Friday, 28 September 2012

Dart’s data: the email marketing issue

Email marketing is a vital component in your marketing arsenal, which can be used to build loyalty, trust and brand awareness. Yet despite this, a recent study has found that 40 percent of marketers do not have analytics in place to determine inbox placement rates, while another report says only 17 percent of online retailers implement a basket abandonment email.

Email intelligence provider Return Path, in conjunction with The Relevancy Group, surveyed more than 300 senior marketing executives and found that more than 40 percent of them do not have analytics in place to determine inbox placement rates for their email campaigns. This means that two-fifths of marketers have no idea what happens to their email after they hit send. The report also found that less than a quarter of marketers (23 percent) analyse competitors’ email marketing campaign performance, despite research indicating that doing so increases overall revenue from a campaign by 25 percent or more.

Of the marketers surveyed, 65 percent said that access to the right data is a challenge for their organisations with nearly a third stating that they do not know how to access data when it’s time to evaluate a campaign.

Further, although it’s widely acknowledged that relevancy rules, more than half of those surveyed (55 percent) are unable to perform any audience segmentation meaning they blast the same message to every subscriber, regardless of their previous purchases.

Staying with the email marketing trend, behavioural email provider RedEye in its fifth Behavioural Email Benchmark Study shows marketers are missing an opportunity to engage with users to improve conversion. The study researched the pre-purchase email communication used by of the likes of,, Miss Selfridge, H&M and Homebase. It found that 19 percent of the top online retailers in the UK don’t allow precheckout registration, of which 9 percent don’t allow any type of prepurchase email communication. From those retailers allowing prepurchase registration, 78 percent sent a specific welcome email with 13 percent of these firms implementing a full welcome programme consisting of more than one trigger.

RedEye also discovered that among its clients that implement a basket abandonment programme, emails achieve an average conversion rate of 17 percent. Those marketers using a basket abandonment follow-up email convert, on average, an additional 14 percent of users. Surprisingly though, the survey found that only 17 percent of online retailers currently made use of a basket abandonment email.--JD

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Dart’s data--a very merry Christmas for mcommerce

With Direct Commerce’s upcoming October issue dispensing some last-minute yuletide tips and tweaks, this issue of Dart’s data looks ahead to Christmas with a report predicting mobile sales to increase over the festive period.

According to research by IMRG, the percentage of UK online sales made through a mobile device could reach one in five (20 percent) by Christmas 2012, with the percentage of site visits through mobiles expected to be at around one in three (30 percent). The prediction comes after the latest results from the IMRG Capgemini Quarterly Benchmarking Index, which revealed that sales through mobile devices rose to 11.6 percent in the second quarter of 2012, up from 8.2 percent in the first quarter.

Staying with mobile, a new survey commissioned by mcommerce specialist MoPowered and conducted by online and mobile research agency OnePoll found that 84 percent of small-to-midsized fashion retailers did not have a mobile site, but that 89 percent believed mcommerce to be essential to the future success of their business. The study, which surveyed 300 managerial professionals, highlights that firms were put off setting up a mobile optimised site due to security concerns (33 percent concerned about the risk of mobile payments) and the set-up being too time-consuming (36 percent).

Retailers must tread carefully when it comes to their mobile strategy to minimise the risk of customer attrition. Although more than half of the respondents (52 percent) in Strongmail’s mobile marketing survey said they would be open to receiving promotional messages via email at least once a week, 60 percent said they would never want to receive SMS and in-app missives. The report, conducted by Forrester Consulting, found that around a third of smartphone users (32 percent) have made a purchase after receiving a promotional email. However only 6 percent of smartphone users made a purchase after receiving an SMS or in-app message.--JD

Monday, 17 September 2012

Compare and contrast: QVC

Say QVC and I bet most people will immediately associate it with TV shopping. However, the company now makes a significant percentage of its turnover from its online operations around the world.  It’s estimated that in terms of sales, QVC is the eighth largest online retailer in the US.

Active in the UK since 1993, QVC UK now broadcasts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with 17 hours of live programming each day. To complement its website and TV shopping offering, QVC launched a mobile app for the iPhone and more recently for Android devices. In 2011, QVC UK achieved revenues of £390.9 million, while US sales hit $5.4 billion for the year (approximately £3.3 billion), with online accounting for 40 percent of QVC's US turnover.
QVC US homepage
The first thing that hit me when I landed on the US website (above) was how much bigger the site is. I don’t mean figuratively, in that it has more product on display, the site is visually bigger. Viewed on a large monitor (1680x1050) the main image takes a huge chunk of the screen’s real estate. In addition, the homepage features a sidebar on the right-hand side displaying items recently promoted on air.

QVC UK homepage
In contrast, the UK site (above) is centralised and the main banner appears to be no more than 760 pixels wide, compared to the US where the banner scales up to a width of approximately 920 pixels. Another reason the US site appears bigger is that each item in the top navigation is allowed more space. There are nine categories along the top, compared with 10 in the UK. They are: Fashion, Shoes & Handbags, Jewelry, Beauty, Kitchen & Food, For the Home, Electronics, Clearance, More. The UK site adds a tab for the homepage (Home) alongside Brands, Beauty, Fashion, Shoes & Handbags, Jewellery, Home & Leisure, Electricals, Garden & DIY, Clearance.

The US site doesn’t have a section specifically for brands, instead it includes a “shop by brand” option within a flyout menu from the main navigation. When you compare the two approaches, the US method seems the most user-friendly. A user can hover over the product category, such as Electronics, then select to narrow the choices to Dell or Canon, for example. No flyout menu on the UK site, users have to click on the Brands tab to be taken to an A to Z of some 400 brands. A click on a particular brand name takes users to a page featuring all the products sold by QVC of that brand regardless of product category.  Switching to a flyout menu on the homepage of the UK site would render the Brands tab redundant; but before QVC does that it has to make its navigation more intuitive.

I like my web experiences like I like my coffee—robust but smooth
Using the brands tab I found that QVC UK sells Illy coffee and coffee makers. But try to find them without using the search bar or the brands tab and the task is far more complicated than it should be. My first choice was clicking on the Electricals tab on the homepage. The Electicals landing page gave nothing away, so I clicked on Household Electricals, hoping to find coffee makers in the list. This switched me away from Electricals to the Home & Leisure section, but an image on the right titled Kitchen Appliances looked promising so I clicked. I was presented with one page of results, which featured a Cuisinart coffee maker, but no mention of the Illy machine I had spotted just moments ago. I clicked to go back to the category landing page to take a closer look and see whether coffee makers had their own subheading—nope.

Home and Leisure category

Returning to the main Home & Leisure category page, my next two logical options were narrowing down my search to Kitchen or to Food. I chose Kitchen from where I could filter to Juicers & Drink Makers (no coffee makers here) or Kitchen Electricals (now experiencing a touch a of déjà vu). Bingo! The Illy Coffee maker. Happily, the product page has an effective cross-sell mechanism built in as it recommended I buy the coffee refills at the same time. I’d hazard a guess that QVC could really beef up sales of its coffee makers by having the department easier to find. Surely by calling the department Kitchen Electricals, it would have made sense to include it within the Electricals section as well?
Illy Product Page
To compare the experience, I shopped for a coffee maker on the US site. No Illy brand, so I selected Delonghi. I hovered over Kitchen & Food first and selected the fifth option, Kitchen Electricals. From here, the comprehensive left-hand navigation let me filter my choice to Coffee & Tea Makers. Now in my chosen subcategory, I could either browse all, filter down to Espresso Makers or simply click on the brand name from the left-hand navigation bar. Even more impressive is that the US website lets me compare the different items in the selection against one another, though sadly when side by side, I can’t see each item’s specs. What it does do is create a reference point to come back to rather than being presented all the options again.

Price comparison on the US website
 Considering the two websites represent the same brand, they are miles apart in terms of usability and in terms of visual appeal. The US site instantly strikes me as a far more modern website. Take the presentation of Today’s Special Value item, for example. The UK site promotes the Oreck XL Lightweight Vacuum Cleaner (below left), while the US (below right) goes for the Voice Guided Pressure Cooker w/Recipe Book. Although both pages contain similar information, including cross-sells and videos, the US site is far more compelling: it’s more colourful, the calls to action are stronger and although only slightly larger, the price and saving have more impact on the American site. Perhaps it’s the inclusion of the Speed Buy button?

For another example, see how the US site presents the Clarks brand. To see all Clarks shoes on the UK site, users need to either search for the brand name, user the Brands tab or click on the Shoes & Handbags category. From here, a small box image links to the Clarks subcategory. When users reach the Clarks section there is no banner image greeting them, we’re straight into a list of shoes and the only option to filter results is by price bracket.

Shop for Clarks shoes in the UK
Contrast that with the US. From the flyout, users can select Clarks and be taken to a Clarks landing page, complete with a clickable main image and various filters from price through to style and colour. Perhaps most importantly, as it is QVC after all, the US site lets users view videos of each item. The UK doesn’t.
Shop for Clarks shoes US

All told, the US website is far more advanced than its UK counterpart, which leads to a disparate brand experience. A quick look at the homepages of the QVC Germany and QVC Italy websites (below) indicates that they have much more in common with the US parent. With its international sisters well ahead of it aesthetically, the UK site is clearly overdue its makeover. --MT

QVC GermanyQVC Italy

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

August Catalogue Log

Since we began compiling the Catalogue Log back in 2009, we’ve found that August has generally been a low-volume month when it comes to mailings. In 2009, we tallied 71 catalogues, compared to the year’s peak of 184 in October. In 2010, August yielded 61 catalogues, which more than doubled the following month to a haul of 185. In 2011, volume was up 42 percent on the previous year. We tracked 87 catalogues during August 2011, which was more than we received in April, June or July that year.
This year, we totalled 85 catalogues in August, down 2 percent on 2011, but up 25 percent on July, suggesting that mailers may be starting to distribute their new-season catalogues earlier this year. Further corroborating that theory is the fact that August had the lowest percentage of promotional cover lines in 2012, signalling perhaps that retailers are reticent to discount on autumn goods this early in the season. 

Twenty-nine of the catalogues we received in August--34.1 percent--featured a discount or sale on the cover, including Brook Taverner, the revamped Cox & Cox catalogue and Wall London. Again, that’s a record-breaking figure for 2012 and the lowest since November 2011. It’s a sharp decline from the high we experienced in June 2012, when 56.8 percent of covers include a special price promotion on the front cover.

Despite discounts being less popular than preceding months August trumped June and July in the percentage of catalogues touting free shipping. Sixteen of the 85 catalogues we logged in August—18.8 percent—promised free delivery, just a smidge higher than June’s 18.5 percent, and July’s 17.6 percent. They included Scotts of Stow, Russ Andrews, and Big Man’s Shop, which in addition to offering customers free delivery on their orders, used the covering letter to introduce the company’s new owner and relocation from Cornwall to Bristol. Knitwear marketer Tulchan sent us two catalogues, both offering free delivery on orders of £50 or more, but only one that offered an additional 10 percent discount to sweeten the deal.

Free gifts also saw a resurgence in August. Boden, Coopers of Stortford and Laithwaites all sought to tempt customers with items such as a free shopping bag, a pen and case set and a slate serving board and knife. Bits and Pieces, a gifts catalogue featuring a “Special Introductory PricesGiant Tortoise Garden Sculpture” on its front cover, promised customers a free 500-piece puzzle on all orders.

We can’t end the August Catalogue Log without mentioning the Olympic Games and their impact on catalogue volume and promotions. Last month, I noticed very few mailers making the most of the opportunity. This was evident again in August. What’s more, at 85 catalogues, volume was more or less in line with last year, meaning the Games had a negligible effect on circulation—much as they appear to have had on sales in general during the period.--MT