Thursday, 13 October 2011

You haven't missed me

My inbox is annoyingly cluttered with messages from retailers who profess to miss me because I haven't shopped with them recently.

Now, before I get stuck in to them, let me start by saying that email programmes aimed at encouraging lapsed customers to return are most definitely a good a thing. The old adage about the cost of keeping an existing customer versus acquiring a new one is just as relevant today as it has ever been. And the cost of renewing a customer's relationships with your brand through a well implemented email program can be minimal. Even where offers are used to tempt back lapsed customers, marketers will usually find that the cost and effort is significantly less than new customer acquisition.

Such programmes can also be a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of why customers have lapsed in the first place. You can do something about it and maybe begin to recognise behaviours of customers who are in danger of quitting your brand before they leave. Not easy to do though, especially where  the products you sell are purchased infrequently.

But to start such an email by telling me you've missed me? Are you suggesting that the brand itself has missed me? That's just preposterous. A brand is incapable of emotions. Or are you saying that the people who work there have missed me? I electronically submitted some personal information to you some time ago and you sent me a product through the post or allowed me access an online service. How can you possibly miss me?

Of course, what you are saying is that you've noticed that I haven't shopped on your site for a while. You've created a system rule and my inactivity on your site has triggered your database to send some of my details to your email service provider where they populate a template email that finds its way to my inbox. And that would be just fine if weren't for the fake sentimentality. Plenty of retailers don't bother to do these things. They'll just add me to their customer churn figures and probably complain about the cost of acquisitions.

You've been thoughtful. You could explain why you're emailing me and even ask me directly if there's anything wrong, if there's a reason why I've not bought from you recently. Just don't patronise me by pretending we're old drinking buddies who have forgotten to stay in touch.

I've had emails recently from I-Want-One-Of-Those (a brand I normally quite like), Nectar and Ebuyer that all profess to miss me. But the clear winner is from Maximiles (I don't know, I don't even remember signing up to their emails), which not only explains that they miss me, but stupidly states: "We've noticed that you haven't used your Maximiles Account in a while and we've missed your company."