Personalized Email & Direct Mail: Better Together
This third and final post of our three-part series on customer retention explains the continued importance of email marketing in a multi-channel world, and shares responses from our panelists, Kristen Gilligan, Marketing Manager, CRM at Lilly Pulitzer and Leland Kass, VP of Marketing & Press, Jonathan Adler, on the ever present question: how to track ROI.
(In case you missed it, the first blog post explored the nature of maintaining active and profitable customer relationships and the second post on The Direct Mail Comeback, shared how some of our most innovative retail clients are using direct mail to help amplify their brand and strengthen customer relationships.)
Why is it important to cover email in an increasingly multi-channel world?
Because email remains the bedrock for other campaigns. And because email marketing remains a primary channel of communications for brands to their consumers, it is important to do it right. Done wrong, email campaigns can inundate in-boxes or strike a wrong chord, causing valued consumers to click the dreaded “unsubscribe” button. Even worse, customers could become “silent unsubscribers,” ignoring your emails all together and increasing the likelihood that Yahoo! and Google will send your emails straight to the junk folder.
Proven marketing techniques to creating lasting relationships
Our seasoned panelists shared some of their opinions and proven techniques for email campaigns that help customer relationships flourish, not flounder.
The trick? Respect, personalization and segmentation
Question: Email remains the main channel that marketers are using. Some consumers feel inundated though and unsubscribe. What’s your approach to reducing unsubscribes?
Kristen Gilligan, Marketing Manager, CRM at Lilly Pulitzer
“Respecting consumer preferences is so very important in building trust and retaining consumers. We here at Lilly are respectful of our consumer preferences. That is what largely aids in the strength of our email program - which is evident in our high open rates and click through rates and sales we experience through that communication channel.
In addition we are really thoughtful about who we target as a result, our top consumers who are highly engaged with the brand have an appetite for more communications whether that be through direct mail or email, while our newer consumers - or those who engage with us primarily via one channel - may need more nurturing. Paying attention to that and having that visibility allows us to develop these one to one relationships with our consumers and allowed our communications to be strengthened.”
“We are really thoughtful about who we target…Our top consumers who are highly engaged with the brand have an appetite for more communications whether that be through direct mail or email, while our newer consumers…may need more nurturing.”
Question: Personalization is a big topic in the industry….How do you make sure the right people get the right emails with the right message?
“We are starting to utilize the tool to look at past purchase behavior and are starting to work with AgilOne for the propensity to buy features. So we’re really looking at ‘What was the first item they came in on...was it a dress or an accessory item and what is the next logical product to offer up to them?’ Historically we have done singular communications to a mass audience and working with the team we’ve been able to gain greater consumer insights so that we can take on a more segmented approach which has been wonderful.”
“We are starting to utilize the tool to look at past purchase behavior and are starting to work with AgilOne for the propensity to buy features.”
Rinat Shimshi, Client Success at AgilOne
“One thing we get across to many of our customers is that for the segment we call newbies – meaning they joined into email in last 60 days – you should treat with them with kid gloves. They are very reactive. Their open rate over a certain period is almost as high as the highest engaged segment of the customer enthusiasts. They open and click a lot of your email but guess what: they unsubscribe at very high rates too. What we advise is don't bombard people. The moment they join your mailing list don’t send them one email per day or they will opt out.”
“What we advise is don't bombard people. The moment they join your mailing list don’t send them one email per day or they will opt out."
Question: What has the better ROI – Direct Mail or Email?
Leland Kass, VP of Marketing & Press at Jonathan Adler
“I think it’s very hard to extract [email ROI and direct marketing ROI] from each other because most of the people who receive our direct mail also receive emails. The two of those marketing pieces are working together. We send no more than 4 emails per week; we are mindful about frequency, which is something everyone on this call is speaking about: customer preferences. We never want to overload the customer. I think of email more as bite sized. Each email has its own theme, complemented by this incredible direct mail piece with a beautiful glossy catalogue that some people keep on their coffee table for reference. Often it’s the same audience that has both of those working toward a purchasing decision. So it’s very hard to extract ROI. I think they‘re both critical; I think they serve a distinct purposes in a marketing plan and they both should always be included.”
“I think it’s very hard to extract [email ROI and direct marketing ROI] from each other because most of the people who receive our direct mail also receive emails. The two of those marketing pieces are working together.”
“It’s really hard to extract. You certainly want to continue to look at ROI calculations for direct mail since that is one of the more expensive tools to engage consumers and make sure you are experiencing profitability there. However, the way I look at it is that combined approach and whether it helps us achieve higher level goals. As we look to move the needle on retention, we need to understand what we did for our top consumers - or other segments of consumers - through all channels to get them coming back more frequently. Still analyze ROI, but look at the bigger goal. Did it achieve the goal of getting people back in the door, reactivating them, and getting top consumers to spend that additional amount? We look at it more holistically and not just by the individual marketing platform.”
Question: Have you reduced/optimized email frequency? How? What’s the impact?
“We are constantly looking at open rate and click through rate, and through testing [the frequency of] the emails we send per week along with the content. Are they full price selling or not? Do they include advice from Jonathan? We are able to see where we get the highest engagement. We noticed that if we send more than 4x per week, that open rate drops off. So that has informed our schedule. We also allow our customers to select how frequently they want to receive them so every week we make a decision of which emails go to the full database and which go to the limited list. On top of that we are constantly cleaning our email list. We’ll look at who has opened emails over a 12 month period and if we see people who have not opened any email blasts we go out to them with a “Do you want to breakup?” email. It’s sort of a cheeky email but it’s really assessing if these people are interested or if are they just pulling down your numbers. That way we can clean up our database and start building it up with people who are more engaged.”
Jonathan Adler post-purchase holiday offer enticed one-time holiday buyers with a discount designed to drive at least one incremental purchase.
"We’re just really dipping our toes into utilizing email segmentation this year. We have done it by channel preference, spend and content. We are looking to do more in the future. One of the next things we want to tackle is what Leland spoke to – a more robust trigger program that looks at who has not engaged with our emails for a while and doing a win-back campaign to get them back. We are constantly monitoring open rates, engagement levels, and readjusting strategies based on results we are seeing. We are excited for the future.”
- Retention is critical to business longevity. Measure by persona, spend, product categories, engagement levels and acquisition source to understand factors that impact attrition.
- It’s not about just high value customers, it’s about understanding the needs of each segment and ushering them through the right journey.
- Direct mail can be extremely effective at driving retention. Focus on VIPs and those with high current or potential value & likelihood to buy.
- Email continues to be key to retention marketing. Integrate personalization to increase relevancy and optimize frequency through preference center or based on email engagement. Remarket to unsubscribes through direct mail, display, Facebook custom audiences
For more information and insights on retention marketing best practices, download the State of Customer Retention eBook.