UK retailers fail to get best from email, finds benchmarking study

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Top UK retailers are failing to get the best results from email by neglecting techniques like social media bookmarking links, personalisation and post-sales marketing, according to an annual benchmarking study by digital marketing agency dotMailer.

Boots and Asos topped the 2011 league, while the bottom of the table featured many large brands like Sainsbury’s and Play.com.

After the addition of social media and mobile categories last year, the 2011 report (available at http://www.dotmailer.co.uk/emailmarketingreport) includes a look at how retailers use data on existing customers to tailor email campaigns.

The new criteria have shaken up the table, suggesting few of the top performers from 2010 have continued to innovate in the last 12 months.

Previous leaders, HMV and Marks & Spencer, have fallen to 10th and 19th respectively, while only Game stayed in the top 10, advancing from 5th place last year to 4th today.

When it comes to areas that need more focus, the lack of personalisation was notable, with only 11% showing any effort to make the most of the data held about existing customers to deliver a customised email, found the study.

Elsewhere, only 19% of retailers used best practice HTML coding in their emails and only 43% of these rendered properly in email clients when images were turned off, the study reveals.

Retailers also scored low marks for subject lines, with only 34% enticing the recipient to open the message and only 26% including social media bookmarking links.

It wasn’t all bad news, however, with some positive trends continuing to shine through. Marketers are generally all using ‘friendly from’ addresses (89%), for example. In addition, nearly every email included a strong call to action (91%) and the majority also rendered well on a range of mobile devices (85%).

In other areas, the gap between good and bad was far greater, with 51% keeping a consistent design between the email and website landing page, while only 45% requested relevant details at the point of sign-up, dotMailer revealed.

In a final finding, only 55% made the unsubscribe link prominent and clear, a move which can frustrate users who by definition are already dissatisfied with what they are receiving.

The Hitting the Mark league table

Top Five Performers Index

“For two years in a row, there has been no obvious improvement made by the retailers assessed, which is disappointing given some of the simple steps that can be taken to boost the effectiveness of email marketing,” said Tink Taylor, managing director at dotMailer and a member of the Direct Marketing Association’s Email Marketing Council.

“Email offers a highly cost-effective, trackable and accountable way of communicating with prospects and customers, but this latest study shows that too many are still getting it wrong.

“Hitting the Mark 2011 clearly demonstrates a lack of integration between email and social media, despite the latter’s growing popularity and influence. The combination of these two disciplines offers new ways for retailers to really engage with their stakeholders to deliver meaningful results such as interactions online, sales and loyalty,” continues Taylor.

dotMailer’s benchmark report, Hitting the Mark 2011, offers step by step advice on how to run the best email marketing campaign, with practical advice and real-world examples. The full report can be downloaded at no charge from http://www.dotmailer.co.uk/emailmarketingreport.