The Rules of E-mail Engagement

Each communication/campaign should be assigned a very specific objective: sales, education, relationship-building, customer service, what-have-you. Once you’ve determined the objective for each campaign, you can assign the rules to each.

Developing the rules of your campaign will enable you to match the right products to each customer. Online marketers have tested hundreds of rules that have potential for e-mail applications. These rules have three common elements:

* a method for segmenting customers (such as by brand, by subcategory, by product affinity, and by products purchased);

* criteria for classifying customers (latest product purchased, average order value);

* selecting the appropriate products (best-sellers, for instance, or new products).

Some examples of rules that might work for personalized e-mail:

* Product affinity. Include in your e-mail merchandise with the highest affinity to each customer’s most recently purchased SKU. Home products cataloger HSN Improvements increased its sales this way. Customers who purchased the Barbecue Fork, for instance, received offers for grill cleaner.

* Multicategory segmentation. Send the best-selling products for each category from which a customer has purchased. A customer who has purchased shoes and handbags from you might benefit from an e-mail showing your company’s most popular accessories.

* Replenishment. Identify consumable products in your mix and send a reminder to customers who have purchased one or more of these items. This can work with a gamut of products, from ink cartridges to dog food. Office supplies cataloger/retailer Staples, for one, reminds customers to stock up on replenishable items they have previously purchased.

* Liquidation. Identify products with excess inventory and send appropriate e-mails to customers who have purchased items with a high affinity to these products.

Keith Wardell is CEO/president of Exmplar, a Fairfax, VA-based provider of e-mail and online marketing services. For more of Wardell’s advice on e-mail marketing, see the March issue of CATALOG AGE.

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