I get a lot of email, but I rarely get spam due to GMail’s amazing spam filter. Of course, just because I don’t get a bunch of emails pushing Fake Rolexes and Generic Viagra doesn’t mean I don’t have a heap of advertisements in my inbox every morning. Most of those are things that I’ve opted into in one way or another: a race that I ran a year ago is expanding, a store that I used to frequent is having a sale. These messages don’t actually meet the qualifications for being characterised as ‘Spam’ or ‘Unsolicted Commercial Email (UCE),” because somewhere along the way I’ve asked to be sent this information, and that means that I found value, or thought I would find value in what that store or race director had to say.
Just the same, I have a lot of stuff in my inbox, stuff I delete without opening. Most of it is stuff I thought I would like to hear about, and sometime since the day I signed up I’ve decided that I didn’t. Many of these changes can be attributed to changes in my life; I moved to New Zealand, and am probably not going to be doing any snowy 5k’s in November, and I’m also not as interested in the specials at my favourite bike shop as I once was. But from a marketers perspective, you’d have to argue that many of these are simply missed opportunities. There are a few retailers that I regularly receive emails from whose ads never seem to spark my interest. For example, you would think that a co-operative outdoor equipment store, where I have been a member for years, would detect that I am far more likely to buy a new set of studded bike tires than a baby-jogger, but you wouldn’t know it from their emails. In fact, their emails don’t seem to be targeted at all. I counter imprecise marketing with the imprecise unsubscribe link at the bottom of each message.
I’ve often thought this blunt-force direct email to be a squandered marketing opportunity, because all that customer history is probably sitting in the same database that is feeding addresses to the email server. But today, my partner Julie amazed me when she showed me an email she received from our local supermarket, Church Corner Countdown (of recent Apple v. Woolies logo dispute fame.) They use the same kind of rewards/loyalty card scheme that has made all our wallets thick with plastic. The idea is pretty simple; I save a few cents for being a “member” and the store gathers information about the sort of thing people like to buy. I used to be a developer at a company that made marketing analytics and reporting software, so there’s certainly tonnes of value in that data. But for some reason that data isn’t ever used to directly market back to the customer. Today Julie’s email proved it can be done, as Countdown provided some genuinely useful commercial email marketing. The email pictures of a number of items that we often buy, with photos and prices, and it notes that we could save $9.29 total if we bought the lot. They also provide a link to get more specials on other things we buy, again, based on our spending habits. The whole system is pretty straightforward and intuitive, and a little box tells me how much I’ve saved so far this year by buying items on special.
Granted, I can’t hide my obsession with Bagel Crisps from Julie any more, but it’s good to know when I can buy them.