A new email technology helps Plow & Hearth win back inactive shoppers.

While home décor retailer Plow & Hearth LLC has collected more than a million customer emails, it only sends marketing messages to several hundred thousand of those addresses, says Cindy White, senior e-commerce marketing manager for the retailer. Plow & Hearth, No. 659 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 1000 Database, also operates a few other sites, including children’s toy site Magic Cabin.

Plow & Hearth must contend with major email service providers, including Google Inc.’s Gmail, which will send emails to spam if a customer hasn’t engaged—such as opened or clicked within a message—with an email from a specific sender within a certain period of time. Much like Google’s search engine result algorithm, the details surrounding what triggers a message to land in a spam folder are not made public and require a bit of trial and error on the retailer’s end.

“Every company is different, but for us we’ve found that if a shopper hasn’t opened an email from us in 12 months, it typically was going to spam,” White says.

That meant Plow & Hearth had a massive database of consumer email addresses it could no longer market to, and many of those consumers might be interested in the retailer’s products, just not on a frequent basis. “We sell outdoor patio sets, for example. I’m not going to buy a patio set every few months,” White says. “Just because I’m not opening every email doesn’t mean I won’t be interested in products down the line.”

In the fourth quarter of 2017, Plow & Hearth employed a new service from vendor 4Cite called Shopping Elsewhere Triggers. The retailer pays a flat monthly fee for 4Cite, White says, declining to be more specific.

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Plow & Hearth provided 4Cite with a list of email addresses of shoppers who had not opened one of its emails in the last year. It then created an email for this group of inactive customers offering 20% off and free shipping for orders over $65. 4Cite’s Shopping Elsewhere Triggers technology can identify when an inactive Plow & Hearth customer is shopping online with another retailer via its website visitor identification technology network, which uses tracking pixels placed on other retail sites. It then immediately sends the dormant Plow & Hearth customer the promotional email, reaching her when she is in shopping mode. With this service, a single email to one inactive customer isn’t flagged for spam by email service providers.

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The emails sent to inactive shoppers using the new program garnered a 16% open rate. Shoppers who were sent the emails spent 139% more than the inactive shoppers who made a purchase by coming to Plow & hearth via another channel such as paid search or an affiliate but did not receive targeted emails. Additionally, the shoppers who purchased from the specialized emails had a much higher average order value than its average shopper, far above the $65 threshold for free shipping included in the email offer, White says.

The sales from the emails were an added bonus, White says. The main reason White implemented the program was to get inactive shoppers to open an email from Plow & Hearth so the retailer could send emails to them without them landing in their junk folder.

“We quickly added thousands of people back into our active regular email file,” White says. “My main goal was to get those opens so we could add these people back to our list.”

White says it was easy to set up the new technology. The main task was creating an engaging email to send to customers with an aggressive offer to get shoppers to open it. The other task included sending 4Cite its list of inactive emails, which took less than a minute. 4Cite can pull that list daily from Plow & Hearth as it updates with new customers and when others become active again.

We quickly added thousands of people back into our active regular email file.

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Plow & Hearth also uses 4Cite to collect more emails via the lightbox it displays on its site when new customers first visit its website.

When a new shopper visits PlowandHearth.com, she will see the prompt to enter her email in exchange for a discount. If she initially opts to close the box, the email submission box and promotional offer—typically $10 off—remains at the bottom of the page in case she changes her mind.

“I know I often just ‘X’ out of those boxes,” White says. “But sometimes I wind up wanting to purchase later and want the discount but I can’t find it again. So, I end up going to Retail Me Not and looking for a coupon code, which is exactly what we don’t want. We want their email address. This offers a nice, easy way for them to find it again.”

The new, persistent box led to a 10% lift in email captures as compared to when Plow & Hearth didn’t offer the persistent email submission box and a 20% increase in orders from new email sign ups.

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