Email marketing espionage

Context: I encourage members to add me to their email marketing lists so I’m indirectly (impersonally) updated as to their progress. I read emails and usually delete them and then go on about my day. I changed that policy over the past year. Now I save them in a special file with the idea of analyzing them for frequency, timing of special offers etc -with the idea of making suggestions to the broader readership.

I don’t have anything hard and fast to suggest today but wanted to make mention of a practice I’ve noticed with a new-to-me company that is not apparel related. I ordered a catalog from this company but haven’t placed an order yet. At least once a week  I get an email from them with some kind of special offer -say free shipping or 15% off of an order I place. The day before the offer runs out, I get another email reminding me that this offer is expiring so I’d better get it while the getting’s good.

Rather than create a sense of urgency, it’s created complacency on my part. I’ve only been on their list for a month but owing to the number of emails with reduced cost offers, I know that if and when I do decide to order, I’d be crazy to pay full price so I should time my purchase to coincide with an offer. 

My point is: if you email market to a list, you don’t want to create an atmosphere of complacency. This is particularly important if your products are relatively static; meaning that styles don’t evolve much from season to season. Perhaps this is more crucial to those who sell sewn products rather than fashion items which can age faster because with fashion items, a customer’s sense of urgency is tied to missing out on something they really like because styles are often discontinued.

This is not intended as a criticism by any means to those of you who sell products that don’t age as quickly. Some of you who fall in this category have been doing this very successfully for quite some time. My mention is really for those who aren’t as established. Keep in mind that it may not be advantageous to train your customer to think that the sale price is the real price. However, if the sale price is the real price, then the higher margin on any full price sales you make is a nice if occasional bonus.

In closing, it’s a good idea to get on the mailing lists of lines you aspire to compete with to get an idea of the company’s culture, appeal, timing of sales offers, the depth of discount, conditions of sale (and return) and the like.

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7 comments

  1. theresa in tucson says:

    Good points, Kathleen. I just started tracking my grocery purchases over the past five months. Since grocers normally sell on a three month cycle I am becoming habituated to buying only what’s on sale on fresh produce and buying enough staples at the lowest price of the cycle to tide me over to the next iteration of the cycle. Consumers of other goods are no different. My husband will watch to sales on electronics and surf the internet to find out the best buy before making any large purchase.

  2. Lesley says:

    I too have become complacent with some businesses. There are two companies in particular who constantly email with gimicky offers. One of them comes just about every day. The end result is that I have become bored with them and just delete their “60-90% off” offers. The stuff on their site is always the same and the prices are always the same. I think less-frequent emailing would be more effective in garnishing attention and fewer gimicks would make the company appear more professional.

  3. Marie-Christine says:

    And let’s mention also that the only person I’d like to hear from every week is my sister. If a simple request for a catalog got me a weekly email, I’d -never- order anything from them for fear that they’d be emailing me every morning afterwards. There is a limit to how many direcdtly-to-the-bit-bucket filters one wants to maintain..

  4. Barb says:

    I totally agree on a personal level…have been wise to this methodology for years. I try not to practice urgency in my business on a regular basis, but I do use this method when urgency is the truth. That said, let’s remember that big businesses use this technique because it WORKS! It may not work for you or for me, but it works for many customers.

  5. Don Pezzano says:

    A major international printing company sends me an e-mail with special offers almost every day. I have purchased items through them but an email every second day? I’ts a bit much.

  6. Erin says:

    The chain fabric stores are the worst at this, and with the female, coupon clipping clientele, they’ve really done themselves no favors. No one wants to buy yardage without a 40% off coupon in hand, because they are constantly being mailed, emailed, and even piled in a stack by the door. And then they say they need to stock more craft items because no one sews. True, no one sews – at full price. They’ve trained us too well at this point.

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