Retail Emails: The Thin Line Between Value and Spam

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A certain clothing company emails me four, maybe even five times a week. Free shipping! Half off your next order! New styles! With each new email I grow slightly more agitated and hit delete without opening. But something tells me not to unsubscribe just yet. What if a great sale comes along? What if I decide I need a new pair of jeans? What if? Email fatigue be damned, I’ll stay on the list. You know, just in case.

This love-hate relationship with retail email overload seems to be a common trend for consumers in general. A January 2013 study by YouGov showed that 75% of 2,000 respondents are overwhelmed by retailers’ emails and are turned off and resentful about receiving them. But even though retail companies are sending more emails than ever (an average of 210 per subscriber in 2012), for the most part we subscribers seem to be staying on the list. Average open rates for retail emails came in at about 31% in 2012 — which, as compared to other industries certainly isn’t terrible.

So there you have it: subscribers allegedly hate retail emails, but somehow they just can’t let go. As retail marketers, how should we approach the hot and cold relationship consumers have with email?

Unsubscribe buttons

Remember, subscribers are teetering between love and hate here, so it’s important to give them the option to jump ship if they feel so inclined. Steer clear of spam classification by making sure that your email blasts state very clearly how recipients can easily unsubscribe.

Switch up messaging

Repeating the same message over and over again will quickly become tiresome, so keep subscribers interested by throwing in the occasional curve ball. This could be a holiday-themed message, an unusual new product, or an exciting partnership with another company.

Offer something

Subscribers are often secretly waiting for that “something special,” so be sure to throw in something extra sweet from time to time. Since we’re dealing with an open rate of about 30%, be sure to mention said irresistible deal in your subject line.