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Does Emailing Product Newsletters Bring In Sales?
olimits7




msg:3746995
 11:57 am on Sep 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi,

I'm debating if I should start emailing product newsletters to my customers.

So I'm wondering, for the people who send out product newsletters, do they really help with bringing in sales? Have you noticed that more customers buy when a newsletter is sent out?

Thank you,

olimits7

 

jsinger




msg:3747097
 2:03 pm on Sep 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Email advertising works. But you need a huge list which is harder to get now than years ago.

Generally, returns are in the tenths of a percent. People are now very reluctant to sign up for email. They are more likely to use disposable email addresses. Ten years ago newbies were thrilled to get an email every day or two.

No doubt results vary wildly with the type of product or business. If people really enjoy reading about the product, results should be excellent. My wife would love getting ads for shoes. Yet, many men only buy shoes when the old ones fall apart.

Sending emails is almost free, however much work goes into creating a good newsletter. We sometimes use free shipping or other coupon codes to monitor results; free shipping is very costly.

Most of us are receiving less email than a few years ago which makes good email stand out. It also proves that email isn't as effective as it once was.

HugeNerd




msg:3747160
 3:05 pm on Sep 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Generally, returns are in the tenths of a percent.

If that...

My statistics for a recent broadcast email:
Messages Sent: 24,356 (all emails are opt-in by the customer at check-out; no addresses have ever purchased been by us)
Orders generated: 16
Conversion Rate: 0.065%

Please view my statistics with an understanding that my products and industry are not prone to repeat purchases, so they may not be as relevant as what others may be able to provide (I do have plenty of returning customers, but they are generally resellers and not the true target of the email). End-user repeat purchases typically occur in the 2+ year range, so we consider any sale made from the email to be a victory. All sales generated involves cheap items listed near the top of the email -- items we deem "impulse buys."

For us, the email is not so much about immediate conversion as it is promoting the brand -- we want them to see the email and be reminded of the site so that when, in a few years, they need to replace their original purchase, they remember us. Unfortunately, I have no reasonable metric to provide useful statistics on the long-term effects of the email campaign.

Another plus, at least for us, is that the emails do generate relatively cheap, well-targeted traffic. The click-through rate hovers right around 0.68%. Essentially, we are playing a numbers game....we didn't start sending emails out until we had about 25,000 addresses. I think about 5,000 people unsubscribed after the first one; the list slowly builds back-up, but gets cut down after each new email -- we try to send one out at least every 2 months, no more often than every 3 weeks.

jsinger




msg:3747247
 4:18 pm on Sep 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Nice info. We have stats since our first emailing 7 years ago. That mailing was so successful I kicked myself for not doing it sooner and for not collecting addresses earlier. I certainly wouldn't wait till a list gets big to test it.

Our response is higher than yours, but we sell repeat products. However, if we had to start over, I'm not sure email adverting would be worth the effort. Most of our newer competitors don't seem to do email marketing.

I see a major trend in the past year or two for ecommerce sites to email customers far more frequently than the one-a-month that was once fairly standard. We have a competitor that emails every three days. I bought shoes from a company that started emailing me EVERY DAY until I unsubscribed them!

Anyone else seeing that trend?

HRoth




msg:3747270
 4:47 pm on Sep 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have an opt-in newsletter of several thousand subscribers, and I have noticed what others have--that a newsletter produces a very small number of sales. I have used it mainly just to remind people of my shop's presence and announcing products, but I also use my blog for the latter, and that works pretty well with the sales.

I myself get annoyed with sites that email me once a week or more. It feels like nagging.

HugeNerd




msg:3747295
 5:17 pm on Sep 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

I see a major trend in the past year or two for ecommerce sites to email customers far more frequently than the one-a-month that was once fairly standard. We have a competitor that emails every three days. I bought shoes from a company that started emailing me EVERY DAY until I unsubscribed them!

AH! I get the same emails, jsinger. I wish we could talk about specifics and name some of the worst offenders.

At our roundtable on the broadcast emails we discussed this same phenomenon of daily emails, and our unabated hatred of this scheme. We had a unanimous consensus whereby all present agreed that no one bothered to open such emails (particularly when you don't check that address every day, as seems likely for most shoppers, and so you see a stack of 10 messages all with the same 'From:' and subject lines when you do log-in). We felt that "viral marketing" wouldn't work for us and would likely have an adverse effect. That's why we try to send them out as infrequently as possible while still maintaining a presence.

I am not sure that our goal is truly "marketing" as much as it would be "branding," or even a simple reminder. All we want is for people to see a line with our URL and a few words related to our industry, i.e. a subject line about: www.Example.com, All the Widgets You'll ever need to do Something with your Other Thing (that sounds really dirty...I apologize) -- it's a tactic for saying "Hey! We're still here. We still offer the same great products you purchased last time. Please remember us when you need new or different stuff!"

onlineleben




msg:3747691
 7:06 am on Sep 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

But you need a huge list which is harder to get now than years ago

It is not only size, that matters ...
IMHO it is the quality of the list. The better targeted the better your results.
And if you segment your list into buyers and non buyers the results probably will get even better, as the buyers know already about your products/services and are likely to buy from you again (trust).

jsinger




msg:3747827
 12:12 pm on Sep 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

A new emailer will have one advantage, a fresh list.

Direct mail industry has long used three criteria for measuring the likelihood a customer will respond to a mail ad: Recency, Frequency and Monetary expenditure. A new name (or email address) is more likely to respond than one who bought long ago.

The address of a frequent shopper, or a large buyer is more valuable too.

We've quantified this with direct mail pieces sent to our brick/mortar customers. A new sign-up is more valuable than a year-old sign-up, which is more valuable than a 5 year old name.

we didn't start sending emails out until we had about 25,000 addresses.

While you were building that large list, it was aging. I wouldn't have waited. A fresh list of 10,000, or even 5,000 might have pulled as well as an older list of 25,000.

ssgumby




msg:3747843
 1:11 pm on Sep 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

We have a list of opt-in (direct from our site) of around 7k emails. We send out a newsletter twice a month. Our open rate is 30% and our click-true rate is around 20%. On each email, we generate between 15-20k in sales and our average sale is $65. Ours is a typical repeat type business, im sure that makes a difference. Our emails typically offer a discount ... discounted shipping, percent off, dollars off, etc ... we mix it up a lot. So for us, a newsletter is very valuable.

HRoth




msg:3748020
 4:27 pm on Sep 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

That's a great idea about offering some coupon. I am going to try that.

HugeNerd




msg:3748180
 7:26 pm on Sep 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

I would think the potential for repeat business makes all the difference -- we generate very, very little repeat business as our industry (home improvement/plumbing) tends not to have many repeat retail purchases. We mostly serve one-time orders; repeats are done in the long, long term. We have the ability to input coupon codes, just have not yet done so. Plan to...but as the economy stands, no room for the additional personnel to research and implement properly.

The wholesale side, on the other hand, is an account based business, so repeat sales of the B2B type are the norm -- that is also a more face-to-face, localized business, so emails are usually done on an individual account basis and are generated by the account manager. Unfortunately, the numbers and metrics for messages sent, opened, and orders generated are not something to which I have access :o( Maybe someday they will give me control of that as well...

farmboy




msg:3749046
 2:08 pm on Sep 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm debating if I should start emailing product newsletters to my customers.

Some of the comments so far seem to address email marketing in the "cold calling" sense. That's very different than contacting people who have bought from you or contacted you previously.

To answer the initial question, Yes, contacting your own list can have great benefits. But you have to know your customers and be prudent in your approach.

FarmBoy

limbo




msg:3749082
 4:01 pm on Sep 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

I bought a new camping stove from a retailer that sent me items they had in sale that I might be interested in. I had bought a tent from the same shop about a year ago. If you're targetted I can see it being a fantastic way to market, if it's scatter-gun, then I imagine the production costs could easily exceed revenue.

grelmar




msg:3749103
 4:49 pm on Sep 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

We're in a bit of a different sales atmosphere, so our approach is different.

We're mostly wholesale sales, 90%, with 10% retail sales. We don't ignore the retail, because we get a better margin on the retail end, and that's the money that funds our BBQs on Fridays.

We're in re marketing, so our inventory is constantly shifting, depending on what's coming in, from month to month.

For our wholesale customers, we used to send out a standard "advertisement" email. You know, bunch of pictures and descriptions of items we were specifically trying to push that month. It kinda worked, but not very well. The ROI, in terms of the time going into it, wasn't very good.

So we sat down and talked it out. We looked at what was working for us, in terms of what kind of emails we responded to, and hit upon a winner.

Every month, we send out a spreadsheet. Just a plain old spreadsheet with a list of our products, prices, and how much we have of each item in inventory.

For our wholesale customers, it's golden. We're even finding it's increased our purchase rate from the retail customers.

Keep in mind, we're working on a very small, very targeted list (under 500), in a very specific industry. But the response has been great. Lots of people commenting on how they're glad it's just a simple product list, easy to scroll through and find what they want. If they want to look at a picture of a specific item, that's what our website is for.

May not be applicable to people here dealing with "mass market" items, but you never know. Try sending out a test sample of a bare-bones, no graphics, product list. You might be surprised at the response.

maximillianos




msg:3749138
 6:27 pm on Sep 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

We made the mistake of letting our old mailing list get stale. We had accumulated over 25,000 subscribers... then we stopped using the list for a few years.

We ended up starting over last year at zero and rebuilding a fresh list. Exactly a year ago actually. We now have about 5,000 subscribers.

We have an open rate of around 30% and we send our newsletter about 2-3 times a week. Our newsletter is more "news" oriented than product oriented, so folks actually enjoy having it sent more often than not.

We do not do any advertising with the newsletter yet. Just used for branding and getting folks to remember us, and maybe come back and visit once and a while... =)

cdcaveman




msg:3749166
 8:06 pm on Sep 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

i love a hughnerd who calculates everything in math exactly! i can so relate to that!

incrediBILL




msg:3749172
 8:20 pm on Sep 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

Email works, keep specials, discounts and sales limited to a very short time, maybe a week tops to make sure you see results quick.

Don't be rigid either, I let coupons expire a week later than I claim they do just so people that miss the sale think they're getting away with something and brag to all their friends about what they did on your site as another form of word of mouth marketing.

Tip of the day: Add an RSS feed for new products and sales and make sure your feed is in Feedburner, owned by Google. New products will get indexed in about 30 minutes in most cases because Google thinks it's "hot news" ;)

cdcaveman




msg:3749225
 10:16 pm on Sep 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

thanks, for the advice incredibill. i think we are going to make it a scheduled task on our server and any new specials will be emailed out as an insert to a "specials" style email. i like this thread. i really believe in email marketing. more as it pertains to people that have been your customers before or are electing to routinely shop in your industry. Branding is a great point to! if all you see is pink elephants some jerks are going ot like them cause it seems like something familar

dreamache




msg:3749238
 11:14 pm on Sep 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

I just sent out my first newsletter last night through one of the more popular email newsletter marketing services... My site is very new, only have 300 double opt-in email addresses, but from that.. 73 have opened it (24.8%) with 41 clicks (13.9%).

I can see this coming profitable once I generate a list of a few thousand. My newsletter offers the latest design tutorials (weekly) so I'm not selling anything directly myself, so in the future I'll be taking the route of having advertisers purchase placements on the newsletter itself.

cdcaveman




msg:3749254
 11:56 pm on Sep 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

41 clicks, thats really good in my opinion. i think honestly if the people know who you are they will click or open more then a person that opens there aol mail like i do and see hudnreds of emails from pharmacy and other such solicitors

jsinger




msg:3749306
 4:00 am on Sep 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

Don't use double opt in. Will kill the size of your list. And it annoys some of your best prospects. Many studies have been done on it.

One of the advantages of collecting emails years ago was that you could place forms on automatic popup windows which radically increased the number of sign ups.

menton




msg:3749447
 11:03 am on Sep 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have read all above with interest, but I am looking to approach this at a different angle. Sending a mass email out to all of your customers with the same offer is counter productive IMHO. All you are doing is saying you don't know anything about your customers and what they buy from your website / company.


Email works, keep specials, discounts and sales limited to a very short time, maybe a week tops to make sure you see results quick.

Fear and consumerism always works

If you're targetted I can see it being a fantastic way to market, if it's scatter-gun, then I imagine the production costs could easily exceed revenue.

I agree with this.

I think all emails should be targeted. Taking the example of the tent mentioned above. What use is a special offer on another tent to this customer? Instead, an email with special offers / information on add ons to the tent would work better. Now you are showing you know care and know about your customer.

I don't know how many people here are familiar with the Tesco Club Card / loyalty card. They send out millions of mails every year and each one is customized to the particular customer and what they might want based on previous purchases history.

WiseWebDude




msg:3749499
 1:44 pm on Sep 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

I myself get annoyed with sites that email me once a week or more. It feels like nagging.

HRoth, I agree! I NEVER sign up for anything anymore due to the abuse. Also, it seems like desperation when a company sends so many out with NO news, just a bunch of ads! They say sign up for news and all you get are ads! I have gotten to where I almost freaking HATE e-mail anymore. Now I am very careful when buying something as the usually have, default checked, receive our newsletter...irks me on that one. I have accidentally left them checked before and get the darn e-mails and have to go through a bunch of crap to get off their list. The word "newsletter" is a bunch of CRAP for most ecommerce sites as there is no "news," just "news" of free shipping on orders over a million dollars or something, LOL.

[edited by: WiseWebDude at 1:45 pm (utc) on Sep. 22, 2008]

netmeg




msg:3749508
 2:03 pm on Sep 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well, I come at this from both sides.

As a frequent online purchaser who has had the same email address since 1994, I probably am on more lists than most. Including everyone I ever bought from.

I don't buy from email marketers I don't know or haven't done business with (and I have a *real* comprehensive anti-spam setup) however, I buy off emails from companies I know or have done business with all the time. There's a certain discount computer parts (think large feline in the company name) that sometimes mails me three or four times a day with specials, and I frequently buy off those emails, for myself and my company and my clients, all the time. It's amazing how three or four emails with items you really might be interested in are so much less annoying than a weekly or bi-weekly email about something you aren't, heh.

I'm just moving a couple of my clients into emailing to their existing customer base. With one of them, there's only a handful of products, and I don't think we need to worry about any targeting. We mainly want to remind them we're still here, they may still need the products, and by the way we have a couple new products they might be interested in.

The other client has a much larger customer list (around 25k if we just take the people who have bought in the past three years) and it's a very diverse clientele, who buy very diverse products. And they already get a print catalog about once every four to six weeks. So we're going to have to do some niche tailoring there.

I'm actually looking forward to it, I think it'll be fun to put together.

(This client isn't going to bother with a newsletter; it's B2B and people are busy. We are, however, starting a blog for that sort of thing, so the people who do want industry news and opinions (and a soft sell on a few products) can subscribe to that.)

HugeNerd




msg:3749758
 7:20 pm on Sep 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

i love a hughnerd who calculates everything in math exactly! i can so relate to that!

Thanks! Nice to find a kindred spirit :o)

I think all emails should be targeted. Taking the example of the tent mentioned above. What use is a special offer on another tent to this customer? Instead, an email with special offers / information on add ons to the tent would work better. Now you are showing you know care and know about your customer.

While I know this was not intended to be offensive, I still take exception (though you are entirely correct, in theory). It is not that I do not know or care about my customers, it is more or less impossible for me to tailor a broadcast email effectively enough to be worthwhile, for several reasons:

1) <5% return customer rate for retail sales -- due in no small part to our industry (home improvement/plumbing). While we do somewhat follow the 80/20 rule (80% of your sales will come from only 20% of your products; 80% of your revenue will come from only 20% of your customer base, this can be applied to virtually any set of data), repeat purhcases occur for widgets which no one, and I repeat, NO ONE wants to receive an email about unless they specifically request it (it shouldn't take much imagination to figure out some products based on our niche :o) Even then they might not open the email...let alone click-through and purchase! When they need/want these widgets, they know exactly where to go or what to type into Google.

2) Too many SKUs with longtails -- some SKUs may sit dormant for a year, experience two sales in one day, then die off again. Such customers are unlikely to ever return to the site again, let alone purchase, even if they opt-in to the email. They were looking for a very, very specific item which no one else could supply, even if the SKU/widget is not unique to us and our site. These items are often not purchased out of preference but rather out of necessity due to decisions made by previous homeowners.

3) Corollary to #2: Waste of time and energy to target...you can't really target a market which has no knowledge of its future needs and requirements. In fact, there may be no "middle 50%" to shoot for in some niches. While possible, I doubt I will have the time or mathematical expertise, certainly in this lifetime, to develope the necessary algorithm...(sticky me if anyone has a canned solution!)

4) "Above the fold" readership trend: As with physical newspapers, reader type and tendencies matter. Some will open every email, within reason, and read them in their entirety. Some will skim for relevant information or partially read everything. Some will search/hunt for keywords within and read only relevant paragraphs based on what they find. Some will read the first and last paragraph. Some are only interested in very, very specific and predetermined sections (we all know people who get the paper and then only read the comics/editorials/ads etc.). With the exception of the "front-to-back" category of readers, most won't look below the fold (for emails, what appears on the screen when they open it initially). Even if you target perfectly, they still won't notice most of what you send.
====> Pay attention to your own habits the next time you pick-up a newspaper or magazine. Then imagine what 10,000 people do with the emails they receive (if they even open it!)....or even your own reading habits on this forum :o)

I guess when we get as large as Tesco, I will hire their marketing team to target my emails! Until then, I'd say for myself, and maybe others here, it is best to stick with emails which offer a few deals and semi-targeted -- market trend based, maybe? -- products.

arieng




msg:3749840
 8:43 pm on Sep 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

I agree with HugeNerd's comments your email preferences are almost as personal as your fingerprints, no 2 people want to receive the exact same email.

Within the email industry there has been an emerging trend to provide subscribers with delivery options. This has thrived primarily on information / subscription type sites, but Im testing it on some e-commerce sites as well and Im very happy with the results.

I've tried 2 different approaches.

First was a frequency option such as, "Do you prefer to be sent weekly updates or a monthly synopsis?" The initial response from customers was very positive.

On another site, we are offering opt-in by content such as, "New Products", "Limited Availability Offers", "Email Only Specials", and "Informational Updates". We worked really hard on writing top-notch copy about each segment. Our hope is that customers will see the benefit to receiving each different type of email and, knowing that its optional, actually attach some perceived value to what might otherwise be construed as spam. Were just rolling this out so I dont have any data yet.

Plus, providing options has an added benefit. When a customer clicks on an unsubscribe link in your email and sees that they can customize their settings, a large percentage will choose modification over a complete unsubscribe.

Its important to remember --> it is only spam if they think its spam. ;)

cdcaveman




msg:3749885
 9:31 pm on Sep 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

i really think that is a wonderful idea. giving the client a option more the just to opt out creates the perception that there isn't just mass generalize spamming going on . frequency and content orientated opt in options are what i'm going to implement

HugeNerd




msg:3749910
 10:00 pm on Sep 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

On another site, we are offering opt-in by content such as, "New Products", "Limited Availability Offers", "Email Only Specials", and "Informational Updates".

Excellent idea! I could certainly create broad categories (as I already have my site categorized...) and allow customers to self-target. That is truly a great idea, even if a little time consuming to implement properly. Please let us know your results when you get viable data arieng!

StuWhite




msg:3749934
 10:18 pm on Sep 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've found that customising your emails for each recipient results in a HUGE increase in response rates.

I sell several thousand SKUs. They are the kind of products that people re-buy.

I always mention the brand of the last product they bought in the message title. This has a dramatic effect on opening rates.

The body of the email is then customised to primarily show products of the same brand. If they've bought more than one product in the past I show a mixture of the brands I know they're interested in.

What I plan to do next is keep a record of the browsing/search history of my customers and then send emails to them featuring the products they have browsed.

I send customers about 6 emails per year. I think this is enough to remind people of the products I sell without annoying them too much.

Another thought I've had, but have yet to implement, is to send customers their newsletters on the same day of the week and same time that they made their last purchase. So if a customer last bought from me at lunch time on a Tuesday, perhaps that is a convenient time for them to shop online...

Obviously some programming knowledge is required to implement all this. But if you have the skills to set it up, I think it is time well spent.

zoltan




msg:3750207
 7:19 am on Sep 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

How do you guys measure the opening rate? We can measure the click through rate, but the opening rate?

This 36 message thread spans 2 pages: 36 ( [1] 2 > >
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