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GUEST COMMENT Why online retailers need to start rethinking the way they view email

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Is it time that we rethink how we view the role of email in our online marketing strategies? In many cases, marketers have developed the mantra that success in email is all about sending the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Unfortunately, the effect of this kind of thinking is to view email messages as a series of singular events in the marketing ecosystem. While there isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with this view, it doesn’t allow retailers to fully exploit the impact that email can have on shaping consumer behaviour and raising brand awareness.

The way that we interact with email has changed over the last five years with, in particular, the rapid adoption of mobile. As a result, the way that email marketers measure success should change too. When it comes to measuring the success of email marketing campaigns, marketers need to look beyond ‘traditional’ metrics like open, click and purchase rates alone. Not least because focusing on these measurements can lead marketers to send far fewer emails to less people and less often. To get around this problem retailers need to focus on utilising the wealth of insight that the digital age offers to automate the process of delivering hyper-personal content and experiences to customers.

In the past, email marketers simply could not deliver this level of personalisation, as it was both too labour intensive and costly, particularly when considering the need to deliver the hundreds if not thousands of variants of each message required for personalisation. This should no longer be a barrier, however, as marketing technology has finally caught up to where the industry needs it to be. Marketers can finally exploit these new capabilities and utilise email to influence activity at the top of the purchase funnel and impact brand awareness.

When it comes to building this brand awareness and personalisation, retail and brand marketers really must abandon the notion that reducing the number of emails a customer receives is the right thing to do. In many ways, this stems from the myth of ‘inbox overload,’ and marketers who are concerned with the potential of annoying their customers with too many emails must understand that there’s no such thing as sending too much email. Only once they’ve moved past this mental block can marketers start to look at email in the same way as a poster campaign or TV advertisement. Let’s face it, when it comes to these traditional marketing platforms, nobody would ever suggest a brand would be better off with ‘less’ impressions!

After all, when a customer signs up to receive communication from a brand, they indicate that they’re ready and willing to hear from them. Why then would they be averse to receiving the multiple messages they get each week, particularly when personalisation will help ensure they are also delivered content that resonates and interests them?

We live in a world where most people are never more than an arm’s length away from their smartphone. Consequently, we now check our email inboxes at any time or place we choose from the minute we wake up to the minute we fall asleep.

This immediacy and frequency in which email can be checked is boosting the potential for brands and retailers to exploit the medium for not only conversion, but brand awareness purposes as well. By sending more email, marketers can increase the number of brand impressions in the inbox and fully take advantage of the consumer’s obsession with their mobile devices.

When it comes to the bottom of the purchase funnel, most marketers already know how to deliver results from email. However, the growth in mobile and the emergence of new technologies to help retailers automate the process means that using this channel to create new brand impressions is now within reach. To succeed, retailers need to be convinced that they should leave behind the old approach of delivering the right content to the right person at the right time. It’s time instead to opt for delivering personal messages to everyone, all the time, through proper campaign automation.

Dela Quist is chief executive of Alchemy Worx

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