A New Era of Email Marketing in Retail Has Arrived

By Kim Surko

Dear Retail Marketers, It’s time for a change.

I’m not talking about the broader shifts going on in retail or even the channels you use to engage customers. I’m talking about a fundamentally different way of approaching email marketing.

The Old School Approach to Email Marketing in Retail

Traditionally, three key challenges have plagued retail email marketing programs: Heavy production requirements, stale data and complicated marketing stacks — all of which made the act of sending a single email a lengthy, arduous process.

In this world, email marketers have had to obsess over tactical tasks like list building, audience segmentation, managing unsubscribe rates and A/B testing to achieve goals set by their merchandising team.

Email marketers have also been at the mercy of their CRM teams as they request and wait for customer data. But this data has been static, meaning that by the time it gets pulled and segmented and the email creative gets built and approved, the data is already outdated. And that’s even more so for seasonal campaigns, which have required pulling shopper data from the previous year.

The Dawn of a New Era of Email Marketing in Retail

Today, we’re entering a new era of email marketing in retail — one in which optimized workflows let technology take over the burden of email production, email marketers aren’t beholden to merchandising or CRM teams and fresh, real-time data is always accessible.

Specifically, new email marketing platforms have hit the market that optimize workflows with easy to use, self-serve tools and that use AI to serve up dynamic, personalized content in emails. These platforms also unify and process retail data in real-time to put the latest behavioral and product data at marketers’ fingertips.

And as the retail marketing platforms powering email programs evolve, the role of email marketers must change too. In this new world, marketers no longer need to focus on tactical implementation of programs and can instead focus on achieving key business goals as efficiently as possible with minimal creative production overhead.

The Impact for Frontline Email Marketers

For frontline email marketers, this shift represents an opportunity to level up from email marketing goals to achieve broader company objectives.

The move toward easily accessible, real-time data and optimized workflows gives email marketers more time to focus on solving business problems in strategic ways instead of proofing different versions of the same email. For example, email marketers can use real-time data on customer behavior and product assortments to identify the best way to reach each customer in pursuit of goals like increasing spend per customer and growing loyalty.

The Impact for Marketing Leaders

As frontline email marketers level up to focus on broader company objectives, marketing leaders must also level up.

For leaders, this shift is about focusing on a holistic, cross-channel strategy to achieve those key company goals rather than thinking in channel-specific silos. With this view, marketing leaders should have a clear picture of marketing efforts across the organization to ensure shoppers have a fully coordinated experience on every channel of engagement. Further, this holistic view will allow marketing leaders to start with a marketing strategy rather than a siloed channel strategy.

Preparing for the New Era of Email Marketing in Retail

Whether you’re a frontline email marketer or a marketing leader, there are several steps you can take to prepare for the new era of email marketing in retail, including:

Change Your Mindset on Important Skills

In the old school email marketing world, the most important skills were email expertise: Could you build, test and iterate effectively? In the new era of email marketing — which is all about developing strategies to achieve company objectives — strong business acumen will be more important than email expertise.

Think About Email as a Living, Dynamic Element of Your Marketing

To date, retail marketers have envisioned their email programs as static, with any unique versions of emails manually created. This has meant relying on static data to infer trends, drive audience segmentation, build content variations and test different versions against each other. But this mentality is something marketers will have to leave behind. As email marketing becomes more of a 1:1 communication based on dynamic, real-time data, the content served in each email will be present because individual customers “asked” for it with their behaviors, not because marketers or merchandisers dictated it should be present.

Accept Risk and Let the Results Speak for Themselves

Traditionally, retail marketing teams have conducted large-scale analyses and mapped out projections for campaigns, and then email marketing teams have put the pieces together to make those projections a reality. Going forward, there will be an infinite number of combinations of what individual customers will see in an email, making it impossible to accurately project what customers will see. As a result, you must accept the risk of moving forward without having all the answers first. In this world, the results will dictate what works best.

What Else is In Store for the Future of Retail Marketing?

A new era of email is only the beginning for retail marketing teams. Find out what else to expect from the future of retail marketing as Bluecore’s CEO Fayez Mohamood shares how technology will usher in change over the next five years.

Kim Surko

Kim is the Vice President of Customer Success for Bluecore. Kim leads Bluecore’s Customer Success Managers, Forward Deployed Engineers and Professional Services to ensure customers’ desired outcomes are achieved. Previously, she was Director of Customer Success and Account Management at Oracle Marketing Cloud – Responsys. Prior to Oracle, Kim was Senior Director of Account Management at digital marketing agencies, providing full-service solutions for martech and adtech partnerships. Kim’s passion for solving customer’s business challenges with marketing solutions has driven her career in customer success.