SIA Recomends E-Mail Marketing

MCLEAN, Va. (July 18, 2003) — Snow sports industry suppliers who have invested in e-mail marketing are reaping its benefits. By amassing a large e-mail database of customers and people who are interested in their products, suppliers stay in touch with their customers, easily conduct marketing research and use the database to support their retailers.

Opt-in e-mail marketing is permission based marketing. Customers and prospective customers give the supplier permission to communicate with them via e-mail. Plus, every e-mail sent through a reputable e-mail marketing system gives the recipient the ability to “opt-out of the system at any time. What makes permission-based e-mail marketing so effective is that consumers want to receive e-mail with information that interests them. Working in the industry’s favor is the passion skiers and riders feel about their sport is relatively high compared to other passions they may have, so they are more willing to opt-in and give information about themselves.

Suppliers need to look at e-mail marketing as an investment. An effective e-mail marketing system can’t be created overnight. Since e-mail marketing needs to be permission-based, it is difficult to go out and purchase a database. It really needs to be home-grown to be effective. It can take several years to build a large enough e-mail database to be effective. Databases can be easily built from product registration information and from the supplier’s website. Suppliers can also partner with retailers to capture data. Asking for an e-mail address and permission to e-mail in every communication with customers is the best way to build an effective e-mail database. Some suppliers have already amassed e-mail databases of 50,000-75,000 customers.

The ease, flexibility and low cost of e-mail marketing make it a tremendous marketing tool. Most e-mail marketing systems allow an unlimited amount of information to be collected about each e-mail subscriber. The system allows the supplier to query the information and send e-mails tailored to geographic areas and/or to customer preferences. It is all easily done with a few clicks of the mouse.

Since e-mail campaigns can be targeted geographically, suppliers are using large e-mail databases to support retailers and drive traffic to their stores. Some suppliers are sharing the cost of the e-mail campaign with retailers, which can be less that a penny a delivery versus direct mail, which can cost $.50 — $1.00 per delivery. In essence the supplier is acting as a mini ad agency for the retailer. At a penny or less a send it is a very cost effective way to drive customers to a retailer.

Depending on what information is captured about the customer, suppliers can use e-mail to work with promoters to inform customers about events in which their product can be utilized. Not only can the e-mail be targeted to customers with the right product for the event, the e-mail can be targeted geographically depending on the location of the event.

A retailer might be overstocked in a particular size and style of a particular line. The supplier could go into their e-mail database and create an e-mail that not only went to a particular geographic area which supported the retailer, but to customers who were the proper size and had a preference for that particular line. These customers could then be invited to the store or could click onto a link that allowed them to purchase the item on-line at a special price.

Another tremendous value of an e-mail database is for research. Suppliers do not have the advantage of having customers walk through their door everyday like retailers and resorts do. It is more difficult to talk to customers. A lot of very effective research is now being conducted through e-mail. It is very cost effective and data can be captured very quickly.

The low cost, flexibility and ease of use of e-mail marketing has redefined customer relationship markketing for suppliers in the snow sports industry. It gives them a tool they can use to reach out and touch their customers. When applied on a broad scale it can be a tremendous support to their retailers. This strategy requires a commitment on behalf of the supplier and a bit of a paradigm shift in their marketing plan. It cannot be done overnight.