By Ian Goldman | CEO, Celerant Technology
Email marketing has become the favorite direct marketing channel of retailers everywhere for good reason -- it is amazingly effective.
When campaigns are managed effectively using the right marketing automation tools and intelligence into the preferences of your customer base, properly executed messages have high conversion rates. If they underperform, it is easier than ever to analyze metrics and find out why so your next campaign is better poised to deliver the results that you want.
Barriers to entry for email marketing are thin and do not involve purchasing expensive advertising space; yet it is possible to achieve targeting that rivals that of the largest digital advertising platforms. The biggest hurdle many retailers face in getting started is building an appropriate list of prospects. It can be cost prohibitive to purchase a list of email addresses from a seller, but more importantly, it is almost always unnecessary.
Nobody understands your customers better than you do and nobody can build a better list than you can. You may already have enough contact information to begin your own list very quickly. But even if you’re starting from scratch, you’re only a few weeks away from building a targeted list that you can use for email marketing.
Mine your existing database. Look at your entire customer database to see where you have collected email information in the past. If you run an E-Commerce site, you likely have email addresses for all customers that have made a purchase. The same is true for any loyalty clubs that you offer. When and how email addresses are collected varies between retailers, but you probably have email addresses connected to some of the records in your customer database already, and that is an ideal place to start.
Collect email addresses at POS. If you do not already ask for email addresses during every transaction at POS, start now. Most customers are quick to provide this information because they know it means that valuable coupons, promotions, and sale information will follow. If customers are hesitant, you can sweeten the offer by creating a sweepstakes and letting them enter by providing their contact information. However, make sure that all clerks are trained to accept a simple, “no, thanks” from customers that do not want to provide their emails.
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Create social media incentives. Social media is an excellent place to incentivize consumers to provide contact information because they can do it quickly and it spreads rapidly among targeted prospects. Develop a sale, special offer, or sweepstakes that is irresistible to your ideal customer and ask for a simple email address to register participants. Appreciate the fact that you are asking for personal information and make the payoff worth the price of admission.
Promote gated offers. Develop a special “members only” area of your website that has exclusive content and offers that appeal to ideal customers. This may include things like early-bird opportunities to reserve or buy brand new merchandise, access to clearance items at deep discounts, or the ability to personalize or customize products. The possibilities are really endless depending on who your target customers are and what resonates strongly with them. Whatever the gated offer is, ask for an email address and validate it before granting access.
Partner with vendors. Tapping hot vendors can be a great way to create an effective co-branded offer. A major benefit of partnering is that your vendor will also promote the program through its channels, expanding reach without adding cost. Similarly, you can reach targets that your vendor likely could not alone, so you will both bring in valuable contact information to the database that you will share with each other.
Ask current subscribers to recruit others. When you send an email communication, include a simple “email a friend” button at the bottom. Incentivize sharing by offering a referral awad if the friend makes a purchase or engages in some other measurable activity. You can also double down by offering a bonus to both the referring friend and the person referred. Once the email address is entered, add it to your database.
Great marketing automation campaigns begin with a good list of prospects. Do not worry if the list is difficult to segment in the beginning, that will get easier as you measure and analyze the behaviors of recipients. The key is to start with a pool of people who you already know are, or are likely to become interested in the products that you sell and the value proposition that you offer. If you are smart about how you use this list and communicate properly, it will boost the average lifetime value of your customer base.
About the Author:
Ian Goldman, President and CEO of Celerant Technology, is an expert software engineer with 25 years of experience developing advanced management solutions that offer integrated omnichannel capabilities for progressive retailers.
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