Live from Insight 2003: Segment E-mail As You Would Postal Mail

New York—Given the low cost of e-mail compared with the cost of mailing print catalogs or other direct mail, marketers may be guilty of sending too many e-mails to customers. But in a session at DoubleClick’s Insight 2003 conference here, held March 3-5, Eric Kirby, vice president, strategic services for DoubleClick, added that marketers are still better off asking themselves what to mail rather than if to mail.

“The question is, What is the right message, whom to say it to, who is the right customer, and when is the right time,” Kirby said. Much as they do with print mailings, catalogers should segment their customer lists when choosing whom to e-mail. “If certain customers have certain needs, buying patterns, product category choices, click behavior, catalogers can use that data, as well as the amount of time since their first purchase and the amount of time since their last purchase, to determine their higher and lower-value customers for e-mails,” he explained.

And rather than sending e-mails solely on an arbitrary schedule, Kirby suggested sending “triggered messages” based on customer events or actions. For instance, reorder messages for gift purchases could coincide with holidays. “The more you can automate the triggered-message process, the more effective it is,” he said, “because it’s harder to have frequency and time control measures.”

Also consider the sequencing of messages, Kirby advised. For instance, when a customer clicks on a first message, then he needs the appropriate second message. A customer who didn’t click on the first message, however, needs a different second message. “Switch from [a philosophy of] ‘every message every time to every customer,’” he said, “to ‘the right message at the right time to the right customer.’”

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