Wednesday, November 26, 2008

E-Mail Marketers Get in the Spirit

NOVEMBER 26, 2008

Working to break through malaise and get consumers to shop

Marketers have stepped up their holiday e-mail blitzes with steep discounts and subject-line countdowns such as “5 Days Left to Save Up to 75%,” deadlines like “Buy 1 $50 Item By Dec. 5 And Get Another Free” and “Free Shipping When You Order By Dec. 21.”

Marketers can use e-mail to create a sense of urgency in the last six weeks of the year, according to Huw Griffiths, director of marketing for e-mail marketing software company Campaigner. Mr. Griffiths said e-mail marketers should pay special attention to messaging and be crystal clear about shipping dates, return policies and fees.

Mr. Griffiths also said marketers should think about how consumers view e-mail messages, in HTML or text, and should always test before sending.

“Testing e-mail is one of the most critical things that retailers can do,” he said. “It could be just two words that are different in the subject line. Set up a small subscriber base and test different things like subject lines and calls to action, then compare the two.”

That might seem like obvious advice, but it often goes unheeded. More than one-half of US online retailers surveyed in September 2008 by Knowledge Marketing for Internet Retailer said they did not test their e-mail subject lines.

Kohl’s announced it will start dangling 25 “deals” before Christmas online and in stores. Consumers will opt in for e-mail alerts for the deal of the day and can have them delivered by desktop widget. Similarly, Wal-Mart is sending text message alerts with holiday promotions to an opt-in list. And Sugar, an online publisher of lifestyle content for women, introduced a personalized e-mail service about sales on apparel and home goods.

The year-end e-mail push is something of a last hurrah, as e-mail marketing spending growth is set to drop to 3.5% in 2009, down from 11.3% in 2008.

The slip in e-mail ad spending represents growth at a time when most traditional media ad spending is shrinking, but is still a shift from the double-digit boom of the past few years.

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