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’Tis the Season for E-Blasts

BY CSA STAFF

The holiday shopping season may be well under way, but it’s not too late for retailers to rethink some of its last-minute e-mail blasts to help boost conversion rates and avoid becoming inbox clutter.

During a recent Webinar, “End of the Year E-Commerce Survival,” hosted by e-commerce solution provider MarketLive Inc., San Francisco, the president of Chicago-based the etailing group Inc. Lauren Freedman offered suggestions on how retailers can make the most of their e-mail marketing campaigns using creative, but simple, strategies.

Below is a sampling of four effective e-mail blasts used by retailers last year that are sure to be top strategies again this year.

Ratings and Reviews:

More consumers are reading online ratings and reviews before making a purchase. In fact, nearly 65% of the time, customer ratings reviews are read “most of the time” or “always” prior to making a decision to purchase a product, according to Freedman. That said, it’s only natural for retailers to embrace the power of the community and highlight top-rated holiday products on the site via e-mail.

Here, The Home Depot features four of its top-selling products using a clean, organized and easy-on-the eye layout, complemented by festive holiday colors. Clicking on the top-rated items pushes the consumer back to the site.

Get Creative:

Retailers know many shoppers wait until the last minute to shop for holiday gifts, and some can cash in big time by offering consumers extra motivation to make a final purchase.

Blissworld.com takes the negative of waiting until the last minute and turns it into a positive by offering shoppers a gift-with-purchase on orders over $50, while reminding them about its second-day shipping cut-off date. Its “procrastination has its perks” tagline is innovative and adds extra appeal to shoppers making last-minute decisions, Freedman said.

E-Shopping Incentives:

Road Runner Sports’ e-mail campaign offers many incentives in one, ranging from gifting ideas and deals. But it also touts a very critical message: “Deck the Halls … Avoid the Malls!”

Giving shoppers reasons why they should shop online, such as avoiding the malls or saving gas money, resonates with customers, especially during a time when customers are looking to save amid a struggling economy. Road Runner also couples this message with conditional free shipping to help close the sale.

Post-Holiday Branding:

End the year in style with a warm, branded thank-you message acknowledging a shopper’s continued patronage. Freedman suggests retailers use a category-related lifestyle photo and messaging, similar to PetSmart’s e-mail campaign seen here. PetSmart sent this e-mail three days after Christmas last year, and also included a masthead with category links to encourage more shopping in the days ahead.

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Dillard’s 3Q loss widens

BY CSA STAFF

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. Dillard’s reported a third quarter net loss of $56 million, or 76 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $11.3 million, or 15 cents per share, for the same period last year.

Dillard’s ceo, William Dillard, II, stated, “The oppressive economic environment clearly weighed heavily on our results during the third quarter. We continue to take aggressive action to navigate these challenging times. We announced the closure of 21 under-performing stores during 2008, dramatically reduced capital spending for 2008 and 2009 and are executing appropriate operating expense reduction measures throughout the Company. These efforts are not only designed to position ourselves to weather near-term economic uncertainty but also to position Dillard’s well for the long term.”

Net sales for the quarter were $1.508 billion compared to net sales of $1.633 billion last year. Sales in comparable stores declined 9%.

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Fred’s sees 3Q income growth

BY CSA STAFF

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Fred’s reported net income of $6.1 million, or 15 cents per diluted share for the third quarter 2008, an increase of 32% from net income of $4.6 million or 12 cents per diluted share in the year-earlier quarter.

Fred’s total sales for the third quarter of fiscal 2008 were $418.0 million compared with $419.9 million for the same period last year, with the year-over-year decline of 0.4% reflecting the company’s store-closing program. Excluding stores closed in 2008, total sales from ongoing stores increased 4% over the third quarter of last year. On a comparable-store basis, third quarter sales increased 1.4% versus 1.1% in the year-earlier period.

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