Bluecore's latest email benchmark report reveals a 139% increase in click-through rate for personalized emails. Repeat customers are more likely to continue shopping a retailer's brand, but converting that first-time buyer to a second-time purchaser is more difficult.

With emails prompting half (51.0%) of consumers to visit or purchase from online retailers, according to a survey of 1,105 consumers by Internet Retailer/BizRate Insights, engaging consumers through email personalization resulting in higher conversion, click and open rates makes sense.

The 2019 “Mid-Year Retail Email Benchmark Report” by email marketing vendor Bluecore confirms just that: consumers are more likely to click through to a brand’s website if the emails are more personalized to what they have previously been shopping for.

Bluecore found a 139.0% increase in click-through rate for personalized vs. static one-time send emails. Static emails are those sent with the same exact messaging to all or most subscribers, whereas personalized emails include special product recommendations, content and offers depending on the recipient’s interests or browsing history.

Bluecore collected insights from more than 3.26 billion emails sent by more than 400 retail brands between April 2018 and March 2019. Insights include how different types and degrees of personalization impact customer retention, procurement and similar shopper behaviors that enhance email performance. Data included 11 types of trigger emails and one-time sends.

Personalization matters for one-time email sends

The highest click-through rates belonged to emails that advertised a price decrease to a product a consumer had been viewing (8.8% click rate), cart abandonment (8.4% click rate) or an item back in stock (7.0% click rate, rounded).

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Personalized cart-abandonment, price-decrease and back-in-stock emails “create a sense of urgency by capitalizing on high intent signals,” Bluecore reports.

“The complexity of retail marketing programs is increasing to handle hyper-personalization in response to aggressive competitor sets, emerging [direct-to-consumer] brands and rising ad costs for plateauing channels,” says Sherene Hilal, vice president of product marketing and business operations at Bluecore. “Our benchmarks will help retailers create goals to meet or exceed as they map out their holiday programs in this extremely competitive retail landscape.”

Out of 12 email types (including product abandonment, search abandonment, wishlist and more), the click-to-conversion rate for consumers was highest (12.8%) for cart-abandonment emails sent. Second was a post-purchase email (4.7%) closely followed by product abandonment (4.6%).

Conversion rates, clicks and open rates

The biggest find between categorical emails (such as price decrease emails, wish list emails, cart-abandonment emails, etc.) and click-to-open and click-to-conversion rates, however, was the discrepancy between a price-decrease email’s effectiveness in clicks and its ability to generate purchases. Price-decrease emails had the highest click-to-open rates of all categories at 29.7%, but only had a 3.4% click-to-conversion rate, the sixth-lowest rate of all email types,according to Bluecore. The click-to-open rate refers to the total number of clicks in an email as a percentage of the unique opens, whereas the click-to-conversion rate is the total number of purchases made as a result of clicking through an email.

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Despite this, price-decrease emails still had the second-highest estimated revenue per email at $0.66. The highest estimated revenue belonged to cart-abandonment emails, which generated roughly $1.98 per email. Revenue per click was also highest for cart-abandonment emails at $15.04, according to the report.

These personalization email insights are important to retailers as email open rates are flat and trending lower, according to a survey by Internet Retailer. In regards to opening emails from retailers over the past three months, 31.0% of Internet Retailer’s respondents said they opened emails less, 50.0% said they opened roughly the same and 19.0% said they opened more.

Retail verticals

Across retail verticals, home goods had the highest average open rate (33.1%) within all four categories measured (cart abandonment, product abandonment, price decrease and one-time sends), but product-abandonment emails sent by jewelry retailers had the highest overall open rate of 40.4%.

In terms of conversion, the “other” retail category (that is, verticals that did not fit within the apparel, beauty, footwear, home goods, jewelry or sporting goods categories) had the highest average rate at 0.8%, followed by footwear at 0.8%. Again, cart-abandonment emails had the highest overall conversion rate, with those in the footwear vertical being the most effective at 1.9%.

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“The data reinforces our previous assertion that order value impacts how much research shoppers do and the amount of consideration that goes into a purchase,” Bluecore says. “Retailers selling higher-priced items, such as home goods and jewelry, see some of the highest open and click rates but the lowest conversion rates.”

Unsubscribing from emails is highest within high spenders—those spending more than $500 per purchase—across all retail categories, with home goods having the highest rate (0.2%). However, the likelihood of customers purchasing again increases with each additional purchase made. That is, if a customer makes one purchase, he or she only has a 14.5% change of making a second purchase, but if the customer has already made two purchases, there is 27.9% chance that he or she will make third purchase.

What’s difficult with repeat customers, however, is getting them to make that second purchase, Bluecore says. One-time buyers account for 80.9% of customers for those surveyed, with a compound decrease in growth rate across repeated customers of 56.9%. That is, repeat customers account for less customer distribution with two-time buyers representing 12.6% of customers, three-time buyers 3.6%, four-time buyers 1.6%, five-time buyers 0.8% and six-time buyers 0.5%.

“If retailers regularly face a one-and-done buyer situation, they are forced to prioritize expensive customer acquisition efforts over more impactful and less costly customer retention efforts,” Bluecore says.

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