Although Ross-Simons mails up to 60 million print catalogs per run, and the 52-year-old luxury retailer also operated 11 brick-and-mortar stores plus three discount outlets, the vast bulk of email names on its house list were generated from its Web site shoppers.
"We don't work as silos," says Internet Marketing Director Anne Driscoll. "However, if the customer wants to come to us they can; we just want to make it easy."
She helps brick-and-mortar sales by segmenting the entire database by zip selections (wherever possible) for local announcements.
Retail store announcements take priority over other channels. "We try to support store events. We don't want to overwhelm customers if we can avoid it. If both the Web and a store have to mail on the same day - perhaps a specific holiday offer - we suppress [store offer email recipients] from the Internet event."
And, when the chain upgraded its POS systems to a new platform two years ago, Driscoll made sure a space to enter an email address was included on one of the in-store check-out screens. She hoped this would gather more names than the old system of a paper card that shoppers were asked to fill out.
The catalog call center also pitched in, asking inbound callers if they'd like to get sales announcements. "We've had phenomenal success."
But, Driscoll wasn't satisfied. She wanted to grow the house list even more aggressively.CAMPAIGN
Driscoll was well aware of the (deservedly) bad reputation that consumer email names gathered via online sweepstakes have. But most sweeps have been conducted to gather names from outside files and third party Web sites.
She thought, why not prequalify entries by promoting a sweeps offer for an Italian vacation to targeted shoppers only? Hoping to grow the house list for fall holiday shopping, this July Driscoll launched a sweeps promotion through five channels:
1. In-store cards: It would have been too onerous to train and incent personnel in each retail store to mention the sweeps offer verbally while using the POS system to type in emails. So Driscoll took the easy, old-fashioned route, and put a big stack of printed cards on every check-out counter.
Customers could fill in their entry while waiting for their order to be checked out and wrapped. Then Driscoll had the cards collected and data-entered on a regular basis.
2. Bind-in catalog cards: Driscoll had the same sweeps offer card bound into the print catalog mailing in July. (Due to the season, July mailings are the most likely to be a high percent of recent, active buyers. Cataloguers generally save their rented list and older file investment for more profitable mailings in the fall.)
The bind-in cards were perfed for easy tear-out, but they did not have pre-paid postage. Shoppers had to use their own stamp to enter.
3. Web site promos: For the first week of the promo, Driscoll posted a pop-up offer on the site. But she didn't want to annoy repeat visitors and now that 38% of average consumers wipe their cookies at least once a week, she couldn't rely on cookies to suppress previous-pop-viewers.
So she yanked the pop after seven days, and relied instead on an HTML promo on the home page.
4. Email mentions: Figuring what-the-heck, she might as well get some goodwill and perhaps a few pass-along names, Driscoll also mentioned the sweeps as an aside in regular Ross-Simons messaging.
5. Affiliate promo: Driscoll gave top affiliates (who were not sending out campaigns to non-qualified lists) a variety of creatives they could add to their sites and house newsletters to support the sweeps as well. The affiliates sending traffic to the sweeps link hoped that some entries would convert to on-the-spot buyers from a variety of enticing offers posted on the page that immediately followed entry submissions.
(Note: Never waste a post-submission page on a mere "thank you" message. Instead, include links to more offers to keep that traffic actively engaged on your site.)
In addition, Driscoll was careful to comply with sweeps law and allow other mailed-in cards as entries.
Tens of thousands of consumers entered the sweeps, and offered their email addresses with permission to be mailed. The sweeps ended August 31st, and Driscoll says the resulting name quality is "only slightly less than regular customers on our site."
Which makes sense, because 74.96% of entries were from folks who were already on Ross-Simons' files as existing customers without email addresses.
But there were two surprises...
Surprise #1. Printed cards beat fancy retail POS systems
"For two years, we've run up against a training issue in making sure retailers understand that we're here to support them and it's in their best interest to gather email names. Plus, the POS system takes three screens in to get to the field where they input email."
As a result of in-store sweeps card success, Driscoll has decided, "If technology was giving us a stumbling block, let's go back to basics and use printed cards to get around it."
Surprise #2. Sweeps are a great way to clean and update your list
Roughly 7% of email names gathered from the sweeps promo were for customers who already had a different email address on file that had gone bad. These were consumers who had switched addresses, but never updated their account information, so email was no longer reaching them even though they wanted it.
"That's comparable to ECOA rates," notes Driscoll.
So, the big idea to come from this Case Study is that perhaps you should have a routine DM campaign, such as a sweeps or contest offer, you can send in an automated fashion to every postal address on your files when their email first hard-bounces.