Some Retailers Realizing That Spamming Current Customers Might Turn Them Into Former Customers

In 2011, the nation’s 100 largest online retailers sent out an average to 177 e-mails per recipient, with some companies blasting more than 500 e-mails per recipient. But a handful of businesses are coming to the realization that it may not be the best idea to flood their customers’ inboxes.

For example, fashion retailer Nicole Miller has gone from sending out three e-mail ads each week to one.

And as part of JCPenney’s attempt to re-position itself as a retailer that doesn’t want to bash you over the head with endless sales, the company has scaled back from daily e-mails to three per week.

“You get into this mind-set that the more emails you send, the more sales you generate,” the CEO of Nicole Miller Inc. tells the Wall Street Journal. “But that can really start to annoy people.”

One study shows that even though the number of e-mails per recipient has jumped 87% since 2007, people aren’t clicking the links as frequently. E-mail recipients in 2007 opened 19% of the retail e-mails in their inbox, and 3.9% actually went to the site. In 2011, only 12.5% of e-mails were read and the number of people clicking through had dropped to 2.8%.

But the folks at Nicole Miller tell WSJ they’ve been able to fight that trend by sending fewer, but better, e-mails:

Since cutting back its volume, Nicole Miller has seen the rate at which customers “unsubscribe”–or request to stop receiving emails–drop, and the percentage of recipients who open the emails has grown from 15% to 40%… Meanwhile, the percentage of online sales that began with an email has grown to 17% from 10%.

Meanwhile, Neiman Marcus sent out 534 emails to its subscribers in 2011 but claims that the percentage of customers who “unsubscribe” hasn’t grown, and that the number of people opening and clicking through has actually increased. The company attributes this success to more-customized e-mails that use customers’ buying and browsing history to show offers that they are more likely to be interested in.

Stores Smarten Up, Send Less Spam []