Take a stroll through any high street and you will see what has been largely reported as evidence for the double dip recession: shop fronts boarded, boasts of ‘final reductions’ proved to be honest for once and an absence of bustle. Incontrovertible one might think. However the real cause is email marketing and online sales.

Email Marketing

High Street Lows

Whilst the recession has not helped of course, many believe that the main enemy of the high street is how competitive the pricing of online sales is. With rates, rents and parking pushing up costs it is remarkable that customers are still making their way into town when the price on your email marketing offer is so much cheaper. However, visit one of the big shopping centres and you will find crowds, thinner than before, but still arguably crowds. What drives them to drive all the way there?

I have visited three shopping centres in the past month and, as one would expect, there has been a lot of commonality between them. Shops empty of both stock and customers are common. One three-story mall had been virtually reduced to two due to an exodus of businesses from the top floor.

Like many would in my situation I asked the person I had been obliged to accompany to one particular mall why she bothered. All she had bought was one item that was much cheaper online. She identified the weak spot in my argument and pointed out that I had in fact bought three DVDs.

Email Marketing Lists

Given that I subscribe to a considerable number of email marketing lists, as indeed should you to source ideas, I was fully aware of how much cheaper I could have bought them. One was 80% more than I would have paid online. That included postage. And then there were the on-costs of travel.

The problem for all of us involved in email marketing is that price alone is not sufficient to overturn years of habit. There is a certain tactile enjoyment in fondling DVD cases and reading the publicity blurb. We need to find way of replicating such sensations.

This experience is often a little antiseptic. You are intrigued by the offer, the pictures grab you and you click through to a microsite that is purely dedicated to the buying experience. There is an alternative.

If your product merits it then try and mimic the pleasure people get from shopping in a mall. Provide ways they can view items they could not afford, they do not want, they will not buy. People dream. Most importantly, people impulse buy.

Ensure that this experience is not a chore. For instance, shoppers enjoy meeting other people so consider a forum.

One DVD I bought had digital effects that seemed real. Email marketing might benefit from doing something similar but at an emotional level. Make the Essential experience something to look forward to. They must want to come back for more. A high street without the weather and the parking: how refreshing is that? The absence of crowds with email marketing is no longer a benefit. They have shrunk on the high street as well.