IMN has seen success in the automotive space with an e-newsletter strategy focusing on lifestyle driven content, dropping in e-mail boxes typically only once a month.
Now, the Waltham, MA-based firm is looking to move that strategy to the retail sector, specifically targeting manufacturers who distribute their wares through dealer networks such as retail chain stores.
In the automotive market, IMN works on behalf of auto dealers, originating content for e-newsletters that work to keep the reader’s attention over the long-term. Lifestyle articles related to the use of a car—summer driving destinations, for example—are featured. The newsletters are designed to engage the consumer, and David Fish, CEO, says opt out rates are generally low. “We typically hang on to 90% of the audience over the course of the year.”
That content is peppered with product specific articles – a getaway feature might include a photo and brief description of a new vehicle, he says. Readers can click on that, and then the dealer has a product specific interest indicator.
The third layer of content in the newsletters is a strong call to action – “very direct response oriented, for example, a test drive,” he notes.
This, says Fish, is very different than what traditionally happens in the retail sector, which tends to bombard the consumer with multiple promotional messages designed to primarily get a transaction out of that one message.
“This is becoming less and less appropriate, given the limited time and attention we all have,” notes Fish, who feels something less frequent but more in-depth and content rich is the way to go. “Straight promotional mailings in this context will often burn up e-mail lists at anywhere from a 9 to 30% opt out rate. You’ll never get that back. Once they opt out you’ve lost them forever.”
E-Centric recently talked with Fish about where IMN sees this approach working in the retail environment.
E-CENTRIC: What is the first retail sector you’re going to address?
FISH: We’re starting to reach out to sporting goods manufacturers and their associated retail/dealer networks. We think this is a good place to start since there is a good bit of enthusiasm around participant sports like kayaking, skiing, golfing and so on.
E-CENTRIC: So would you be looking to offer your services to, for example, a ski manufacturer looking to help a retailer connect with their customers who had expressed an interest in the sport?
FISH: Yes. What we’re proposing to do is what we do in the automotive space. We would actually source the content on behalf of the manufacturer and present them with a complete solution. We would particularize the content to the region, [like] ski reports and events calendars. This would roll out as part of a retail-merchandising program, typically from the manufacturer of the skis to retailers themselves.
E-CENTRIC: How would the ski manufacturer judge the ROI of what they were doing?
FISH: We believe we can drive significant traffic to the manufacturer’s site, and whatever marketing programs they are doing. And, we can drive store traffic. One way would be to insert dealer specific store events into the overall event calendar [for the area], like a Thanksgiving sale, for example.
E-CENTRIC: In the sporting category, there’s obviously a lot of seasonality. How are you going to address that?
FISH: That’s a good question. We’re just getting a handle on some of the seasonal aspects. One way would be to try to maintain some degree of continuity for that very reason. We don’t want people to fail to recollect that they’ve plugged into this thing. So going dark in the summer [on a ski newsletter] is probably not the best course of action. But bringing up material sensitive to the fact that it’s the off-season does make sense. For example, some of the ski resorts offer strong summer programs that we could inject in a light way to keep the flame alive. For the snowboarding crowd, there’s a lot of off-snow capability they could avail themselves of, [like] skateboarding. That fits with what we’ve seen in the automotive industry, respecting time and attention with less frequent but ongoing communications and [having] a promotional dimension in layered content.
E-CENTRIC: For this type of newsletter, what do you see as the best frequency of contact?
FISH: Monthly. But we could see going more frequently or adjusting the timing within a month to take account of events significant to the retailer. For example, it might make sense for the December newsletter to get out early enough to feature holiday promotions.