Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Email Marketing - We'd love your advice


Having worked at Google in their advertising sales time I have a good understanding of search engine marketing and a reasonable understanding of digital display and search engine optimisation, however one area I and the rest of the Shoes of Prey team have very little to no experience in is email marketing. At the moment for Shoes of Prey we have an email list with about 6,000 subscribers who we send a monthly email newsletter to. We don't promote our email list on our website or give people a reason to join so our current email subscriber list is only 6,000 which is low considering we've had over 1,500,000 visits to our website since mid December. Our emails aren't tailored at all to the customer, all 6,000 subscribers get the same email and some months we don't send the newsletter at all. Our email marketing efforts could use a lot of improvement!

Some ideas we've been discussing for how we can better use email marketing include:
  • Shopping cart abandonment emails - say a customer designs a pair of leopard print shoes but doesn't order them. We could send them an email a few hours later with some photos and video showing how leopard print is on trend this season. If they still don't order we could then send them an offer for a free sample of our leopard print leather so they can see the material in their home and how it might match to their outfits.
  • Encouraging repeat orders - An important metric for an online retailer is the customer re-order rate, or the number of customers who order a second, third, fourth time etc. We could use email marketing to encourage customers who have purchased from us in the past to reorder from us again.
  • Offering different subscription options & capturing information about the customer - some customers may just want emails about new products, some may only want special offers, some may want information on fashion trends. Offering customers the option to select the type of information they want to receive will then help us tailor how we communicate with each customer.

One thing I've read that works very well for email marketing is sales and discounts. Because we are trying to build a mid to high end women's fashion brand and we've seen the impact constant sales and discounting has had on businesses like Myer and David Jones this is not a path we want to go down, but we still think email marketing could work very well for us.

At the moment we use Sydney based Campaign Monitor for our email newsletters which we are very happy with, however it's not designed for the sorts of tailored email marketing we want to do moving forward. We've had conversations with Silverpop and Email Direct and both their products look suitable, we plan to talk to some additional email providers as well.

We're considering hiring for a new role which would be part financial analyst part email marketing manager and the idea would be that this person would take on the email marketing role at Shoes of Prey.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on the following, particularly if you've had experience in email marketing: 1. Any additional ideas on the types of email marketing we could do? 2. What types of emails have you seen that work particularly well for generating sales? 3. Any experience working with Silverpop, Email Direct or similar email marketing providers and how did you find them? 4. For businesses that are successful with their email marketing, how much time does it take to run effectively? Is a 50% role for 1 person too much or not enough?

Thanks!

Image by إبن البيطار

10 comments:

  1. Hi Michael,

    I'm interested to hear what you learn going forward as I'm in the same boat: great with SEM but very little experience with email marketing.

    One idea I want to try is emailing customers who abandoned their shopping carts to make sure they did not have any issues. See: http://blog.shopify.com/2010/3/29/tip-4-abandoned-orders-source-of-income. This makes that email less of a hard sell and allows you to address customers' specific problems, if necessary.

    Good luck and please share what does/doesn't work for Shoes of Prey.

    -Fred

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  2. Interesting topic. For years we battled with email marketing but mainly from the point of view of consistency - we would only send out a few emails a year. Finally we decided that it needed to be more regular given that this was one of the only regular touch points with our subscription base. We put one person in charge and we haven't missed an issue in the past 16 months.

    I think it's good making it part of somebody's role otherwise it never gets done. I also think the abandoned cart idea is good and will probably create more conversions as it gives that little extra push.

    One thing we noticed was that our general newsletter was decent for updating purposes ie it really didn't sell anything apart from our image as a high-end digital provider. Where we actually created sales though was by targeting our clients specifically (instead of the whole database of subscribers) and providing them with specific instances of popular site upgrades or new features. Being clients and familiar with our level of quality it was much easier to convert these to sales. Furthermore I have heard feedback from the account managers saying that clients actually want to know more about new features, functions etc so they know what is available for purchase.

    We offer a different service / product to SoP but I would guess that your clients may be interested in the same type of thing. While designing new shoes from scratch is fun, perhaps you can provide them a few popular options or ideas as a basis. In fact im guessing you already do this in some capacity but not sure if its done through targeted email marketing.

    We have also run competitions through previous newsletter which have also been very popular and increased the distribution either by forwards or tweets. Im not sure what is relevant to you as a prize - maybe offer to name a shoe / fabric / design after the person???

    We use Campaign Monitor and I have no experience with Silverpop or Email Direct so I can’t comment on how good they are.

    In regards to the position you are looking to hire - a person who is half financial analyst / half email marketer might be tricky. You will find lots of people who are good at either one but both... When I have previously tried to hire people with dual skills I have found 2 issues – 1. They are better at one than the other, and; 2. They spend their time on the thing they are better at, hence the other gets neglected or done badly. The only people in my opinion who are good multi-taskers are the founders....but they have better things to do right ? :-)

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  3. Hey Mikey,

    The sum of all the below tips should increase your conversation rates and also the size of your newsletter database.

    Send relevant information to your subscribers. Segment your database and tailor content accordingly. Regular customers should receive different content to what 'inactive' readers receive.

    Establish a routine for your newsletter send-outs (every month, two months, whatever). If content is relevant your readers will look forward to receiving your emails.

    Forget the 'great discounts – buy now!' approach. Inform and educate for the most part, entertain in small doses. The single most important reason for sending out an e-newsletter is this - Keeping you top of mind.

    Include links to promote 'socialisation' of your content on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other relevant channels.

    Include prominent links to 'Send to Friend', join us on Twitter and also Facebook.

    If you want to increase 'send-to-friend' rates include video and new product announcements.

    Automate reminder emails for abandoned carts. If possible see if the cart can remember their purchase on their next visit.

    Allow for quick, easy newsletter sign-ups. Collect specific information later (have a dedicated page with a larger form to collect this data e.g. Age, Sex, Job, Income etc.)

    Increase Open Rates by having personalised Email subject lines e.g. Hi , your Feb edition of News of Prey. Note – Open rates on average are 24%. You're doing well if you get it over this.

    Which leads me to branding – It'll be nice if you could name your newsletter to give it a bit of character. Helps people to identify with just another email and also gives the impression that you guys are thinking about your brand in every piece of communication you deliver.

    If people unsubscribe ask them why. One multi-choice question is simple to answer and will give you a 'quick and dirty' way to identify what you can improve (content, frequency, relevancy, apathy or lack of time).

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers,
    Rishad

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  4. Hi,

    I would definitely recommend segmenting your email database into sections a minimum of customers and prospects. You can then have content tailored to each of these individually.

    You will also have a number of "hygiene emails" (thank you emails, order information, shopping cart abandonment etc) which can be automated emails based around certain triggers on the site. I would keep these to the point and less graphical than a newsletter might be. Going to the level of personalisation you were talking about for the leopard print might be a nice-to-have but might be a time intensive approach and perhaps something a little less personalised could do the same job.

    Also try to put together an email matrix defining what email people receive at what stage in the process and what the key purpose of the email is. You can also include your newsletters and any promotional emails in this and then you have a plan moving forward.

    One thing with your email is to build things up slowly. It's easy to over commit with what you plan to do and then not fulfill on the communication you were hoping for. For example you can continue to segment and profile your database as you go but you might not have time to do full personalised email or variable content for some time to come.

    From my perspective if I was going to be receiving emails from Shoes of Prey I'd want to see what shoe designs others have come up with recently. This could provide an incentive or inspiration to do it myself. Not only can it inspire potential new customers but it can be post purchase reinforcement for your customers to have their shoe featured.

    I agree that finding someone with finance and email marketing skills could be a bit of a stretch, but then if you guys are going to provide the strategy, implementing the actual emails is possibly more administrative.

    Another email system to consider is Traction. Its probably more expensive but it does allow you to segment to a high level, store multiple types of data in the database and is also handy if you end up doing any competitions or surveys. Worth looking at just to know what is out there at least.

    Hope this helps!

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  5. hey I should be able to help you out with this when I get back.

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  6. In short: Yes it's a great idea and you should focus on shopping cart abandonment.

    Here's a short article with stats: http://blog.conversionconference.com/ecommerce/retargeting-emails-charles-nicholls/

    Also, because this is even is such a huge valuable indicator of intent, you might also want to drop a cookie and target that user through Google's display network.

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  7. Thanks so much for all the tips guys, lots of great ideas here.

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  8. Hi Micheal, you can also try incentivising referral sign up's by existing subscribers in order to increase your subscriber base. We use http://www.vcampaigner.com for our Email Marketing, Html design and they even help.us with such ideas, implementation, website integration, etc.

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  9. Thanks Nidhi, will check them out.

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