Wayfair understands that making shoppers’ homes a happy place starts in the inbox. Like many large retailers without physical locations, Wayfair relies heavily on marketing to bring customers to its site. From catchy television jingles and direct mail pieces to savvy partnerships with social media influencers, Wayfair is a marketing machine. And its email program is no exception.
With a solid email strategy in place, the home furnishings retailer took the top spot in Coherent Path’s recent report, “2018 Email Marketing Study: How 100 of the Top Retailers Engage Shoppers in the First 45 Days and Beyond.” This study looks at what happens in the first 45 days after acquiring a new customer to see how retailers use the valuable purchase information a customer has given them. One-hundred top retailers were scored based on the level of personalization in emails to customers who have just made their first purchase, as well as how they compare to their peers with regard to the number and types of emails they’re sending.
In today’s competitive retail environment, it’s not easy to attract, engage and convert a browser to a buyer. This is where a strategic email program comes into play. Our evaluation demonstrates that Wayfair seems to understand the importance of personalizing emails, as 71 percent of the emails it sent to first-time buyers in the first 45 days after making a purchase were unique to those shoppers (as opposed to the emails going to all other subscribers during the same timeframe).
However, other retailers didn’t perform as well, and we found there’s a lot of room for improvement in retail email marketing. In fact, only three retailers received a score of more than 70 out of the 100 total points in our evaluation. With holiday planning already in the works for most major retailers, here are three general mistakes marketers can learn from in order to reap the benefits of a strong email program:
Sending Way Too Many Emails: When it comes to frequency, Wayfair doesn’t bombard shoppers with emails; in fact, it only sent more than one email a day 17 percent of the time. Not bad considering another home furnishings retailer, Williams-Sonoma, had the highest average email sends per day at 3.14. Pottery Barn, The Shopping Channel and Victoria’s Secret sent two emails a day more than 90 percent of the time.
Missing the Mark on Personalization: Despite having purchase and clickstream data at their fingertips, a majority of the top retailers evaluated are essentially treating their new customers the same as the rest of their email subscribers. Health and beauty retailers were the exception in how they treat new customers vs. non-purchasers. Both CVS and Rite Aid scored significantly higher in the purchaser portion than the generic, indicating these retailers are using data to tailor their email communications to those who have previously shopped with them.
Showcasing Enough Product in Emails: Most retailers carry hundreds, if not thousands, of SKUs, yet catalog exposure is one of the areas where there’s a lot of room for improvement. Our evaluation found retailers only mention product categories in their subject line 20 percent of the time and sub-categories 17 percent of the time, missing the opportunity to introduce shoppers to products they may not know the retailer carries. Based on our research, it would take health and beauty retailers more than 16 years to expose their entire catalog to someone who has never purchased from their site compared to just 1.3 years for apparel retailers.
In order to keep an active and loyal customer base, email engagement strategies need to be considered through the entire customer journey — not just until a shopper makes their first purchase. By taking the time to understand where their email strategy stands against other retailers — as well as customer expectations — brands will be more effective at attracting and retaining shoppers for years to come.
Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in TotalRetail.