The UK's retailers are continuing to ignore key email marketing techniques that could increase online traffic and sales, and are failing to exploit opportunities offered by the growing popularity of social media marketing, according to dotMailer's annual email marketing benchmark study.
The study assessed emails sent by 36 retailers in April 2010, with each retailer being awarded a total score out of 100. After two years in top position, Marks & Spencer was replaced by HMV and Republic with joint high scores of 72, while New Look and Figleaves came in joint second.
Disappointingly, 73% of the 30 retailers that featured in last year's study achieved lower scores this time round; and only 33% of all retailers studied in 2010 scored 70 or above. The average score of 67 for 2010 was the same as 2009, and down four points on 2008's average of 71.
This year's report included a brand new section on social media marketing. Scores here were low, with an average of 5.7 out of 15. Only 17% of email campaigns studied included any 'share on social network' links, and only four of the retailers included a link to their blog in the email content. A further seven retailers had blogs on their web site but no reference was made to them in their emails.
Other opportunities to build mailing lists and help recipients spread their marketing messages virally were overlooked by the majority of the retailers surveyed, with 50% not even including a 'forward to friend' link in their email.
Last year's report criticised retailers for failing to personalise their emails with the name of their recipients. This year the scores declined even further, with only three of the 36 campaigns studied using any kind of personalisation at all in their salutation. Furthermore, depite 33% collecting extra personal data (e.g. gender or interests) only four retailers actually used this information to tailor the email content they sent.
Research has shown that 19% of recipients will not read an email that they think is spam, and a further 19% will perceive an email as spam if it's blank when the images are turned off. Overall low average scores in the categories of Renderability and Coding in this report indicate that retailers are not taking the relatively simple and straightforward steps to overcome the risk of being mistaken for spam.
According to Tink Taylor, managing director for dotMailer, who is also an elected 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 companies are still getting it wrong. The study demonstrates a lack of integration between email and social media, despite the latter's growing popularity and influence. The combination of these two marketing disciplines offers new ways for retailers to really engage with their stakeholders to deliver meaningful results such as interactions online, sales and loyalty, but too many are failing to integrate these channels."
The 'Hitting The Mark' report has been made available for free download from dotMailer's web site - click here (free registration required).