention and career development by ComputerWorld, named one of the best places to work in NYC by Crain’s New York, and honored as one of Fortune’s best places to work. A veteran of the ecommerce space, Ryan was formerly Director of Acquisition at Bonobos and prior to that, Head of Ecommerce at Brickhouse Security. He has served on the advisory boards of both

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