To Email or Not to Email: The Pros and Cons of Retail Marketing Approaches

What works for you, likely doesn’t work for the next person. Some people check their email accounts hourly while others always have thousands of unread emails in their inbox. Some people have their app notification sounds on, while others may prefer to keep their phone light on apps altogether.

With so many unique approaches to connectivity, retailers often struggle with effectively reaching their customers. Yet despite the complexities, an effective personalized approach to marketing is critical to success. In fact, 71% of shoppers told McKinsey that they expect personalization from their favorite retailers, and 76% of shoppers are frustrated when retailers don’t offer personalization. Part of this personalization includes how and when they are contacted by their favorite retailers.

Navigating these touch points can be challenging, but the potential rewards, like enhanced customer loyalty, are worth the additional effort. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each touch point, the benefits of personalization and how retailers can find the best method for each shopper.

Opportunities and Challenges Across Marketing Touch Points

Email marketing: Perhaps the most popular example is the email campaign. According to The Small Business Blog, emails are an effective marketing channel because most U.S. consumers have at least one email account, with the average addresses per person totaling 2.5. Yet despite the proliferation of this channel, the average consumer receives an average of 121 emails with at least 56.6% of these emails being spam, 36% of which are from marketing and advertising initiatives.

To break through all this noise, retailers must rely on personalization. In a recent study, Adobe found that emails with personalized subject lines receive almost 20% higher open rates than mass emails. Yet subject lines are just the beginning. Retailers also have the opportunity to populate emails with recommendations for items the shopper looked at but didn’t buy, discounts for their favorite products and more. This channel is tried and true, but retailers must take a creative and personalized approach to stand out.

Store applications: Next up — the branded app. Apps are a great way to consolidate all brand information in one place for shoppers. This can include the weekly circular, curbside orders, aisle information, loyalty cards and chatbots. What’s more, the popularity of these apps has grown in recent years. According to a recent study from Airship, 78% of consumers are using retail apps the same or more often than they did last year. However, this channel’s popularity is most common among shoppers aged 18-44, making it a better touch point for younger audiences. In addition, branded apps require sizeable time commitments from developers and IT teams to ensure the app is designed well, working correctly and safe from security threats.

SMS messaging: SMS messaging is another popular method of communication for retailers today. In fact, in 2022, 55% of businesses texted their customers, according to Simple Texting. This channel is promising because 33% of consumers check their text messages within one minute of receiving the notification, and 47% of SMS recipients have made a purchase from these alerts. However, as of 2022, only 46% of retail shoppers were open to opting in for text messages from their favorite brands and retailers.

These are just a few of the channels that marketers can utilize today. The one connection between all of these pros and cons is that the chosen method of outreach must be personalized to intrigue the shopper into visiting the store or making a purchase.

The Benefits of True Personalization

Personalization in marketing campaigns is crucial. Shoppers are inundated with marketing information from retailers in their email inboxes, on social media, across in-store touch points and more. If the advertisements and promotions are not adequately tailored to the shopper, they won’t stand out amongst the noise.

On the other hand, an advertisement that promotes the return of a shopper’s favorite seasonal dessert or provides a promotion for their favorite chip brand will earn their attention and draw them into the store. Luckily, artificial intelligence can automatically create the right offer for the right shopper and provide the retailer with immediate data and analytics about the campaign’s success.

This data-driven approach to personalization is especially important for local and regional retailers that are fighting an uphill battle against larger retail corporations like Walmart, Amazon or Target. These smaller retailers must differentiate themselves with a close-knit, hometown feeling while still achieving peak service for their shoppers.

If managed correctly, AI-driven personalized marketing across various touch points will foster long-term customer loyalty, no matter how big or small a retailer is.

Best Practices for Personalizing Outreach

Every shopper is different, so the retailers that rely on AI to deliver marketing content when and where the shopper wants will find the greatest success for their campaigns. To determine which method will work best for each consumer, retailers must pay close attention to customer data.

In some cases, retailers can ask their shoppers what their preferences are directly via a post-purchase survey. In other cases, retailers will have to derive information on their shopper’s preferences from key metrics following a campaign. If they determine that half of their shoppers don’t respond to SMS marketing, that half should not continue to receive communication via this touchpoint. “Spamming” shoppers is a surefire way to lose customer respect and loyalty.

Furthermore, this customer data analysis can open other opportunities for marketing as well. If someone frequently uses curbside pickup through the application, marketers can personalize their in-app experience to include automatically generated promotions for items that can further fill their online basket and increase the profitability of their order.

Finally, these customer preferences will change over time. It’s important that retailers continuously evaluate their shoppers’ data to determine the right channels for their personalized marketing content.

Meet the Shopper Where They Are

Shoppers will appreciate it when retailers take this next step to ensure their marketing communication is delivered when, where and how they prefer. With the right tools and technology, retailers can automate this process and optimize their marketing initiatives across channels and audiences.

By meeting shoppers on their touch points of choice and offering content designed specifically for their needs, retailers will foster beneficial, two-way relationships that will last for years to come.

Shekar Raman is CEO and Co-founder of Birdzi, a grocery retail AI solutions company that was inspired by an idea his 11-year-old daughter had about locating products in the supermarket. He is passionate about building data-driven technologies leveraging AI and machine learning to help retailers and brands elevate the customer experience. Raman began his career working on the Human Genome Project at the Dept. of Human Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania, developing algorithms for protein modeling. He was part of some of the pioneering groups (early 1990s) in BioInformatics at UPenn and at the Dept. of Human Genetics, UNLV, where he applied speech recognition techniques to identify and classify genetic sequences.