When you have collected all of this valuable information, there are a number of ways to use it. Behavioral data from e-mail and Web analytics tools coupled with the data gathered from the preference centers enable marketers to build more targeted and relevant e-mail communications tailored around demonstrated interests/behaviors. Perhaps start slowly by customizing "headline" content based on past purchases or Web site visits, and then advance to stand-alone targeted e-mail campaigns to individuals who visited or dropped off of a particular area of the site. Registration reminder, shopping cart abandonment and upsell messages are some of the most effective communications marketers can use. Messages triggered by behavior with content that is dynamically populated by Web site interests and past-purchase behavior also pull significantly higher response and conversion rates than any other message types.
It's How You Use It
While e-mail is a cost-effective tool, marketers still should focus on creating efficiencies within their efforts. Sending millions of e-mails that go unread is much more time-consuming than sending thousands of e-mails that are impactful and relevant. Incorporate e-mail marketing best practices such as segmentation, testing subject lines and content, and personalization.
For example, one B-to-B marketer stands out above the rest with its profile/preference page by including a list of subscriptions that are customizable as well as recommended. On the page, customers can update their profiles and e-mail addresses, unsubscribe from one or all communication options, and receive personalized product information and support. In this case, the marketer provides a great deal of valuable information in one place and allows the customer to easily control what she receives. Again, putting the consumer in the driver's seat creates a level of comfort and keeps marketing communications relevant and timely.
In another instance, a large travel company explicitly asked its customers what offers and vacation types likely will motivate future travel. In addition, the company polled subscribers about their preferred e-mail formats, the type of information they wish to receive, the routes they are interested in and more. This information clearly can change as consumers incorporate new devices, move to different parts of the country, switch e-mail addresses or change interests. Thus, e-mail messages encouraging recipients to update their preferences are vital to the life cycle. Information about airfare sales from New York to Miami likely will go unread by someone living in Phoenix.
Preference centers create many opportunities for marketers to better target their customers and maintain an ongoing dialogue and relationship. However, it's simply not enough to create a preference center. Marketers need to ask for the right information, use it to make messages and outreach efforts relevant, and support this interaction as an ongoing and evolving effort where customers are reminded and encouraged to modify preferences.
Kevin Mabley is senior vice president of strategic and analytic consulting at Epsilon, a marketing services firm headquartered in Dallas. He can be reached at (972) 582-9600.