Paul Fredrick Sacher is one of the five premier catalog merchants of menswear—primarily dress shirts, ties and cuff links. A number of years ago, I drove out to his headquarters to do a full-dress story about his career and his business, Paul Fredrick MenStyle, for Catalog Success magazine. When I was running Target Marketing, I bought shirts from Sacher’s Paul Fredrick MenStyle catalog. His was the only one that carried my strange size: 17″neck, 32″ sleeves. I bought a lot of his shirts, and they were good shirts—fit well, looked nice and lasted through numerous washings.
When I went on my own a number of years ago, I stopped buying dress shirts. I have seven Paul Fredrick no-iron dress shirts, and I wear one, at most, two or three times a month. I almost never buy a new shirt anymore.
That said, Paul Fredrick inundates me with 1) catalogs and 2) zillions of e-mail offers, such as the one illustrated on this page.
Once in a while, I think it would be nice to order a shirt—especially when Paul Fredrick has a sale. Recently, I received an e-mail offering dress shirts for as low as $19.95. So I clicked through and browsed the sale merchandise. I found a nice shirt for $19.95, clicked on it and was ready to buy. I clicked on the “size” option box and up came one size only—not mine. “Screw it,” I said to myself. “I am not going to spend time going through the sale catalog trying to find a shirt that fits.”
Paul Fredrick MenStyle knows my size: 17-32. I have ordered this size for years. Here are the rules of how to appropriately offer shirts to me, and other existing customers, via e-mail:
- I am busy as hell. I do not want to spend time shopping.
- Offers can be individually personalized and programmed if you have behavioral information that relates to the customer. The e-mail ad on this page that was sent to me is generic, not personalized.
- With dress shirts, the only information that I care about is size—17-32 shirts. No other criterion exists.
- Ergo, to guarantee my opening Paul Fredrick’s e-mail, the subject line must be: “DENNY, GREAT 17-32 DRESS SHIRTS ON SALE—AS LITTLE AS $19.95.”
- The offer should have been programmed so all I saw on the landing page was 17-32 shirts, leading with the $19.95 shirt, which shows Paul Fredrick cares about me and is not pulling my chain. I would buy.
The Same Goes for Zappos
Zappos.com is the smartest e-merchant I know. I am a regular customer. As with my shirts, my shoes are also a weird size: 8EEEE. Data-enter that size into Zappos’ site search and you face the astonishing choice of 236 SKUs. No other inventory in the world can come close to that of Zappos. The prices are right, and it has an unbeatable guarantee: “Free Shipping and Free 365 Day Returns.”
I receive occasional e-mail offers from Zappos—nothing like the avalanche from Paul Fredrick. But, as with shirts, my only criterion for ordering is size—8EEEE. Like Paul Fredrick, Zappos knows my size. Like Paul Fredrick, Zappos sends me generic offers when, if it wanted to guarantee my opening the e-mail, the following would appear in the subject line: 8EEEE.
Takeaway Points to Consider
- E-commerce offers are easy to personalize to make the customer feel special.
- The subject line should reference some aspect of the customer’s prior buying behavior—like size.
Denny Hatch is a freelance direct marketing consultant and copywriter, and author of the online newsletter, Denny Hatch’s Business Common Sense. Visit him at www.businesscommonsense.com or www.dennyhatch.com, or contact him via e-mail at email@example.com.