It will not surprise the greenest marketer that email is a major part of a digital marketing program. 

But it will shock even a veteran marketer to learn what many retailers are not doing with email.

Email marketing provider Yesmail released a report today that found almost half of retailers do not collect email addresses via social media or at in-store locations. Some also do not personalize emails, retarget based on demographics and prior purchase behaviors or even send email promotions at all. 

Why does email matter? More than 200 billion emails — business and consumer — will be sent each day this year by the approximate 2.6 billion email users, according to The Radicati Group of Palo Alto, Calif.  

Ivy Shtereva yesmail headshot

“I just think they haven’t necessarily found the right combination between integrating all the channels that retailers typically use,” Ivy Shtereva, director of marketing at Portland, Ore.-based Yesmail, told CMSWire. 

“Email strategy should definitely be informed by browse behaviors or by purchase patterns, or even by demographics. Over 90 percent of retailers have a Facebook presence but at the same time how many are using the native analytics to decipher the demographic composition of their audience?” 

Yes, Email Matters

Some say email marketing may not matter as much today with the influx of digital marketing strategies like inbound marketing, social and mobile. But investors certainly still care about email marketing. And big guns like Adobe are still acquiring and investing heavily in email. 

Yesmail surveyed 200 retailers at the National Retail Federation’s Digital Summit in Philadelphia last October. Nearly a third of them indicated they will integrate email with other digital channels. Or, at the very least, it’s a top-three priority for their email marketing program.

But here are the troubling numbers, according to Yesmail officials:

  • 17 percent of retailers do not secure emails of website visitors
  • Only 36 percent use social media to improve the relevance of their email campaigns
  • Almost 50 percent of retailers do not collect email addresses via social media or in-store
  • More than 66 percent do not collect consumers’ email addresses when they interact with mobile apps
  • 64 percent of brands do not personalize email copy
  • More than 66 percent do not use customer data to personalize the products and services featured in an email

And here we were assuming these were email-marketing basics, like blocking and tackling is to football. Shtereva called tactics like these “a huge waste.” Herein lies, she added, many missed opportunities to cross-sell, retarget, upsell, personalize and analyze customer behavior.

“Collecting emails is absolutely a common struggle for retailers, particularly for brick-and-mortar retailers,” said Cara Wood, retail technology specialist for Capterra, an Arlington, Va.-based company that helps organizations select business software. “On an e-commerce site, it’s fairly easy to collect emails as part of the check-out process, but for salespeople at a brick-and-mortar, asking for an email isn’t a natural part of the transaction.”

No Easy Task

Email collection shouldn’t be a stressful project. It should be inherent in any digital marketing program, the absolute epicenter, Yesmail officials contend in their report. Brands may have strong email collection at websites. But if consumers aren’t coming to their sites, there’s still opportunity. Think 101 in-store marketing here. “Thank you for your purchase. Would you mind giving us your email for future promotions and offers.” (it may not be this simple, though, as we note in a bit).

Get these records in your point-of-sale (POS) backend systems, integrate them with your communications program and personalize your message, Shtereva said. When retailers fail to secure email addresses, Yesmail report authors wrote, they miss the chance to establish future relationships with buyers that can be nurtured into long-term brand advocacy.

“As brands connect with consumers more frequently and on new platforms consumers will expect their journey to be fluid from one channel to the next,” which we also learned last year in a report by Miami-based Retail Systems Research (RSR).

Learning Opportunities

“Developing this kind of digital experience is difficult,” Yesmail officials added, “if retailers cannot first capture email addresses."

Get to Work

Enough about what retailers don’t do with emails. Let’s talk about what they can do.

DO: Ask for emails before point of sale. “People need a reason to hand over their emails,” Capterra’s Wood said. Offer shoppers an immediate value for giving their email. “Most stores,” she said, “just have their salespeople ask for the email at the beginning of every transaction so they can store the contact in their CRM. Rather, as soon as a shopper enters a store — whether virtual or brick-and-mortar — give them an incentive in exchange for their email that will benefit them during that same visit, such as a store discount or a free gift.”  

DO: Don’t always believe social media hype. Chad White, research director for Cambridge, Mass.-based email Litmus, told CMSWire social media’s not always an email-collection Promised Land. “While the volume of consumers is high on social media, and social platforms offer consumers a number of reasons to engage with a retailer,” White said, “the interest and intent to purchase isn’t typically very strong, as demonstrated by Facebook’s multi-year struggle to gain traction with its e-commerce offerings.” 

Chad White Litmus headshot

DO: Create prominent email subscription form on your home page. Preferably, White said, only require an email address, since other information can be collected post-signup or during conversion. “Signup forms should appear on all product pages, and an opt-in opportunity should be a part of checkout as well,” he added.

DO: Get the right email address. Thanks, Captain Obvious, right? Well, it doesn’t always happen in-store. White told CMSWire a number of brands have found themselves in trouble with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or Spamhaus, a nonprofit that tracks spam and lobbies for anti-spam legislation. “Collecting email addresses via hand-written forms lead to serious transcription errors that can result in hard bounces or hitting spam traps,” White added. “Better approaches include having consumers type their email address themselves on a tablet or pen pad, or having consumers verbally communicate their email address and allowing them to visually verify that it was captured correctly. These will improve accuracy dramatically.” Consider using a confirmed or double opt-in process if quality is still an issue. Send an email to the would-be subscriber and ask them to confirm their subscription by clicking a button in the email.

DO: Create valuable emails. Too many retailers focus heavily on coupons, Wood said. “Every retailer sends those emails,” she said. “Emails I’ve found to have great value include content that improve my lifestyle. I want to get outfit ideas from clothing retailers, recipe ideas from food/cooking retailers, design ideas from home improvement retailers, etc. These emails are great because not only are they giving the customer value, but they’re not really asking for anything in return. Of course, said emails should make it easy for the customer to buy the items featured in the email, but email shouldn’t always be used as an obvious advertising platform.”

DO: Invest in mobile POS, mobile CRMs. These technologies (kinda like a mobile cash register) are fully available at reasonable prices to all retailers these days, according to Wood. “As a result, salespeople are no longer required to make the trek over to the cash register to enter in an email,” she said. “They are free to do it from anywhere in the store, and that’s a huge game changer. As a result, retailers can really get creative.”

What is the best way to collect an email address during an in-store experience? free polls

Download "The 2016 Yesmail Marketing Channel Report." (email signup required).

Title image "Fresh Market Midtown Opening Day" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by ilovememphis

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