Email Remarketing – why aren't more people using it?

Making the argument for Remarketing with Email

Automated email marketing, Event-triggered email, Behavioural email, Email sequences, Abandoned shopping cart email. Call the technique what you will, I've been a fan of the relevance you can deliver through contextual emails like these for a long time - it's been possible to do this for over 10 years now!
The appeal of delivering the right message at the right time, in the context of an action taken on the site are obvious and compilations of success show this is well-founded. Likewise the recent Redeye report on Email Remarketing -- shows that for different sectors email and engagement and conversion rates are far higher than average email response. This compilation is for retailers:

Why isn't email marketing more commonplace?

But it seems to be tough to setup these type of emails up in practice. This 2011 research from Econsultancy shows that even in 2011, after this technique has been available for 10+ years, it's still surprisingly uncommon with only just over a third of companies using it:
Perhaps that explains why the new term on the block for selling this technique is "Email Re-marketing" - building on the success of Remarketing on Ad networks.
You might think that these technique would be more popular for retailers where the appeal of the abandoned shopping cart email is higher.
The study from RedEye also shows that many retailers are not implementing these types of email:
However, the trend for this technique in the Econsultancy report is more positive though. It shows the change in use of ESP services since 2007. Automated campaigns (+30%), personalisation (+26%) and measurement and analytics (+22%) are the three ESP services that have shown the biggest increase over the last four years.
What do you think the barriers to adoption of remarketing with email are - is it budget, lack of advice, skills, systems, etc? I'm interested to find out! In Part 2 I look at an example of a successful Email Remarketing campaign.

Share your thoughts

  • I agree with the comments above and from my experience email remarketing is extremely successful and straightforward to implement in certain sectors. However one reason why the % uptake of re-marketing may be so low is obtaining the consent for the communication in the first place without lowering the original (first time) conversion rate! For example based on a new consumer visiting the website the consumer would need to provide their consent for email communication either pre or early during the checkout journey or conversion funnel. The arguement could be requesting consent at this stage lengthens the journey and acts as a greater barrier for the consumer to complete the transaction / conversion (more clicks to go through or more information to read (why I should sign up, privacy policy etc.) before the consumer actually picks up speed / trust / excitement? in the funnel.
    Obviously a hefty A/B test would identify whether there is more value in email consent earlier in the form (taking into consideration the email remarketing) then at the end. I wonder whether the glowing stats of the email remarketing performance take into consideration the potential decrease in original conversions – if any. Additionally on that line of thought whether there’s any stats to show that consumers are more likely to provide consent at the start or the end of the transaction?

    Great article as always and good comments, keep up the good work Dave.

    • Thanks Jason, that’s an obvious point which does explain the stats, but not one I’ve heard – you have to rearchitect your whole checkout to ensure email is collected with initial data. Of course this could affect conversion although I suspect not if implemented correctly – it’s alongside other personal details. Have to get the messaging right though and use implicit opt-in under the UK PECR.

      Interesting link.

  • The single most important thing that I’ve learned by marketing online is this. In order to become successful, you must build your own list. Regardless of how “hard” or impossible to some it may seem, it’s the very first step in the right direction before anything else.

    Your number one priority is to build your own list of subscribers. Your subscribers count on you to deliver relevant content that will educate them in whatever niche you are involved with, which is why they have chosen to subscribe to your list.

    Building a lead capture page and an autoresponder system is only as hard as you choose to make it. If you feel you are stuck, you can always outsource the hard stuff and then concentrate on just promoting your lead capture page to build a sizeable list.

    Without a doubt, email marketing in my honest opinion is one of the most effective ways to market your business online and allows you to connect with your subscribers on a much more personal level. It builds your brand and allows you to make a great income.

  • It is not just email re-marketing we should all think about but context-driven messaging.

    The space on your website that you use for a banner advertisment for your own product or service, why should that stay static – make the space aware of what the potential customer has been looking at and doing on your website, measure their digital footprint.

    Has the person been jumping back-and-forth between reassuring information, are they exhibiting behaviour which suggests they just need a little nidge, dangle the carrot, persuade them to get in touch or buy – make the space change and convince the user (discount, 2-4-1…)

    • I like your thinking James! There are also now plenty of plug and play tools for web personalisation: which gives you that contextualisation you mention. These tend to be applied on retail sites, but can potentially be used on all sorts of sites – exciting potential.

      They’re also good for international marketing. I have a global project with a client at the moment. Much of the traffic for new product launches is on a centralised Blog-type site but without any links back to the product for users in local markets, so we’re working on developing a widget that refers back to the country site or local market suppliers.

      • Ideally you’d want an automated text parser that when it identifies a keyword string on the page that has been defined somewhere i.e. “Product XYZ” + associated marketing message it shows a ballon-type rollover that gives the user an on-screen, in-context, marketing message + a ‘learn more’ link.

        Giving the user a concious chioice to make and hopefully ‘click’ would allow the business to have a data point that may suggest where the user is in their buying cycle, these sorts of tactics can bring a business toward behavioural measurement and determination of potential lead score and therefore allowing you to throw-up the right sort of messaging for them.

  • Gian commented on May 13, 2011

    Thank you Dave for this great post,

    I’m a digital marketer working for a Spanish regional airline and in my case the lack of technical knowledge is a big barrier for implementation.

    For this reason I wonder if some IT expert could briefly explain the technology behind an e-mail remarketing solution for cart abandonment, especially if the payment step is done in a third party platform.

    How does it work? with cookies and sessions?

    Thank you


  • Hello Dave,

    Thank you for your very informative and timely article. The lack of companies who retarget through email is simply astonishing, and even more so when you look at some of the companies who don’t use email retargeting who by all means should. Our company, FetchForce, specializes in abandonment solutions. One of the main ways we recapture abandoners is through the use of retargeted emails to those who abandon web forms or checkout processes before completion. Our technology can monitor the forms in real time and capture data even when the user fails to push the submit button. Our clients recapture on average 11-26% of those who abandon after leaving an email.

    The three biggest issues we run into when determining if we can work with a company are:
    #1- I.T.! I.T.! I.T.! Did I say I.T.? It is amazing how hard it can be to get a four line javascript code pasted on a website.
    #2- Comprehension: Most companies choose the path of tradition and fail to realize the importance and value in email retargeting. ( I wIll have to send them this article 🙂
    #3- Reluctance to aggressively remarket: Some companies boggle my mind. They will drop cookies into a browser of someone who visits their website but will not email someone who abandons their web form after completing 90% of the fields because they don’t want to seem “pushy.”

    We would be interested in seeing what you have in store for Part 2! Check us out at and feel free to contact me with any questions on our technology and capabilities.

    Twitter @FetchForce

  • Jon Simmonds commented on May 12, 2011

    Personally, I’m hugely in favour of email re-marketing, but have found that many organisations find the infrastructure constraints difficult. I agree with the previous comment that it’s not rocket science, but it also depends how many disparate databases and CRM systems companies have. All too often, in larger organisations, it’s the internal connections between multiple systems that present a significant IT barrier. As a digital marketer, the hardest part of the task can be convincing the technical team of the benefits of doing this. It’s the Catch 22 of never having been able to do it, so not having results to back up the requirement to do it. That’s where stats like these come in very handy.

    • Yes Jon – the data integration issues may stop many. Many of the Remarketing email services could be run independently for a trial to make the case, if you could get that past corporate IT.

      If this post helps with making the business case for someone, then it will be worthwhile!

  • James commented on May 12, 2011

    I can’t believe remarketing is only at 37%! I’m quite pleased though that content personalisation is at just under a third though – we have built this into our personalisation and recommendation platform, so retailers can remarket, through email abandonment/promotional autoresponders/etc, suggesting relevant products based on their behavioural history. It makes for very cool stuff!

    • Yes, that indeed sounds cool James. So you system can auto-suggest relevant offers in dynamic content based on categories browsed like display remarketing with Criteo for example?

      Any examples of creative/cases would be interesting?

      • James commented on May 23, 2011

        We’re currently working with a jewellery brand to do a number of clever things:

        * Cart abandonment retargeting
        * Post purchase upsell – a week after buying a product, they are sent an email with accessories relevant to their purchase and what we know about their profile
        * Customers who haven’t purchased online are encouraged to register the product they own – email newsletters can then be personalised based on this, their profile (if known) or others like them.

        In addition to products, we can suggest other relevant content such as blog posts and video tutorials, as well as inject relevant banners/graphics into emails.

  • Becs commented on May 12, 2011

    I’d argue it isn’t hard to set up…it’s a cron job on the database (or triggered from a page once signed up etc) and only as hard as sending an order confirmation. I suspect a lot of people don’t do it because they’re not capable of making great emails. All too often companies produced emails that are such poor quality/badly tested it destroys the brand image. Therefore it’s probably better if they don’t do it rather than risk their reputation!

    • Thanks Becs! Yes it’s not rocket science. It seems it’s very popular with smaller “get rich quick” sites using tools like Aweber or MailChimp, yet not used so much by larger corporates. Maybe their Email Service Providers don’t support it so well.

      In my experience it’s down to organisational barriers of a campaign mindset and planning of the campaigns against a calendar around the year. Instead to use Email remarketing requires a separate business case and project.

      I take what you say – there are lots of examples of bad business email, but often here a simple branded post-card format is all that’s required – easy to get right surely.

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