Where’s My Email?

December 7, 2015

As an avid museum- goer, I have to be on dozens of museum mailing lists. So where’s my e-mail?

With Thanksgiving a fading memory, we are now squarely into the holiday shopping season. And, it’s no secret that online sales are challenging brick and mortar stores for retail supremacy. A survey conducted by the National Retail Federation shows that more than 151 million people shopped either in a store or online. Online shopping even has gained an edge over in-store shopping, with the survey showing 103 million people shopped online, while 102 million people shopped in stores. Obviously, a big number of people are shopping in both places.

The seismic shift in the way people shop, particularly over the holidays, has a massive impact on the way you need to promote your store. What’s happening is that most major retailers have decided to utilize two distinctly different methods to promote their stores. As it has for more than 50 years, the Thanksgiving Day newspaper remains literally stuffed with pullout advertising sections and traditional display ads. And, while newspapers may be a fading media, they are clearly an essential part of holiday retail advertising. When I’m finished with the newspaper and I log into my email I encounter a new barrage of advertisements in a different format from all types of retailers, large and small.

In my email, I’m greeted by Target, Macy’s, Monkey Sports, Costco, PGA Golf Superstore, Home Depot, IKEA, Best Buy, and even Sears (Sears, really?). But the only museum store to pitch me on their holiday wares is the Walker Shop in Minneapolis. Although, I do give props to the Chicago Architecture Foundation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have being regular contributors to my e-mail in box.

What surprises me is that the list of museums advertising to me is so short. Where are all the e-mails from the other museums I’ve visited over the past few years?

Understand, I’m not looking to fill my e-mail inbox with more advertising, but this is a marketing channel that should not be ignored. It’s both affordable (as in free) and direct (as in your face). And in the case of museum stores, I’m actually excited when I see one. After all, where else can you find better holiday gifts than in a museum store? For those desperate shoppers looking for something unique, museum and cultural institution stores provide a direct line to gift nirvana.

The expansion of today’s retail marketplace that includes a prominent online presence is both a blessing and a challenge for smaller retailers. Managing a constantly expanding email list (this is a great thing) can quickly become very time-consuming (this is a little more problematic). It takes a well thought out strategy and deft hand to balance your advertising efforts. Too many e-mails and you wear out your welcome. Too few e-mails and you’re soon forgotten. The wrong e-mail ends up in either the trash or lost in spam. Think of it as a Goldilocks strategy, the balance (and the content) needs to be just right.

And don’t forget there’s now more than one door to your online store. The National Retail Federation survey also pointed out that over 56% of smartphone owners used their devices to research and purchase their holiday items. Almost 58% of tablet users did the same. Last year, Google adjusted their search engine matrix to give mobile friendly websites higher rankings in web searches. This single change alone means you need to invest time to reevaluate your website and how to make it work on mobile devices.

The holiday shopping season is like the Super Bowl for retailers. It’s a special time of year that can radically impact your business for better or worse. And it’s great opportunity for you to prepare your business for the coming year. So, once you’re done decorating your store, the next far more important step is to begin to reach out beyond the walls of your institution and into my e-mail inbox. Yahoo!

Steve White is a writer and entrepreneur based in Denver.

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