The personal touch – using electronic marketing

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Electronic communication, such as text messages and emails, are a modern and very effective form of database marketing, advises Sonu Kundi, commercial director, Cromwell Business Systems.

It is a fact of business life that it can cost seven to ten times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. So, knowing who your customers are, where they live, when and what they have purchased from you is essential to generate repeat business.

Increasingly, mailshots of printed leaflets are being seen as old hat – not to mention expensive to create and to disseminate. Database marketing is moving quite swiftly into electronic realms in the form of text messages and emails.

Legal requirements

Inevitably, there are legal requirements. In this case, the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. You will stay legal if you only contact individuals whose mobile ‘phone number or email address you have obtained in the course of a sale – and only send them information about a product or service similar to the one they have already purchased from you’.

You must, however, explain at the point of sale why you are collecting their email addresses and mobile numbers and let them opt-out of giving you the details or receiving any communications from you. You must also provide an opt-out mechanism in all your marketing messages. In the case of text messages, people could text ‘STOP’ to a designated number that will only charge them the cost of sending the message. With emails, there should be a clearly visible UNSUBSCRIBE option. You could also provide a Freephone number. It goes without saying that you must comply with any opt-out requests by flagging the individual’s preferences in your database.

Managing e-communications

So, let’s look at managing electronic marketing communications in an EPOS system such as Cromwell’s Open-Retail. You need to decide what approach to take when your customer is at the point of sale. Your EPOS system should flag up when you have no record of a customer’s email address and/or mobile phone number. Then you need to decide who you ask for personal details. You could capture details only when the sale is of a fully stock-controlled item. Or you could use value of sales. Someone buying a big ticket item may happily provide full personal details. However, a customer who only drops by occasionally for a low value item like a pack of batteries may be less keen. However, you could incentivise your sales team to persuade such customers of the benefits of opting into your e-promotions.

At the next stage you need to determine your objectives for each e-marketing activity. Use your EPOS system to report in detail on every customer – what they have bought; when they bought it; and how much they spent. Based on that information, you could choose to send a generic time-limited money-off voucher or invitation to an event to every single customer – or only to customers that have spent over a certain threshold with you over a designated time period. Or you could be ultra-targeted by segmenting your list by product type or even model type. There is no point sending a promotion on new washing machines to customers that have recently bought a new one (but you might want to contact them about a new dryer of the same brand). You could ask customers to print off a voucher from the email and bring it to your store to collect a free gift; or to quote a code number in the SMS message to obtain a discount. The range of promotions is only limited by your imagination.

You do, of course, have to consider the appearance and content of your e-mail or text message promotion – just as you would when designing a leaflet or advertisement. And you can use text and graphics in any combination to achieve your objective of persuading recipients to visit your store or website. Remember to also identify your company name and address (in short, making it as easy as possible for the recipient to opt out).

All that’s left is for your EPOS system to merge your contacts from your database with your message and launch the promotion. Sending out your e-mail messages will be free, but SMS messages will incur a cost. Here at Cromwell we source SMS credits wholesale, so you can buy them as part of a managed service.

It may all sound daunting, but if you stick to the rules on permission-based marketing, and make your electronic promotions informative and compelling, you really will see increased footfall and sales at the expense of your less switched-on competitors. N

For more information about Cromwell’s services contact Sonu Kundi on 01353 650 900 or skundi@cromwells.co.uk, www.cromwells.co.uk

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