Nuts & Bolts - Case Study: Narrow Niche E-mails Increase Sales
Problem: Design Toscano wanted to increase response rates on e-mails.
Solution: Sent fewer e-mails, with higher product relevance based on customer transaction history.
Results: E-mail orders increased 800 percent.
As a marketing vehicle, Design Toscano's catalog does a fine job, generating about 80 percent of the home décor company's annual sales. Trouble is, the catalog is a general marketing vehicle: 100 pages of vastly different product categories that appeal to a broad cross-section of customers.
To bring certain products to the forefront, Design Toscano historically has used e-mails to announce catalog drops and highlight a handful of items, usually merchandise that's new to the book, says Kim Hansen, vice president of marketing at the Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based merchant. These e-mails also allow customers to preorder specific items that the company's merchandisers have deemed hot for the season.
Separate from catalog drops, Hansen sends e-mails to introduce merchandise lines exclusive to the Design Toscano site and announce site-wide sales. But while these e-mails effectively highlight new products and special deals, all customers with e-mail addresses receive the same message, regardless of whether they find these products or offers compelling. Hansen estimates that at one time, her customers received up to seven e-mails each month-and that was during nonholiday seasons.
Then in 2007, Hansen and her team began seriously testing segmented e-mail blasts. She already had some experience sending e-mails centered on broad product categories, such as religious statuary. A typical e-mail contained the headline "Express your spirituality!" and offered Christian, Buddhist and pagan statues.
"What we realized was that religious statuary wasn't as narrow a niche as we thought it was," Hansen says. "Religion, of course, is a personal thing, and just because a customer likes crosses doesn't mean she likes mystic fairies." She then split the single message into separate messages based on the style of statuary and built multiple lists from her customer database looking for individuals who purchased each type of iconography.