Silverpop Study Uncovers Email Practices That Set Top Retailers Apart

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Email works for retailers because consumers use it. But not all retailers do it well, and some don't even do it at all.

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But here's the most surprising finding of this study

To evaluate the top online retailers, Silverpop, a premier email service provider, joined with Internet Retailer magazine to conduct research for the "Top 500 Guide." The report includes profiles of America's 500 largest retail Web sites ranked by annual sales. Silverpop researchers reviewed the email programs of 820 retailers, comparing the practices of the top online retailers with those not making the cut.

The most successful email marketing programs deliver the products consumers want, when they want them. Retail email marketers can't do that if they don't gather pertinent information at some point during the relationship. Linking opt-in requests to a preference center is a tactic that can make customers more likely to sign up.

In this area, there was a significant difference in the email program of companies ranking in the Top 500 and those not making the list. Nearly six out of 10 retailers in the Top 500 (56 percent) offered a preference center at opt-in, while only one out of four retailers that didn't make the cut did so.

The number of emails sent in a 30-day period varied quite a bit among companies studied. While some retailers practically bombarded inboxes with promotional messages, far too many ignored consumers. Thirty-five percent of retailers failed to send any message at all within 30 days after registration – no confirmation message, no welcome message, no product information or sales notice.

"Delaying a first send only confuses the recipient," said Elaine O'Gorman, senior vice president of marketing and product strategy for Silverpop. "If consumers have to wait for more than a month to receive the first email message from a retailer, chances are they'll have forgotten that they even registered with the company and will hit the spam button to keep such messages from reaching their inboxes in the future."

Silverpop's study also found that nearly three-quarters of the companies in the Top 500 with email programs offered no alternative to customers wishing to unsubscribe, such as a choice of other subscription topics or a change in frequency. Even more interesting, three out of four companies that had offered registrants choices when they opted-in failed to send them to a preference center to be given the option of changing their selections when they hit the unsubscribe link.

"But here's the most surprising finding of this study," O'Gorman said. "One out of five companies that didn't offer registrants choices when they opted in sent recipients to a preference center when they tried to opt out. As a last ditch effort to keep subscribers on board, these companies offered to send less often or send different types of content."

O'Gorman said the study underscores that leading retail companies optimize their programs for best results. For more information about best practices, visit

About Silverpop

Silverpop is a premier email service provider delivering a comprehensive array of on-demand, Web-based software solutions serving the online relationship marketing needs of enterprise-level organizations throughout the world. With offices throughout the United States and in the United Kingdom, Silverpop is the only company that has consistently appeared as one of the top two enterprise-oriented ESPs each of the last four years in international analyst firm JupiterResearch's annual evaluation. Silverpop provides email marketing and lead management technologies to industry-leading companies including Fossil, Siemens, JetBlue, British Sky Broadcasting, Ciena, Pitney Bowes MapInfo, LeanLogistics, Houghton Mifflin and more.

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Kay Cavender
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