Some leading Australian retailers demonstrate strong capabilities in email marketing, but few do so across the board, and stand out performers remain the exception and not the rule.
In fact most retailers are still leaving too much money on the table by failing to execute the basics well.
That’s our key take away from the latest dotmailer research entitled Hitting the Mark which provides an in-depth accounting of the performance of the retail sector, and importantly delivers direct insights into 20 practitioners across a range of measurements.
(Hint: Iconic scores the highest overall rating but in fairness to the authors you will have to download the full report the get all the insights.)
While individual retailers stand out in certain capabilities, there are also demonstrable differences between categories within retail.
For instance, the Garden, DIY & Lifestyle sector is largely succeeding in its quest to deliver good customer experiences although it lets itself down with the email experience itself.
Many in the toy sector, on the other hand, are struggling to meet even rudimentary levels of service.
According to the authors of the report, consumers are becoming more sophisticated and more demanding as their expectations rise.
“They want granular control over their marketing communications and the ability to feedback easily on their purchases. They’re always on the hunt for offers and are more than happy to shop around.”
Many Australian brands are missing out on customer experience opportunities, the authors argue, as they continue to rely on less advanced email marketing techniques
As a consequence, they are losing opportunities to build brand awareness and convert sales.
For all the advances in marketing technology in recent years, email remains the bedrock infrastructure for many businesses for one simple reason – it works. (It’s a point Which-50 made four years ago and has repeated ever since.)
Studies such as the DMA Marketer email tracker report this year demonstrate that as a marketing channel email can deliver returns of more than $44 for every $1 spent.
The important qualification is “can”. There are no guarantees if retailers leave it to chance, say the authors of the dotmailer report. “It’s clear that a substantial proportion of brands are losing out. It doesn’t have to be that way.”
Best practice, but only for now
New best practices are always emerging, according to the report, and it is as much an issue for contemporary marketers as ever. The reports notes, that the rise of email use on mobile devices and the need for responsive design are creating innovative tension
“Brands need to stay on top of these trends to prevent them from becoming laggards in a fast-paced world. We were looking for overall evidence of basic best practice usage, such as ‘view in browser’ links, and it was great to see widespread adoption across the board. 75 per cent of the brands achieved the top score for email credibility and best practice.”
When it comes to adopting more advanced tactics the researchers found a lack of obvious targeting as well as an absence of personalised content.
Few retailers scored above 38 per cent, and one in five of them didn’t have any personalisation to speak of. The vast majority, three quarters in fact, offered no advanced personalisation at all.
Customer segmentation was also poor, they said, with 80 per cent of brands failing to score at all in this category.
“Companies clearly need to spruce up on their email marketing, conceive a well-focused strategy and adopt solutions that tackle obstacles and remove team pain-points. After all, email automation, segmentation, and personalisation tools are by no means new.
“However, we found a few brands – including RY, Quiksilver and The Iconic – demonstrating smart email marketing tactics in these areas.”
The report takes readers through a variety of issues such as newsletter sign up, welcome emails, abandoned cart emails and newsletters, identifying best practices leading proponents and also areas of systematic weakness.
Newsletter Sign up
When consumers visit a site they are demonstrating a strong interest in a brand making it an ideal opportunity to convert to an email signup.
The study suggests the most popular and successful are sign-up forms displayed on the homepage and in the footer, “…as well as pop-ups that are prominent yet smart”.
However, they found that overwhelming retailers do poorly on the email subscription evaluation metric with almost half the brands studied scoring between 0 per cent and 33 per cent.
The welcome email, however, is a much better story with 19 out of 20 brands studied in the survey providing these to customers.
The authors describe the welcome email as the most important message a brand can send to new subscribers. “Not only is it polite to thank someone for signing up, but it’s also your prime opportunity to introduce them to your brand, shout about USPs and gather more valuable data.”
Abandoned cart emails
The performance with abandoned cart emails is less impressive with most of the brands studied failing to act on this opportunity.
According to the report, “The value of abandoned cart emails is huge, especially with the global shopping cart abandonment rate hovering at 69 per cent (Baymard Institute, 2017).”
The authors say they were surprised that 55 per cent of the brands did not send an abandoned cart email notification after something was placed in the cart by the test shoppers who then left the website. “As a result, only 35 per cent achieved a positive score on their abandoned cart emails. Cart recovery automations are easy to implement, proven to deliver a strong return on investment (ROI) that will cover the set-up costs in no time.”
There were, however, examples of good practice uncovered. The report notes that some of the companies used an array of tactics to finalise the purchase by optimising their emails by introducing:
• mobile-friendly templates
• exclusive free delivery or discounts to clinch the sale
• related product recommendations
• trust marks and customer reviews to show credibility
Temple and Webster was identified as a leading proponent on this front.
With Newsletters, brands are moving away from the ‘batch and blast’ approach say the authors.
“Today, this doesn’t make the grade, because subscribers are inundated with content to sift through and subsequently have a lower tolerance towards irrelevant communications. With the ability to display different content within single sends, through the combination of dynamic content and customer data, there’s no longer a place for bulk mailings.”
Newsletters suffered from poor content choice. Among those who did it well; The Iconic, Quiksilver and RY, all demonstrated strong best practice and newsletters that piqued our interest.
This year dotmailer also took the study beyond email looking at a wider set of user experiences.
This is because User Experience (UX) is becoming a key differentiator for any brand operating online, they said.
The study reports that UX scores were generally high across the board, with 19 of the 20 brands scoring between 63 per cent and 100 per cent, and 11 of them scoring between 88 per cent and 100 per cent.
“But, the overall customer experience is dependent on the whole range of factors including checkout and post-purchase. In some cases, a smoother path to purchase will clinch the deal. For instance, rather than endure the frustrations of a badly designed interface (as a means to save a few dollars), cost-saving consumers may well opt for a more expensive option if the website experience is seamless.”
For more details download dotmailer Hitting the Mark 2018.
About the author
Andrew Birmingham is the director of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit and the Editor-in-Chief of Which-50 Media. dotmailer is a corporate member of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Members provide their insights and analysis for the benefit of our readers. Membership fees apply.