ATLANTA, (May 26, 2005) -- A comprehensive study of retail email practices conducted by Silverpop reveals that most marketers only need to make a few simple changes to leap ahead of competitors.
Bill Nussey, CEO of Silverpop and author of the book "The Quiet Revolution in Email Marketing," recently released key findings from Phase I of the company's "Retail Email Marketing Study." A full report of Phase I is scheduled to be released in June.
The Silverpop project reviewed the registration procedures, marketing messages and opt-out practices of 175 companies, including nationally recognized names such as Crate & Barrel, Neiman Marcus, JC Penney, CompUSA and many others. The findings present best practices and enable marketers to identify elements of sophisticated email campaigns that can help set their own programs apart from the competition.
"What we found was actually quite surprising," Nussey said. "There are a few very simple changes retail marketers can make that will go a long way to distinguish their email campaigns from those of their competitors."
For example, personalization is a simple yet effective tool when it comes to establishing a relationship, yet few companies take advantage of it. Silverpop's study found that three-fourths of retailers don't respond to prospects' requests with even simple personalization like the recipient's name. Recent studies by JupiterResearch have shown that response rates increase when even simple personalization is used.
The study also found that retail email marketers can improve how they encourage Web site visitors to sign up for emails with both stronger calls to action and better placement of registration requests. Fully one-quarter of the companies studied failed to offer even a simple explanation of benefits to incent visitors to sign up for emails. When a call to action was offered, 45 percent offered notices of sales and promotions and 14 percent offered news. An offer for a catalog or other type of direct mail was the incentive used by 11 percent of retailers studied.
"I was very surprised to see that as many as 23 percent of the companies we looked at failed to include email registration requests on the home page," said Elaine O'Gorman, vice president of strategy for Silverpop. "The company that wants to establish a relationship with its customers through email should never bury the call-to-action by placing it off page."
The study also found that the type of information retailers offered was generally limited, with nearly eight out of 10 companies studied offering only one choice of communication such as notices of sales, newsletters or information bulletins, etc. Yet O'Gorman noted that the ability to provide content preferences and a variety of choices can help increase the number of people who will opt-in to receive email messages from a company because they know the communications will be more tailored to their needs.
The amount of information about the recipient that companies captured during the registration process was divided up fairly equally among three options. Thirty-seven percent of retailers asked only for an email address, while 39 percent asked registrants to complete a short profile of four to five lines that typically included a request for a postal address. A more extensive profile that generally also asked for phone numbers and demographic information was requested by 25 percent of retailers.
Only 43 percent of the companies studied sent a registration confirmation message. Eight out of 10 sent confirmations the same day and 76 percent displayed product or brand names in the messages. However, only 22 percent asked to be added to the recipients' address book or white list, and only 25 percent of the confirmation messages were personalized.
"Marketers should think about how they respond when they meet someone for the first time," O'Gorman explained. "You score points when you use the person's name. In the same manner, you should personalize email messages and ask that your newfound friend open the door to continued communications. Just a few simple practices can make a big difference in the success of an email campaign."
Phases II and III of Silverpop's "Retail Email Marketing Study," which provide analysis of marketing messages and opt-out practices, are scheduled to be released later this summer.
Silverpop is a leading provider of permission-based email marketing solutions, strategy and services. Ranked as having the highest business value and richest feature set by JupiterResearch in 2004, Silverpop was also acknowledged by research company Forrester as a "strong performer" that "stands out with an interface that is quite easy to use while providing strong functionality." Silverpop helps marketers cultivate and maintain long-term strategic relationships with customers and partners by maximizing the potential of email as a relationship tool. Its flexible service model allows marketers to choose from full service or ASP and easily move between the two, making it an ideal solution for marketers at any stage of using email. Silverpop provides email marketing to industry leading companies including The Bombay Company, British Sky Broadcasting, Weather.com and more.