Email Discussion is the New Customer Newsletter

It works because it’s customer-made. Can anyone tell me how to stretch a pair of boots? This is a question I could have easily asked. A life-long athlete and runner, my calves never seem to fit in the fashionable styles. Instead, it was asked by a customer of Zappos.com to other customers in the Daily Shoe Digest - Zappos.com e-mail discussion list, sent three times per week.

It works just like an online bulletin board, except it is moderated to ensure relevant, quality discussions and eliminate the flames and off-topic banter common in unmoderated forums. This is not is a company newsletter in the classic term, it’s a user-generated thread created to provide a forum for relevant, interesting, and helpful discussions covering shoe wear. After all, we go to Zappos.com to buy shoes.

You may think that email is not such a big deal, after all it’s been around for a long time now. Think again. Email can be a 2.0 tactic when its connective power is harnessed for the benefit of the community it serves - instead of being a one-way, push technique to sell more.

Here are three ways in which email used this way is direct, relevant, and memorable:

  1. The questions are asked and answered by customers in the community, Zappos.com enables the conversation, they do not run it (just moderate).
  2. You expect and in fact want tips and tricks about shoe-wearing, maintenance and buying.
  3. Chances are the advice comes from people who have tried it first.

I have seen evidence of a selection of responses you can choose from as well. If you want to receive the newsletter, all you need to do is subscribe to it, just like a feed for your email address - so you don’t need to have a feed reader to do so. This allows anyone with an email account to participate.

Do you have suggestions on how to stretch boots? Zappos.com provides a way to email your comment in mailto:digest-submit@zappos.com?Subject=Stretch. I found that putting either a moist newspaper or a rigid piece of cardboard made for stretching the width of the boot inside will loosen the leather.

Valeria Maltoni | Conversation Agent
www.conversationagent.com
http://Twitter.com/ConversationAge

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2 Comments

  • Valeria Maltoni

    Today we are talking about integration of tools. Not everything needs to be interactive - I for one do enjoy when something is interesting reading material that does not require comments. But, there's a whole generation behind me that has grown up interacting with everything. Bottom line is to be relevant and memorable to your customers. Thank you for providing the link.

  • TJ McCue

    Valeria,
    i couldn't agree more with the user-generated email discussion post here. While i don't think the traditional newsletter or the e-newsletter is dead, i think it is on life support. The static newsletters that companies still send are often laughable, sadly so, and don't think about the new customer mindset out there. I've gathered a bunch of studies (done by others) and posted at the SmallBizTrends.com research section that talk about these very sorts of issues. Research shows if you're not interactive, you're practically a non-entity.

    Thanks for a solid post about the importance of conversation.
    TJ
    http://www.smallbiztrends.com/... if anyone's interested.