The ultimate retail experience is all about giving consumers customer satisfaction, greeting them with a smile, finding out what they are looking for and giving them the relevant service. If I’m browsing for a new shirt and tie on a Saturday morning and a sales assistant is rude to me I would most likely complain to the manager, and certainly wouldn’t buy any products from the store.
Retailers need to realise the same rules apply to their marketing emails. Too many of their email marketing campaigns consist of simply spewing out bulk, irrelevant ‘buy, buy, buy’ emails to their entire subscriber list. The natural customer response is to mark the messages they receive as spam. This harms the marketers’ email reputation and risks all their future messages being blocked by ISPs.
Just as a shop assistant should be helpful by giving a personal service relevant to the customer, so should commercial email. This ensures customers are more likely to open, click, engage and, ultimately, purchase.
Return Path research into UK email marketing practice last year found retailers’ marketing emails are amongst the most likely messages to be marked as spam by both ISPs and consumers. A massive 35 per cent of UK retailers’ marketing emails go straight into subscribers’ spam folder, where they’ll often lie unloved and unread until they’re deleted. That’s almost double the 20 per cent average failure rate for all legitimate commercial email – which is a worrying enough figure in itself.
Simple gestures like a ‘hello’ and a smile make me feel happy and wanted when I enter a store. Welcome messages are also vitally important in email. They act as a symbolic handshake to the subscriber, thanking them for signing up and encouraging them to start interacting with marketers’ email messages and begin purchasing their products.
Personalisation is also vital. My local shopkeeper who knows my name when I pop in for my morning paper on the weekend is the reason I keep going back, he’s liked and trusted. The same must be applied to sending emails. Giving email campaigns a personal touch helps them stick in peoples’ minds and creates a closer relationship between the brand and consumers.
Retailers also need to give subscribers the chance to say no. An over-zealous sales assistant tagging onto my side trying to convince me that I want to buy every item in the store is annoying and my reaction will be to walk out of the store. A shopkeeper who locked customers into a store until they could consume no more would be criminal, if not deemed mentally ill. Not obtaining consent to send emails to consumers and not offering opted-in subscribers the opportunity to unsubscribe just leads to more complaints. An opt-out is also a chance for brands to find out why unsubscribing customers are not interested in their emails.
Given the recent VAT sales tax increase – coupled with signs from Nationwide research that consumer confidence continues to fall – means that now more than ever British retailers should invest two fold. Firstly, brands need to stand out from their competitors and encourage their subscribers to engage with them. Secondly, now is the time to invest in products and services that enable and enhance the marketing efforts for the months ahead – modest investments could pay significant dividends.