Although much attention has been paid to the buzzy world of social marketing, it’s still the more traditional (dare we say) channel of email marketing that is driving the results. Email continues to generate the highest rate of conversion (to traffic) of any digital marketing channel — 4.25% in Q2 of 2012 vs. 2.49% for search and 0.59% for social media. In our recent report Digital IQ Index: Fashion, we found that fashion brands are starting to recognize the power of email marketing: one in three host a pop-up on their site encouraging shoppers to provide their emails and some, such as Oscar de la Renta and Stella McCartney, even partially gate site browsing until shoppers have input their data.

However, despite strong conversion numbers, email click-through continues to decrease (4.7% in Q1 of 2012 vs 5.9% in 2011 and 6.0% in 2010), suggesting that stronger email marketing messaging is imperative. We found that email frequency in the fashion industry is low at 0.96 emails per week — as compared to 2.7 emails per week averaged by specialty retailers. Furthermore, while data shows that almost a third of emails are now opened on mobile or tablet devices, one in three fashion brands continue to send emails that are not optimized for the small screen.

Leading the industry are three high-IQ brands that are getting it right. Digital genius Kate Spade sends quirky, eye-catching emails featuring colorful animation that’s completely customized for mobile viewing. Ted Baker leverages basic customer data to create personalized emails with a birthday incentive, a 10% off discount code. And John Varvatos sends three abandoned-cart reminder emails over the course of one week, with the third offering free shipping as an extra incentive. Surprisingly, John Varvatos is one of only nine brands that have adopted abandoned-cart email marketing, suggesting there is still much room for growth for fashion brands in this channel.

To learn more about the Digital IQ Index: Fashion, download an excerpt of the report here.

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