Sometimes doing a little more for our email subscribers can make a lot of difference. Tafford Uniforms ( of North Wales, Pa., faced a challenge to engage email subscribers because of two common but seemingly incongruent realities.

First, customers (mostly nurses and hospital workers) make purchases only two to three times a year. So emailing them every week means that you've got a 6% chance of hitting the subscriber "in market" and ready to buy and a 94% chance of being completely irrelevant. That suggests a lower email frequency that matches the customer buying cycle.

Second, every time a message is broadcast, it generates some revenue, which becomes a nice habit, especially when you've got to hit a specific number each quarter. That encourages the team to increase email frequency.

Because the email-channel revenue is so tempting, Tafford now emails subscribers three times a week, according to David Kaplan, VP of Marketing at Tafford. Every message is a pure promotion, with subject lines such as "Scrubs from $8.99" and "Last Chance for Free Shipping on Thousands of Items."

Although these campaigns still generate revenue (after all, 6% of the audience is in market), the high-frequency strategy was starting to increase the churn rate (unsubscribes because of customer fatigue) and inbox deliverability was at risk due to higher complaints. (Complaints are tracked every time a subscriber gets fed up and clicks the Report Spam button.)

Creating custom subscriber experiences is the right way to reverse customer churn and complaints—as well as improve inbox deliverability, response, and revenue. That brings us to a second set of two seemingly incongruent realities:

  1. Creating customized email experiences is likely to increase customer conversion and average order size, increasing revenue from the channel.
  2. Creating customized email experiences requires some additional effort, data integration, creative, and staff time, costing money and time—both of which are scarce.


So Tafford took a middle road: It made a few simple changes—those that do not require massive data integration—at points in the customer life cycle that are particularly vulnerable to opt-outs or spam reports.

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Stephanie Miller is vice-president of market development for Return Path, Inc. ( Reach her via Twitter (@StephanieSAM) or