Targeted Email Sightings: Alive and Well in Cyberspace

It’s a bit tricky to optimize email in this current environment. On one hand, with all of our marketing budgets under incredible scrutiny, email has taken center stage as an economical and high ROI channel. All that attention means temptation to just send more and more – but of course that has penalties in spiked complaint rates, lower deliverability and exasperated subscribers.

On the other hand, consumers and business professionals are holding tight to their dollars and cents – and retailers, travel companies and even B2B marketers are responding with all kinds of great deals and discounts. “Can we just please send an email for every new deal?” you may be hearing from your brand and product managers. Yikes – that just increases the frequency and lowers the relevance for everyone.

Combined, the effect is that the inbox is even more crowded with great deals. I sorted my personal account by subject line this morning and the first 300 messages started with “50% off.” Wow. We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.

All the more reason to offer three cheers for Sears Holdings, J.C Penney, Target and Gap (and Sears agency Ogilvy) for sharing their email targeting success stories with the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

The Journal reports that Sears and Ogilvy have developed a targeting system based on past purchase category, which also measures the propensity to purchase again. Then, each individual is offered a collection of offers and discounts matched to their buying habits – and the value of the customer to Sears. While this data is typically available for most marketers, the technology for making it really easy to tap had come together this past year in a big way. Good for Sears for tapping it effectively.

I know what you are thinking. While these are all larger companies with presumably larger budgets, the technology you need to send targeted messages is accessible in many affordable ways – including using (nearly free) Google Analytics data with your ESP data. Or, you can set up manual mailings on a lower frequency to complement your generic promotions. Even having a few of your monthly mailings (say 20%) be targeted can make a difference in response for all your mailings.

The Gap is taking a similar approach. The Journal reports that for the second year in a row, The Gap is not buying TV commercials. Instead, they are looking to connect with customers in a 1:1 manner through targeted emails and online promotions, according to the article.

J.C. Penney acknowledges that customers prefer to receive information online, and is putting more emphasis on email segmentation, among other digital channels, the article reports.

The early shopping returns this year have been somewhat encouraging – at least sales are not dismal! But we are all in for a tight fourth quarter and all scrambling to edge out the competition and earn a larger share of wallet. Now more than ever, targeted, custom emails can help you do this well – and build a long term relationship for higher value customers into 2009.

Are you finding success with your targeted emails? Leave us a comment and tell us more!

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