Borrow Winning Email Strategies from Online Retailers

By Ray Parenteau

It’s been months since you placed those online orders for your holiday shopping. Yet, chances are you are still receiving several email messages per week from those online retailers (unless you have opted out).

The reality is that retailers use some of the most sophisticated digital marketing strategies including targeted email, remarketing campaigns, deep analytics and extensive testing of marketing components (offers, creative, timing, big data, etc.)

Many of these email tactics don’t easily transfer to marketing bank product and services. We don’t have “sales events” or exciting new gadgets and products that can be highly personalized to our customers. It’s a challenge, but there are some key takeaways we can apply to bank marketing.

— Data capture: Retailers have long known that information is gold. They capture (or overlay) data that will help them connect with you at the right time, with the best offer, via multiple channels. For banks—it starts with capturing email addresses at point-of-sale. You can’t build an effective email program without capturing (and maintaining) a substantial percentage of customer email addresses. Email should be part of every new customer sign-up, as well as a focus for frontline staff serving branch traffic.

— Nurture your email channel: As an online shopper, you are accustomed to receiving emails from your favorite stores. The same needs to happen with banking. Establish regular email communications, and keep it relevant with a mix of information, education and promotion. Consumers don’t mind hearing from their banks. In fact, several studies indicate that email is their preferred communication channel. Email messages that are consistent and relevant will continue to build trust and forge a digital connection.

— Segment for relevance: Relevance is in the eye of the beholder (recipient). By using simple data building techniques, you can create individual profiles, as well as “personas” for customer cohorts. If you have an MCIF, using that rich intelligence can yield substantial results, while protecting your email relationship from being saturated or off-target. Timely, relevant email messages are a powerful, cost-effective way to connect with your customers and grow your relationships.

— Automate: The biggest complaint about retail email is frequency (too much email). But many consumers tolerate the high frequency due to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). With bank email, that would often be cause for immediate opt-out … not a good outcome.

A robust email program would include newsletters, product promotions, targeted cross-sells, PR releases, educational content, event invitations and seasonal announcements. Managing all these communications can quickly become unwieldy without adequate resources. You can scale—and manage—your program by leveraging email’s natural advantages: automation, integration, real-time segmentation, just-in-time scheduling, drip campaigns, ready-to-go templates, automated file updates and more. Having a predeployment approval process will also simplify your campaigns and prevent errors.

— Integrate with your sales process: Email is a highly effective direct response channel (with the highest ROI, according to the Direct Marketing Association). By using response analysis, follow-up campaigns and connecting into your sales process, you can leverage campaigns into tangible results. A recipient that indicates an interest in your home equity products by clicking on a rates link in your message should be flagged for follow-up, either by email or personal contact. You could even deploy a remarketing campaign that pops up an offer as your prospect navigates the Web. Sound familiar?

In summary, many e-retailers use sophisticated and proven email techniques to achieve consistently solid results. Why not adapt some of these to your program?


Ray Parenteau is founder and president of ClickRSVP, a full-service email provider specializing in financial institutions since 2001. Email Ray at [email protected]

Online training in digital, mobile and social media from ABA.