Feb 24, 2002 (07:02 PM EST)
Offline Tack Gets Customers Online

Read the Original Article at InformationWeek

It's somewhat ironic that a lingerie store wants to get even closer to its customers. But Victoria's Secret is doing just that with a new E-mail marketing strategy that integrates offline promotions with online customer contact.

The company is using a hosted E-mail marketing package from Digital Impact Inc. Victoria's Secret segments its audience demographically and delivers specific messages, while refining the strategy throughout a campaign. The retailer then times its catalog distribution with the E-mails. "Our goal is to provide the same message to the same customer at the same time," says Ken Weil, VP of new media at Victoria's Secret. For instance, a customer whose purchase history indicates a preference in swimwear will receive an E-mail promoting a swimsuit sale and will get the most recent swimwear catalog.

Victoria's Secret has used E-mail marketing since 1998 and has a distribution list of 4.5 million subscribers. It signed with Digital Impact in October, a partnership the companies revealed this month. With Digital Impact, Victoria's Secret can do its own campaign management, analysis, and creative content; Digital Impact manages distribution and tracks results.

That setup is key for marketers who want to alleviate stress on internal IT systems but still monitor and analyze results in-house, Forrester Research analyst Shar Van Boskirk says. Outsourced E-mail distribution, which lets marketers focus on strategy, generates a purchase rate of about 6%, while nonoutsourced E-mail distribution, in which the marketer needs to interact more continually with internal IT partners, generates a 1.4% purchase rate, Boskirk says.

Digital Impact lets Victoria's Secret test the response rate of various E-mail formats, including rich text, HTML, and text. The company's previous outsourcer wasn't able do this, Weil says. "Clearly, HTML has the best response rate, especially for us since we're such a visual brand."

Victoria's Secret looks for the types of promotions most likely to generate sales. It can separate customers into segments and can run two test campaigns for each group to see which has the best response rate. "We track everything from open rate to click-through rate to pur-chase," Weil says. "It's all about the ROI and profitability. We're looking for that sale."