Used to be everyone understood "engagement" to mean a ring and a commitment to marriage. Now, it's a word that usually comes along wrapped in digital webernet techspeak about analytics, featured snippets, heatmaps, and keyword density. Knowing what all that stuff means must be great, but it's not what specialty retailing is about, and we can safely ignore most of it. Customer engagement, though, is for real, and email is a small retailer's friend.
Engagement is nothing more or less than conversing with customers, the back-and-forth that shopkeepers and customers have carried on since the dawn of history. No need to explain why this matters, every small retailer knows that his or her business is a relationship business. The invention of mail opened up a new way for retailers and customers to interact, and so did the telephone. Now computers, smartphones, the internet, and email have come along, but the basics stay the same. The challenge is in the "how-to," how exactly to knit this email channel into your conversation with your customers.
There’s no question about the potential value of email marketing, especially to small retailers. It costs nothing to transmit an email message or a million email messages. You may choose to pay to have them written for you, or to have the entire campaign managed, but the floor cost for DIY email engagement is zero. Upgrade costs are small, specified, and optional.
Now, as a retailer, you instinctively wonder how email engagement can be worth anything if it costs nothing. Doesn't that mean everybody's doing it? How can everybody be making money at it?
Well, everybody can make money at it if what email engagement does is bring customers together with the retail vendors that suit them best, maintain and nourish those relationships, and so grow the entire market. People tend to spend more money where it best pleases them.
The nuts-and-bolts of email marketing, from how to collect email addresses through tracking results is simple enough to learn, or cost-effective to hire, that’s not where the magic is. The key is investing the time and attention to testing, tuning, repeating.
An effective, profitable email engagement program is never a finished project. It’s always a work-in-progress. Every email blast sent out has to be an experiment, testing one idea against an alternative. Two versions of a subject line, for example. The results have to be tracked, the winner identified, a new version of the winner created, and another experiment run. The result is a growing base of engaged, qualified, loyal customers ready to respond to your offers and promotions. That’s a marriage made in heaven.
Lumen Mundi is a wholesale religious jewelry and gifts distributer.