Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

E-Mail and CRM: A Marriage Made in Cyberspace

Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

E-Mail and CRM: A Marriage Made in Cyberspace

Article excerpt

With CRM basics in place, e-mail can be a tsunami of a marketing tool

behold the humble e-mail. What started as a medium for academics to "talk" to each other has become a tsunami of a marketing tool.

But to use e-mail properly today means getting some customer relationship management basics right: integrating consumer data brought in from any channel, including information on buying histories, preferences and complaints; using that data for sales, marketing and customer service; and providing the customer with immediate, personalized information. Inc., Menlo Park, CA, the online direct marketer of technology and business products, reports that e-mail is its most productive and effective tool for increasing customer lifetime value. The company says that 33% of its overall revenue is generated by its active e-mail names.

CRM starts right at the beginning of the relationship. "Job one is to deliver the product," says Chris Flannery, vice president of marketing for Catalog City, which aggregates 600 brand name catalogs on the Web. "Then you have to invite them for a second date. If date one is not good, they're not going to come back for date two."

Flannery says it's important to have multiple e-mails on the delivery front. "A lot of direct marketers are probably doing 'Thanks for the order, it'll ship in two days,' but not 'Now it's been sent.' They're falling short in the consumer's mind."

Though Catalog City isn't the merchant of record for the people who shop there--the individual catalogs are--it does maintain its own relationships with customers. It now has over a million consumers who have registered on the site.

One feature it has used to good stead is its eGift technology, which allows consumers to send an e-mail to friends and family either offering a choice of gifts or the option to pick the size and color of a gift.

Catalog City did an eGift campaign on Dec. 21 that generated a great response from late shoppers. The e-mail, which had rotating product images and a takeoff on the poem "The Night Before Christmas," went to 350,000 of Catalog City's more current buyers.

Although intended gift recipients didn't get their presents in time for Christmas, they did at least have an e-mail informing them that one was coming.

Flannery says some grandparents picked 20 toy items and sent the e-mail to each of their grandchildren, letting them pick the one they wanted. He says the response rate was in the "high single digits," though in some segments it was as high as 20%.

Segmentation and personalization are the bywords of e-mail marketing.

At first, gardening retailer and direct marketer Smith & Hawken, Novaro, CA, did not segment its promotional and informational e-mails, which began in June 2000.

Early last fall the company began segmenting along product lines--sending bird product offers to those who had bought birdhouses, for example, says marketing director Shannon Stearns. This year it has begun segmenting those customers who do and do not live near one of its 43 stores--to drive store traffic.

It recently sent out a mailing about the last weekend of a pot and container sale at the stores, with a link to the store finder on the Web site.

Each day, QVC sends out an e-mail on the same special daily value that's featured on the television show. QVC's Web sire, iQVC, also has about 100 e-mail newsletters, segmented along interests such as collectibles, cooking products and Joan Rivers' lines.

"We have a very soft-sell approach to the customer on the air," says John Hunter, senior vice president of customer services for QVC Inc., West Chester, PA. "We follow that same theme in the e-mail. Our broadcast people refer to it as the neighbor-across-the-back fence approach."

Hans Peter Brondmo, a Netcentives fellow and author of "The Eng@ged Customer" (Harper Business), a bestseller on e-mail marketing, says that personalization is beginning to be used in sequenced e-mail dialogues. …

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