Thursday, November 11, 2010

Emails - How Much Is Too Much?

Nearly all merchants will tell you that a good email blast or regular newsletter will greatly increase your sales.  It is true that your best customers are your current customers and advertising to people who have already purchased from you, already know the value of your products and the service you provide is beneficial.  But you need to be careful not to push your customers away.

If I like a particular store and the products that they provide, I want to keep up with sales, discounts, new products, or special offers.  I will subscribe to newsletters, Facebook, or Twitter updates so that I am aware of these offers. By signing up, I expect to receive updates; I don't think of these updates as spam and don't expect to receive spam. I like getting these emails.  It keeps websites on my mind and sometimes reminds me that I haven't been shopping in a while, "I could probably use a new scarf now that it is winter." It is good for the merchant, because I am more likely to make a purchase on their website, and it is good for me, because I can use the coupon codes provided in the email to get a discount on the products I would like to purchase.

For those websites who send out emails every week, month, or a few times a year, I take a look at the emails or offers that they send.  However, I have signed up for newsletters (or been automatically opted into a newsletter just by placing an order) that are sent out on a daily basis.  If I open my emails every day, and every day I see an email from this same company telling me to make a purchase on their website, I tend to skip those emails.  I readily delete my daily discounts from Express because there is no way that I am going to place an order on their website every day. Instead of these emails being beneficial, they become regular spam.

The difference between the emails I receive from companies I have purchased from and spam emails, is that I can unsubscribe from these emails. When it gets to that point, the regular newsletters are counterproductive.  Instead of drawing my attention to attract sales, they turn me off from purchasing from that company and from receiving those emails.

It is a good idea to keep in touch with your existing customers, but don't annoy them by always being in their face.  Some good tactics would be to send emails when there are things that are applicable to the customer specifically, to the season, or something big with your store.
  1. Specific emails to customers.  This is probably the most ideal option, to only send emails to customers about things that they would care about. This does require that you have a good way of tracking customers' purchases and sending specific emails.
  2. Regular emails (weekly, monthly, etc) or specific to the season. People are busy and have lives, so nice little reminders are often welcome.  At the beginning of winter you can send emails to customers to let them know winter products are on sale.  When there is a holiday coming up you can specify gift ideas, holiday decor, or remind them to prepare for that holiday in any way that is applicable for your store.  
  3. Specific to events of your store.  These could include a new version of one of your products, an end of the season sale, or advances in your business such as new Facebook or Twitter pages, a new brick and mortar store, or any other event in your business' life that is worth celebrating.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Prepare For The Holidays

This is one of the busiest times of year for many stores, including online stores.  There are lots of things that you can do to increase sales over the holiday season.  The thing that I would like to focus on is upselling.  Keeping in mind that an existing customer is more profitable than a new customer, you'll want to gear your website and sales towards your existing customers or customers who are committing to purchase on your website.  Below are a few ways to do this.
  • Send a holiday e-mail blast. Customers are making many purchases over the holiday season, so sending a blast with sales or promotions will help you with sales, and help your customers save some money. 
  • Highlight Gift Items. This is for those customers who don't know what to get someone on their list, or to purchase stocking stuffers.  You can create a section on your website which lists gift ideas for all types. Some merchants will want to divide this section up into "male" and "female" or possibly by price.  Either way you do it you will not simply want to list sale items, but really list good gift giving items.  
  • Upsell Gift Items In Your Cart. Use your global cross sell feature (ShopSite Pro) to display a few general gift items in your shopping cart.  These items should not be high in price and should not add much to shipping, but should be quick impulse buys for customers to give as gifts this holiday season.  For example, if you are a media furniture store, list a few small CD cases for cars.  If you are an electronics website, list a few electronic cases as gift items in the cart.
  • Display Delivery Schedules. It is important that gifts arrive before Christmas.  Make sure that customers know that the products they are purchasing will arrive before Christmas.
  • Reward Your Weary Shopper. Shopping does take a lot of time and energy this time of year.  Make sure you are rewarding your customers for purchasing with you.  Include rewards such as "Free CD with any purchase over $20" or "Get one for yourself with our Buy 1 get 1 FREE reward."
This season can be hectic and stressful.  Try to provide tools and tips to your shoppers to make their shopping experience easier and more enjoyable this season.