2008 Retail Email Subscription Benchmark Study: Executive Summary

Sponsored by: Message Systems

The Direct Marketing Association’s Email Experience Council signed up to receive promotional emails from 120 of the top online retailers tracked via the Retail Email Blog. Findings indicate a trend toward richer subscription processes.

One highlight of the report shows that the percentage of retailers using only a one-click sign-up from homepage method to collect email addresses declined to 51% this year from 63% last year. That shift accompanied increases in the amount of data collected from new subscribers. Research also demonstrated that the number of retailers providing sample emails and allowing subscribers to choose email topic preferences was up.

“The old adage applies here—you never have a second chance to make a good first impression,” says Dave Lewis, chief marketing officer of Message Systems. “Your opportunity is to convert a prospect’s initial interest into a long-term, brand loyal relationship. Your challenge is not to ‘kill’ that interest (and the opportunity) with an intimidating or intrusive subscription process.”

This year retailers are also putting more focus on list hygiene. Thirty-eight percent of retailers ask subscribers to confirm their email address by re-entering it, up from 27% last year. Also, 5% of retailers now use a confirmed (double) opt-in process, up from 3% last year, which also improves list quality.

Retailers are also taking greater advantage of their email sign-up process to promote other channels such as direct mail, blogs and RSS feeds. For the first time this year, research indicates that retailers are promoting SMS subscriptions, social networks and widgets along side or within their email programs. While the percentage of retailers promoting those new channels is currently small, it signals a new trend which is expected to grow significantly over the next year.

“Communication behaviors and preferences have changed,” says Lewis. “Virtually all of us utilize multiple channels of communication, both online and offline. And how we want companies to communicate with us depends on the nature of the message, where we’re at and our personal preferences. Yet, companies have badly lagged in their ability to deliver messages through our channels of choice. So I’m very pleased to see this trend developing, even if just in its infancy. It means we’re moving beyond defining ‘relevancy’ just in terms of the content of the message. It means we’re getting closer to realizing the direct marketing mantra of delivering the right message at the right time in the right place.”

Other key findings from the study include:

● After falling from 27% in 2006 to 8% last year, the percentage of retailers using sign-up incentives rebounded to 13% this year, despite growing concerns about the quality of subscribers that are attracted by sweepstakes and other incentives.

● With recent evidence suggesting that putting privacy policies front and center during the subscription process actually reduce sign-ups, only 36% of retailers mentioned their privacy policy this year, down from 45% last year.

● Despite quicker subscription fulfillments overall, 29% of retailers took 15 days or longer to honor opt-ins or failed to honor them all together. That figure was the same as last year.

Get the Full Report
Visit the Whitepaper Room to download the full 39-page report, which is free for eec platinum members and available at a discount to eec gold and silver members. Not a member? Learn more about becoming a member of the Email Experience Council.

One thought on “2008 Retail Email Subscription Benchmark Study: Executive Summary

  1. We constantly stress the importance of testing email creative, content, frequency, etc. But it’s also wise to regularly test your email subscription process to see what strategies work best to get the most quality subscribers with the least drop-off. There’s a lot of great insight here and plenty of ideas to test. Great work!

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