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4 tips to jump-start your e-mail campaigns

3 min read

Digital Technology

This post was written by SmartBrief’s Megan Conniff.

Is e-mail dead? That was one of the questions asked this week at the NRF BIG Show 2011, a retail conference held in New York City, and Foresee Results’ Kevin Ertell summed the answer up succinctly: We’re not at a funeral.

Promotional e-mails still wield enormous power over consumers. They drive more traffic to websites than any factor other than familiarity with a brand. We all know the pros of promotional e-mails. They offer us a massive, individualized distribution system at a low cost, provide an easy way to build customer lists, allow retailers to reduce the lead time needed to execute a promotional idea and give us dynamic personalization capabilities.

However, we also need to face up to some of the harsh truths of promotional e-mails. The quality of customer lists has gone down. E-mail is so easy to do that it actually makes us lazy. We’re experiencing reduced discipline  in creating thoughtful promotions. Additionally, all the data we can now so easily measure breeds overconfidence in what we actually know.

Clearly, we’ve got some work to do. Pinny Gniwisch, executive vice president of marketing for, an online jewelery retailer, confirmed what we all know: E-mail lists aren’t performing as well as they used to. People are opening fewer e-mails and clicking through less often. So how do we change that? Here are some ways to combat those falling numbers.

  • Segment within your database. The more tailored your e-mails can be in terms of content and frequency, the better.
  • Personalization. uses life-cycle personalization, meaning, for example, that it uses its segmentation information to send a husband a promotional e-mail before his wife’s birthday and uses user-triggered campaigns. In’s case, it sends consumers an e-mail with information about items they’ve placed in their shopping carts — along with information about a couple extra items and a discount.
  • Avoid overloading. Do you send out promotional e-mails that overlap? Doing so can result in shoppers who endlessly postpone purchases because they’re always looking out for a better deal on the horizon. Also, consumers who think they’re getting too many e-mails will simply unsubscribe from your list.
  • Analyze. Pay attention to how your different types of e-mail are performing. Play around with subject lines to make sure you’re using them effectively.

What other best practices have helped you reverse falling open and click rates?

Image credit: rzdeb, via iStockPhoto