Business development · 2 June 2017

Retailers risk losing sales to competitors through scattergun email marketing

email marketing
Over ten per cent of online shoppers would shop elsewhere if promotional emails were consistently irrelevant

Small UK retailers with impersonal and excessive email marketing campaigns may be sending customers straight to competitors, as new research reveals the negative customers responses to a poorly thought-out strategy.

According to the study, by customer engagement solutions company The Engage Hub, 90 per cent of British consumers had unsubscribed from a retailer’s mailing list in the past year, with half citing frequency as the reason.

Overall, a third of respondents believed they received too many email updates and offers from retailers holding their details. For one in four online shoppers, promotional emails fell into their inbox at least once a day from the same retailer.

While volume was the driving factor for unsubscribes, a “catch-all” approach could also be doing more harm than good for smaller retailers attempting to boost sales. A quarter said “irrelevant” messages caused them to unsubscribe, while 15 per cent believed they never received appropriate offers.

Mailing lists were found to be at considerable risk, with 68 per cent happy to unsubscribe if they felt just a single promotion was irrelevant.

Sending a message to over-enthusiastic retail owners, over one in ten customers said a poor email marketing strategy would be enough to push them elsewhere for purchases. The survey showed shoppers wanted a more personalised experience. 

Commenting on the findings, Simon Brennan, European vice sales president at Engage Hub, said it was clear a change of tact was needed for Britain’s online retailers.

“Poorly targeted, ‘spray and pray’ style email marketing campaigns generate the most spam complaints, and the majority of such communications remain unopened,” Brennan said in a statement.

“This not only undermines a retailer’s spend on direct marketing ROI but also it also turns customers away as they quickly become disengaged with a brand that doesn’t treat them as an individual.”

Brennan advised business owners to make use of real-time data to find out what customers had previously responded well to, and to take a more considered approach for a “more meaningful, memorable and effective” relationship with their audience.

He added: “Retailers, therefore, need to focus on crafting contextual, highly personalised content that draws the customer in, rather than making them hit the delete button or mark it as spam.

“This is where leveraging data, from transactions and interactions that customers have already had with a brand, proves invaluable. Having a holistic view of subscribers, by consolidating CRM [customer relationship management] data and marketing activity across multiple channels, will ensure consumers aren’t bombarded with irrelevant messaging.”

To help you re-think your strategy, Natwest’s Marcelino Castrillo provides readers with his ten top tips for effective digital marketing

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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