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junk mail

Online retailers are getting lazy, irresponsible, and are disregarding best practices when it comes to responsible email marketing, according to a new study from Return Path.

These dire findings were based on buying items from 45 online retailers, then monitoring their transactional and promotional message streams. These emails messages were then compared with messages received by registering for the same retailers' email programs without making a purchase.

Here's what happened:

  •  31% of companies added customers to their email lists following a purchase without requesting permission to do so. This is fully legal under the CAN-SPAM Act, but frowned upon by responsible marketers.
  • 58% of retailers sent the same first promotional email to buyers and non-buyers alike, squandering the opportunity to personalize or adapt that all-important first message based on the customer's purchase or demographic data.
  • Only 15% of retailers used data they received during the purchase process to target promotional messages to buyers.

"Online retailers have become very sophisticated in the art of selling online. Almost every online retailer has some type of email marketing program. However, retailers still struggle to integrate purchase history and customer data to deliver truly personalized and relevant email messages," said Margaret Farmakis, senior director of email response consulting at Return Path. "This type of integration isn't necessarily easy - it requires time, technical resources and marketing expertise. But when done right, it can exponentially increase response rates by making email more engaging for recipients."

Rebecca Lieb

Published 23 March, 2009 by Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb oversees Econsultancy's North American operations.

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Comments (2)

Jeff Barnes

Jeff Barnes, Partner at Keynet

It's amazing isn't it that after all the articles that have been written, seminars presented and training courses attended that this is still going on. There could be a number of reasons for it but my favourite ones are that email marketing is relatively inexpensive to do so why bother spending time doing it properly and the lack of skills of the email marketers within companies. On the latter I would encourage Heads of Marketing of retail companies to look hard at their employees doing their email marketing and if they don't have the skills or inclination to do a good job then outsource it to their ESP or other third party who know what they are doing, That way they will get a far better ROI and happier customers as well.

Jeff Barnes


over 7 years ago

Vincent Amari

Vincent Amari, Online Consultancy at Business Foresights Ltd

Even emails from the largest ESP companies don't utilise their systems properly, or maybe they still lack the 'personalisation' features we all keep talking about.

An example is when they send an invite to download a report or case study, and when you click through to the landing page you are presented with a registration form!

This is from someone I already had to fill-in a form to register for their emails in the first place :-(

over 7 years ago

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