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Segments? What Segments? Marketers Opening the Spigots ... Again


By Ken Magill

In another piece of evidence that most marketers using email inhabit a different planet than the industry’s talking heads comes news that while more than 50 percent of retailers plan to increase their email volume either slightly or significantly this Christmas-shopping season, just 21 percent have invested in segmenting technology in the last year, according to a survey by Bronto Software.

Translation: Most retailers aren’t segmenting their email files in the run-up to Christmas. They’re simply opening the spigots.

Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that. It simply illustrates how separated the email pundit world is from the industry’s practitioners.

Moreover, this separation has existed for years.

Database marketing expert Arthur Hughes had several articles published in 2011 explaining that just 20 percent of marketers he had worked with segmented their email files. Why? Because creating and managing all the different pieces of collateral is too painful. Marketers are finding that if they increase the volume of email they make more money, and they do it without having to hire additional creative talent, Hughes wrote. So that’s what they do.

And that’s apparently what they plan to continue to do.

According to the Bronto/Retail Systems Research survey of 179 retailers, 29 percent said their email volume will rise slightly this Christmas-shopping season and 24 percent said their volume will rise significantly.

However, Jim Davidson, Bronto’s manager of marketing research said that more retailers may be segmenting than the study indicates.

“That 21 percent figure is the percentage of email marketers who have invested in segmenting in the last year,” he said. Other marketers may have invested in segmenting previous to the last 12 months, he noted.

Overall, Davidson said, the survey indicates a surprising amount of optimism on the part of online retailers heading into the 2012 Christmas-shopping season.

Twenty three percent of those surveyed said they expect their online Christmas-shopping sales to increase by more than 50 percent, according to Bronto.

Five percent said they expect their online Christmas-shopping sales to increase by from 31 percent to 50 percent, according to Bronto.

And 14 percent said they expect their online Christmas-shopping sales to increase from 21 percent to 30 percent, according to Bronto.

And while the percentage of retailers that segment is unclear, a significant percentage of retailers apparently recognize the value of tailored messaging, according to Bronto.

Forty three percent of those surveyed said they have invested in automated or triggered messaging in the last year and 36 percent said they have invested in personalization, according to Bronto.

Retailers have made significant investments in other areas, as well, according to Bronto.

Fifty percent of those surveyed have invested in a new email service provider, 46 percent have invested in a new e-commerce platform, 49 percent have invested in a mobile app, 46 percent have invested in email subscriber acquisition and 43 percent have invested in optimizing their mobile site, according to Bronto.

“[L]ast year’s consumer shopping behaviors have caused [retailers] to increase their online marketing budgets, allocate more resources within those budgets to email, mobile and social marketing, increase the number of holiday emails they’ll be sending, alter and personalize the content of those emails, and invest in new service providers, e-commerce platforms, mobile applications, and mobile sites,” Bronto said in a write-up of the survey.


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