Report from #1: 7 Ways to Increase Your Email Marketing ROI

There are so many elements to a successful email program, that often when asked for our “secrets to success” we pause in a quick effort to prioritize the various factors. Thus, it was great to lead a panel at last month of extraordinary retailers who are doing smart, creative things with email in order to drive higher return.

During our prep, we had long, rambling conversations about what works, what doesn’t and what seems to still resist taming. We had various perspectives from these pros, which certainly helped the conversation. Anne Ashbey, Director, eCommerce, Harry & David has a customer experience viewpoint finely tuned to the seasonal gift products she sells. Angela Caltagirone, Director, Email and eMarketing & Customer Acquisition, Williams-Sonoma, Inc. manages multiple brands with limited customer crossover. Rob Gallagher, Email Marketing Manager, has a highly segmented file and still sends more than 140 million messages a month. And Doug Williams, Director of Marketing, Lane Bryant Catalog, Charming Shoppes, Inc. is managing the launch of new online brands and expanding the email channel.

The panel debated a number of causes and effects of various strategies and agreed on seven ways to increase email ROI:

  1. Listen to your customers
  2. Get relevancy right through testing
  3. Grow a profitable file, not just a large on
  4. Break through the clutter of our web 2.0 world
  5. Measure the right things
  6. Reach the inbox
  7. Keep the offer fresh.

It was a great session, thanks to these great panelists who were willing to share insights and ideas.

A couple of highlights:

  • Don’t let too much time go by before a truly relevant message is sent to each subscriber. Aim for at least two to three per quarter, and ideally two to three per month.
  • If you can’t test well, then don’t bother testing. Focus on content and improving the value of the message by customizing it to each subscriber’s interests.
  • List quality is the most important factor in email channel value, and a top contributor to high inbox deliverability. Structure your program around the needs and interests of your subscribers, not your promotion calendar. Be sure you know the origin of and relationship with everyone on your list.
  • Facebook and other social networks are a great way to invite fans to subscribe to email! (Be sure to link off the Facebook site for sign up, and follow the Facebook rules for promotions.) They are also good for feedback and “cover testing” of catalog covers, email offers and potential new affiliate sites. Unfortunately, these social sites are not yet proven to be a strong revenue driver. But they are how our customers communicate and socialize, and so it’s best to be part of the conversation. Examples: Nordstrom, Target, Sephora, Crate & Barrel, “Pink” by Victoria’s Secret, J Crew, QVC, Home Depot, Kohl’s and Best Buy
  • The overall success of your program is determined by looking at opens, clicks and conversions in relation to each other. Watch where subscribers are “abandoning” the process – e.g.: if you have low opens, your subject lines or content is not compelling. If you have low CTR, your call to action is weak or invisible.

If you’d like to get the handout – 20 slides of detailed checklists and ideas to steal on each of these topics, just let me know. In the next blog posting, I’ll review what the panel had to say about moving from batch and blast to a lifecycle focused email program.

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