Thursday, December 20, 2012

Overwhelming your customers with emails is not a good sales strategy.

The other day I received 22 emails from Staples.  Granted they only meant to send me two.  But as far as I am concerned two emails a day from Staples is two too many.  I discussed the fact that I find their emails overwhelming and annoying with another small business customer and he agreed.  This was last spring.  Then I noticed that they started coming even more often.  Not surprisingly soon after I read that sales were soft.
It’s true that most of the emails they sent included coupons.  But they all had strings attached – good for purchases over $100 – excluding these items, good in-store or online only, limited timeframes etc.  Even the coupon they sent me to apologize for the 22 emails came with caveats. 

I was never too keen on Staples’ emails to begin with because they are not customized based on my purchases.  Instead they tell me what they have on sale that week even if I have never bought anything like those items before.  What’s the point of having a database if you don’t intend to use it?  On the other hand when they have tried to use my data for outreach it is clear that they are not coordinating my offline and online purchases properly even though I always use my rewards number. 
I have canceled every opt-in newsletter I have ever received due to the same issue with overkill.  I noticed recently that when I canceled one I was given the option of selecting a lesser frequency.  Perhaps Staples offers the same option, but given their database dysfunction I am afraid that if I do try to cancel their promotional emails they will stop sending my rewards as well.  So I just ignore them.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, these days only 22% of emails are opened, and just 1.5% result in a purchase.  (Holmes, 2012)  That’s comparable to direct mail rates; and, much lower than the online rates used to be. 
Perhaps if companies gave a bit more thought to both the frequency and the content of their emails they might become an effective marketing tool again.  At the very least they’ll stop alienating their customers.

Holmes, E. (2102, December 19)  Dark Art of Store Emails.  Wall Street Journal.  pD1

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