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Despite the fact email is one of the most cost effective forms of digital marketing, and a proven route to drive traffic, only 30% of luxury brands are using it to its full potential, says customer engagement specialists ContactLab.

Its new report, conducted in conjunction with Exane BNP Paribas, suggests email marketing practice is relatively primitive in the sector, and reveals an opportunity gap surrounding better segmentation and personalisation of content, as well as integration with other channels.

It highlights brands including Burberry, Cartier and Armani as leading on its “Email Competitive Map”, comparative to others such as Cèline, Prada and Givenchy who are dragging behind. Unsurprisingly, such email performance seems to align with overall digital competency, according to the research.

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Other negative factors specific to email strategy include excessive frequency and an overwhelming commercial bias. But it’s brands who do not exploit data collection to achieve full segmentation that create the largest impression of complacency, it suggests.

Marco Pozzi, author of the research, says: “Achieving customer segmentation will always be a challenge but there remains a lot of room for luxury brands to differentiate in their emails and create more personalised campaigns. Simply sending generic content and treating all customers as one does not build a relationship with customers. Customer shopping habits have changed and they expect an integration of different channels as part of the omnichannel experience. ”

It’s not all bad news however, there are a few luxury brands who do already distribute personalised messages. Of those, Dolce and Gabbana is leading, followed by Armani, which addresses recipients according to gender/title, building a strong relationship with customers in the process.

Continuing on a positive note, ContactLab pointed out that, across the board there is good performance on email localisation (key languages) and structure (composition, visualisation).

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“With the modern customers having an overload of content and often bombarded with emails, brands need to ensure the emails they distribute are relevant and thus capturing the attention of the consumer,” Pozzi adds. ContactLab’s study suggests customers prefer a varied mix of content that isn’t too commercial. Hermès leads the way with a balanced mix of branding, commercial and store-focused content, it highlights.

The report outlines the fact email marketing offers opportunities for brands to receive large amounts of traffic via smartphones and tablets particularly. Time spent browsing on such devices is notoriously short, so targeted emails that stand out from the crowd are essential.

So what does the future look like for email marketing? Luxury brands need to review the different services they offer and integrate cross-channel communication. A small number of brands ask for ZIP codes and postcodes, which could be used in conjunction with store locators. Elements like ‘buy now’ buttons and links to shoppable apps should also be introduced. Right now, only Cartier includes a “Book an Appointment” tab and only Burberry offers a “Collect in Store” option. Technology to incorporate cross-channel communication through email is already available, so expect to see more of this sometime soon.

It’s worth remembering that although email is only one aspect of the ecosystem, the impact of effective digital marketing can result in a 40% increase in revenue. A separate study by McKinsey also shows that 75% of luxury consumers interact with at least one digital touchpoint before making a sale in the offline world. A strategic use of email that caters to the user’s needs must be implemented.