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How Limoges Jewelry spun gold out of its email marketing

The brains behind Limoges Jewelry understand the power of personalization better than most retailers. For more than 115 years, the Chicago-based company has sold engraved rings, necklaces and other trinkets to consumers looking to commemorate a loved one or a special occasion. But when it came to building a meaningful connection with customers via email marketing, Limoges stumbled.

In 2011, the company's email marketing was in "serious disrepair," says Jon Ozaksut, who was Limoges' e-commerce marketing manager at the time. Two-thirds of its email subscribers had not clicked on a company message in more than a year. Open rates were below three percent. "Customer engagement and email revenue were withering on the vine," explains Ozaksut.

Fast forward two years and Limoges' email marketing is on a tear. In the first three months of this year, revenues from email marketing surged 40 percent compared to the first quarter of 2012. Open and click-through rates are soaring. Longstanding customers are re-engaging, and new customers are discovering the site.

Most telling? Limoges sent 40 million email messages in 2011. Last year the company sent 15 million — and saw its conversion rates rise 40 percent.

An investment in technology

So what changed for Limoges — and so quickly? The company got a lot smarter about its email marketing — specifically, how it used technology to engage new and existing customers. "From a technology standpoint," says Ozaksut, "we weren't ready to market to our customers on a one-to-one basis." That changed with the deployment of a new platform that now allows the company to segment customers and customize its messaging based on common traits like profile preferences and browsing history.

Next, Limoges set out to sign up new email subscribers and re-engage those who were unresponsive to company emails.

The easy fix: Finding new subscribers

Adding new subscribers was relatively easy. Limoges now had the ability to promote its email subscription box in more places on its site, and to better track where consumers were signing up (say, Facebook or a specific product page). The result: email subscriptions grew as much as 400% year over year. Each new subscriber then received a "Welcome" email; sales attributed to the introductory message grew 18 percent.

The bigger challenge: Enticing inactive subscribers to click

The second key piece of Limoges' email marketing focused on consumers who had not responded to company emails in at least six months. The goal was threefold: to win back and actively engage with some inactive subscribers; to identify a second segment of subscribers who might welcome one or two emails a month; and to cut from its subscriber list recipients that clearly were not interested. The campaign, which began in mid-2012, happened in three stages:

  1. Inactive subscribers received an email offering about 25 percent off their next jewelry purchase. If the recipient clicked on the message within three days, she was kept on the list to receive all monthly emails.
  2. Subscribers who didn’t respond within three days were sent a non-promotional email inquiring about their jewelry preferences. The message asked them to click on one of the ring styles they preferred. Those who engaged were put on the list to receive all emails. Those that did not respond were put on a list to receive one or two emails a month.
  3. Six months later, Limoges repeated the exercise: subscribers who had not engaged in 12 months were sent an offer of 30 percent off their next purchase. Recipients who opened the message were kept on the email list. Those that did not were sent a second email three days later, asking for their preferred jewelry style. This time, however, the group that did not respond was sent a third message acknowledging their lack of interest and announcing they would be taken off the subscriber list unless they indicated otherwise.

The payoff: Higher sales, new and engaged subscribers

Today, the company's "welcome" campaign is often the biggest revenue driver of all its email marketing initiatives. Monthly email sign-up rates have doubled and even quintupled compared to the year-ago month. The number of visitors to the company's website who then sign up for emails rose 200 percent from 2011 to 2012. "What's also really exciting," says Ozaksut, "is that nearly half of the email addresses in our active full file today are less than a year old."

The email sign-up campaign helped Limoges replenish its subscriber list with consumers who are engaged. While the re-permission program brought thousands of inactive customers back, it also forced the company to week out two-thirds of its entire email list. Says Ozaksut: "We no longer send out messages to people who aren't interested."

Now the re-permission program is recurring. If a customer doesn’t respond to email in six months, the campaign is triggered automatically.

What did Limoges learn from its email marketing makeover? When it comes to engaging with customers, context is everything. Consumers are increasingly comfortable with — even enthusiastic about — brands that market to them individually based on their profile preferences and website behavior. The old "batch and blast" strategy no longer works. As Limoges and other companies that have embraced personalization know firsthand, the results speak for themselves.

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