Email Marketing Remains a Key Tactic for Retailers

Retailers are more focused on using email for marketing programs to promote their social communities than for social sharing, according to Responsys’ “Viral & Community Links in Emails 2011.”

The annual report, published Tuesday, found that email marketing continues to be a “key tactic” for raising brand awareness and driving traffic to retailers’ social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Responsys found that 88 percent of retailers include community links in their promotional emails, up from 75 percent in 2010.

“There is a very consistent, constant presence of email driving traffic to these social media Web sites,” said Chad White, research director at Responsys and author of this year’s report. “That’s a really good sign that the retailers are taking a cross-channel approach, recognizing the value of using email to build up their social media channels. And, at 88 percent, we are getting really close to that universal adoption level.”

Ed Henrich, senior vice president of professional services at Responsys, said in a statement, “This report is a strong endorsement of email’s ability to raise awareness of and drive traffic to brands’ social media pages on an ongoing basis. It’s also further evidence that cross-channel integration is increasingly vital to future marketing success.”

All retailers in Responsys’ study linked to Facebook from their emails, 84 percent linked to Twitter, and 29 percent linked to YouTube. To White’s surprise, fewer retailers are using share-with-your-network (SWYN) links in their emails. After usage had risen from 12 percent to 26 percent in 2010, it dropped to 25 percent this year. “It became clear that retailers are aware of the power of social sharing, and they are finding that customers are much more likely to share once they get to the Web site than at the email level,” White explained. “The email level is really trying to perk interest and, at that stage of the game, it’s not nearly as effective once people click through and show a higher level of interest.”

While White admits the 1 percent drop is similar to a “plateau,” he predicts SWYN will continue to lose popularity in the market. He recognizes the SWYN mechanism can be a “bit clumsy,” which steers retailers away from using it. “You aren’t getting a consistent experience in every case,” he said. “There are variations in technical abilities, so sometimes you have to share the entire email rather than just that portion that you wanted to share.”

Retailers should view email as a “gateway, not a destination,” White said. “People don’t tend to share at that level; they share at the destination level.” He added that he is “hard-pressed to think of a company that should not include email as part of its mix,” and he advises retailers to think before merely blasting messages.  Instead, retailers must focus on operating in a “multichannel world.”

He explained, “A lot of people think it’s just about broadcasting their emails better in some way, but really what it boils down to is using segmentation, which is definitely underused; using personalization; having a robust set of triggered email programs; and using dynamic content. All of these tools make emails more relevant by getting emails to people at a time when they are most engaged and getting content to them that is tailored to their interests or responses to their behaviors, either past or present.”

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