The weary American consumer is creating major challenges for retailers. Two pieces of evidence: 1) declining retail sales and 2) declining open rates rates for e-mail. An article appearing online at The New York Times reports that retail sales in October experienced the largest monthly drop ever. It is feared that the 2.8% drop from September and 4.1% drop from last October are not the last dips to be felt in retail sales. Despite retailers’ best efforts to attract customers with promotions and incentives, consumer response may be soft for the near future.
If the bleak sales picture is not enough bad news for retailers, another study shows that a promotion tactic often used by retailers, e-mail, is less effective with consumers these days. Research by MailerMailer found that the open rate for consumer e-mails dropped from 16.1% in the first half of 2007 to 13.2% in the same period in 2008. Consumers that are being cautious at best or have less money to spend appear less interested in opening e-mails from marketers because it means they may have to decide whether to spend money they may or may not have!
The decline in e-mail open rates should hardly discourage marketers. E-mail is a very cost effective medium to use, and permission-based e-mail campaigns still are based on customers’ desires to have a relationship with a company from which they have consented to receive e-mail communications. It does mean that the relevance of every message sent to customers must be evaluated in an effort to make it worth consumers’ time and effort to open marketing e-mail messages.