kirstyfields / Pixabay

Marketing channels have changed dramatically over the past twenty years. In the 1990s, print and broadcast ads were dominant marketing channels, along with billboards, radio ads and to some extent online (though options were limited). Fast forward to today, where you have pay-per-click Adword campaigns, QR codes, in-app ads, social media and influencer marketing, to name a few. But there’s one channel that remains the most reliable and profitable of all digital marketing tools – email.

Email is the workhorse of marketing, delivering ROI of up to 3800 percent, according to the Digital Marketing Association. Yet, many organizations struggle to measure the overall health of their email programs. Because of this, Coherent Path and RSR Research, a third-party analyst firm specializing in the retail market, teamed up to uncover the general practices that can make or break a retailer’s email strategy.

Analyzing nearly 140 retailers on the Internet Retailer Top 500 list, the report explores specific elements of emails that could be measured objectively to identify the places where retailers are over- and under-investing in their subscriber list, and ultimately leaving money on the table. These three core areas include Email Frequency, Catalog Exposure and Email Content. Using a third-party tool, MailCharts, RSR acquired every email a retailer sent to an “unknown” or generic user over a specific period of time to score each retailer across the categories.

Here are just a few lessons learned:

  • Top-scoring retailers keep their email frequency in check, averaging roughly one email per day.
  • Most of the top-scoring retailers also make sure their emails contain multiple categories to reduce the risk that the main content might not appeal to shoppers.
  • High-scoring brands also generally make sure not to rely too heavily on promotional email subject lines.

Across all the verticals evaluated, Apparel companies had the highest average score.

  • Since pureplay etailers don’t have stores to use as showrooms, they need to use email to help expose more of their product catalog. At the rate they are going, it would take 3.51 years to expose their full catalog to a single shopper compared to 2.53 years for multichannel retailers.
  • While mobile is a hot topic in retail, it may come as a surprise to know that only six retailers of the 140 evaluated optimize all emails for mobile. In fact, 60 percent of retailers don’t send mobile-optimized emails at all.

To see a full ranking of how 50 of the top retail brands fared, download the report here. The report also looks at the top three brands in each industry vertical and the top three brands in each category – Email Frequency, Catalog Exposure and Email Content – and offers guidance for retailers looking to improve their email marketing performance.

Retailers simply can’t afford to ‘mail it in’ when it comes to their email strategy. Digital marketers have needed a basis on which to have important discussions with their CMO and CFO about how to shepherd and maximize email. Until now, there hasn’t been an independent analysis on which to base these discussions. Understanding where your email program is hitting the mark and where there’s room for improvement is the first step in strategically exploiting this massive asset.