Relevancy Matters in Email Marketing

Let’s begin with a profile of a customer who received an email from a large retailer.

Name: John S
Gender: Male
Age Range: 40 -50
Relationship: Married
Location: Seattle, WA
Profession: Executive in an Interactive and Technology Company
Hobbies: Golf, Madden 09,
Shopping Habits: Shops at, mostly interested in shoes and have borught a lot of them from Also buys shirts, trousers and other male clothing items. Loyal customer at and Nordstrom for many years. Has an account online and login quite often when browsing.

From what it sounds like he is a perfect customer for any male clothing items that Nordstorm wants to sell. He will be very keen to look at Nordstrom promotions. He has opted-in for an email from Nordstrom.

Last week, John and I were talking about e-retailers, targeting (in particular Behavioral Targeting), personalization and product recommendations online. During our discussion he said “you have to see an email that I received from Nordstorm”. He forwarded me the email which is shown below:

Now my questions to Nordstrom or other etailers who are sending similar emails is, “Why would you do that?” You have so much information on your customers (John in this case) why not use that information to power your emails?

John was not annoyed with Nordstrom for this email(he is a huge fan of Nordstrom. Good for the brand.) but he was disappointed. He would probably have bought something if Nordstrom had sent something relevant to him in that email.

Here is a customer waiting to convert and you are disappointing him with irrelevant emails? Why?

Don’t you want happy customers who are ready to open their wallet and give you money? Don’t waste your and his time with irrelevant emails send them relevant emails.

Here are few ways to create relevancy in emails

  1. Use his browsing history to look at what has been looking at but has not bought yet – Target the correct promotion
  2. Use his past email click-though behavior to determine what might interest him
  3. Use his checkout funnel abandonment history to determine what to send in an email
  4. Use his past purchase history and make proper recommendations
  5. Use the frequency and recency of his visits to the site to determine when to send him a coupon and type of promotion
  6. If you do feel you have to send something unrelated to persons interest (e.g. provide him an opportunity to see what else you sell maybe lure him into buying something he might not have considered) then send it along with something relevant to him. E.g. send discount on women apparel along with some discount for men stuff
  7. If you don’t have anything relevant to send then don’t send an email. Consumers are bombarded with irrelevant emails every day, you need to stand out and make your email count so don’t send anything irrelevant

Sending relevant emails is not rocket science. Most of the email tools/services have a way to send highly customized emails. You just have to explore them.

Do you have examples of irrelevant emails or relevant emails that you would like to share? Send them to me.

Comments? Questions?





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3 Replies to “Relevancy Matters in Email Marketing”

  1. There’s no doubt that email marketing works BUT companies seem to ignore the single largest online advertising venue available: their own regular external emails. Why not use these emails to market the senders company?
    You have a website.
    You send emails.
    Why not multiply your sales-staff by “wrapping” the regular email in an interactive letterhead?
    No other marketing or advertising medium is as targeted as an email between people that know each other (as opposed to mass emails). These emails are always read and typically kept.
    ONE company out there offers a solution that is server-based (i.e. compatible with all email clients), has a complete back-office with a WrapMaker, reporting etc and only charge $5 per user per month. That company is WrapMail, found at
    And……..WrapMail’s show up WITHOUT the red x and message to download images!
    Now, that’s taking email marketing to next, and obvious, level.

  2. Interesting post,

    Have a quick question for you though. In you experience, is it really possible/economical to segment your customers in this way? I have quite a bit of experience in working with companies with large lists (200k+) and the number of sub-segments is already in the thousands and is a full time job to manage for 2 people. Being that email marketing is a numbers game, is the increased conversion really worthwhile, or are you looking at it more from a customer satisfaction angle?


  3. This was a very good blog post indeed.

    I think some of the email marketers think that more emails -> more money.

    But as you described in this blog post, this is definitely not the case.

    It might need a bit more work to send relevant emails to the customers, but once you get it working, you will more likely to get more clicks and make more money and keep your customers happy.

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