Following my presentation at last week’s ECMOD event on email marketing, I noticed that most home shopping and e-tail email marketing strategies centre around offering discounts or promotions. 

This is despite the fact that one of the major benefits of email marketing is that it is measurable. You can use this information to learn and further refine your communications.

After recently moving into our new house, I’ve been keeping my eye out for any bargains on home ware. This weekend, I found both the answer to over-reliance on promotional based marketing and extra storage in our bathroom.

It was delivered with Saturday’s copy of The Sun. Amongst the numerous pages dedicated to Sir Alex’s 20 years at Manchester United, was a small catalogue for Argos.

Serendipity led me to pick it up and flick through the pages. Before I knew it, I’d found something that would look good in the corner of our new bathroom. 

Firing up my lap top, and going to, I discovered that I could reserve the item and go and collect it from my local store, which I did. 

On reaching the store, I used the self-service check out. My first human contact with any member of Argos’ staff was when they handed my goods to me.

Apart from this being a completely multi-channel experience, it shows quite how much information could have been gathered on me, as I interacted with technology at almost every point:

  • Product preferences: what other products did I browse on the website before buying, and what sort of complimentary products could I be offered?
  • Geography: where is convenient for me to shop, and what items are/are not in stock there?
  • Intent: I reserved and showed up to collect and buy, proving that I am a ‘serious’ customer.
  • Payment preferences: I used debit rather than credit.

If Argos was able to bring this information together it would have a lethal cocktail of information to power targeted and effective email marketing - including:

  • Niche newsletters: I’m buying homeware, so would other ‘mini brochure’ email newsletters on homeware be relevant?
  • Product cross-sell: I’ve both browsed and bought, so could my preferences on individual products be used to power ‘featured products’?
  • Local store: Can specific communications promoting ‘slow’ products in stock at my local store be pushed?  Would ‘new catalogue available’ and opening hour pushed drive foot fall?
  • Converted: I have converted into a real customer – could I be pushed to recommend others? Or perhaps surveyed to understand my perceptions of using technology in this way to understand impact on brand value?  If I had abandoned without buying, could I be encouraged to convert in the future?

Of course, in many organisations there would be many barriers:

Internal factors:

  • Available resources
  • Integrating data sets accurately and in a timely fashion
  • Internal politics
  • Not enough accurate measurement to prove/disprove the business case

External factors:

  • Is your ESP able to power such trigger based communications?
  • Are your customers happy to be contacted in such a way?

As yet, I have only received a confirmation email only, and to be honest I’m not surprised – my purchase was only 2 days ago.  Add to this, that even as one of the more forward thinking catalogue shopping firms, I would fully expect them to will be facing almost all of the challenges above. Over the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see what email communications I receive.

As an email marketing agency with the technology to power many of these communications, I’ve seen a number of our clients achieve significant ROIs and generate the information to build a business case for sensible investments to overcome these challenges.

At the very least, it means that companies do not have to risk brand damage and sales hold back by having to rely on discount based promotions only. This flexibility in the communication plan can only be a good thing and opens the doors email marketing offers to high value companies that cannot use discounting.

Henry Hyder-Smith is Managing Director of UK ESP, Adestra and sits on a key hub of the DMA Email marketing council.  More information at