Believe it or not, the 2018 holiday season is already right around the corner. Any day now, malls and stores across the country will be filling up with parents, friends, and spouses hunting down perfect gifts for all the special people in their lives.
Retailers, for their part, have stocked up on items they believe are likely to sell out during the holiday rush. And the holidays are a perfect time to take advantage of all that sophisticated personalization tools offer—from recommendations for products they’ll love, but haven’t heard of yet, to holiday gift ideas for friends and family members.
But while an aggressive holiday campaign may provide a touch of temporary relief from sales pressure, it pays to remember that impersonal email marketing always does far more harm than good. Top retailers, on average, send 1.09 emails per day to their email subscribers. If you received several irrelevant emails from a brand, how would you respond?
At best, those impersonal emails are likely to be ignored. At worst, they can cause you to lose the hard-earned trust loyal customers have learned to put in your brand — and prompt customers to shop elsewhere. When an email is not personalized to them, 52% of customers say they’ll find somewhere else to go.
Reality check: When it comes to effective email marketing, the only reality that matters is the one your subscribers live in — and if you aim to meet your holiday goals, you need to understand your customers and what they find relevant.
Personalization is highly profitable
Winter holidays aren’t the only time that retailers face the challenge of meeting unusually high sales quotas. Just about every month of the year includes at least one weekend with higher-than-usual shopper turnout — so it’s no surprise that inventory managers stock up heavily for those retail rushes, and need effective tools for achieving their sales goals.
A great holiday-focused sales strategy can work wonders, but problems start to creep in when retailers get a bit too focused on their merchandising agendas at the expense of their customers’ actual interests, needs, and aspirations.
Customer-focused marketers recognize that, in most cases, these two approaches can feed off one another, creating a cycle of customer loyalty and profitable sales. It costs 25 times less to sell to an existing customer than to win a new one — and personalized email marketing returns more than 20 times the value of every dollar spent.
In fact, many customers are willing to pay up to 20 percent more for personalized products, and are also happy to pay a premium for the privilege of shopping with brands they know and trust. This means the wisest strategy for long-term profit is one that puts customers’ needs and goals first, and focuses on personalization as a key driver of sales.
Ordinarily, many retailers demonstrate a clear understanding of this principle. More than 75 percent of all business enterprises now invest in some form of personalized marketing, and that number continues to climb every year as more businesses discover the benefits for themselves.
Unfortunately, though, the pressures of holiday sales bring out the worst in some marketers, pushing them toward one-size-fits-all campaigns that quickly fall into stale, ineffective tactics — and actually hurt the company’s bottom line as a result.
Sales pressure hurts performance
For many retailers, big sales aren’t just about pressure to sell — they’re about pressure to sell specific quantities of specific items. When execs predict that a certain shirt, or toy, or household item will sell out during an upcoming sale, they fill up warehouses and store shelves with all the items they’ll need to meet customer demand. But the challenge of connecting those products with the right customers falls to marketing teams, who need personalized offers and recommendations to create moments of delight in every email they send.
As retailers come under intense pressure to hit sales targets for highly stocked (or even overstocked) items, even the savviest marketers can forget that a full 75 percent of email revenue is generated by triggered campaigns rather than one-size-fits-all campaigns — and can give in to the urge to drown every customer’s inbox in offers for hot-ticket items.
The truth is, though, that batch & blast campaigns perform significantly worse than personalized ones, by just about every possible metric. They generate fewer clicks, lower engagement, and more unsubscribes than personalized messaging — and they’re far less likely to lead to purchases at premium (i.e., non-sale) prices.
Every time a retailer chooses an impersonal path to marketing, they’re choosing to live in their own reality, instead of the reality their customers experience. Focusing on sales agendas above the desires of their subscribers means these retailers risk hurting their own bottom lines — not only by losing sales, but by losing loyal customers they’ve invested heavily in acquiring.
To break free from this cycle, retail marketers need to take a step back before they hit that “Launch Campaign” button, and remember that focusing on the customer always leads to greater sales performance over time.
Editor’s note: this post originally appeared on Business 2 Community