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When Push is Better Than Email

It’s no secret that the vast majority of ecommerce retailers use email as their primary method of communication with shoppers – many do so exclusively. But while email is generally reliable, its biggest flaw is its inability to be delivered in “real real-time.” However timely the delivery of an email campaign, it’s still ultimately up to the discretion of the shopper as to when they decide to open the message. The longer a customer waits to check their email, the more irrelevant your message becomes, and messages that need immediate attention end up decaying in a customer’s inbox.

A retailer that sells handbags, luggage, and backpacks demonstrated this problem when they attempted to send me a post-purchase “thank you” offer via email. By clicking a link, I could redeem a free electronic luggage tag that could be attached to a bag and easily located from a smartphone app. On paper, it was a great way to reward me for my first purchase, to encourage future engagement, and to start the brand-user relationship off on the right foot. Unfortunately, in practice the offer ended up being little more than a false promise: the offer had a 24-hour expiration date, and I only opened the email two days after the brand sent it. When I clicked the link, I learned that the offer had expired and I had missed my opportunity to redeem the luggage tag.

There are two big problems with the retailer’s approach. First, the retailer attempted to deliver a time-sensitive message on a channel that is inherently not time-sensitive. The offer to redeem a free luggage tag only had a 24-hour window before it expired, yet the retailer sent me an email rather than using a more real-time method of delivery. Second, and perhaps more interestingly, I had exclusively been engaging with this retailer via their mobile app – I signed up for an account, browsed products, abandoned merchandise in a shopping cart, and even made my first purchase using my smartphone. Moreover, the retailer had been sending me push messages over the course of my shopping journey to alert me to new merchandise and sales on certain products.

Given the fact that mobile had been my choice channel of engagement, and given the fact that email falls short in terms of delivering time-sensitive information, AND given the fact that this brand was already using push to send me non-urgent messages, this begs the question: Why wouldn’t the brand use push to alert me of a post-purchase thank you offer that I only had 24 hours to redeem? Especially since the brand had demonstrated an ability to reach out to me with more urgency, using email to let me know of a time-sensitive offer was a missed opportunity – doubly so when considering the fact that as a customer I was generally inactive on email.

Using email to send content with a short lifespan leads to many shoppers missing out. If brands aren’t using mobile push or web push to communicate with shoppers, they absolutely need to start doing so. It’s unfortunate that with the exception of using email to try to communicate with me, the retailer mentioned did everything else correctly – they tried to send me a post-purchase thank you offer, and they attempted to reach out to me soon after I’d made my first purchase (a.k.a when my interest in their brand was still at a relative high). If they’d used mobile push or web push, instead of a less immediate channel like email, the chance of my being able to respond and redeem the offer would have been much higher.

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