MARCH 13, 2009
President and CEO
eMarketer: What is e-mail marketing’s greatest strength?
Bill Nussey: What makes e-mail marketing unique is the ability to both broadcast and target individual personalized content at the same time. It’s also relatively inexpensive compared with other media.
eMarketer: What is its greatest weakness?
Mr. Nussey: E-mail’s greatest weakness is that some marketers use it too aggressively, and they undermine the value of e-mail for all other marketers and consumers.
Obviously, what I’m talking about is spam, selling me drugs or high school or college diplomas, or other such nonsense, and that makes an otherwise pretty good medium less valuable for everybody.
eMarketer: Do you think that consumers’ use of e-mail has changed in ways that e-mail marketers need to be cognizant of?
Mr. Nussey: Absolutely. Specifically—and there’s been studies on this—consumers are only willing to have a finite number of online e-mail offers at a given time.
For example, my neighbor might only be willing to have 10 or 12 e-mail newsletters, promotions or other subscriptions at any given time, and he might delete, unsubscribe or spam-button the ones that are no longer interesting to him.
A lot of marketers think of their e-mail programs in isolation, or if they do think about competition, they think about other companies like them. But truly what they’re competing for is the very limited attention that consumers and business recipients have for all e-mail, for the channel. So marketers need to be sure that they are one of those dozen or so active subscriptions that their target audience is actually paying attention to.
eMarketer: Are there other changes in the way that people communicate or use e-mail?
Mr. Nussey: Many, many. One that marketers new to e-mail marketing don’t pick up on is that when most consumers are no longer interested in a subscription, rather than unsubscribing, they hit the spam button. So there’s yet another major incentive for marketers to remain relevant, to remain engaged with their recipient base—rather than just press the blast button every week.
eMarketer: Even if I opt in, and then later on get bored with a particular retailer’s e-mail message, instead of unsubscribing, I press the spam button. If that happens enough, that could hurt the retailer’s ability to send e-mails to other customers who want to receive them, is that correct?
Mr. Nussey: Yes, and it’s very common. In fact that’s what most people do now.
eMarketer: Is there a way that an e-mail service provider can figure out how not to punish a retailer because of a certain group of people who are pressing the spam button when they should really be unsubscribing?
Mr. Nussey: Look at the activity of individual recipients on your list over the last six or 12 months, and people that are fundamentally inactive—who haven’t clicked, haven’t opened, haven’t purchased—take ’em off your list. What you really need to be concerned about is total respondents and total conversion rates, not how big your list is.
But if that’s not available to you because your boss wants the list to remain large, put up a profile page and ask people the kind of things they want to receive. Ask them the frequency they want to receive their promotions. Typically when people get frustrated and hit the unsubscribe button it’s usually because the marketer is sending too often or allowing messages to be sent from other brands that people didn’t subscribe to.
Keep the list extremely private and deal with the purposes people opted in for. That alone will pretty much keep you in the green zone for good e-mail marketing.
eMarketer: Are most Web retailers sending e-mails that people have opted in to receive?
Mr. Nussey: My company does a study every year, and we look at the patterns and trends in e-mail marketing for retailers. Based on our research, the vast majority—well above 90% of all online retailers of all sizes—have an e-mail capture on their Website.