It's a tired idiom, but it's useful when discussing how the best technologies make web marketing work best. Imagine that your commerce site is that little store on Main Street. But, unlike that bricks-and-mortar storefront, which is beholden to one layout and decor for all consumers, you could dynamically alter your store to fit the profile of each individual person who walks by.
That would be pretty cool, wouldn't it?
How much more business would your store do if only the most appropriate product selection and shelf positioning were utilized? What if the posters and point-of-purchase promotions that your consumers saw were all tailored to their interests? How about the front window display, the staff and the music-- why not tailor each of these to each individual consumer who enters the store?
The latest digital technologies enable this kind of bespoke tailoring online, where every major group that database marketers already speaks to on a daily basis can see completely different creative materialize depending on who approaches and when: women, men, home buyers, Gen X, Third-Agers, the rich, sub-prime borrowers... This is what we can do today.
All about the consumer
It's about giving consumers what they want and when they want it-- not what we want to push to them. Can email become a form of pull marketing? What we're seeing is that it can.
Email is becoming pull marketing at the point of greatest engagement-- leading right to and even through the transaction. When you have access to hundreds of promotional offers and millions of online customers you have the luxury to do that-- as long as you have the right technology to nurture the consumer from initiation through engagement, transaction and ultimately customer retention or advocacy.
What we're finding is that, when properly executed, email can run the way an enormous, continually optimized performance web network can run, with the right message delivered at the right time to the right user.
There are several reasons why email is increasingly being regarded as the hottest segment of the interactive industry, doubling in scope and size in 2006 and anticipated to double again this year. Technology advancements in email, for one, are helping to drive growth. Today, the strongest email companies are capable of optimizing their campaigns to respond to numerous events with an exponential number of creative treatments-- all in real time. Think of the aforementioned performance web network, only with the additional benefits of email's exclusivity in the consumer's inbox.
Another driver behind the growth is increased relevancy. "We're starting to see a higher level of sophistication with email marketers," Jupiter's email analyst, David Daniels, recently said, reporting on how relevancy drives campaign performance.
But, the sophistication of interactive marketers is also on the rise, and that has many decision makers thinking hard about where they spend their online dollars.
Branding before acquisition
According to eMarketer, consumers are directed to new websites through a multitude of means. Search is the number one driver, with email and word of mouth running second and third. And when it comes to search, the vast majority of clicks -- roughly 65 percent, according to multiple studies -- come from organic listings. This means that consumers click in search results for something specific that they're looking for, not for a brand that they encounter that has paid for a placement.
In other words, email is already roughly on a par with or perhaps even beyond SEM when it comes to driving new visitors. This makes perfect sense when you consider the difference between a simple text listing and a dynamic HTML creative that arrives in a consumer's inbox at precisely the right time.
Major brands shifting budget
We work with many Fortune 500 advertisers who increasingly want to explore email as a channel. We're seeing their budgets shift, with studies and performance results validating that shift. More than anything else, though, it's the new approach to email that is changing everything about it-- especially old perceptions. When consumers receive emails from brands they trust, when they are already engaged topically, they respond favorably.
Jason Oates is VP, Media Services for Datran Media. .