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“We are not ambulance chasers, people leave our stores empty handed every day and we don’t feel the need to beg them to come back so why should online be any different?”

If anyone takes the time to read these words, I would love your feedback. RedEye has a series of clients that make a hell of a lot of money and ROI from behaviourally targeted and automated emails.

But we were blown away recently when a prospect said that they would never do trigger emails or basket abandonment work because they perceived it as the e-marketing equivalent of ‘ambulance chasing’!? Ouch!!

My initial reaction was invective! "Buffoon" (or similar such outburst). But it has been nagging in the back of my mind since.

So, my question is: Is there any angle at which this emarketing manager for a well known high street retail chain has a point?

Some thoughts occur to me. Firstly, is this a business or a game of sodding scruples? I know a number of successful business people who are not adverse to a spot of begging if it might help!

But, that is not the point; no begging should be involved. If someone leaves your store and then, before entering a competitor's outlet, sees a poster saying, ‘Hi Jane/John, you just came in our shop but didn’t see this, and based on your purchasing and browsing history, we think you might like it’, isn’t that just clever marketing, trying to drive a repeat visit, ‘clever email’ even?

Repeat visitors are 3-5 times more likely to buy than first time shoppers. Do we, as emarketers, just ignore that fact?

And isn’t it actually just perfect direct marketing; right message, right person, right time?

Get it wrong, I suppose, and it can be ugly, intrusive, annoying. But get any marketing wrong and it has the same effect. Get it right and customers feel important and perceive at a subconscious level that the brand is thinking about them.

So, let me put some scenarios to you. I am browsing for a holiday and I save my booking whilst I consider it.

A week later I receive an email reminding me about the holiday I saved. Intrusive? Or the prompt I need to get that holiday booked. In my experience up to 20% see it as a valuable prompt.

I drop out of a basket, irritated at shipping costs. 24 hours later I get an email offering me free shipping based on the fact that I have ordered regularly over the last 12 months? Annoying, or good customer service?

Okay, I am stating the case for the defense, but I would, wouldn’t I? Your call…

Matthew Kelleher

Published 9 June, 2008 by Matthew Kelleher

Matthew Kelleher is commercial director as RedEye and a contributor to Econsultancy.

27 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Spam is spam is spam, and if they haven't asked for the email then it's spam.

"up to 20% see it as a valuable prompt"

So how do the other 80% see it?

over 8 years ago


Robin Gillyon, New Media Consultant at massio limited

If you have their email address, i guess they have either accepted email contact from you or not - so you can just email the ones that have agreed to be emailed. Sending them some kind of discount or offer to encourage the conversion, well isn;t that a pretty similar proposition to std email offer (in fact very targeted!) - if there is no offer, well they still have said they wanted to receive info from you.

over 8 years ago

Bertie Bosrédon

Bertie Bosrédon, Digital engagement & Social Media expert at Bertie.fr

I would have reacted like you did. Building an e-marketing strategy based on how people behave off-line sounds wrong.

Different channel = different strategy (would you have a slide show of pages your catalogue as your next TV ad, because the catalogue works so well!?)

It's time to look at what online innovations can be implemented in the off-line world.
I bet within two years retailers will display user ratings (gathered online) next to the price tag of products in their physical stores.

over 8 years ago

Matthew Finch

Matthew Finch, Head of Sales & Commercial at Warner Leisure Hotels

To the first comment, I think we need to make the assumption that we are only taking about mailing people that have actively opted-in to receive emails, so lets treat this as permission based email marketing and not spam.

Matthew, to your question, I think this is a matter of balance.

I am a big fan of behavioural email marketing - many people will have heard me banging on about this point all the time! Right Message, Right Person, Right Time! As a consumer I would much rather get a personalised email based upon my preferences or behaviour than a one-size-fits-all newsletter that goes to 1m people!

However, I also understand the Marketer’s point a 'ambulance chasing’. With targeted emails it is important to get the message and frequency right... get it wrong and it can look too desperate, too pushy and even feel like Big Brother is watching.

Get it right and the potential is huge. I have personally seen some great results from very simple targeted emails, both in email open rates and in sales conversions. I would encourage all companies to invest more in making their email more targeted.

As I always say... Test, Learn and Evolve!

Matthew Finch

over 8 years ago



"why should online be any different?" - online is different because we can do this. Offline retailers don't do this simply because they can't.

This type of thing is one of the major advantages of doing business online and, from my point of view, just clever marketing. Business is business and if this works (and you don't annoy your customers) then surely it's got to be a good thing. I'm sure many offline retailers will be jealous.

over 8 years ago


Susan Young

A year ago I found such marketing tactics extremely annoying (seeing emails in my inbox relating to what I had recently looked at & not purchased) - I may even have felt "it's my business & not theirs what I look at, & who the hell are they to follow-up on a purchase I chose not to make?!" (I really did feel this strongly about it).

In the last 12 months however I have noticed that so many businesses are doing it - so much that I as a customer have come to expect it. I have even warmed to it - to the point that when I leave a site (perhaps to compare a product on other sites) I can be be lazy in awaiting a prompt from the company most hungry for my trade.

I suppose in some ways I have warmed to this method of marketing because it takes away some of the annoying questions that some sites used to ask about your interests & purchasing habits - let's face it we all lied on these sites anyway, either because we wanted to throw them off the scent, or because we really had no idea how to answer some of the questions which really didn't seem to relate to us anyway. The difference now is that they really do know us, they relate specifically to us & probably know our browsing habits much better than we do. What can be so harmful about receiving relevant content?

over 8 years ago

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