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80 Percent of Americans Enjoy Purchase-Based Recommendations in Email

By Elyse Dupre, Associate Editor

DMNews, January 20, 2015

When data drives relevancy, everybody wins.

Things just got personal—for marketers, anyway. 

According to a recent study by digital marketing platform provider Listrak and market research company Harris Poll, 80% of Americans who read marketing emails find it helpful when retailers recommend products based on previous purchases. Likewise, 71% of promotional email readers value messages featuring items based on online browsing behaviors.

The study surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. adults but only focused on the 72% who read promotional emails. And it looks like these respondents enjoy experiencing personalization through other channels, as well. For instance, 69% of promotional email readers appreciate online retargeting ads that showcase products previously viewed on a brand's website. In addition, 67% of these respondents enjoy seeing product recommendations on a retailer's website while shopping.

"If you could get the relevancy thing right and you can do it through at-scale personalization, you're really going to be helping to move the needle for your company," says Listrak CEO Ross Kramer. 

When it comes to personalization, consumers want recommendations that are going to help them get the most bang for their buck. For instance, 81% of marketing email readers say that recommended on-sale items are of interest both in email and online. Products organized by price was the next highest area of interest (40%) followed by new items (39%), highly rated products (38%), top sellers (31%), and most Pinterest pinned products (8%). 

But can too much of a good thing ever be bad? According to the study, 44% of Americans who read marketing emails receive five or more promotional messages from their favorite brands a week, and about one fifth (21%) receive nine or more. Compare these figures to the 21% of respondents who say that five or more messages is the maximum number of emails that they like to receive from a favorite brand, and marketers may have to consider whether they're over-sending. 

In Kramer's opinion, as long as marketers deliver value by exchanging relevancy for data, then they're in the clear. It's when they stop fulfilling their end of the bargain and only collect information that they lose consumers' trust.

“Too much of an irrelevant thing is a bad thing," he says. "Too much of a relevant thing has become a good thing.”

If marketers do get the sense that they're sending too much email (such as if they see a rise in unsubscribe rates), they can implement an opt-down strategy. This technique enables consumers to indicate that they'd like to receive fewer emails via a brand's preference center instead of simply unsubscribe.

“In nearly every example where we've implemented this, we've seen that we're cutting unsubscribes by half,” Kramer says.

The only problem is that few consumers will actually take the time to update their preferences, he notes.

In terms of measuring the success of personalized emails, Kramer recommends looking at revenue per email sent. Although, it's important to remember that purchase timelines can differ for different retail categories. For instance, fashion brands can take advantage of more impulse buys, Kramer says, while furniture companies may have to wait longer for consumers to convert. 

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