Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It must be the holidays. My inbox is stuffed like a turkey.

Over the years, my wife and I have signed up to receive e-mails from quite a few retailers. The list includes: Solutions, Ann Taylor, Eddie Bauer, Land’s End, Sephora, Bath & Body Works, Williams-Sonoma, Victoria’s Secret, Wine Library, Crate and Barrel, Gap, Old Navy, Wine.com, Pottery Barn and The Discovery Store.

It wasn’t hard to pull the preceding list of retailers together—all I had to do was open my inbox. It represents just some of the companies that have sent me e-mail pitches in the past 24 hours. The other day I woke up to a record 76 e-mails, fully 90% of which were promotional in nature.

Stacks of gifts under $25, Last Chance for Free Shipping! and 20% off all items read a few of the subject lines. After a while, they all begin to blur together, the electronic equivalent of shouting carnival barkers on the midway or white noise.

Now, I realize the holidays are here, and these stores are desperate to make their numbers for the year. But I wonder about the sheer velocity at which many of these retailers are blasting out e-mails. Virtually every retailer I’ve mentioned is sending out a promotional message a day, some two a day.

My main point of contention with this e-mail deluge though, is the non-personalized nature of the communications. You see, my wife and I have done business with all of the companies I mentioned, some several times over the past year. But judging by the content of the e-mails, you’d never know it. I’m quite certain I’m getting blasted with the same messages as the other 10,000 or 100,000 people on their e-mail lists.

There’s a better way to communicate with me as a customer, especially a customer who has a relationship with you. Here’s what I believe these companies should be doing:

* Send me personalized content.
I should be receiving a least some content based on my purchase history. If the wine merchant knows I have a penchant for red Zinfandel, send me e-mails about red Zin. Look at my past buying behavior so you have some idea of what I’ll be shopping for in the future.

*Ask me how much e-mail I want.
Give me the choice of how frequently I receive e-mails from you. Maybe I want to hear from you every day—or maybe I only want to hear from you once a week or once a month. Engage with me when I want you to, and I may not tune you out.

*Surprise and delight me.
Offer me something different than the other guys. Give me free gift wrapping. Present an old item in a new way. Try less selling, and more telling. For most of us, a good story works better than a hard sell.

The bottom line is if retailers want to prevent me from clicking on the opt out button, they need to do a better job of engaging with me. Remind me why I did business with you in the first place, and why I should do business with you again.

A final note: Happy New Year to all!

This post is by Tom Rapsas and originally appeared on the blog Loyalty Truth, December 21, 2010. You can reach Tom at tomrapsas@gmail.com