Email strategy is a big job – keeping subject lines relevant, testing time of day/day of week, balancing new product announcements with appeals to turn over clearance merchandise, and a multitude of other things. Tactical issues related to creative design, copywriting, subscriber file segmentation, and email deployment are always present along with those strategic concerns. And then add in the need to evaluate test segments, overall campaign success metrics, and strategizing for new campaign efforts. Email is often the second or third largest contributor of revenue on an e-commerce site, so all those efforts are incredibly meaningful and worthwhile. You simply can’t let a ball drop.
But how can you make email an even more effective tool? By capitalizing on the wealth of information you already have. Even if your marketing department is siloed by channel (e-commerce, social media, email, direct mail, print, display advertising, etc.), targeting your customers is a critical step in reaching your sales goals. You can only gain with cooperative efforts, recognizing and capitalizing on the multichannel impacts.
Specifically, you cannot divorce e-commerce strategy from email. Email is the best way to communicate with your customers individually based on their preferences, their engagement, and their past purchase behavior. Email directs qualified traffic to your site. Your subscribers have, by definition, raised their hands telling you they are interested, so speaking to them in a personal, relevant way enhances their experience and improves the likelihood that they will convert a visit to a purchase.
Simply put, your e-commerce site needs email to be as successful as it can be. Conversely, for you e-marketers, email should serve your e-commerce interests by embracing the direct marketing industry’s proven tactics:
Abandoned Shopping Cart: The most obvious, although unfortunately not universally utilized, method for combatting cart abandonment is a powerful retargeting email strategy. As they price shop or research competing products, savvy consumers will often put items in their online shopping carts or simply close their browser and leave without purchasing. An active Abandoned Shopping Cart program can be triggered to remind consumers of unfinished purchases, with or without an incentive to complete the transaction. The sooner the consumer receives the email, the better – ideally within 24 hours or less.
Website Behavior: “Batch and Blast” days are over. Despite the relative low cost per email send, you cannot be effective by consistently sending the same message to everyone on your subscriber file. It’s too easy for email recipients to hit the delete key. A petite woman sees no value in plus-sized fashion advertising. Young, single men aren’t interested in kids’ sporting equipment. Not only do your subscribers find it annoying to have to comb through irrelevant messages, but it’s costing you money as a sender to deliver messaging that clearly isn’t relevant to the recipient. Use the preferences the consumer self-identifies, and give him offers and information that he’s demonstrated that he wants. If customers haven’t self-identified their preferences (and even if they have!), use tracking mechanisms to see what products they’ve viewed on your site, what products they’ve purchased, or where they’ve clicked on your email. Show them products that interest them or that complement other purchases they’ve made. Fewer, more relevant offers will make them more interested in your messages and will save you money in the long term.
Email Engagement: Some people love receiving email. They open and digest every single one. Most, however, are more discriminating. Don’t waste your marketing dollars on sending oodles of emails to people who aren’t reading them. Depending on your product sales cycle, you will need to determine an email send cadence that makes sense for your business. It seems reasonable that, if a subscriber hasn’t opened your email in many months, he likely isn’t interested in your offers. It’s also likely that he doesn’t even know what the offers are because he is deleting them without opening them. Reactivation campaigns are critical, because multiple emails over time are not incenting the subscriber to get engaged. Send a carefully worded email with a descriptive subject line after a period of lapsed communication. Make your message stand out. Provide an incentive to come back. Give yourself the opportunity to discover why the relationship isn’t working.
Lifetime Value: Not all customers are created equal, so why send them the same offers? Customers who have a long history with your brand, who are actively engaged and buying from you, deserve special treatment – and they may not require the discounting that your other customers require and expect. If a consumer is dedicated to your brand, give them what they need, rather than just cutting your margins with percent-off offers. If you don’t know what they want/need, ask them! If they are loyal, they will tell you.
Cross-sell/Upsell: Great e-commerce sites use algorithms to suggest products that complement a recent purchase, or that people with similar profiles have also purchased. Use that same methodology and promote future sales for your purchasing subscribers. Send them targeted communication about why another product would benefit them and how it would help them get more value out of their purchase. Help them decide between two products and send them information to compare and contrast the options. This tells the subscriber that you get them and that you can anticipate their product needs. Give them opportunities to tell you more of their individual preferences, to further align your offers with their interests.
Unfulfilled Engagement: Some subscribers click faithfully on your emails but don’t purchase online. A number of things could be happening here: Are they using your site to research the product but purchasing at a retail location? Maybe they are simply price shopping and looking for a great bargain? It’s evident that the subscriber has interest, but you’re unable to drive an online conversion. So maybe you need a strong incentive. Send them an email with an offer tailor made for them. This is much easier if you’re capturing identifying point of sale information both online and in-store so that you can get a full customer view.
As marketers, we are tasked with increasing engagement and boosting sales. By marrying data from multiple channels, we are able to create a more personal interaction with each unique customer. We strive for a 360 degree view of the customer. Behavior-triggered communication via email is meaningful, relevant, and personal. When we communicate with our customer regarding an action she has just taken (or perhaps didn’t take), we are letting her know that we can help. This is as close as we can come to recreating the personal salesperson experience online. By demonstrating our understanding of each customer’s unique tastes and offering meaningful advice as well as relevant products and offers, we embrace our customers and tell them that we value them. There isn’t a better message to send, no matter how it might be delivered.