Email Buyers Spend More Money (Hooray!)

New research from Forrester reveals a trend we’ve been seeing for some time: Email recipients are an online retailer’s best customers. In fact, Forrester found that people who buy products advertised in emails spend 138% more than those who don’t buy through email. Email customers are also more likely to buy impulsively and are willing to pay premiums for convenience products.

These are your dream customers!

But wait … it’s not all wine and roses. The report also reveals just how tough the competition for inbox dominance has become. Way back in January of 2000, 48% of survey respondents agreed that “Email offers are a great way to find out about new products or promotions” and “I read most email ads to see if something catches my eye.” Today those numbers are 22% and 13%, respectively. So, if your email isn’t measuring up, then it’s your competitors who are going to be enjoying those free-spending, impulse-shopping, convenience hunters.

What’s an email marketer to do? You already know the answer: be relevant. Your customers are pressed for time and you have to deliver interesting, relevant, focused email every time. It’s not enough to have permission, you need to earn your way into the inbox and earn a response – every time. Our own annual consumer research finds that “prior value” is the key to being relevant. If the subscriber has found value in your email in the past, she is more likely to open the message in her inbox today.

Be honest – most of the subscribers on your list are completely ignoring your messages. Many clients I work with find the inactive portion of their list to be 55% or more. As an industry, we marketers have not done a good enough job providing that prior value which is so essential to building a meaningful email relationship.

Now’s our chance. There are a number of strategies you can try this quarter to increase relevance. First, focus on your best email customers – the clickers and openers. Make sure that you are sending what you promised at an appropriate frequency. Trigger post-purchase messages to take advantage of frequency.

For those subscribers who are not responding to your offers, change your tact. You can’t break through their inertia (and the competition) by just sending more of what they don’t want. Offer a few tips that are about the value of your products, instead of just pitching your products. Put the product pitch in the sidebar and on the landing page. Aim to get these folks re-engaged before you start selling.

Match your email promotions with the buying cycle of your subscribers. If you know that most customers only buy two to three times a year, then asking them to consider a purchase 52 times a year via weekly emails is probably not going to establish prior value. You’ll burn out new subscribers before they are in-market again. Send information that is valuable to them instead of pure product pitches, but keep it brief and relevant and even a bit pithy.

Weekly retail promotions can be very valuable – if they are relevant. So use the data you have to improve the segmentation and targeting of your offers. A trick for doing segmentation when when you have limited production resources is to use the subject line more strategically. For example, if you have three offers in one email, use the subject line to target the one of most interest to each segment of your list – that way you only produce one email message, but improve relevance for all.

Ask for feedback – replace one email a month with a quick poll or two question survey about what sort of information subscribers would rather have from you. Ask them what their challenges are – and then make sure your email helps them be smarter, better looking, healthier or more wealthy. Give them an option to unsubscribe or receive a lower frequency. Getting these non-responders off your file now is better than having them complain to their ISP later.

Test a couple of website or in-store invitations for your email program at the point of collection/sign up. See what new subscribers are most interested in (hint: it’s probably not “special offers.”) Response to the various benefit statements will help you uncover latent interests. Tap these new, active subscribers when they are engaged and learn what sort of messages will establish prior value – and high response. Be sure that you can actually deliver on the benefits you promise, of course.

It’s not always an easy strategy to deliver prior value, but it is a winning one. When active email subscribers buy 138% more readily than other customers – that’s worth an investment.

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