Email Expectations vs. Reality: Are You Letting Your Customers Down?

Consumer expectations versus reality. It is a complex topic for all retailers, but especially for those who sell online. Look at how Amazon has raised the bar on consumer expectations, such as with fast and free shipping. Consider how accessible mobile phones are, allowing consumers to find any product they are searching for, regardless of where they or the product is located. Social media, and its integration into the shopping experience, is providing a direct connection between brand and consumer.

The best way to meet consumer expectations is to develop a more robust personalization program, especially when it comes to email marketing. According to a 2016 Flagship Research survey, nearly 60% of consumers expect gender to be used to make email messages more relevant. More than 60% of consumers expect emails to be personalized based on interests they gave in their profile, their birthday, purchases they made online, and what they looked at on their website. While these figures are telling, what is even more daunting for retailers is that 40% of consumers expect offline purchases to be used to make email marketing more relevant. I repeat, offline purchases!

The good news is that many of the necessary data points are already being collected by retailers. When it comes to email marketing, retailers often ask for this data at signup or inside of messaging itself. Consumers who provide this information do so willingly, but expect something in return: relevance.

Perception is Reality

Retailers aren’t meeting that expectation. Instead, consumers find marketing emails consistently useful only 15% of the time, and at the same time, consistently find emails not useful nearly 60% of the time. This is a drastic difference between expectations and reality.

The primary reason for this gap is the prevalence of batch-and-blast messaging. Too often, retailers have limited internal resources that prevent them from sending deeply segmented emails to their subscribers. The result is generic messaging aimed at the mass rather than the individual. Whether a subscriber purchased yesterday, last month, or never, they get the same message.

Retailers can upend that habit by honing on those data points that can make their email marketing more relevant. For instance, retailers can look at the source of the email subscriber. The person signing up from the maternity section of the website is likely much different than the one signing up from the men’s clothing section. The same holds true for those clicking inside of emails. The person clicking on maternity links in a message should receive different messaging than the men looking at button down shirts. After all, they have different needs from your store.

Sixty-two percent of consumers expect their website browsing data to be used to personalize the emails they receive. Give them what they expect by implementing a browse recovery strategy. These messages can be a significant revenue driver for any email program. While these messages are generally clothed as promotional messages (pun intended), they are immediately relevant to the recent online window shopper. In the example below, the message appears to be a standard promotional message. It helps overcome common barriers to purchase by reinforcing satisfaction guarantees, return and exchange policies, and even offers an incentive to complete the purchase.

What’s It All Worth?


At the end of the day, does this all really matter? The answer is yes! One retailer did just this, and implemented a unique second welcome series message based only on a specific link click in the first message. This targeted message was sent to just 3% of the new subscribers, but generated a 140% lift in total message revenue, compared to the generic second welcome series message. This is the power of relevance!

Only 15% of consumers say that marketing emails are consistently relevant. Your competitors likely know this. Take the initiative to meet consumer expectations before they do.

Greg Zakowicz is a Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst at Bronto Software

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