I’m in the process of moving house at the moment. In my infinite wisdom, after spending my life’s savings on the bricks and mortar, it is the turn of my own wallet to finance a range of home improvements. 

To help in this arduous task, I’ve signed up for a number of relevant newsletters including B&Q, Screwfix Direct, Comet and more. 

Strikingly, the majority of the email promotion focuses on discounts and offering deals… 

What is it that makes the email channel for eRetailers synonymous with offers/discounts/deals? 

I’m leading a seminar at ECMOD (http://www.adestra.co.uk/adestra at_ecmod, 25/6th October @ Earls Court) which will focus on email marketing. Interestingly, as a result of my research and talking to the eRetailers in our client base, I’ve come to some conclusions about the use of email marketing in this vertical today.

Many eRetailers use a ‘spray and pray’ targeting technique to push out one size fits all marketing to their database. Despite the intelligence that can be gathered through email marketing including interest areas and behaviour on site/ within the email, the email promotion resembles more mini-brochures and less tailored communications using techniques such as dynamic content. None include any information about any local stores or capture this information on sign-up despite many asking for address.

Despite all the talk of multi-channel marketing and integrating stores, direct mail/catalogues and online marketing, email marketing is being used as a tactical promotional driver rather than a strategic offering. This could be due to how easy it is to measure sales through a web site from your email marketing, but it strikes me that there is very little integration across the channels. This very weekend, I’ve just bought a washing machine from Comet and provided my address and email address to arrange delivery. I’ll be interested to see if the content in the next newsletter changes because of this or any follow-up email communications are sent.

Every Friday, B&Q send their email newsletter just as the DIY-aholics are tuning their minds out of work and into what jobs lay ahead the following weekend. The newsletter states the offers that will be in store this weekend. This is an obvious call to action, but doesn’t include any method of measuring footfall

Measuring footfall is essential to determining the impact of the email promotion.  There are a couple of ways that they can do this:

  • Comparisons: woefully at the whim of other retail factors (weather, competitor activity, World Cup etc), this method extrapolates trends
  • Exclusive Offers: include in the newsletter an exclusive offer that is only available within the email newsletter. Thus, anyone asking for the offer in store can only have found out about it through the email
  • Discount Codes/ Barcodes: Include a barcode image/ a unique code that needs to be quoted to claim some form of offer. Although manual in its administration afterwards, this method will allow you to see the number of people that redeemed the offer you pushed out by email
  • Controls: Choose a control area. The email contacts in this area do not receive your email marketing and then you can compare the impact against regions that do receive the offer.

Until email marketers can measure in-store response accurately, then their email marketing will be forced into tactical promotions only.

On the flip side, talking to one of our clients, the offers that these companies use aren’t actually as good as they appear. He was experimenting with bundling complimentary products together for little or no discount. By ‘packaging’ his product portfolio like this, he was driving incremental sales from parts of his catalogue that were traditionally not good sellers.

Email marketing within the catalogue, home shopper and eRetail industry is in it’s infancy. It works and as a tactical channel it is being refined into a very effective medium. Without investments in measurement and integration, it will always stay that way and not reach its true potential.

Henry Hyder-Smith is Managing Director of Adestra.