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It's quality and not quantity that counts for effective e-mail marketing

E-mail doesn't have to be spam or just one more unopened message in a customer's inbox if retailers are willing to better manage their e-mail marketing programs, Headsets.com CEO Mike Faith and The Customer Respect Group president Terry Golesworthy told attendees June 6 at the Internet Retailer 2006 Conference and Exhibition in Chicago.

The retail industry is one of the most responsive industries creating and delivering e-mail. Only 13% of all messages are ignored or go unopened by recipients, down from 22% in 2004, Golesworthy says. But only 25% of the e-mail that retailers send to their customers is personalized and only 15% provide a feedback link within the message that allows the retailer to have a follow-up dialogue with the customer.

As a result, retailers are missing substantial one-on-one merchandising opportunities. “The importance placed on one-on-one communications by users is increasing,” Golesworthy says. “Retailers need to implement strategies that customize their message because e-mail volume keeps increasing dramatically and it's getting much harder for an organization's message to stand out if it's not personalized.”

Headsets.com answers all e-mail within one hour, but just being responsive isn't enough to build an effective e-mail marketing program, Faith says. “Quality matters even more,” he says.

For example, Headsets sets up ongoing education programs for all service reps that include training on new inventory, new company procedures and, above all, new and better ways for reps to be courteous and responsive. “If telephone calls can be answered immediately, businesses shouldn't let days pass before they send a helpful and genuine e-mail response back to a customer,” he says. “An auto responder that says, "Thank you for your inquiry" should not be acceptable.”

Headsets rates the quality of its e-mail responsiveness by having senior management review e-mail response rates, sales conversions tied to e-mail inquiries and e-mail volume on a weekly basis. Service reps and managers also critique each other's e-mail response performance in one-on-one peer review sessions.

Faith says Headsets also answers all live chat inquires in about 30 seconds. “Any interactive program, including e-mail, needs to measured on the quality of the response,” Faith says. “A simple way to improve your e-mail response rate is to over promise and then deliver.”

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