Live from the Profile E-mail Summit: Scaling the Plateau

New York–“It’s time to change the rules if we want to continue the growth of the e-mail medium,” Jim Nail, senior analyst at Forrester Research, said during the opening session at Big Foot Interactive’s Profile E-mail Summit Agenda earlier this week.

Because consumers are bombarded daily with e-mail advertisements and newsletters, converting and retaining customers via e-mail is only going to get more difficult, Nail said. A recent Forrester Research survey revealed that 78% of consumers subscribe to at least one marketing e-mail (unchanged from last year); on the flip side, 86% of nonsubscribers say they are unlikely to subscribe at all. And only 18% of respondents indicate that they want more e-mail. “So is e-mail reaching its plateau?” Nail asked.

Well, maybe. But, he said, if your company changes the way it thinks about the medium you may be able to get—and retain—customers. For starters, just because a customer grants you “permission” to send him e-mail doesn’t mean you should send multiple marketing messages a week. “We must begin to respect and show restraint with our customers,” Nail said. “We need to be starting dialogues with our customers, something done easily over e-mail, yet few marketers even do this,”

Nail urged attendees to start small and use the data they already have about the customer. He cited the example of a retailer that modified its e-mail strategic over an 18-month period. First the retailer segmented its database into four categories: active online; inactive online; offline not on the Web; and inactive both offline and online.

Next the retailer overlaid average order value information over the four segments, creating 20 segments. Then it sent offers designed to increase the customers’ average order values. Finally the retailer inserted cross-selling information for new products based on past purchases, such as “Do you want ink with the paper you bought last month?”

The end result for the retailer? Web sales increased five times over.

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