Retailers Have Lost the Email-Capture War: 3 Ways to Turn the Tide

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Email capture is a critical marketing tool for retailers. It accounts for 17% of total digital budgets for marketers in the U.S. every year. However, current methods for email capture have been largely ineffective because they offer minimal value for the customer and are typically used at the point-of-sale (POS) -- a stage of the transaction that offers little incentive to opt in.

The good news is there are other techniques that retailers can use to reinvigorate customer motivation for participating in email marketing campaigns. Here are three:

1) Implementation of "free" in-store Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi marketing is a terrific tactic that's too often overlooked by retailers. Even though in-store wireless internet access is a recurring monthly expense, there are ways to get a strong return on that investment through data collection. With email sign-up acting as a barrier to connectivity, retailers can transform free Wi-Fi access into a valuable marketing tool to grow their customer email list, distribution of personal and automated marketing messages -- while gathering valuable in-store behavioral analytics.

The availability of free connectivity can make or break the shopping experience for many consumers. According to research from Yankee Group, 96% of customers prefer locations that provide free Wi-Fi, and return to those stores that offer it. It's a win-win for both sides. Shoppers can use their devices to access a retailer's mobile site, and retailers can simultaneously learn more about users while offering a better shopping experience.

2) Digital payment and receipts

POS doesn't usually offer much value for capturing email addresses. Digital payment and receipts, however, are two ways that retailers can capture emails at the POS transaction stage, while offering additional convenience and, therefore, incentive for the customer. Unlike other methods, which focus on enriching the shopping experience, digital payment and receipts simplify the checkout process.

According to an Epsilon survey of almost 4,000 retailers, 35% offer digital receipts. And digital receipts have several benefits for both the customer and the retailer:

  • They reduce the customer's carbon footprint, allowing them to track an entire purchase history in their email inboxes;
  • They can be leveraged into customer loyalty programs, coupons and more; and
  • They help draw the customer back to the store, which increases ROI by ensuring additional future spend and return foot traffic.

3) Technological innovations

To retake ground lost in the email capture war, retailers should begin to make better use of technology in-stores in a way that challenges traditional consumer psychology. From augmented reality to high-tech kiosks, evolving technology opens new doors for reshaping the retail shopping experience. This concept can also be applied to in-store e-mail capture. Crate & Barrel is a great example: it recently launched a tablet-based experience that bridges the gap between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar. The result? An increase in its email sign-up rate from 26% to 41%.

Here's how it works: Customers pick up a tablet and use it as a mobile tote bag. From there, they can scan SKU codes in-store to get information about products. They can also search items and create shopping lists based on their interests. Crate & Barrel then takes things one step further, notifying users that they can offer up their email addresses to unlock even more comprehensive features to the experience. Those that opt in can then send themselves the saved items list for future purchase online or simply walk up to the checkout line, pay for the items in their list and have a store associate gather them afterwards.

Email capture is one of the easiest ways for retailers to measure customer engagement, BUT actually getting the email addresses is often the tricky part. Keeping these methods in mind will help improve consumer marketing efforts while enhancing the overall shopper experience.

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