More than 80% of the UK's top e-retailers are missing out on marketing opportunities by failing to gather relevant information from their customers, leading to large amounts of untargeted correspondence, according to a study from marketing automation firm Emailvision. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

In the survey, consumers said they want targeted, tailored messages and to receive personalised content based on their personal information, website activity and past purchases. But the study found that retailers are missing a trick by not gathering relevant information from their online customers - such as gender, address or date of birth - and using the data they have to create more meaningful conversations with their prospects and customers.

Emailvision reviewed the websites and sign-up processes of 100 top UK e-retailers, as defined by IMRG (based on site traffic), to develop its Retail Email Benchmark Study. The company found that more than 80% of top retailers do not maximise their data capture potential from online sign-up forms.

Although half of the e-retailers examined do ask for first name and surname (58% and 51% respectively), 82% fail to ask for gender, 86% don't ask for an address and 81% don't ask for a date of birth - all of which are straightforward information fields against which data can be simply split to provide better targeted email campaigns.

In addition, although 95% of companies do have an email programme in place, 5% of UK retailers are missing out entirely on a key revenue generator.

"Marketers have to be increasingly effective in what is an ever-challenging climate," noted Henry Smith, director of product marketing for Emailvision. "Retailers are seeing increased inbox competition with a multitude of offers and promotions arriving in consumers' inboxes every day. In order to better stand out from the crowd, marketers need to unlock the potential of their data to build better customer relationships, based on trust and move from broadcast to dialogue marketing."

The study was designed to explore and recognise best practise in the sign-up process, offer guidance on the key areas where small improvements can lead to substantial rewards and help marketers to optimise their online marketing programmes for their organisation. Although not one company in the study demonstrated best practice in all elements of the sign-up process, M&S, New Look, Debenhams and Very outperformed their competitors, demonstrating the best online sign up processes to maximise their customer intelligence potential.