October 01, 2008

E-Mail Marketing Gone Wild

If you don't subscribe to Chad White's Retail E-Mail Blog, you have an opportunity to learn more about e-mail marketing. Where else are you going to find out what the popular retailers are doing with their e-mail marketing programs?

During the past two weeks, I looked through his "subjectivity scanner", trying to calculate the percentage of e-mail subject lines that focus on price/discounts/sales/free-shipping/promotions. Here's what I found:
  • 61% of the e-mail marketing messages focused on price, discounts, sale, free shipping, bogos, or promotions.
  • 39% focused on merchandise, disproportionately skewed to L.L. Bean, Lands' End, and Williams Sonoma.
Folks, how do we ever expect our customers to take us seriously, when six in ten messages tell the customer NOT to pay full price? We get upset that Wall St. drank the easy money kool-aid, now take a look at our own behavior?

E-mail marketing is fundamentally broken. We are poisoning our customer files, teaching customers to never pay full price anywhere. Why should a customer pay full price from the catalog when they can wait for the perfect promotion from an e-mail campaign?

Merchants should be taking us to the woodshed for a good 'ole fashioned paddlin'. We're poisoning their products with our endless quest for inflated open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. Heck, why don't we simply offer the merchandise for free???!!!! That would drive the metrics in the right direction, wouldn't it?

Until we, as an industry, stop trying to get an easy buck all in the name of best practices and inflated metrics, we won't be viewed by peers or customers as offering a respected marketing channel.